“On spec” is an abbreviation of “on speculation”. It’s a business term referring to production in hope of success. Artists are afraid to demand too much, or settle for too little, so we silently collaborate in the “contract of hope”.
Today is day 11 of a stunt, to teach tango to a stuntman in 30 days. Stunt-work requires precision. Each day’s lesson is exactly 15 minutes (with a timer).
The dancers of the Cochabamba Group and El Pulpo are misunderstood as innovators, people who distorted and departed from tango. Genius is to find something new inside of what we think we already know.
This graphic has been on our home page for six years. For several of those years I have been aware that our students rarely, if ever, use the word ‘creativity’. They use the word ‘freedom’. The gap between those two words is a crucial failure to understand our own biographies and to articulate what it means to be artists.
“Señor Piazzolla” she replied, “won’t you play for me?”
I was overwhelmed with despair, surely multi-valent. I was inconsolable, untouchable, reactive, helpless. I watched joy pass but could not reach to touch it.
But would I accept the right invitations if I felt cautious of everyone? Would I be able to relax my body, to trust and enjoy while also maintaining vigilance?
I always invite my students to share their confusion when teachers are telling them different things. Likewise I now feel a responsibility to explain why teachers are almost always covertly hostile to one another.
I discover there are far more than two aesthetics for a voleo and they are all for me. I wonder what else about tango did I defer to others’ guardrails? Are there more joys and pleasure that I never claimed?
I am here to pick grapes. I continue to train every day, alone, but not to that music. I dance alone to the teenagers’ band practice, a medley of American pop songs.
Showing off is an accusation leveled at people perceived to be doing either “stage” tango or “nuevo” tango in contexts where only “social” or “traditional” tango is authorized. The vilification rests on a concept entirely external to tango: that showing off is shameful.
In the era of Fundamentalism, modernism is in decline. Although we can ill-afford it, the modernists are now drawing battle-lines.
It’s time to manifest my resolutions: to increase the parts of tango that make me happy and transform or abandon the parts that make me unhappy.
“I selected the Alfa because of its distinctive Art-Deco sound openings and also because the first example I came across was keyed in the Peguri system. This would give me the opportunity to show a different keyboard layout than the 142s I had drawn so far.”
So we went out and we started dancing, and looking for what we didn’t know … we were looking for: how many voleos were possible in Tango dancing; how many different ganchos there are; things like that. To come to a total knowledge of what’s available.
“Gustavo, what are we going to do with this!? This is such an amazing way of making art, we must do something really great with this, something HUGE!!!” –Chicho
We talk about intentions, the development of TangoForge pedagogy, online tango education, marketing for the tango industry, and possible uses of Blockchain.
–Auch auf DE– Mario and Andrea were competitive ballroom dancers for some years. Eventually they tired of the rigid priorities and circumstances of competition. They resolved to continue dancing in a way that was more sustainable and directed by their own values. Finding traditional milongas uptight and unsatisfying, they renovated part of their house to make a dancing room and built their own community.
As I’m sure you are, I’m spending a lot of time thinking about – well, everything.
My life, decisions I made, mostly the bad ones.
Wine, the difference between Barbera and Ruché.
Tango: was it all a dream?
This cycle prevents us from ever reckoning with the costs of either. We can’t seem to finalize a cost-benefit analysis. The phone beeps, we are packing our shoes.
Dear Dancers, I write today with a sad confirmation of things I suspected. I hope to learn that it is somehow incomplete. As you know, TangoForge has been documenting our knowledge of tango in various online education tools. In these 7 years, I’ve made many different “offers”, and collected data on the various results. I […]
From 2021 Berlin will no longer be our headquarters. Now is the time to revisit our Berlin productions. Accompanied by superlative collaborators, we used every opportunity to tell new stories and make tango bigger.
Thank you to: Mona Isabelle, Andreas Rochholl, CJ Yetman, Max Thomas, Fritz Schadow, Abisko Lights, Gökhan Aksakalli, Antoine Gallix, Alan Nguyen, Stefan Brenner, Yoko Onodera, Swan, Frauke Nees, Andi Hackenberg, Jaina Hirai, Eva Curtius, Ibon Goitia and Orquesta TRYST.
The TangoForge Advent offered the pearls of delight and wisdom I have collected between dances. If you want more of the Advent’s type of pearls, I welcome you to the oyster farm.
This year we have seen our fragility, we have lost control over our lives, we have surrendered freedoms and privileges. And we have also decided what to do, what we can do, how to protect, how to connect, how to live.
Germany is, as always, a bit special. This post is intended to share with others the corona-cautious dancing system here. I am not interested in debating the mathematical and epidemiological theories. Instead I want to draw attention to aspects of the cluster system that may be useful and desirable beyond the viruscrisis.
My relationship to work presumes that completion is the main pleasure in life. My overwork is often a drive to finish something. This finish fetish is utterly arbitrary. Usually there’s no urgency, and most things get better with more time (and sleep). I practiced: stopping when it’s not done yet.
I resonated, and I was intimidated. I slog away at the day and although I use a lot of creativity to get through problems and take pleasure in every word I choose, every bite of food I eat, and moving my body around, I would hardly call the experience or the result “a love poem”.
As I prepare to return to Europe, I want a new relationship to tango well before any milonga beckons. I suspect many of you also hope to return differently to tango – or hope that it will be different upon our return.
We associate tango with large, crowded rooms, and anonymity – milongas. Yet we all know that peak tango can happen in a room with only three couples dancing. Let’s take that certainty and build tango around it. The courage and imagination that brought each of us to tango can be brought to bear on creating safe and fulfilling tango right now.
Besides flawless composition, Gorey’s art is the conjunction of an “aesthetic preference for the understated and the unstated” and an “attraction to the highly stylized”. He tended to “leave out most of the connections” so as to offer his witnesses “ambiguity” and “subtlety” which give space “for imaginative participation.”
The agendas of our 2016 and 2017 shows, remastered in 2020: To show tango with contemporary culture: fashion, music, and gender concepts. To get tango off the stage, out of the milonga, and into daily life (symbolized by the architectural space of the station). To celebrate tango’s place in the African diaspora and propose tango learning and socializing in a hip-hop cultural context.
Most of us are familiar with deskilling in manufacturing. It means designing the production line so that each worker does only one small job over and over, and it’s easy to train anyone to do that one thing. This increases flexibility and power for the company while decreasing the meaning, opportunities for development, and power of workers. Deskilling also applies to retail, where workers are no longer experts on what they are selling, and do not provide personal service to their customers, but just stock shelves and ring cash registers. I observe that the deskilling of manufacturing and retail depend on the deskilling of the customer, who is no longer able to assess quality of products, nor repair them.
A few days ago Maestra Dana Frígoli announced by youtube video that DNI, the school she founded with Pablo Villarraza in Buenos Aires, will not reopen.
A few days before that, Mona Isabelle announced definitively that Tangoloft will leave the luscious and beloved Gerichtstraße location.
Willpower has limits, especially with regard to deep wounds, compelling habits, and self-destruction. Many people find meditation or spiritual rituals more effective. I like to find rituals that don’t involve hallucination. I like to rearrange material things or relate to them in differently in ways that radiate, echo, and hopefully restructure my bad habits. Rather than doing an affirmation about overcoming fear, it seems useful to me to actually induce panic and get through it, every morning. To start every day discovering that I am stronger than I knew.
So whatever sense of powerlessness was afflicting people was in fact inaccurate. For how long have we been mis-assessing our power? For how long have we had everything we need to repair the world? For how long have we been living in danger and deprivation that could have been defeated by courageous collective action?
The path I chose was at that time the least comfortable, the most unknown, the scariest. The next few hours, in which I implemented my decision, were drenched in fear. What had I done? But I knew that my fear was part of the fractal unfurling across our planet, identical in its most mundane and momentous iterations. The Distance has been an aperture to many changes. Some intentional, some incidental. Some little, some big.
Addictions are harmful in various ways, but never 100% harmful. In other words, most addictions involve some dimension(s) that are normal, reasonable, and healthy – such as having a sense of belonging to a community, creating a sense of identity, and having profound and intense experiences. Behavioral addictions usually involve an experience of personal development, building skills and expertise.The fact that tango has healthful and meaningful aspects, including a rich social life, engagement with cultural heritage, skills-building, and artistic expression does not obviate dangerous addiction.
NeoTango is beautiful, but it only exists because we have been made to feel unwelcome in Tango. I do not accept being excluded and I certainly do not revel in it. Because we have been thrown out, a whole bunch of people like Ron Fenton, DJ Elio, Thanos Kasidis, Tanguerilla, Andreas Lange, Sonja Armisen and so many others have volunteered so much time, energy, and financial risk to create a whole separate scene of neotango so that we feel comfortable to dance. I do not accept exile.
In this Distance from milongas, I dance alone with the ocean. What are you doing and how are you feeling about tango, with the perspective of some Distance? I created a workbook to help us think about this.
I believe that many dancers will return from the Distance with a renewed care for our community and a desire to rebuild it with great love. I believe many people will be inspired as never before to share the gift of tango, feeling now perhaps more than ever before the preciousness of gathering, and embracing. Indeed my student Josh is already preparing a class for his community, a clean and sober gym. We had a conversation about how to think about teaching, and this post contains my notes:
The purpose of the codigos is to protect egos from rejection. But what goes missing when that is the only system we have? What indeed is social, and what social dimensions of tango require care? Let us consider what we can do about that when we return.
I’ve worked at home for 20 years. For folks who are new to it and for those unable to work who are and are abruptly faced with the rather uncomfortable opportunity to move forward on your dream projects, here are 15 tools for Discipline, Self-Awareness, Improvisation, and effective Contemplation.
I need to tell you that I am feeling tremendous relief about having a break from tango.
Indeed interruption is part of the history of tango. During the dictatorship, tango became a family and home practice. It’s really not all about milongas. Let us welcome this pause as part of the dance, a needed disruption of rhythm, part of a more complex one.
The video proclaimed “if you dare to move your legs (or to enjoy the movement of your lady’s legs) you deserve to be restrained and to suffer.” And it had the intended effect which was to intimidate even the best dancers in the Wellington community from executing certain movements.
My foes are absolutely certain that I am one of those nuevo dancers, toes grazing my shoulders, back turned to my partner, dancing to ambient music in strange shoes. Actually it’s beyond nuevo, it’s not even tango anymore. My fans, who yearn for self-expression and are often berated for that, cluster around hoping that I will protect and expand the territory of freedom.
These are the folks I want to be dancing with in 5 years. You too? If so, please help me to get this film out globally to these tribes.
“At first when I started to do it like this. I only wanted to have time between to open the new piece. With time the improvisation grows, having its own character. It’s no longer an opening only. Now the improvisational part is only a little shorter than the piece after it.”
Selecting a few posts to reprint in Until Forever, I re-read my first blog post ever. It was a bit startling to realize that most of the things that concern me about tango today are things I realized from the very beginning. It’s a little embarrassing to realize that I continued despite knowing what I […]
Many different words are used to describe post-Golden Age tango: nuevo, electro, neo, alternative, contemporary, con-tango, fusion … Some people even use the term ‘non-tango’. The term ‘neotango’ is becoming more common in Europe, and its meaning is becoming more interesting. As I’ve learned more, I feel that it would help us to have some clarity and consensus where possible about these terms,
For many people the music played at the various social dance schools is a bit strange. When they find Fusion, they are dancing to contemporary pop music and they say “Oh, this is the thing. This is the kind of music I want to dance to.”
In the music of the 30s and 40s, the advantage of an Orquesta Típica is that relatively simple things sound full and exciting. The idea of the Community Tango Orquesta is to create music in a way that fits the expectation of dancers in a milonga, and create it without the need to make money on it.
Some readers have responded to recent posts with alarm. They perceive a darkness. That’s because I decided to take a serious look at tango. While I was calibrating my dusty social science equipment, people kept dropping by to to me about their pain. I am the one who is alarmed. I found a lot of […]
Like women who would like to be able to say “no” or “not now” with just a gesture –twisting the torso away– and have that well-perceived by amorous dates, Marks would like to be able to say “no” with their eyes and body language, and not have to deal with a verbal or otherwise unavoidable request.
The cabeceo is promoted as a way to avoid embarrassment and non-consenual dances. But it’s not only a prophylactic, it also has pleasures of its own.
Is it my ochos? Is it my smile? My friends are skinnier and younger and more charming than me. Is it my dancing or my personality?
Heroin is a beautiful experience too. So is red wine.
That doesn’t make them not addictive. That doesn’t make the addiction not destructive.
Argentines did not get Tango out of Argentina and build a global community
so that we can go dancing every night all over the world.
Local organizers did that.
They are the the heros to admire.
We met on 1.August 2014. There was no middle-ground halfway between our lives in Sydney and Berlin. There was no time to hesitate. We both knew how hard it was to develop without a partner. And we had a taste of what our connection could be.
Berlin’s venerable dance-hall, Clärchens Ballhaus, is endangered. The building is protected, but the activities which fix it in the fading constellation of Berlin Bohemianism, are not.
The second TangoForge Seminar Compañeros for 2019 and the fifth gathering of TangoForge Sverige took place at the beautiful Fiskabäck retreat center in the Swedish Österlen from 5-7 July, 2019. The focus of the workshop was improvisation with tango customs and patterns, specifically the three giros, molinete lineal, and adornos. Vio y Jessica performed on […]
I watch the milonga. What are we waiting for? An angel to fall from the ceiling into my lap. Because none of these mortals here please me, nor I them. Some ancient thing, some vestige, someone else’s dream – anything that will embrace me, lift me from this chair, and make the merry-go-round spin once […]
We had done this ritual for longer than we had danced, with our mothers and grandmothers and every lover we’d ever touched. A ritual as deeply connecting as any embrace, and any dance we would do.
It seems that tango may survive. We were delighted and astonished to find students wanting to concentrate on learning sophisticated technique, changing roles, preferring diverse music, and even a few hotshots daring to be creative (again)….
Most Revels tell me they are terribly bored on the dance floor because each Mark seems to repeat a small number of sequences. Although the set of sequences varies among the Marks, “he has a nice embrace and good technique, but after two songs I know exactly what he’s going to do.” Our rapture with […]
This is a cycle we are all accustomed to. We tango dancers pride ourselves on managing our jealousy with strength, with retribution, with ritual games, with “codes” of etiquette.
We believe this strength and savvy calculus buys us something valuable and precious.
Argentine Tango vs. Zouk: What part of your body do you want to move? What do you want to show off? What shoes do you want to wear? And do you really want to surrender?
Unfortunately tango’s backward gender politics did not turn out to be its only anti-social gesture. As a student and then a professional, I learned that tango is a profoundly anti-ethical industry.
I never know what to do on New Years Eve. I’m skeptical about the value proposition of expensive parties. I skirt the silent sharp dagger of another year’s lack of a midnight kiss. When I do go out, I worry that I didn’t choose the right party, that I haven’t placed myself in the most […]
Milonga Popular is an extraordinary tango project. Founded by Sven Elze and Pedram Shahyar in 2013, Milonga Popular has proven to be a sustainable and successful model for building new tango communities. This year, Sven and I have spent many hours working together to analyze and articulate exactly what are the questions and lessons which […]
She imputes joy to my movement which is in fact the urgent beating of wings to fly aimlessly in a storm that never ends.
Through years of study and practice I have developed the TangoForge technique. Like many teachers, I offer students “systems” for learning. Since many teachers have developed some kind of personal system for teaching tango, students are rightfully confused. It is possible to create many different systems for describing the same thing. Each of these systems […]
The “something”, I believe, is the fire of urgency. And this is what is missing in Europe, and it is what makes Americans relatively good tangueros. It is the desperation which drives you to invade a stranger with your personality and with the utter confidence that you are SEXY.
As a tango dancer, I have not been graced with the right body or the right beauty. Of course, I want to be the tango princess, with the skinny legs and the delicate shoes (except that I don’t want that boring hair!). But I’m driven to create images that express my ethics, costumes which say something. This comes at the cost of traditional beauty.
The history of Altertango began at the beginning, my beginning anyway. My first dance partner, Fritz, liked to dance to street musicians. I had special plastic-soled shoes that could pivot on anything, even straight asphalt. We found a saxophone player practicing in an alley and danced amongst the garbage cans. We danced over the stars […]
III Seminar Encuentro Compañeros TangoForge, August 2018, Berlin. 27 students from 12 countries, 10 musicians, 3 beautiful rooms, 6 workshops, and pure Argentine Tango dancing with contemporary gender perspectives on diverse music.
Committed now to Altertango (getting our tangos out of milongas and into popular culture), I developed three short workshops designed to make our tango more worldly.
Most women are paranoid of being “heavy” as dancers. They try to be “light”. The result is actually that they disconnect, they break the arch of connection. To stay in the experience of sublime connection we have to adjust everything all the time. When the mark produces more force to create a certain movement or […]
I went to Italy to eat tortelli, not to dance. I am immediately disoriented. Everything looks, and smells, like Buenos Aires. The hallway of the apartment, a delicate mustiness. The smell of marble. I arrive in the dark in a foreign land, Modena. There is a milonga nearby. I feel an old, now-unfamiliar, excitement. I […]
It’s necessary to give up some of the space on the dance floor in order to provide a seating area that is *inside the party* where people can feel part of it when they’re not dancing, where they can watch the dancing, and from where they can cabeceo.The seating areas must have pretty lighting so that people feel attractive and dignified there.
I first observed and wrote about the Evil Sequence in 2016. Now I hope to shine some sunshine on it, and hope we can grow some more beautiful things with new awareness.
At the moment, my favorite place to dance is Milonga Popular’s “Candle Floor”. The second room is overseen by DJ Gökhan Aksakalli, who plays almost entirely music that I want to dance to. It’s dark. The dancing here is languid and sensual. Pairs of all (and often mixed) levels explore Organizer Sven Elze’s first commandment: […]
I sit in vigil at my beloved’s bedside, guarding his corpus against the authorities who seem to be practicing careless amputation (“ganchos aren’t tango”), bizarre bloodletting (“voleos aren’t elegant”), justified with dishonest claims about tradition. I stay awake to intercept the doping administered by ill-trained volunteers who appear in the night, zombies muttering insipid reactionary truisms ingrained by tango’s Fox Newscasters…
We struggle against the floor, I lose control of my step twice, but my shame is invaded with their emotion and a new knowledge breaches:
I’ve had media training. I knew to write my talking points (on the train). Staying on your Talking Points Then, I broke the most important rule. Don’t say anything other than your talking points –even if it means ignoring the question and repeating yourself– because if you do, that’s what they’ll use. And that’s exactly […]
“The minute you call something a Tradition, you’re declaring it dead. Because you’re saying that it’s a static thing, that there is only one definition…” Chef Ed Lee goes on to explain what many Chefs have had to learn about their French training, “Tradition is technique.” To become great chefs, they had to use that technique to express something personal.
“We have to stop using the name ‘Argentine Tango’. I know that’s what we’re doing, and we’re doing it more authentically and precisely than most people, but that name is counterproductive to the dance we want to do. It conjures an image of a culture that we don’t really want anything to do with, and that the athletic people we’d like to be dancing with, are not attracted to.”
Repetitive marks disrespect the genre and our community. We need to respect our inheritance by keeping it alive. And we need to grow our community by challenging our partners to concentrate and to increase their knowledge and skills.
This is a complicated point. Please read it very very carefully. I am interested in how we manage people and our own emotions. I call these our control systems. I am also interested in the the way that traditional tango etiquette protects our egos. (I do believe that all dancers’ egos need to be protected. […]
The Revel’s gift is her taut musculature and her capacity to witness contradiction, her comfort with the unknown.
The message of elegance is exclusive, repetitive, and actually not that interesting. People who have musicality, emotion, and improvisational intelligence to share with us, but who may not see themselves in suits, heels, or extreme postures are driven away by these cliché images which indeed are only one of many facets of Argentine Tango.
I have to believe that my 11 years of tango are not in service only to sexist retrenchment but to something liberating. I think tango has shown me that there is indeed creative mystery to be revealed in our depths and that patient witness is what enables it to manifest. My belief is controversial that […]
“In Europe, the people have more open minds for listening and dancing. In Buenos Aires, there are only 3 or 4 milongas in which you can play new tango music and the people will dance. I feel that bit by bit, every year the dancers open more.”
Mano returned to Berlin for our 5th tanda on 9/10.September 2017. Our challenge could be no better described than by Elizabeth Gilbert in her exploration of how to write the book after the bestseller. Gilbert draws on art history for succor. The Greeks and Romans gave half the credit (and blame) to ghostlike muses of […]
“I started to play and compose because I felt the traditional tango could coexist with the sound of our times. I was interested in Tom Waits, Massive Attack, Air. A group of friends encouraged me…it was not only me who wanted new music.”
To create “The Perfect Tanguera” I wrote to my 10 favourite Milongueros of all time to ask for their advice. These aren’t professionals, or my dance partners, or my friends. They are actually the 10 most delicious men I’ve danced with anywhere in the world over the last 10 years. Most of them are guys I was too shy to even have a conversation with.
If tango were a video game…Level 1: Roses … You are invited to the Grand Ball, full of unknown delights. You are having such fun and you are grateful!
These days, slick dancers prove their purported “talent” by dancing a choreography which insults their ardent students who are trying to do a “social”/improvised dance. Then they offer, perhaps in innocence, a fraudulent service, and then blame the students or tell them “it takes 10 years to learn to dance” or “you can’t really dance tango unless you understand the Lunfardo lyrics of the music.” It only takes 10 years when your teacher is incompetent.
Presenting: The TangoForge Real Impro Hardcore Crew 100% Improvisation . 100% Argentine Tango Maximum Artistry . Modern Gender Concepts The Tradition is Transgressive… The Invitation The core concept of this show was to present Argentine Tango in the cultural context of a hip hop cypher. A cypher is a regular social event, like a […]
I believe that there is a black tango and a white tango, like black magic and white magic. If we recognize that tango is a powerful thing, then we realize we can use it for selfish purposes or generous ones. We can realize people who are using it in different ways. Tango is not this or that. Tango is power, and a practice for relating to other people. You wield it.