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.”
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 […]
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.
Klik hier für DEUTSCH We have been making experiments with Altertango throughout 2018 and we are now ready to host our first open event, Thursdays 25.Okt-29.Nov 2018 in Lotus Loft, Gerichtstraße 23, Aufgang 4. Dancers who have attended our experimental Altertango events describe the experience as “precious”, an unrepeatable, rare experience of connection with a […]
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.
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 […]
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…
All other travel and events, and the focus of my tango work will shift to developing AlterTango. This means three things:
Expressing Tango as an art form and cultural practice beyond the milonga (for performances and alternative social dancing events)
Collaborations with musicians, striving for profound improvisational experiences.
Promoting tango to the people I want to be dancing with in 15 years: yogis, ninjas, retired professional dancers, and athletes
“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.
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.
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.
In the last days the Berlin Tango Scene has witnessed an interesting and overdue conflagration. Some Argentine tango blogger found a video of one of Berlin’s longtime teaching teams and publicized her outrage over the quality of their dancing. At first this post gathered some approval within the Berlin community. Then compassionate influencers quashed the self-righteousness of […]
Femininity is always a fantasy. There is no lasting escape from our strength and men’s frailty. (There are other ways to understand it, but these moments are also rare.) The respite and pleasure you receive from tango is a precious gift, a facet, a moment of “altered perception”, and an addictive drug. Like every drug, like every addiction, it is not reality, it is damaging, and you will come down. To get real with this retrograde gender activity you’ve got yourself hooked in to, you need to decide that you are not going to suffer. And there are other ways than leaving the milonga when there are too many women.To stop suffering the absence of fantasy-ecstasy-femininity requires that you accept all of who you are.
So many women write and speak to me with the same question: “How do I find pleasure in tango, when I’m getting less and less from men?” They ask this question because where they live there are few advanced men, or becuase the men they like to dance with are not always available, or because […]
Please see second post on this topic. Tango dancers often brag about being a “Tango addict”. I was. I’ve broken my tango addiction. What is tango addiction? In my experience there are three forms of addiction. The first is when someone knows they have a harmful addiction, and they try to hide it from others, or deny […]
When I started dancing tango I thought “finally, a place to wear fabulous clothes and shoes!” I dressed like a doll, and wore the most fabulous shoes I could find, 15cm heels with 3cm platforms covered in glitter. Everybody knew me for my shoes. I could hear the word “shoes” whispered as I went around […]
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I think it’s two main reasons: Terrible marketing: meaningless (or somewhat frightening) words like ‘passion’ and ‘intimacy’, cliché images, music most people think is awful. Terrible teaching, too focused on walking, which is a boring and demeaning experience for beginners who can’t do it or appreciate it yet. To make tango popular we can: Show […]
Tango induces the psychological state of Flow by demanding immediate mutual concentration and fusing action and awareness.
The deepest desire of human beings is not to be alone. Whatever our individual pathways toward or around this issue, tango has given us a way to experience partnership. I believe that it is this aspect of tango which is most compelling. Despite the thrills of sensuality, tenderness, attention, celebrity, and musicality, it is the […]
When Argentine Tango is good –when the partners are able to maintain a sublime level of connection, moving as one– it is absolutely rapturous. It feels like [Hollywood] Movie Sex looks: smooth, passionate, consuming. This experience is so intense that it can trigger romantic emotions, the sensation of being in love – even though […]
Women who love tango, making it our own!
The trail grows cold. Ecstasy is an endangered species. But the dogs’ eyes glitter with hunger. Their frantic trotting exhausts me. They become aggressive…The party endures, heavy-hearted, addicted to a thrill who may never breach again.
So I learn that my worst fears are true … The whole evening is structured around the proclivities of untrained girls. And the men who want to dance with them.
Most tango teachers don’t want this label, not only because it’s unpopular and bad for business, but because most of us did learn traditionally, and came to appreciate and love the music, the embrace, and the humor and charm of traditional tango…But those who unwittingly insult me with their compliments are also not wrong.
Tonight I have 80 square cm of paper with me, and it’s more precious to me than any man here. I am trying to figure out what to I’m seeing, staring at it, praying my desire will be kindled, but I cannot want any of these dancers.
She seems to be using tango to express herself, rather than reaching hungrily for ancient gender detritus. She seems to be using her whole body to the limits of her own possibility, rather than within a codified range of movement.
If this were a serious project, I would be able to say “You need to move your arm so I can do my job here. Thank you. Ok let’s go rock the house.”
I love taking tango classes! I have an excellent memory for certain things (not numbers), and I find long sequences especially pleasurable to memorize. It’s funny when my male partners are annoyed by this. The sequences themselves are often delightful enough to enjoy repeating 100 times or even more. It’s fun to see how quickly and with […]
The codigos exist to protect egos and relationships. They are really very handy, and I recommend you follow them. The codigos are like your best friend, who takes care of you when you are drunk.
These days in Berlin 50% of Marks do this sequence within 5 seconds that my eye lands on them. (I spent a couple of weeks sitting with my stopwatch in the milonga checking my perceptions.) Another 35% do it under 30 seconds. That leaves just 15% of the dancers in the milonga who are not doing this sequence ad nauseum… Not very many of the 15% are advanced dancers who are doing something else. When you look at the dance floor at any milonga, you see this sequence constantly, in dancers of all levels except rank beginners.
To reveal more to herself and to her partner, the Revel must abandon the safe ground of knowledge, prediction, sequences, familiar movements, and righteousness. Crucially she must abandon her surety that the best thing she can do is to pivot. Pivoting is how we try to be good girls doing the hard work… But if we abandon a claim on certainty, avoid arbitrary endings and stay open to the previous movement continuing to unfold, then we offer ourselves to divine creativity.
This was posted in February 2016 to the Milonga Popular/Tango Kollektiv Facebook Discussion group as part of a conversation about seduction in that milonga. (deutsche Version was posted in March.) The Hug to Break a Thousand Hearts A tango whose intention is seduction has evidently and globally produced satisfactory and ego-enhancing experiences for man-leaders and […]
The partners begin dancing autonomously, connecting their bodies to the music first, and then look for one another. They approach one another and begin to interact, still dancing autonomously. At some point, they connect. It might be useful to define the tango connection: It is a very particular power relation in which the Mark has creative power and the Revel has the power to manifest his spark.
DJ Elio Astor’s live mixes are improvised; Germain and I don’t know what the music will be or how long it will go on. The reality of dancing this way is very, very difficult. Not knowing what will come, we must continually leap into our interpretation of the music and one another. The demand to “trust thyself” is immanent. In addition to the unknown of the music, Germain is a contemporary dancer. So the matrix of movement possibilities expands dramatically beyond the already-rich tango lexicon.
I can feel the hunger of the women. I know that hunger for tango ecstasy. I know it as an addiction, as a wound, as a sweet balm. I know that dancing with them won’t be enough. I can give them my best and they will still be hungry. If I have any responsibility for the event, this sensation drains me to the point that I desperately want to lay down on the floor and go to sleep.
I made a series of interviews on behalf of the Berlin edition of Modern Tango World 2015. This is an overview, emphasizing the most interesting things I learned, with links to the original interviews. “Erfahrungen machen” is a common German phrase, which translates as “making experiences”. The long history of tango here in Berlin has […]
“Berlin is the first city of the world where you had tango community who danced Argentine Tango. In Japan in 40s and 50s you had many people who heard tango music, But dancers in a community, you had in Uruguay and BsAs, but not in Europe. The first point of the world to have this outside from South America was Berlin. Berlin is famous for the boheme life. People come here to go out, to meet people, to laugh and love with them. And tango is a part of this.
I made a play for the word ‘powerful’. Because to me what traditional tango music lacks is power, and that’s what I get and like about the music I like to dance on (which is not all alternative music). Powerful music for me has deep sounds and it has emotions.
In Buenos Aires the worst thing that can happen to you at a milonga is not to find a table. At a table, you are never alone. Even if everyone else is dancing, you are obviously part of a group. Once you are sitting, you too are a host, watching out for arriving friends or handsome tourists who need a place. In Berlin, if you are lucky you get a chair, to wait in and to which you are not attached. Dancers in Berlin milongas are in perpetual solitary motion and circulation.
I’m not the first generation of tango dancers in Berlin. I have knowledge for 20 years. I entered the scene in 1991. From the beginning in Berlin women couples existed, Brigitte and Angelika. When my first dance partner quit, I started leading, leading, leading. Irma, my teacher said “ok, I don’t have men for you, […]
The initial spark was the Horizonte Festival in the Künstlerhaus in Mariannenstraße in Kreuzberg in 1982. They had Latin American cultures and they invited an Argentine group who used to live in Paris, Alejandra Sedano and Coco Orlando Días, together with a live band. That was the first time that I saw tango. Jaun Dietrich […]
Berlin is the first city of the world where you had tango community who danced Argentine Tango. In Japan in 40s and 50s you had many people who heard tango music. But dancers in a community, you had in Uruguay and Buenos Aires, but not in Europe. Berlin is the first point of the world to […]
Mona Isabelle is, without a doubt, a diva of the Berlin tango scene. Any room she is in sparkles more because she is there. She is always elegant, always energetic, always delighted to be there. Her presence enlivens and illuminates the evening. She has been described as an “Artist of Welcome”. She ended her interview […]
My first big Milonga idea grew up in 2007, when I saw an announcement for a theater performance in an empty indoor swimming pool. I knew this former public pool from my youth, when I still was swimming there. I phoned the new owner Mrs. Berger and made an appointment to talk about the Milonga […]
Last Wednesday 19 August I danced in the Berlin Hauptbahnhof, Europe’s biggest and most central train crossing station. It’s the highest security milonga I’ve ever been to. 500M from the German chancellor’s office, this building is in constant readiness for terror attack. It’s on the site of the former wall. The director of the annual […]
While most couples are stuck with a single gender performance, a gay role-changing couple can explore gender performance and its relationship to their dance with far more subtlety and interest. And it’s not so crude as drag. Martin and Maurizio always dress as two elegant men and they wear men’s shoes. It’s in the physical expression, how they move, how they touch, how they look at each other, how they define and play with power.
Sven Elze and Pedram Shahyar, Tango Kollektiv The challenge facing every tango professional is how to attract new dancers. We all have lots of ideas, and we know that most of them don’t work. If we had more students, the teachers wouldn’t need to compete, and most of our tango wars would go away. Sven […]
I want to try to find a story of tango as a liberatory gender journey. For men, from fear of their own strength to sexual prowess to the decision to choose. For women, from inadequate object, to perfect femininity, and out the other side, beyond seduction and competition to a deeper power.
I believe that the concept of “conversation” is being misapplied by dancers. A good conversation does not involve constantly interrupting, changing the subject, and re-interpreting your partner. Anyway, I don’t think this is a helpful metaphor. In conversations, we start and yield, we falter and wait, we stop to think, we watch for cues, and we are usually sitting safely in a chair. There’s a lot more at stake in tango. We risk our bodies, we have less time, and often our eyes are closed.
For me authenticity is really important, but it’s authenticity for me, my logic, what I am doing. What I am teaching about tango makes sense. So that a student afterwards feels comfortable, feels logical, that they can use it, that they can understand it, practice it, get better.
I have been waiting to write a general TangoForge update until I knew the story. I still don’t know it, and it’s more complicated than I anticipated. But I have a part of it ready for you. It’s summer in Europe and I decided to get out of Berlin and see what’s there. So I […]
“I identify myself as a neotango DJ. NeoTango invites Argentine Tango to become contemporary by applying its biomechanics of connection and improvisation to the experiences and emotions of the world heritage of music. At the entrance of my neolonga is the statement by Gustav Mahler ‘Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire’… ”
Day Four of the tango festival. I’ve had it with being Diva Freak. I can only keep it up for so long without a single person telling me they’re grateful to see some freedom and creativity on the dance floor. I lock into close embrace, and I stop dancing with men. Because every man who marks me […]
I am well aware that a lot of what goes on in tango class is psychological development. I’m talking about biomechanics but the real challenge for the students is believing in themselves. Believing they can move their bodies fearlessly, believing they can balance, believing they can sense another person well, believing they’re sexy, believing they […]
Your tango avatar can make you strong. It can help you through the psychologically challenging experience of a milonga. You may find you can camouflage your tango avatar under your suit and bring some of your blasé confidence to that business meeting. You may wear your tango stilettos on a date, to remind yourself that you already have a lot of men.
Tango’s magic and mystery can return as easily as it faded away. Tonight I danced with the best dancer of my life. I’ll call him Mr. Anti-cliche. I admired him last night. Then tonight I complimented him at Milonga Popular. Which has moved upstairs to a larger, but no less problematic room. Especially problematic for […]
A code of ethics has three parts, the preamble which gives it context, the fundamental moral principles, and standards of conduct.
You have surely noticed that I am obsessively annoyed by the incessant exhortation to “lead with the chest”. I think it’s inaccurate, unhelpful, and leads to unstable behaviour. I’m fascinated by and loose with words. I temper this with deep investigations with multilingual friends like ZM. What if this cliché is the detritus of a […]
This seems like a trick question. The embrace is everything, right? Well, no. The embrace is the last mile. Our connection depends on the whole body being stable and well-positioned. We use the lower body, especially hip flexion, to create an arch of connection from our base leg to our partner’s center. We extend the […]
It’s striking. Every time I talk with someone about having finally found the dance partner I’ve been looking for, and my plans to return to Berlin to try working with him, people respond with intense encouragement. “Go!” Many people have gone on from that point to offer assistance. I feel that I am surrounded by angels. I’m […]
Ekaterina Khomenko was murdered in St Petersburg on 7 September. It is strongly believed that the murder is connected to her work as a Queer Tango teacher. (News articles: Global Voices and Queer Russia.) We danced this past July at the Berlin Queer Tango Festival 2014 and I want to thank Ekaterina more formally for what […]
Several of the deep lessons here are things I had been saying, and even writing about, but they became more visceral and powerful during the trip. One of these is that I want a mark who trusts me. Another thing I’ve been expounding on is how good revelling can “set marks free”. I’ve also written about the power of a woman’s desire to attract the man she wants to dance with. By the end of this trip to Berlin I was getting my man every night.
My first experience of TangoLoft made me cry. I couldn’t even dance that night. I was so moved that a milonga could be everything that I dream of… Elegant – with candles and flowers and antique furniture. Comfortable – with various seating options. Gourmet –with a kitchen. Free – without scowling onlookers. Happy –with laughter and smiles. Diverse –with all […]
The line of dance is not the only thing that circles. So do the arguments about tango. It feels more productive to use the term ‘spiral’, because then we feel we are getting somewhere, either spiraling out away from the familiar territory, or getting in closer to the deep truths. Pick your direction. (But please […]
Guy asks DJ “What’s the next music going to be?“ “A mix with some interesting stuff.” “Who do I dance with? ” “Her.” [Me. What was charming about this, is that the DJ had assessed me from a distance.] After my experience in Berlin I approached my first Milonga in notoriously unfriendly Zurich with clarity […]
This is the beginning of a theory, about life, about dancing, about asking the big questions. I think we are faced with some choices about where to aim. The culture tells us that consumption will satisfy us, and money is what we need to make it happen. It doesn’t. We know we were put here […]
Globally, the best coffee is served in places with inadequate and injurious seating… Black Star and Blue Bottle in Sydney and San Francisco. Here in Berlin Double Eye and the Barn. If there are enough chairs accompanied by a table of the appropriate height you probably won’t want to drink the coffee. So I am […]
Researching the schools in Berlin, I came across this interview with Thomas Rieser, founder of Nou Tango, Berlin. The interview just made me want to ask him more questions, and he kindly agreed. My first question was the obvious one from the other interview, which was to ask him more about the fact that he […]
Went back and forth again tonight between two milongas, but these were only 3 blocks apart. And at one of them I discovered that the Mark I’ve been talking about exists. By way of description I’ll just say that he was perfect. He put his body and mine exactly where they needed to be in […]
After last night’s self-induced disaster I realized that I needed to get serious. The first thought in my head this morning was “the point is to have fun”,. This is harder to remember than any tango sequence. To get things back under control the first step was obvious. Ice cream for breakfast. Breakfast is at […]
What has changed? My last Queer Tango Festival was Buenos Aires in 2009. The global scene has advanced in several dimensions: The level was much improved. The tendency to jerkiness which has characterised most qt events I’ve seen to date has been overcome. People danced with nice connection. I am thrilled. The number and level […]