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A manifesto for dancing

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 went to Prague for Tango Alchemie festival, which promised all sorts of magic. It delivered to me just one spark, Mariano Otero, who inspired me to dance both roles with very much creativity and power. Those  have been the watchwords since Roberto and I started working together.

Homer Ladas was also in Prague and gave me a benediction:

Vio, your job is to keep the door open.

In Prague I faced up to the fact that, covetousness aside, I will never be one of those girls. Not for any of the easy excuses I can use to beat myself up… That I’m not pretty enough, not skinny-sexy enough, or not a good enough dancer. But because I have too much power as a dancer. I’m too big in the scope of my tango ambitions and creativity to fit in those slippers

But this was not at first a happy recognition… I realized that if I was to feel good about this reality, I needed a manifesto. So far I have iterated and refined a pedagogy, and find myself somewhat adrift in milongas, not that interested in dancing with most people. I need a manifesto about dancing. What am I doing when I dance? And why am I not dancing?

Instead of following the tango of 4 easy steps to Poreč where they would presumably watch and ignore Chicho’s genius, I went to Rome to spend time with DJ Elio Astor. He had blown my mind at the NeoTangoRave, demonstrating a way to DJ so far beyond what most people are doing. Among other bold statements, Elio is courageous enough to say “this milonga is boring”, where I always blame myself. The point he emphasizes is tango’s unique capacity to express a range of emotions and to evoke experiences. When we limit ourselves to one music, and one dynamic of motion, we throw away these possibilities, for ourselves, and for the world.

Elio uses the concept ‘neotango’. His manifesto Is this: “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.” (Read the full interview with DJ Elio Astor.)

Elio took me to swim in the Mediterranean for the first time. I was totally surprised because I thought Rome was too far from the sea. When he said we were going swimming I was anticipating a river or canal, Berlin-style.

Somehow it was easy in the grit of the salt and sand and grandeur of The Mediterranean to ask and answer the question. “What kind of dancing are we creating?” It’s not about fusion. It’s not about freedom, or even creativity. What I do is rigorous and dangerous. It requires training. It is not taking some tango and doing whatever…

It is Extreme Tango, Tango Extremo. By which we mean an extreme sport. We are going to the limits of the capacity of the language, of our bodies. It requires training. It is high-risk. It is not easy. It is not unconditionally social. I can’t trust just anyone with this body. I give my heart and muscles fully in every dance. Not everyone is able to receive this.

Social tango is about safety and sweetness. I am so over safe. That is not how I am living my life. My gift can be transformative for the right beginner and I can feel when my motion sets a mark free. But many experienced dancers throw away the unique opportunity of my body, concerned only about their static dignity.

I read recently that to make good art you have to risk looking foolish. Dancing this way means risking mistakes, risking looking undignified, even risking falling on the dance floor.

So I wrote my manifesto: “Tango Extremo seeks the maximum improvisation possibilities of Argentine Tango. It depends on intense training, precise technique, a partner you can rely on, absolute trust, safety precautions, ethics, and the willingness to fail and fall as we reach to the unknown edge of this dance.” Link to the updated and descriptive version of the TangoForge Manifesto for Dancing.

Elio and I immediately went into strategic mode. How can we share this possibility with those who want it? How can we build a community?

Vio: “If you are right that electrotango failed because of the DJing, then to save neotango you need to train DJs.”

Elio: “Ok, but I need more dancers. You have to build a tango school, and it has to be global.”

So… we will travel, but you need to meet us, and one another!

I had two days in very hot Rome, time to make a plan. I found the right cafe, in the Piazza Consolazione. Ready? …


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