Why I will never call myself ‘nuevo’

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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.

For three years I have been trying to convince the German KünstlerSozialKasse (artist’s insurance fund) that Argentine Tango is more than a folk dance, that it can be art, and that my work linking it with contemporary culture demonstrates this promising possibility. Roberto translates the letters. Then we go dancing and we are told night after night by our peers: don’t you dare do it differently!: “It’s a milonga, not a sports hall.”

We are proud of our comprehensive knowledge and skill. Distracted by the height of our voleos (his are higher than mine), everyone conveniently refuses to notice that I am a superlative close embrace milonga dancer, that our musicality to traditional music is sharp as it can only be if you know every note, and that when we do the cross on the uncommon side we are expressing more loyalty to the tango tradition than people who reduce tango to some caricature.

I am not going to cede one millimeter of the murky mess to which I have devoted years to giving sense and order. While other teachers continue to enchant and mystify their students with sequences and metaphors, I have distilled the vocabulary and the technique to accessible, objective instructions. While other performers hide their limitations (and their partners’) behind “elegance” I challenge myself and my partners to do the hardest variations of every element and to prove tango’s technology by implementing it with only two fingers of contact.

For more than five years, I have been patiently explaining to friends and foes at alike that ‘nuevo’ is an analytic scheme developed in the mid-1990s which makes it easier to improvise. It is not a different dance.

The fact that Roberto and I are athletes, with very strong legs and very flexible hips and shoulders,  cannot be construed  to conclude that we are no longer dancing tango.

No expert I have ever danced with has completed an entire song without adjusting the embrace to the movements. “Close embrace” is part of a continuum of intimacy and functionality which we all depend on, not a political party.

The idea that the extremely sophisticated technology of connected communication and consequence which distinguishes Argentine Tango from all other dances is applicable solely to a single genre of music is patently absurd. It can only be interpreted as some form of obsolete bigotry forgivable solely to doddering elders. Furthermore, it is a pathological approach to marketing which is hazardous to the future economic security of local and global tango communities.

Argentina must be disabused of its contemptuous attitude toward the global rhizome on which the industry depends.

I am very, very tired of fighting, but it seems to be my job in this world to tell people what I see. It’s my day job. My night job is to survive the hostility and loneliness that ensue.

Last July, 18 of my closest tango colleagues gave their time and energy to fulfill another of my visions: a music video designed to popularize tango with new audiences. And yet, even in this tremendous accomplishment, two of them balked when I dared to print the words “This is Argentine Tango” across the screen. They felt it was a very controversial statement to make in conjunction with images of Cédric y Jessica, Roberto and myself, and others in our team dancing.

I refuse to retract this statement. I refuse to be bullied away from what I paid for, trained, and analyzed better than many of my teachers. I have invested nearly every day of 14 years into understanding and mastering this dance. Not any other dance. Not some derivative version of it. The dance. One I learned first in the arms of old men in Los Angeles who could afford to study in Buenos Aires, and then in the arms of younger men, the local elite Porteño dancers of the time. The dance which causes every one of my partners and advanced students to become very desired in their communities.

We dance Argentine Tango. And I need to ask both my friends and my enemies to respect that.

I want you to know that you are not alone…

embrace orig crop

… neither in your dreams for tango nor in your frustrations.

My deepest desire is the same as all my students and friends … those who have yet to start dancing and those who dance a lot.

It’s partnership.

One thing I’ve learned on this quest, we need to:

Stop Waiting for Partners, and start Building them.

I’ve written a 10-step Action Plan.

Are you ready to find the Partners you want?

 

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Important Insights

Books

Power is the courage, confidence, and competence to make things happen. I want to create in a way that’s incomparable and define my own compensation package. You too?

Syntax of Power is a raw, potent, and spare revelation of how I got to where I am and how I take on the struggle every day.

This book is not about tango, it’s about everything else.

It’s about stepping into the darkness of change, learning how to take care of yourself, and making things happen.

Dyv stands for Duro y Vio. We were inspired by a 2007 conference at Harvard University about tango as a transnational culture. Also we wanted to create something that would help people to imagine a queerer tango. We forbid ourselves to use the word ‘passion’ and instead tried to articulate the experience more precisely.

Argentine Tango is more than an elaborate and difficult dance, it is an international culture of intimacy, desire, and dignity. No mere romance or memoir, the intricately woven stories evoke tango’s true mysteries … the elation, the frustration, the compulsion…

We published the book in 2009. Dancers asked “how did you know what I was feeling?”

Silences in history. Silences by code. Silences of fear. You already know that Tango’s silences can be sublime and they can be devastating.

What I do in my blog is use myself as a lens – sometimes a microscope, sometimes a telescope. I try to be as honest with myself and you as words concede. Then I try to find a deeper meaning and imagine a pathway for us.

A blog post can be a fragment, a wisp of inspiration, an outline for thinking. A book must complete and reconcile it all. Now I drag the social scientist to the scene to enumerate the facts of the case, the mystery which brought both stardom and tragedy to my life.

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