Tango and Carbonara (or the Should and the Could)

My home San Francisco is a very foodie city, and has been for many decades. It birthed artisan coffee and artisan bread. Its food critics are anonymous, scathing, and revered. It is one of the point sources for the local food movement which has now become global.

In a recent article published in San Francisco Magazine, food writer Sara Deseran considered the concept of authenticity. She explained that foodies who fetishize authenticity seem to believe that if a place has no décor and a grandmother at the stove it must be good. “Authentocrats” are suspicious of hip, urban restaurants.

She then told a story of a San Francisco chef researching for a new restaurant. He found many places in Rome serving “the definitively authentic carbonara” – with dramatic differences. Back home he analyzed his 20 favorites from Rome, “tore them apart and rebuilt them – from the egg yolks to the pecorino.” And the refinement is ongoing, “We’re still changing the cut on the guanciale…”

Deseran argues that San Francisco chefs bring a special treasure to their kitchens: local values. San Francisco’s “regional” perspective is obsession with freshness and ingredients. Chefs “commission farmers to produce pastured eggs from nearly extinct breeds of Italian chickens.” This means that while chefs respect tradition, these values make their food especially, well, delicious.

I hope the application to tango is clear. The oldest or closest-to-origin version of something may or may not be the most refined and wonderful option. There well may be ways to improve upon it by bringing along our values and regional perspectives. We neither diminish nor defile classic experiences by enriching them with our own strengths. Indeed heartless repetitions in Rome may serve tradition less than inspired fusion chefs in San Francisco.

While we’re in California…

Let’s not forget the other meaning of the term, ‘authentic’, the Californian one: This term is an affirmation and yearning for expressions that reflect deep personal truth. Authenticity is a desirable experience because we feel we are manifesting our soul when we interact.  It’s a desirable character trait because it indicates a willingness to trust. An inauthentic person is more concerned with conforming to fashion than with expressing herself, with getting along rather than sharing her unique (possibly controversial) perspectives and insights. An inauthentic person pretends to be someone he is not.

Foreigners who grasp righteously at ‘Authentic Argentine Tango’ might thereby become inauthentic. They prioritize the purported (often mythical, even anecdotal) ways of Buenos Aires over their own preferences – they may not even allow themselves to develop personal preferences. They repress their own critical thought and imagination, repeating received behaviors as gospel, and they aspire not to find their most soulful expression as tanguera/os and artists but to mimic stereotypes.

In my view, authentic tango is one in which we find tango’s soul through our own experience, and trust that we have something poignant to develop with our partners from our own context, rather than forsaking ourselves in imitation.

I believe that Your Feelings are authentic.

I was reading another tango blog the other day (fortunately I can’t remember which one it was) offering advice about tango clothing. I found the writer’s description of the style in BsAs accurate, but it was totally normative. It was certainly informative, but it was all should.

If you read my posts about clothing and musicality you’ll find that I’m encouraging you to find your own personal tango style, not someone else’s.

When I teach leaders, I am focused on expanding their freedom and confidence to improvise, not marching them through a canon of conventional sequences.

My intention when I teach and write is to expand your could, to encourage your imagination, experimentation, and creativity beyond what we’ve already witnessed.

I want you to know that you are not alone…

… 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?




All the Blog Posts EVER

Posts by Email



SEARCH the Blog

The Berlin Interviews


More Guides...

2020 TangoForge

6-19.February Wellington NZ
7-9 February Bruges Neo Tango


See you at

Reflect and Train


Exercises from Maui


Important Insights


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.

We didn’t start online education in March of 2020. We started in 2014. Learn more about our Digital School