Monday, November 11, 2019

Visions of tango - Tango Mentor

Visions of tango

Visions of tango? This topic is highly explosive. So, before I begin, I ask you for patience and, if you disagree with me, for respect: we all love tango, but not all of us have the same vision or the same taste.

Let me start with this article as an experiment. Take a look at the video and give some thought to the dancing you see there. Some of you will like it, but the majority will think of it as bad dancing.

What if I tell you that I like it? Would you believe me?

And why do you think others have a completely different opinion?

Well, this article is about just that. My intention is not really to start a discussion, more to shed light on the countless discussions in the tango world. People take a stand often for personal reasons, but most of the times there is a deeper reason that is connected to how people view tango.

I have to warn you – I'm not an objective observer. I take sides in this discussion! I have strong opinions about these things – you will see below which one (if you haven't already). I consider it my mission to help those who agree with me, those that feel that there is more to tango than just performing.

Of course, things are not always black and white. One cannot draw a strict line between the two different ways but that should not stop us thinking about the differences. That is a necessary condition of learning.

In tango, the lines are often blurred and there are several reasons:

Sometimes they are purely financial – teaching the more acrobatic shiny variety of tango is more lucrative.

Other times, they come from the artistic mindset of the teachers who come to the world of social dancing with an artistic background or ambition. These two reasons can of course exist at the same time but the reason can also be completely different.

In this article I will talk about four dichotomies. I have formulated four questions that will help every dancer to find out what his or her vision of tango is, or rather, where one should stand if one wants to become a social tango dancer.

And here they are, so ask yourself:

1. Where do you dance?

Why do you take classes and where are you going to use this knowledge?

If you are a social dancer your answer will be "At milongas of course!" So, what kind of knowledge do you need to be able to dance at milongas?

It is interesting that often when I share my article "Practice less, dance more" so many people disagree with me and the polemics start.

Some people think that you can't learn to dance just by dancing more at milongas – because their goal is not dancing at milongas – their vision of tango is stage tango, and I agree, it is impossible to learn how to dance stage tango at milongas. That is where you learn to dance social tango (which some people call tango milonguero).

2. Why do you dance?

The question here is do you dance for your partner or for those who watch?

Dancing for your partner is called social dancing. Dancing for a public is called show (escenario).

In my opinion, if you are a social dancer your foremost goal should be to be able to connect with your partner. Everything you do is testing or supporting that connection.

On the other hand, if you are more of a showy dancer, you will probably consider the connection a tool that will help you with the steps.

This is the reason I believe that competing (for example the Tango Mundial) is bad for the development of social tango. Being a champion, in my opinion, is not a good recommendation. Competitors dance for the judges – which is dancing for the observers. And, dancing for the observers requires that you develop a different style than what is required when dancing in a milonga.

I believe the only judge relevant when social dancing is your partner.

3. How do you dance?

Everything you do in tango has its purpose.

For example, some insist on using large steps and a lot of energy. Why? In my opinion, that approach was developed by the stage dancers. When you perform and you have a large crowd in front of you, you need them to see what you are doing, even those seated in the back row. That is why everything you do has to be large.

You also have to move a lot and take up a lot of space, because if you don't, you will look small on the big stage.

It is similar with stage actors. They have to make big movements and speak loudly – on the stage you can't notice subtle gestures and face expressions.

Dancing social tango on stage would be boring for the crowd.

Here I believe one should think in dichotomies like large vs small, loud vs soft, grandiose vs subtle, showy vs discreet…

I consider those who sign up as members of the inner circle – those with whom I feel free to share deeper insights and more comments than I am allowed to share in my articles. I consider the members of my list as "my tribe" or "my people"… so, I care more when they have something to ask or to share with me. Sign up here:

4. What kind of dancer are you?

Are you an artist/performer or a social dancer?

They both belong to the tango world, but are located in different places. Art in my mind means inovating, dedicating time and energy to be original and mastering the techniques to achieve what you imagine in the best way possible.

On the other side you can find social dancers who are not artists, but artisans (check the lecture by Osvaldo Natucci).

This is why I think social tango is not really that hard to learn. Learning social tango is easy and necessary. Learning to perform on stage is hard and unnecessary.

Teaching all your students to dance show tango is like teaching all swimmers to become Olympians. 99% of them will never compete, but 100% of them will swim in the sea. The goal should be to make them float and not drown 🙂 You learn to swim foremost by entering the water, not by taking countless classes or having hardcore workouts.

I always advice fellow teachers to prepare their students for dancing at milongas, not to perform. 99% of them will never perform on stage, but 100% of them will dance at milongas.

I know, there is a big chance you might have a different opinion and, if that works for you, I have no saying there. But if you agree with me, help me spread the word by sharing this article with your friends. Thanks for that!

Jessica Schilling's Spotify Playlist for the ABQ2019 Tango Festival

Well, a partial playlist anyway...she's got other good playlists...she always shares after she DJ's at various events...

Marisol Martinez [et al] :: La Auténtica Milonguera

It looks like Marisol Martinez (formerly the singer with Romantica Milonguera) has joined up with a group of musicians and formed a Nuevo orquesta by the name of "La Auténtica Milonguera". It also looks like they are just getting started with recording and setting tour dates. Although they do show four gig dates coming up at milongas in Buenos Aires.

Keep your eyes peeled for them. And your ears open, too, I suppose. Her voice is unmistakable. As I am oft to say, "she's got a set of pipes on'er".

Congrats to Marisol and the other members of the qroup. It looks like Sebastian Castro Mendoza is their arranger or manager or both. I couldn't find any info on the other musicians...

Ears + Heart + Feet: Talking About Tango Music :: Jessica Schilling

Jessica gave this presentation at the 2019 Albuquerque Tango Festival. This is a condensed "practice" version.

From the YouTube description: Let's talk about tango music! As dancers, knowing more about tango music's history and development can help us shine -- as well as make dancing a lot more fun. This talk from tango DJ Jessica Schilling goes over some of the history of tango music, what we can learn from the different eras of tango to help inform our dancing, and what we can bring with us into the milonga. It's a condensed version of a presentation given 9 November 2019 at the Albuquerque Tango Festival.

Big thanks to Pablo Stafforini for creating the wonderful "20 Tango Endings" video included in this talk!

Sent from my iPad

Sunday, November 10, 2019

TangoMayaFest Sunrise

Saturday, November 9, 2019...shooting the sunrise Saturday morning with my Movi Freefly Gimbal - handheld...shot in sure to click the full screen icon or click through to Vimeo and select the 4k setting....


Un disparo en la noche . Documental (Completo) (ENGLISH/FRANCAIS)

Una orquesta de tango, doce cantores y doce nuevas canciones.

“Un disparo en la noche” reúne a los más importantes exponentes del tango contemporáneo y logra un punto de inflexión en la discografía del más emblemático patrimonio argentino.

El documental, filmado completamente en Buenos Aires por el director Alejandro Diez, muestra el detrás de cámaras de la producción de este álbum, describiendo la filosofía que precede al trabajo en estudio y mostrando -al mismo tiempo- una mirada sobre el tango de hoy.

Un disco grabado en menos de seis horas en los míticos Estudios ION –donde grabaran Piazzolla, Stampone, Salgán, Pugliese, entre cientos- es narrado en imágenes, música, momentos ad libitum y entrevistas con los principales protagonistas de la actual música ciudadana.

La nueva época de oro del Tango afirma no sólo la música, sino el valor de la canción para el desarrollo de nuestro género popular.

Dirigida y Editada por Alejandro Diez


Google Translate:

An orchestra of tango, twelve singers and twelve new songs.
"A shot at night" [a shot in the dark?] brings together the most important exponents [components?] of contemporary tango and achieves a turning point in the discography of the most emblematic Argentine heritage.
The documentary, filmed completely in Buenos Aires by director Alejandro Diez, shows the behind the scenes of the production of this album, describing the philosophy that precedes the work being studied and showing - at the same time - a look at today's tango.
An album recorded in less than six hours at the legendary ION Studios - where they recorded Piazzolla, Stampone, Salgán, Pugliese, among hundreds - is narrated in images, music, moments ad libitum and interviews with the main protagonists of current citizen music.
The new golden age of Tango affirms not only music, but the value of the song for the development of our popular genre.

Directed and Edited by Alejandro Diez

Thursday, November 7, 2019

To every leader

To every leader who refuses to learn and implement tango codigos, cabeceo whenever possible, and most importantly, impeccable floorcraft and navigation, fuck you.

Strong letter to follow.

Teachers who refuse to make floorcraft and navigation part of every single class, you're not off the hook either.

Festival organizers who refuse to address f&n proactively, y'all too


Sent from my iPhone

Festival Organizers :: Spring for padded chairs

Spend the few extra dollars for padded chairs...

My bony ass will thank you...

#TangoMayaFest2019, my ass thanks you...

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Rules of the road :: Felipe Martinez:: SF Tango Marathon


Treat each other with COURTESY and RESPECT. We may have different styles, opinions, values in tango (and elsewhere), but we all share the same passion.

Invitation: Use CABECEO. Followers, be proactive. Leaders, be clear with your intention, invite with a nod and re-confirm before you approach the follower.

Entrance: Catch the eye of the approaching leader and receive acknowledgement before entering the floor. Merge smoothly and move with the flow of the ronda right away.

Flow: Move with the ronda - do not hold up traffic and do not overtake. If bumping, apologize even if it is not your fault.

Exit: Leaders, accompany the follows to their seats and CLEAR THE FLOOR after the tanda. This allows dancers to use cabeceo to invite a partner for the next dance.

Absolutely NO TEACHING on the dance floor.

Safety: Any harassment or abusive behavior is unacceptable. If you feel threatened, let the staff know immediately.

Sent from my iPhone

What if tango was like that? - Tango Argentino Festivals

From Dimitris Bronowski at

He raises some interesting questions and shines a light on a new mindset/concept. Well, not exactly new, but not something that is very prevalent, I don't think.

Be sure to click through to the post on his website and read the comments.

What if tango was like that?

Last night I went out for tango, and something beautiful happened.

First of all, you need to understand that I don't dance so much as I used to.

Not because I don't like it.

My focus is on playing with my son when I am not working, and he is too young to join me at a night out.

But yesterday I felt this need to dance.

I was working all day long listening to tango music in parallel, and both my body and my mind was telling me it's time.

I kissed my son and wife goodnight and went to the TanGoLisboa weekend.

As usual, I didn't start dancing right away.

I gave myself time to absorb the music and the environment.

When I danced my first tanda, I was not in the mood for the usual conversation.

You know "where do you come from?", "how many days are you staying here?"

I simply asked:

-What do you like most about tango?


She took a while to respond.

Who asks this kind of questions, right?

-Connection, she said.

We danced one more song.

-You didn't ask me "Connection with whom?", she said at the end.

I asked.

-With myself.


-It is my active meditation.

-Why do you need it?

-It helps me grow.

Now I was intrigued. 

What if I kept doing that all night long?

What would I discover?

The next woman I danced with, simply said:

-I love to meet complete strangers, from anywhere in the world, and know that I have a language to communicate with them.

Beautiful, I thought.

I received many answers that night.

-Because tango shakes my soul, another one told me.

And then, it happened:

To stay alive, she said. 

I won't share more about this conversation, it is too personal.

But it led to one of the deepest, most emotional tandas of my life.


Because I saw the soul of that person, and the healing power of tango.

-If you want to improve in tango, I said to myself, focus on using your dance to heal, to give joy.

When you put that as an intention, all answers become easier.

I watched this old tanguera sitting, almost all night long. 

At one moment a man looked at her, she smiled, ready to dance.

He walked closer to her, and and then he simply continued walking to dance with a woman a few steps behind her.

The old lady, who was already on the move, continued by grabbing a glass of water, to cover her misunderstanding. 

I saw her face turn sad.

It was not her age that made me take the following step, nor pitty.

She had the calmness that only people that have lived a full life have.

It was this simple realization, of the power of a simple embrace.

I went closeby, I looked at her.

She looked at me, and then looked down again.

I kept my gaze.

She looked again. 

And then looked down again.

Then she looked for a third time, full of disbelief.

I finally had time to smile back and move my head pointing to the dance floor.

A huge smile appeared at her face.

You might ask how the tanda went, if we danced beautifully.

To this I would say that it was a true joy, and that you are asking the wrong question.

We shared a moment, as humans, no matter our age difference, ethnicity, beliefs… and that's what matters.

I left this tanda happier, and I hope she did the same.

What if we all danced to spread joy and to heal?

How would a milonga look like in that case?

That's a milonga I wouldn't miss for the world.

That night I saw people that are passing through hard divorces smiling.

I saw a woman who is about to lose a person she loves and hasn't even had the chance to see yet, or touch its hand, to dance and let go. 

I saw people… connecting with people

Finding healing moments.

And I said to myself again:

-What if we were all dancing to heal and be healed?

-What if?

You need to know that my vision is to help tangueros and tangueras create meaningful moments in tango and moments of personal transformation.

For that reason, the last three months I work 10-12 hours per day, to help tanguer@s find free accommodation so they can afford going to more festivals and marathons to dance, find maestros they love so they can progress faster, find festivals they love so they can experience tango.

To do that, it is important to understand why people dance in the first place, and what can be done to improve everyone's experience.

And I could use your help. 

Can you share why you dance in the comments below? I want to know, it matters. Not just for you. Your answer might help many other people. Plus, I want to see YOU. Sharing your why, is where true connection starts. I shared my answer below.

P.S. If you feel more people should join this conversation, please share, the social media buttons should be somewhere around the text.

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, November 3, 2019

A beginner reviews ‘Our Tango World’ | journey of a trainee tanguero

A beginner reviews 'Our Tango World'

Our Tango World, 1: Learning and Community is an oddly prosaic title for an extremely poetic and impassioned book. I couldn't help but feel that it deserves something more akin to Twelve Minutes of Love.

But the fact that I'm writing this review a little over 24 hours after taking delivery of the book is testament to the fact that this was my sole disappointment …

I've written before about being inspired by Iona Italia's blog, so when I saw that she had a book on the way, I ordered it the moment I saw it was up for pre-order. (And in doing so, robbed Steph of one of her planned xmas presents for me; she sent me the link, intending to judge from my reaction how interested I would be in reading it, only to find that, 30 seconds later, I'd ordered a copy.)

Iona devoted a decade of her life to tango in Buenos Aires; I'm a three-month-in beginner. Parts of OTW are like hearing tips for constructing the Large Hadron Collider while I'm still trying to construct a lever using two pencils on a desktop. But it's testament to her communication skills that almost all of the book is accessible to someone who had to Google some of the terminology.

When she talks about feeling a leader's smile as she wordlessly draws his attention to a violin part he'd never before noticed, that is something so far beyond my imagining that it might as well be written in, well, Spanish. And yet, rather than making me feel depressed that I was three feet from my front door on a walking circumnavigation of the globe, I felt inspired to see just how far the tango journey could take me, should I have the desire, dedication and deftness needed to reach such a level.

Part of that is perspective, of course. Remembering, as someone recently commented on an earlier post, that tango is a journey, not a destination. But much of it is in the way Iona makes you view the infinite levels to tango as an opportunity, not as a series of steps that must be climbed.

It's full of advice that seems equally useful to a beginner as to an intermediate dancer. I'll give just one example of many. Dissociation is one of the harder challenges for beginners – or British male ones, at any rate. Understanding how is key; but Iona's simple description of the 'why' is one which really helps me think about what I'm trying to achieve – the sensation I'm aiming to create.

In tango, everything begins with the intention of embracing. Dissociated, spiralling movements start from a desire to reach around and encircle your partner.

My copy of OTW is not yet 36 hours old, and is already full of turned-over corners, highlighted sentences and vertical lines alongside paragraphs. On a second reading (for this is not a book to read only once), I'm sure it will acquire more of each. It's written so beautifully, part of me feels like I'm defacing a work of art. But, for me, it's testament to the quality of a book.

This has always been my approach to books with things to teach me. They are tools which demand to be used. There is so much value that would be lost if I relied on the optimistic idea that these ideas will somehow seep into my dance at just the right time. Iona talks much of the value of practice. This is no different. These are nuggets which need to be revisited and consciously infused into my tango. Letting these things go forgotten would be so much uglier than yellow streaks on the page.

I will be photographing each of those highlighted passages, and pasting them into my tango notebook. Picking out one at a time to act as a second focal point for my lessons each week.

In some ways, OTW is a textbook. There are thousands of words of practical advice applicable, I suspect, to dancers of almost every level. It's a guidebook to the tango world. But it's also a poetic journey into that world, lived through the observant eyes and thoughtful mind of a devoted traveller.

journey of a trainee tanguero :: ben lovejoy blog :: ben goes to BsAs

Next stop, Buenos Aires!

Everyone says it's only a matter of time. Take up tango, and at some point you're going to want to go to Buenos Aires.

I'm fortunate enough to have some local guides. Steph has been before, so knows her way around a bit – and, handily, speaks Spanish. Diego kindly gave us a literal day-by-day milonga schedule, with a taste of everything from uber-traditional at one end through casual porteño to 'underground.' I'm having a lesson and a drink with Iona Italia. And a friend who visits often has put us in touch with someone who is taking us to a barrio milonga a little way outside the city …

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