Monday, September 24, 2007
Geraldine Rojas & Javier Rodriquez dancing a milonga to Rodolfo Biagi's "Flor de Monserrat". They dance it beautifully, with amazing leading and amazing following, and incredibly fast embellishments. I believe they just might be the most beautifully skilled milonga dancers around right now...except they are no longer dance partners.
Sometimes, usually while driving, I play "Flor de Monserrat" over and over again - to the point that it becomes burned into my gray matter - playing over and over again for days. You might think that would be aggravating, but I actually like it - I know - sick. But it's such beautiful song and I love to dance to it. I am actually a better lead when it comes to milonga. If I could take my milonga lead and apply it to my tango lead - I would make a one year jump in my tango evolution....oh well...c'est la vie....vida mia...and that, my friends will have to be the subject of another post...
I hope you enjoy this video as much as I do...
Saturday, September 22, 2007
First, I need to clarify that it wasn't "no tango at all" at the practica the other night, but someone clarified it for me that it was "almost no tango" or "very little tango" music being played. But still, it pisses me off.
When I was in Buenos Aires this past April, I did not hear one alternative, non-traditional tango being played - never ever in 14 days. The small group I was with attended primarily traditional milongas - and they never played anything but traditional music.
I think the issue is that some people just don't "get" tango music. The people that were hosting the practica in question the other night dance other dances also - swing, swango, ballroomy stuff, etc. I honestly don't think they have ever learned to appreciate tango music - its depth, its complexity, its history. I don't think they have ever really tried.
When I hear a song, and listen to the various instruments being played, I form a mental picture of the original orchestra playing it, live, with people dancing in a milonga. The orchestra is there, the room is surging with the energy of the music, the dancers and the orchestra. Some songs (depending on my mood), actually bring tears to my eyes - Malena, the original version I have of La Cumparsita (did you know there were two lyric versions?), and sometimes Fresedo's Vida Mia. Most of the other really good ones just make the hair stand up on the back of my neck - that sounds wrong - negative - they send chills up and down my spine - there, that's better.
Anywho (big grin), and truth be told I didn't like tango music at first. I didn't "get" it. But I tried to - I listened to tango alot. I sought out videos and CD's. I bought an iPod and started downloading and purchasing music wherever I could find it. I listened and listened and listened. It took about 6 months or so for me to really begin to appreciate it. It took about a year for me to totally (almost) swear off nuevo/alt during milongas.
Don't get me wrong - I love nuevo/alt. But it should played and danced in the proper context. I love Jimi Hendrix' "Hey Joe", "El Tango de Roxanne" from Moulin Rouge, "Every Little Thing About You" by Raul Malo & The Mavericks. All very danceable and fun - but they are just not the same as tango.
Ultimately it boils down to this - and I am speaking only of our little community - if you are not dancing tango (after six years of trying) - and you are not interested in playing tango music - then why bother to call it tango? And damn sure don't call it an Argentine Tango Practica.
I am putting my money where my mouth is and hosting the practica myself next week. It will be billed as an "all traditional tango" practica. No alt/nuevo to be played at all. Continuous music with tandas & cortinas. A traditional tanda structure of T-T-V-T-T-M, but with two song tandas to facilitate the feel of a practica versus a milonga. Line of dance, cabeceo, navigation and other codigos/floorcraft will be observed. In other words, a practica, but in the context of social dancing. Focus on your current favorite issue/problem/dilemma - but dance it out. Dance through it - no stopping and starting and very little talking - lead it - follow it - as they like to say, "shut up and dance".
Part of our problem here is we have so little time on the floor - whether it be classes, practicas or milongas. My feeling is that it's better to spend time dancing and working on "stuff". If you need to work on ocho cortados - then dance - doing a lot of ocho cortados - in the context of the dance - and in the context of doing everything else, but focusing on ocho cortados, and in the context of traditional codigos, floorcraft, tandas, etc. It's like you have to practice everything all at once - right?
'Nuf said...I am beating the proverbial dead horse...thanks for letting me vent...
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
I assume no tango was danced either... or tango was at best attempted... I have to agree with the purists... it's not tango if it's not tango music... plain and simple... it's not fucking tango so why call it that... a bunch of fucking wannabee tango blasphemers... they give tango a bad name... and repel interested people from the purest form of the art... fucking fuckers...
Sorry... I am pissed... and I am a purist...
Monday, September 17, 2007
Here is an article by Ney Melo, "Tango Etiquette - The Do's and Don'ts of Inviting", in which he touches on the follower's responsibility to say "no" - he calls it "their power of declining dances and sending messages". See section #6 below... in red text...
It's a touchy subject, a gray area, this concept of bad (truly bad, versus inexperienced) leaders continuing to get all the dances they want. For years and years! I say followers should send a blatant message to these guys. What do you think?
La Nuit Blanche's post "Despair" got me to thinking about this concept that Ney proposes in his article. The rest of the article is very good, too. Here it is...
Tango Etiquette: The Do's and Don'ts of Inviting by Ney Melo [Monday, 07/24/2006]
I have been thinking about writing this article for a long time, after having experienced many humorous and not-so-humorous episodes at the milonga. Many of us get caught up in learning the steps of the tango and then we get to the milonga and we don't know that there are certain unwritten rules about inviting and accepting or declining dances. While the 'cabeceo' - or inviting people to dance with eye contact and a nod - is alive and well in Buenos Aires, we live in North America and as such our customs have to adapt. (It would be great if the cabeceo were used here because it empowers both men and especially women to dance with the partners they most want to dance with. But the thing is, the cabeceo only works when everyone does it.) Therefore, I've put together a list of "rules" that, if somewhat adhered to, will make the milonga enjoyable for men and ladies alike.
1] THE RULE OF THE "FIRST AND LAST "
The first and last tango of the milonga experience have a significant meaning in the mind of a milonguero/a. Ideally, you'd want to start off on the right foot; you'd want to begin dancing with a capable and smooth partner in order to prepare for the long night of dancing that lies ahead.But just as a good partner will raise you to the next level, a horrible partner will knock you down a few notches. The saying among milongueros is that it takes two good partners in a row to knock out the effects of one bad one. Therefore, be careful about who you accept or invite as your firstpartner. The last tanda (a set of tangos) also has a significance. In Buenos Aires, it is said that you usually dance the last tanda with your lover or a potential lover. I take a more casual approach to this rule and I think that one should dance that last tanda with their significant other unless agreedotherwise. If you are single, then it's open game whom to dance with. However if you are dancing with someone whom you know has a significant other at the milonga, and the last tanda is announced, it is a nice courtesy to ask them if they need to go dance with that other person.
2] NO "BABYSITTING"!!!
Typical scenario: a lady is sitting down at a milonga and is approached by a gentleman who then invites her to dance. Rather than reject him outright, she says 'no, not right now', that she is tired, taking a break, waiting for a friend, etc. Instead of walking away, the guy decides to SIT DOWN BESIDE HER and wait for her to be ready to dance with him! This man has just committed what I call "babysitting". I have seen both ladies and gentlemen commit this fiendish act. When someone says no, it means that you should stay away from him/her for a certain period of time. This leads me to the next rule.
3] THE DURATION OF "NO"
After discussing this with many milongueros and milongueras, I've come to the following onclusion. No means "No for a Little While". If you have been rejected, you cannot invite the same person to dance again at the beginning of the next tanda! Only after 2, 5, maybe more tandas later can you consider asking that person to dance again. Don't be a Stalker. Often times the person who rejected you may even track you down to claim that dance later on when they are ready -- that is if they were truly tired in the first place.
4] THE PENALTY BOX
Rejecting someone does bring a consequence along with it. This is the rule that if you reject someone for a tango, you cannot dance that same tango with someone better who comes along. You have to, at least, wait for the next song or preferably for the next tanda. You can think of those minutes of waiting time as being in hockey's "penalty box". Sometimes this is a double-edged sword because let's say you are in the "penalty box" but then a really amazing dancer who never asks you to dance finally asks you. You know that if you turn them down then you may never get your chance again, but if you say yes you will look like a jerk in the eyes of the first personthat asked you (and then THEY may cease asking)! Sometimes you just can't win!
5] CUTTING IN
I've seen old black and white movies where a Clark Gable or an Errol Flynn type will cut in between the beautiful, young starlet of the movie and her lame-duck partner who audiences forget about seconds later. Well, that only happens in the movies. I'm pretty sure that "Cutting in" is banned in all milongas in all the countries in the world. Back when I was a beginner, I once had someone kindly ask me if they could "cut-in". I kindly cursed them and their family in my mind. That's how serious it is! Invitations to dance happen during the cortinas (the minute of ambient music that is played between the tandas) not when 2 people are standing and talking between the songs in a tanda. PERIOD.
6] THE TANDA
A DJ will usually play 3 or 4 songs of the same orchestra or style followed by a one minute cortina. This "set" is called a tanda. It is only when we want to stop dancing with our partner that we say "thank you". Do not make the mistake of saying "thank you" after every tango. Try to wait until the end of the tanda. If we do not wait until the end, then we are conveying a message. Here is a quick breakdown of the "messages":
We danced 4 songs: That was nice/ I enjoyed it/ Let's do it again in the near future, etc. etc.
We danced 3 songs: It was ok/ Sorry, my feet hurt/ Yikes! My ride home is leaving, gotta go!
We danced 2 songs: I've humored you long enough/ You need to take more lessons/ I thought the first bad tango was my fault, but now I see that its your fault.
We danced 1 song: It's just not happening/ Maybe you should just sit and watch for a while/ Please don't ask me to dance at this milonga again.
I truly believe that when women start using their power of declining dances and sending messages, then that is when the leaders will start working to improve their dance. It has to be a system of checks and balances. If we allow mediocre leaders to dance with amazing followers and vice versa, then why would they want to get better? I remember an argument that a friend and I had a long time ago. She was upset because a horrible leader basically manhandled her for a whole tanda and made her look and feel bad. I witnessed the whole thing and I didn't like what this leader did, but I also didn't like that my friend was too nice not to end the carnage early!! Ladies, please use your power to say "no" to bad dances. It is better to sit all night, enjoy the music, and have a good conversation than to be dragged around the milonga floor like Hector was by Achilles after being slain in the movie "Troy". There were many times in my tango infancy that I was rejected by good followers. I never took it personally. It only served to make me better.
I'm not saying you shouldn't dance with beginners. Everyone should do a dance or two with beginners at the milonga and look at it as 'community service' and make them feel welcome. But there is a difference between a beginner, and a bad dancer who just never 'gets it'. There are a number of guys at any given milonga who have been dancing for a long time, they maul the ladies, and they never have any incentive to get better because they get all the dances they want anyway.
7] BE NICE
Rejection is tough to accept. Feelings can be easily hurt. Please take this into consideration when rejecting someone. It might help to approach it as though you are going to break up with someone, making sure not to hurt their feelings but yet not giving them hope for a reunion.
"Sorry, its not you it’s me"
"Look, I am not in a good place right now, I want to just be alone for a while"
"I just want you to be happy"
"You deserve better"
"I know we danced last night, but that was then, this is now"
For the rejectee, just accept it and move on. It doesn't help to reply:
"Just tell me why"
"Give me one good reason"
"I can change"
"Look, I'll be right here. Let me know if things change"
"But I thought we meant something"
This is when leaders or followers end the tanda early and then finish it off with someone else. This is bad business. What makes it worse is that in order to facilitate this trade, one usually has to make eye contact and cut a deal with the new partner while still on the dance floor with the original partner! I've seen this happen at the milonga and all I can say is that this is "shady, shady, shady". Like I mentioned in Rule # 5: Invitations to dance should happen during the cortinas (the minute of ambient music that is played between the tandas).
9] THE "DANCE WITH ME NOW" CARD
Every now and then I will be invited by a lady to dance and I will politely refuse because I will be in the process of doing something that prevents me from dancing with her at the moment (getting a drink, taking a rest, on my way to the bathroom to change shirts, etc. etc.) This is when the lady will sometimes pull out the "dance with me now" card by saying "But I'm leaving the milonga in 5 minutes". This makes me uncomfortable because now I feel pressured to dance with her right then and there. What makes matters worse is when I do succumb to the pressure, I dance with the person, and the person DOES NOT LEAVE THE MILONGA! I think a lot of people agree with me when I say that if you are going to use the "dance with me now" card by claiming that you are about to leave, then I better not see you at the coat rack at the same time as me at the end of the night.
Also, resist the urge to use excessive force when asking for a dance, i.e. grabbing your target and dragging him or her to the floor while exclaiming "Let's dance! Let's dance!" You should give the other person a choice of whether or not to dance with you, being polite and civilized about it. Bottom line: The dance is not enjoyable if the inviter (male or female) pressures the invitee. People want to dance out of pleasure, not duty.
10] THE BARE FOOT "WHITE FLAG"
Because rejection can be hard to take, one method devised by some ladies of communicating to the men that they are not accepting invitations at the moment is to take their shoes off. This serves as 'proof' that they really are taking a break, should anyone ask them. All they have to do is raise up the bare foot 'white flag'. They can rest the balls of their feet from those 4 inch heels and not get hassled by potential dance partners. (On the flip side, they can also make a guy feel great if they do decide to dance when asked and say 'let me put my shoes back on for you'.)
10] BE PERCEPTIVE
Pay attention to your potential partner's body language when you are getting ready to ask them for a dance. There are non-verbal signals that you should try to clue in to. Gentlemen, if you are headed towards a woman and she sees you and quickly turns away, reaches down to fiddle with her shoe strap, digs in her purse endlessly - it means she DOESN'T WANT TO DANCE. If she even jumps up and heads for the ladies room, don't pursue her and grab her shoulder as she flees thinking 'maybe she didn't see me'. If she notices you and maintains eye contact, or smiles, or waves, or in general looks pleased that you are headed her way, then by all means ask her! If you are not sure, go over and say hello, and judge by her reaction whether she wants to dance.
You can look around the room as well and guess which people are wanting to dance. If they are sitting or standing right by the dance floor, looking intently and wistfully at the dancers, looking around to catch the attention of potential partners, etc, then they are most certainly available. If they are sitting with all their attention focused on their companion, deep in conversation, eating, enjoying a drink and looking otherwise very comfortable where they are, approach with caution. See if you can catch their eye. If they look away, then save your invitation for later. Yes, this is a version of the cabeceo. If someone is in the midst of an animated conversation, do not hang around in the periphery of their vision, tapping your foot, waiting for the split-second when they pause for breath to interject your invitation. Ask someone else.
12] ASK PERMISSION
Maybe some people will think this is very old-fashioned but I think it is nice: When you approach a couple who are dating or married and they are sitting together, it is nice to 'ask permission' of the other when you want to ask one of them to dance. Often it is the man asking the other man for 'permission' to dance with his lady. This is not because the man 'owns' the woman or because the woman needs her date's permission. It is simply showing the courtesy of acknowledging the other human at the table when you come to take their companion away. I think it is rude to come up to a couple and ask one person without even saying 'hello' or 'excuse me' or 'may I?' to the other. This rule of course only applies if the couple is actually seated together. And this rule also applies to women asking permission of another woman to dance with her man. Ladies, if a gentleman is standing with his arm around his significant other and you come up and ask him, make sure to greet both people, don't just grab him and drag him away. Yes, this happens, and yes it is rude.
Most of these rules may seem like they shouldn't need to be laid out, but you would be surprised. Anytime someone violates these rules, its because they are letting their ego get the best of them. In the end, we are all tango music lovers and we all love to dance, and we all must learn to get along at the milonga. Being aware of, sensitive to, and in tune with another person are what partner dancing is all about. Use these skills off the dance floor as well as on.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Okay, now something about tango...
Gustavo and Giselle are my absolute all time favorite tango dancers. I love their style. I love them as individuals (although I only "know" them as student of theirs). I want to dance like Gustavo (obviously within the confines of my own body/muscles/skeleton/geometry with my partner/mind/musicality/passion..). He is my hero/idol. She is...I can't write what I think about Giselle...she is a married woman after all. I study my video footage of classes I took in Buenos Aires (April 2007) and Atlanta (June 2007) at night when I should be working on work stuff. The teachers of the teachers...the maestros of the maestros. Great dancers, great teachers, great people. That said...
Here is a post today from Blog Critic Magazine... titled "The Greatest Maestro of Tango in the World"...
Originally published on Terence Clarke's blog....titled "The Cream of Tango" ...
Terence Clarke is a novelist, journalist and filmmaker who writes about the arts ...Terence Clarke: Books, Art, Music, Film, Style ... http://web.mac.com/teryclarke/iWeb/Site/Blog/Blog.html
As a sidenote:: I'm not 100% sure about this, but it's my understanding that Gustavo started CITA... and then gave it over (or sold it?) to his friend Fabian Salas... I'm not sure if they are still friends or not... for whatever this tidbit of information is worth...
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Even though this is a "modern" American song...the lyrics are all tango...and the rhythm is totally danceable...everyone loves it when I play this at our milongas here in Aspen...the version I have is still live...but much better...more energy and emotion...
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
See the Tango-L post below about an interview in which he talks about the milonguero "consciousness"(my word)...
Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2007 15:55:57 -0300
From: "Janis Kenyon"
Subject: [Tango-L] It's another world in Buenos Aires
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
The August 2007 issue of B.A. Tango -- Buenos Aires Tango magazine contains an interview by Tito Palumbo with Theirry Le Cocq of France.
He relates how he began with tango after meeting his partner Veronique at a swing dance. Although they had classes with different teachers in France, they never found anyone able to talk to them about the roots or culture of tango. Teachers only talked about technique, they didn't talk about feelings. He and his partner eventually travelled to Buenos Aires in 2000 and discovered another world. He asked someone to tell him who the best milonguero was, and Ricardo Vidort was pointed out to him in El Beso.
Ricardo became his friend and advisor, like a father. He learned that tango is not only a way of dancing, but a way of living. In the past he danced nonstop. Now he enjoys it in a different way. He doesn't need to dance nonstop, but watches and listens. This is what he found in Buenos Aires.
He comes once a year for three weeks or a month with Veronique.
Thierry says, I think the future of tango is milonguero because life is like that. We have to combine life experiences with technical knowledge. When we master both, we start appreciating the emotion of this dance. A full and calm emotion. It is better to learn this philosophy early, rather than later, when it is too late. This is what I try to show when I dance here, a little technique and a bit more of emotion dancing with the melodies that the composer provided. All this is my personal search. I will always remember Ricardo Vidort without whom none of this would have happened
First...can I use the word "fuck" in blog-land? Any censors out there?
Here's the deal...I SINCERELY HOPE I DON'T OFFEND ANYONE WITH THIS POST...
I find that the best dances (to me, personally) are when the follower dances with "energy". The best way I have found to describe this is this::
(note my choice of the word fuck, versus "making love", when in reality I am more of a "making love" kinda guy...)
"When I fuck a woman, and she just lays there, it is still very good sex (usually)...BUT, when she doesn't just lay there, and she chooses to meet my energy with her own energy, when she chooses to 'fuck me back'...it can be mindblowinglyunbelievable sex."
Caveat: In my own defense, I haven't been involved with women who don't reciprocate sexually...except for my first ex-wife...she had a tendency to just lay there...I don't/won't go there anymore...life is too short for that...
For me, tango is the same...there are women who just "lay there"...are like a blob of mush or jello....and then there are the women who "tango me back"...and that's when it is really, really good...
But, I think this is very, very difficult for a follower to achieve, and therefore very, very rare...for me personally, I would say one in twenty followers...in my humble experience...
Monday, September 10, 2007
This is the trailer on YouTube. The link to the full short film is::
You should have a high speed connection for this...and watch until the very end...a cute ending...it's about 11 minutes long total...
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Here's another Tango bloguera who used one of my photos in her blog...here is the link to her post...http://tangobaby2.blogspot.com/2007/08/longing.html
And here is the original photo...
Please just be aware...wait for the lead...try not to automatically default...please...
We had our monthly milonga last night in Glenwood Springs, which coincided with a weekend workshop given by Tom Stermitz (Denver Tango Festivals) of Denver. Tom usually likes to leave early - so I normally DJ after he leaves. Last night, I suppose he was tired, and figured I could handle the DJ'ing just fine, because he didn't show.
I arrived at 8:30, and was trying to pick the lock on the back door of the Masonic Temple (yes, the Masonic Temple), when I realized the lights were on inside and people were busy setting up. For the first hour or so, it was me and one other leader, and about six followers. We finally ended up with about sixteen folks and were fairly balanced, but I was kept pretty busy attending to my responsibilites as a lead in a very small community.
I have actually been going through a state of fairly major flux these past few months (or could it be almost a year?) both in my tango life and my personal/work life. I have vacilated in my desire to dance, mostly because of the lack of good followers to practice with, but also because of lots of bad dances.
As I write this, I recall that it started back in May at the Labor Day Festival in Denver. My daughter graduated from High School that weekend, so I could only attend the Sunday picnic milonga, and then the all nighter. I remember having some fairly unpleasant dances. Mostly due to zero connection, a couple due to extreme apilado by the follower - hanging on me, and a few due to poor choices by me in asking women I didn't know to dance.
She danced with her eyes open and I could tell she was scanning the field behind me for other leads to dance with. Lesson Learned:: Never dance with a woman who dances (close embrace) with her eyes open.
I have actually danced with this California woman before - nice dances. But this time, for some reason, (maybe she was tired) she was hanging on me with what felt like 100% of her weight. I am a big guy, but gawd she was heavy. Most of her weight was on my right arm - this is an ongoing issue for me for some reason. In spite of my attempts to adjust our embrace, she just stayed camped out on me - like some sort of hanging bivouac on the face of El Capitan. My back was tweaked by all this, and I left early in frustration. I think I even decided in that moment to quit tango all together - I reasoned that if I was deriving no pleasure from tango, why continue? It's the old agony vs. the ecstacy issue - I think it's fairly common in the tango world. And, I realize my title "extreme apilado" is not really accurate here...hanging on someone is not the same as "a Gavito" apilado...which is a stylistic choice...
I need to be more aware of the level of dance of women before I ask them to dance. If a follower can't execute simple stuff like molinetes (in both directions) and ocho cortados, then I probably shouldn't ask them to dance. Although, there is the "community service dance" responsibility of dancing with less experienced women - which I happily do on occassion - or drop back into if I have not gauged a woman's experience properly - drop back into the connection, musicality, simple walking. I suppose this should not really be an "excuse" for me. I will freely admit - I am one of the worst offenders of dancing with a very short list of women - ultimately I think it has stunted my lead.
Anyway, I got side tracked there...I wanted to talk about the Aspen Tango community...and what it's like to learn tango in a very small and isolated community. You may not realize it, but Aspen is in the middle of the wilderness. They call it a "destination resort". I drove 45 minutes/miles to Glenwood last night to dance...and 45 long minutes back at 2 in the morning. Denver is 3.5 hours away. Santa Fe, where I have been for a workshop and milonga, is the next closest town with tango, and it's a good 6 or 7 hours - and that's when the pass is open. Add an hour and a half in the winter when the pass is closed.
So sixteen last night at the milonga - which I would say is average attendance. A "big" milonga for us is 25 or 30 - which hasn't happened in a while. It will usually coincide with a visiting teacher - Luciano from BsAs or Jaimes Friedgen from Seattle. That number includes pretty much every dancer from Aspen, Glenwood Springs, a few from Grand Junction, Summit County and Denver.
Not that I'm complaining - although it does make the learning process much slower for us - dancing maybe once a month - dancing with the same few partners all the time - it's a nice community, with really nice people.
The gist of all this, is that I had some really nice dances last night...and had "fun"....for the first time in a very long time...and that's what it's all about, right?
Under the "poor choices"...another basic error that tweaks me is the "flying leg ocho"...I can see the woman's leg in my peripheral vision taking a wide swing/trajectory as if I had displaced it, when in fact we are just doing simple ochos...so here it is ladies...step....collect...pivot...WAIT...step... The "collect" and the "wait" may be only a millisecond each, but they are there... ankles together... just passing briefly by... the "wait" is so that you don't block a lead's opportunity to do something... Luiza (of Pulpo & Luiza) is great about emphasizing not defaulting and blocking the leads opportunities to do something else...
Saturday, September 8, 2007
La Planchadora blogged a bit about one of my photos of Julio and Corina...
Here is her blog link...
Here is the link to her post about my photo....
Check out this video: Street Tango in Barcelona Square