Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Buenos Aires - I wonder...

I am dancing a lot lately, and I am listening to tango music even more. I have taken to looking up the lyrics of the songs that I like so that I can sing them with the music (and understand the parts I cannot figure out on my own – BTW anyone know a good on-line dictionary which would also contain Argentine slang? a monolingual one would do), and they are ever so beautiful! In fact, I hardly ever listen to other music than tango anymore – there still seems to be so much to discover – and while I am perfectly content that way, I have a feeling it might sometimes be a bit overwhelming for those around me, who think that there are only so many times you can listen to a tango...(apart from listening to tango on my iPod, which is quite harmless, I love listening to tango CDs in the living room on a quiet evening at home... or when receiving guests... and when I am cooking... and baking... and getting dressed up and ready to go out... I just like it as a background to my life.

From which it follows that I need more tango music, right? So that people don´t get bored listening to the same tangos all over again and again:)

I have great hopes concerning tango music to buy when I go to Buenos Aires. And the shoes, of course. The shoes...

And the dancing, I suppose...?

Well, the thing is.. I have already got my ticket to Argentina. And the place to stay. And much as I long to dance in the milongas of Buenos Aires, I would also like to see a bit of the country and not just its capital city. I find that seeing the countryside may be very illuminating when getting to know a country, because a capital city will always be the capital. We´re planning to travel up to the north-east, to the provinces near the Bolivian and Chilean border. So I am really looking forward to the whole trip, and have started counting down the days till February.

I am also looking forward to taking some classes in Buenos Aires, and of course to the milongas! But, reading people´s posts about the dancing in B.A., I wonder... Why do some people consider it to be nothing short of paradise? And then, again, specify that ´even´ in B.A. there are some bad dancers...?! Well, of course, there are bound to be better and worse dancers, aren´t there, they are humans like everyone else and not everyone is a born dancer. I know quite a few Argentines who couldn´t dance to save their lives, and why should they?

I do hope that there will be more tangueros in B.A. who dance with the music, not just on it, who dance to connect with their partner, who know how to hold a woman, who know that less is sometimes more, who know how to pause. It may be thanks to the culture of not rushing things and, what is most important, NOT seeing tango as a sport (I am quite allergic to that kind of attitude – but, again, though you may find it more common in some countries than in others, I think it is a personal thing, just like when some people aren´t able to truly feel and enjoy classical music, or delight in the taste of good wine).

Don´t get me wrong, I can´t wait to dance in Buenos Aires, I believe it IS necessary for everyone who takes tango seriously; it is, after all, where it all began..

But then again, it is important to realize that the B.A. milongas are also attended by foreigners, who undoubtedly all go there to dance with porteños, and end up dancing with each other:) and why not? Why do people – foreigners travelling to B.A. – speak so dismissively of ´turistas´??? I live in a breathtakingly beautiful city which is one of the biggest tourist destinations, mainly because of its ´romantic atmosphere´. I have listened to countless tourists say, wistfully: ´It is a beautiful city, ever so lovely, if only there weren´t so many tourists...(sigh)´ Pardon me?! And what would YOU be doing here, then? (I have never actually said that, but the look of astonishment must have been pretty eloquent) We, the locals, have perhaps the right to complain that our favourite haunts are flooded with huge, loud groups of Italian, German, Japanese, and what-have-you tourists. But not the tourists themselves, that argument simply doesn´t hold.

Oh, and before I forget - what I am REALLY looking forward to is the cabeceo being a standard way of asking someone to dance, not just a magic thing that works with certain sensitive individuals...

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Well, a bit. Have been watching some videos, and following discussions about old milongueros, people like Tete, about how musical they are and how their posture is the way it is because they are, you know, old milongueros, caring more about the connection then what they look like, and, well, let´s face it, they are also quite old, so I guess they can´t be expected to stand perfectly straight and their movements simply aren´t as sharp and elegant as they might have been in their youth (although – you saw how Gavito danced, just a few months before his death? he must have been ill and everything, but as straight and elegant as you can imagine, with unfailing precision of movement; I don´t know how he did it.. of course, he was el grande Gavito.. just a thought).

I like the way these people dance. I love their musicality. I don´t mind the slightly hunched, head-forward posture (Julio Balmaceda has it too, and he is divine). I understand that sharp movements become less sharp as age imposes its physical limitations.

However -

watching these videos I have only just realized something very disconcerting: the women they dance with are always young and sharp and quick and muy elegante... why is that? If these old men are considered the living proof that tango is all about musicality and feeling, then why is it that they do not dance with women of their own age, just as musical, with decades of experience, but with a less-than-perfect posture, women whose sharp steps have become blunt with age?


Because, frankly, the contrast between the old milongueros and their young partners doesn´t make their dance look better. On the contrary, I think.

And it worries me, because I love tango. And I am a woman.

The Tango Goddess wrote about this in the first part of her post Of Milongueros y Milongueras. If it is true, well... it is sad.

But maybe it´s just the bleak November weather. And who knows, we might not be dancing tango anymore, forty or fifty years from now...

:) Not likely, I know.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The path of tango

Tango has taught me patience.

Tango has taught me humility. (I never had a shred of either, mind you.)

Tango has taught me to be more optimistic and less cynical,

to accept failure knowing that it is only one of the steps towards reaching my goal,

to be warm and friendly to strangers without worrying whether they will also be friendly to me,

to appreciate other people more,

to take tango (and life) seriously while being aware that it is not worth fussing about.

I have a Buddhist friend who says that when I talk to him about tango, it reminds him of studying buddhism. I can see the point now. There are different paths to learning and understanding, and everyone chooses his own.

This is what I had in mind when I chose the name of my blog, but I had no idea it would prove to be so true.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Can you dance?

I have been skimming through Robert Fulghum´s posts on tango, and I found this: it is the most lucid view of dancing - and other activities, for that matter - I have ever heard. Why don´t people realize this?
Bravo, M. Fulghum!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Winter time

We´re switching to winter time! I have never quite understood why some people complain about these changes – I myself always regret the one hour we loose in the spring, but getting an extra hour of life, to sleep – or to tango – in the autumn is such a treat! I suppose that what intrigues me most about the whole business of winter/summer time is that ´the authorities´, so to speak, officially award the public an extra hour of life – or take one away; I find the notion absolutely sensational. It gives me the impression that time doesn´t, after all, flow as ruthlessly as we have learnt to accept, that it is a fluid medium which we can actually modify, by simply deciding to do so...I mean, imagine the possibilities! Also, I have just found out (gathering all kind of fancy information about Buenos Aires for my trip there in winter) that Argentina does not observe daylight saving time – and so no extra hour to dance for the Argentine milongueros and milongueras this weekend... how unfair!

I must admit with regret though that this year, I used my extra hour to sleep...I really needed it. Have had several long evenings lately, and what with the winter approaching and the cold outside, the mornings are so bleak I would just abolish them and sleep until noon (which looks just as bleak, I am afraid). My only consolation is that I will be spending the month of February in Buenos Aires and will thus cheat the year of one extra month of summer:))) – the trick of switching hemispheres is even better than the one with summer/winter time, I must say.

Anyway, some of those long evenings were due to my celebrating my birthday, so I ought not complain:) On the eve of my birthday I went to the milonga. Didn´t mean to celebrate, but somehow the news leaked out and I got the traditional solo dance with men cutting in on each other. It was fun, really. My perhaps all-time favourite dancer also came to the milonga, but he was tired and spent the evening sitting in a corner chatting with friends. However, before the last tanda he put on his dancing shoes – and invited me to dance! It was the perfect ending of an evening, and, though not meant that way, a wonderful birthday gift:)

In any case, what I am looking forward to most in Argentina is that the water going down the drain will be swirling clockwise. Imagine just how thrilling it will be to brush my teeth in the morning and watch the water swirl in the opposite direction than the one I have been seeing all my life! To me, that is nothing short of a miracle:)

Sunday, October 14, 2007


I hadn´t known a soul at that first milonga I went to here, but I got the impression that getting an invitation wasn´t a problem at all, and so I set out for my second milonga full of optimism. Turns out it is a very – and I mean very – small place, lots of people sitting at the tables and around the bar, but no one dancing. I was somewhat taken aback – it was a quarter to midnight, SOME dancers were bound to have arrived, even here, where people never, ever, go out before eleven; I even considered leaving, but then, I had nothing better to do, so I sat down, got myself a drink, and waited to see what would come out of it.

The situation improved somewhat around half past midnight, when several more people arrived and started, finally, some serious dancing (I later found out that someone had been celebrating their birthday there that evening and brought a lot of non-dancing friends – hence the deserted dancefloor and awkward atmosphere). And then this young bloke, apparently alone, crossed the floor and invited me to dance. It was nice, although he apologized saying he hadn´t danced for ages (he was on a short leave from the army, desperate for some dancing and women, as he earnestly put it), and after several tandas we sat down together and spent the rest of the night dancing and talking; and at one point, our talk turned to the (another) eternal topic – men/women and dance invitations in tango...

The cabeceo, alas, is not commonly practised here, not in its traditional form. Alas, I say, because it seems to me that the cabeceo is the most sensible and equitable system invented so far to allow both men AND women to choose their dance partners – though I am really curious to find out for myself when I go to Buenos Aires whether it really works so well in practice... From my experience, eye contact with (sensitive) leaders can also lead to their coming over to invite you, although, I admit, the strategy is far from being flawless. But seeing as I don´t invite men myself, I haven´t got much of a choice.

Opinions on who should invite whom differ; my own attitude in this respect is somewhat contradictory: I think it makes perfect sense for women to invite men, because they should, after all, also have a say in whom they dance with. That said, I never invite men myself, not because I disapprove of such practices, but because it simply doesn´t do for me; I don´t know whether it is my character, or upbringing, some inhibition, or just pride, but although I think there is nothing wrong with inviting men to dance, I cannot bring myself to do it. Perversely, I find it much more gratifying when someone I long to dance with comes to invite me without getting any sign from me, by the sheer force of telepathy.

Anyway, there was a shortage of men at that milonga, and, to my great awe, as we sat and talked, no less than four ladies came, one after another, and ignoring me superbly they wedged themselves in between us and invited my companion to dance. Needless to say, he always accepted very gracefully, danced one or two tandas and chatted with the ladies for a while before coming back to our table. After it happened for a fifth time, I was going to bring the subject up, when he said ´You never invite men, do you?´ I admitted I didn´t, and added hurriedly that I, nevertheless, found it a very sensible thing to do. I have rarely seen men decline an invitation from a woman, and have always thought most men rather enjoyed being invited by a woman. But my friend, surprisingly, disagreed with me. Now, to put this into context, he comes from an island in the south of the country, whose men are famed for their manliness, one of the bastions of true manhood, so to speak, where men still carry daggers and will slit your throat if you look at their sister (or at least that is what they claim – they do have a tradition to keep up, you see, and that is no small matter). ´Where I come from, this (women inviting men) does not happen´ he said resolutely. ´Not this often, anyway.´ (understand: it happens all the time, but I would rather die than admit it, it would make us seem so much less macho) ´It is not like here in the capital´ (a slight disapproval in his voice).

And we then had this discussion about the traditional role of the man and the woman in our society, and how our attitudes towards this subject in tango might reflect those in our relationships with the opposite sex in general. I wonder... If a man´s natural instinct really is to chase after the woman while a woman´s instinct should be to wait and attract the chase, rather than to start it herself – then I guess these ´traditional´ roles have indeed become rather confused. I mean, reality certainly challenges this theory that my friend was so deeply convinced of; you can observe that at any milonga, though one might not notice it at first sight. He claimed that man´s natural instinct was to chase, yet of the six women he danced with that night I was the only one he had actually invited himself. Then again, I was also the only one he invited repeatedly. In short – it made me wonder whether men really actually resent being invited by women, although they will accept the invitation without showing any resentment, and might even enjoy it, because it is comfortable and flattering...?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Sun, the Sea, and Tango

I have decided to take a break and gone off to see my parents. I have missed the south dearly and after spending the month of August in the Netherlands I needed a taste of real summer - because in this country of my childhood the autumn is warm and sunny, more summerlike, really, than the northern summer itself.

I initially didn´t mean to tango much here, but I brought my shoes, just in case – I take them everywhere with me, just in case – and eventually, overcome with curiosity (I have never danced tango here) and mild withdrawal symptoms, I set out to explore the local tango scene.

I was quite pleasantly surprised; the first milonga I went to had a great atmosphere and style, the dancing level was fairly good and there were many young men – maybe more men then women, or so it felt at least, for I never waited longer than a couple of songs for an invitation. In any case, it seems tango is becoming rather fashionable among the young people here, which is good:)

Besides, there is this delightful detail: the men here are not very tall, not by northern standards, anyway. I am sort of petite myself, and though I am quite used to dancing with tall men, since most men in the north are much taller than I am, I find a big difference in height inevitably interferes with the connection between the dancers. It was ever so pleasant to dance with men – most of them, here – whose height is just right for me – it made our connection very natural and effortless.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The disastrous effects of work on the human capacity of reflection

Marx knew it, the Transcendentalists knew it, and so did Ruskin and Morris. Work is BAD for the creative human mind. Mind you, I have nothing against work as such; I even really like mine. And I can´t imagine doing altogether without it, either. But I can´t help noticing the paralysing effect it has on my writing and, while I am at it, thinking as such.

Scary? Quite. I used to think it was only dull manual or office jobs that, after some time, turned people into dumb beasts, whose mind was unwilling to undertake the least effort to react adequately to an unexpected situation, and deprived them of their capacity of rational analysis. But this is something else. It isn´t about mental fatigue, but sheer lack of time; a busy schedule, social life, talk, and chiefly– because it takes more than a half of your waking hours, whether you like it or not – work!

The capacity to reflect on things and analyze events is severely impaired by the hustle and bustle of everyday life. I have always found the Transcendentalists somewhat on the ridiculous side, but they had a point. No need to go live in the woods, of course; that, as a matter of fact, might even prove counter-productive, seeing the disproportionate amount of time one would spend trying to survive... All I want to say is that there is nothing like the far niente to make you see life more clearly. See?

And the lack of sleep doesn´t help, either. When I don´t sleep well, I go through the day like a zombie, perceiving my surroundings through a fog of sleepiness; unfortunately my age-long inability to go to sleep before 2 a.m. unless I am totally exhausted fits ill with the ways of the Society, which I depend on for my living...

Au fond, is social tango dancing an anti-social activity?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Entrega total

I went dancing last night. Had a few nice dances, a couple of less nice ones, and then it happened.

I danced with this guy who is a great dancer, and he dances milonguero. I know he does, so there was no trying and adjusting the embrace during the first few seconds of the song, I just leaned into the embrace and – we danced. Or I assume we did, since when the song ended and I opened my eyes and emerged from the embrace, we were standing elsewhere. Yet I have no idea what exactly happened in between; it was just me, him, and the music. When I went to sit down later on, I had a blissful smile on my face and felt like I had awoken from a dream; I couldn´t recollect what he had lead, or what I had done... nothing. Just the music and the embrace. It was a small, crowded place, and it was quite hard to avoid other dancing couples. As I closed my eyes and surrendered myself to him, however, I became totally oblivious of the people around, absolutely sure nothing could happen to me while the embrace lasted. And I don´t remeber so much as brushing against anyone else during the songs we danced together.

I know that in some dances, with some dancers, there is feeling, and with some there isn´t any. I had heard about the entrega in tango, and I thought I understood what it meant. I have had great dances/tandas before. But this was a different dimension. We didn´t have a wonderful dance together; we were entirely lost to the dance and each other, that´s the closest I can get to describing it.

Something else also happened which would have, in itself, made my evening, though its importance wanes in comparison with that sublime tanda: I got two most unusual compliments. I mean, every now and then a man you dance with will say how well you dance, or how they enjoy dancing with you – which is always very nice and pleasing (not to mention those who call you a goddess;) But what happened to me yesterday was that two women, quite independently of each other, came up to me just to tell me how they loved my dancing and how wonderful I looked on the dancefloor (and how long I had been dancing, where had I learned, etc.). The precise words were ´Usually it is a beautiful dance with a great leader that makes my evening, but what really made my evening today was watching you dance.´ Wow! I was quite overwhelmed. Like I told the lady, that was some compliment – and doubly so, coming from another woman! :)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Elle est belle.

This is just something that made me laugh:) It´s got nothing to do with tango, but with men and women - like tango. Take a look!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Classes or No Classes? or, It Is All About the Teacher...

This post was partly triggered off by this comment left by Tangobaby:

´One of my favorite teachers said that after a while you must stop taking classes because it will kill your dance. I think he meant that you can study too much and then the dance becomes more of a clinical experiment than an expression of yourself

I don´t know. I think it depends on what you consider a class, on what your are after learning, and, last but not least, on the teacher; a good teacher should also help you understand that study – in the technical sense – isn´t everything; expression and feeling can´t be taught in class, but they can be shown, transmitted – and that should be a part of teaching.

After a couple of months, when you´ve mastered the basic principles of tango, going to group classes is, honestly, a waste of time – unless you´re one of those people who go to class once a week but never to milongas – in which case you´re not likely to be reading this blog because it would interfere with the time assigned to tango in your life and make you feel like one of those tango-obsessed nutters – or unless you are a leader and want more figures (in which case I would suggest workshops).

Some time ago Tanguillo published a very thorough and insightful (and, incidentally, quite funny) article on how to choose your tango teacher, if you´re going to take group classes. I have rarely taken group classes (and, to be frank, learned little from the ones I took), but would like to expound a bit on the subject of private classes from my point of view.

Private classes are rather expensive, but if you can afford a group class once a week, you can also afford a private every five or six weeks, and that should suffice, provided that you dance a lot in between and that the classes are really useful. I actually find that I need that pause of several weeks for the new knowledge to sink in – especially as most of the things you need to learn after you´ve acquired the basics are in the head, so to speak, rather than in the body. It is a curious thing about physical activities that one can´t learn a move by just practising it physically; one must grasp the nature of a move mentally to be able to perform it – and once you understand the move, and only then, your body can execute it quite effortlessly – and this doesn´t go only for dancing.

Now what is it that makes a good teacher? In my opinion, a good teacher

- knows how to explain the meaning, the nature of a move (c.f. above), not by describing it, but by making you understand it. You know the difference between good and bad math teachers? Very much like that. The best teacher I´ve ever met would never say: ´Not like that, do it like THAT!´ ??? He would roll his eyes in thought every time, then smile and say: ´Don´t think about that move. Imagine that...(something seemingly irrelevant)´ – which would make me do precisely what he meant me to. That is teaching.

- knows how to encourage the student. I´ve had teachers who would yell at me ´What ON EARTH ARE YOU DOING with your feet?! Are you a dancer, or what?´ while they would later mention to someone else that I was very talented indeed. I know this is a way of teaching. It doesn´t shock me. From a very early age and until adolescence I did artistic gymnastics. We were a bunch of skinny 8-year-old girls, hopping gracefully around a ballet studio, while our coach would exclaim in disgust ´You look like a herd of elephants´ and ´Of course you can´t rise properly, your ass is too heavy after all the sweets you have eaten during the Christmas holiday´ (I weighed about 20 kg back then). I know this method, while somewhat harsh, may actually bring good results, and greatly improve one´s technique; yet I have always danced so much better after a class with someone who would treat me as their equal and encourage me to enjoy my dancing (with maybe that foot pointing a bit more to the side – yes, isn´t that beautiful now?) After all, that´s what it´s all about, isn´t it?

- I find that another desirable (and hardly ever mentioned) aspect of a good tango teacher is his/her ability to establish physical closeness with the student (esp. if they teach milonguero). In general this is an innate quality which some have and others lack. It´s about being a physical kind of person in contact with others, I think. I have observed that people who are more reserved in this respect often have difficulties dancing in close embrace (though why they should want to do so in the first place, given their nature, is a mystery to me). Anyway, for teachers this is a most helpful quality.

And, of course, a good teacher doesn´t teach steps, but posture, balance, axis, embrace and body movement technique.. I know, it has been said a million times by others before me, but should be repeated until there are no teachers teaching only steps left out there...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Seriously, it is! No matter what some Argentines, jealous of their cultural heritage, might say;)

How else would it be possible to walk into a milonga in a town where you don´t know a single person, and feel immediately at home?

I speak from experience. I travel a lot. Sometimes too much for my brain to keep up with. I am often surprised to find myself in a different place than I had expected when I open my eyes in the morning. I mix up my plane tickets (I have tried to board flights with a ticket dating a week earlier or two weeks later – one from the pile of tickets I had picked up in a hurry when leaving home), my friends never know where I might be (and so just wait for a call rather than call me themselves – thank God for email!) and my closest family members often have an only hazy idea of my current whereabouts (it changes all the time, anyway). Certain airport lounges and other most un-homely places have a distinct air of homeliness to me – some kind of a mental defensive mechanism, I assume; although I have always applied the word home‘ very loosely to places where I can sleep, eat, have people I like (at least sometimes) and where I feel well. A childhood remnant, I suppose – I spent a lots of time in hotels in that critical age when children learn to speak, and it appears that I had a difficulty attaching a precise definition to this word – its meaning kept eluding me and upon arriving to new hotel rooms I would excitedly inquire of my parents whether THIS was home, only to be told ´No, no, this is a HOTEL´. The nuance, of course, is irrelevant to a child travelling with her family and all her favourite toys...

However – for an adult, travelling is both mentally and physically exhausting, and travelling by plane is also boring and unpleasant (especially since the ban on gels and liquids in hand luggage – how can a woman entrust the air carriers with her nécessaire, I ask you? my suitcase got lost – well, that´s a euphemism – twice in the past two months). I like to think I can endure the strain better than others, seeing as I have grown up this way and would probably go crazy if confined to one place; still, travelling all the time is bad, both for your private and for your social life, it is bad tout court – except for TANGO.

Travelling is good for my tango: it has enabled me to dance with many many many different partners, thus extending my following ability; it has enabled me to observe and learn different styles of tango; it has enabled me to meet and make friends with tango dancers from other countries and tango communities, which is always interesting (well, that doesn´t go for tango only, but in general; I am, however, trying to stick to the subject, for once!).

And tango is good for my travelling! You can dance tango in practically any big city (apart from the capital of a certain grand duchy which I have always suspected to be an overgrown village rather than a small city:) and I have discovered interesting places in pursuit of milongas, places it would have never crossed my mind to look for, otherwise.

And the best thing is that you walk into a foreign milonga and all of a sudden you find yourself in a familiar environment, where you can move with ease, and where all that matters is that (and, maybe, how..) you dance tango! This overwhelming feeling of affinity with completely unknown tango dancers and the unexpected impression of being at home which I experienced ten days ago as I arrived, melancholy and in denial about Dutch reality, to a milonga in a small Dutch town - what could it mean but that tango is truly international? :)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Heel first, or toe first?

Yesterday, I gave in to this obsession I have about improving my dancing and took two private classes with local teachers I had never seen before.

Which was somewhat risky, but I like learning from different people; every teacher has a different approach to tango and his/her own way of teaching it, which I find is good. I have never really had a single regular teacher – I believe that it is good to have one in the beginning, but once you have some basics it is better to change, learn from others as well, consider everything and try it out – and then choose what to accept and integrate into your tango and what to reject as unhelpful or nonsense (mind you, it did take me some time to learn THAT; in the beginning one tends to take the teacher´s words as God´s truth:) – and that´s precisely why one should experiment with different teachers).

That´s just to say I am fairly open to other perceptions of tango and have often reassessed my tango in the light of new discoveries. But I try to think for myself.

The first class I took turned out to be a bit of a drag – the teachers were very nice people, and pretty good dancers, but they just kept on stating the obvious, reciting the basic theories I already know by heart; I walked out of there feeling I hadn´t learned a thing. However, one controversial point came up during the lesson that I´ll still need to reflect upon – the ´toe first vs. heel first´ issue. Oh yes. From what I´ve been seeing on the net, it is something that suscitates many debates, and the question whether, when dancing tango, one ought to walk toe first or heel first remains unsettled. I walk toe first. The female teacher´s reaction to that was that this was not at all good, that I should walk naturally – heel first, that is –, that all the great dancers in Bs As walk heel first (do they, now?) and that walking heel first would give me a greater freedom of movement, thus improving my dancing... Then she added, for clarity´s sake, I imagine, that when walking backwards, you should walk toe first. Now, that´s reassuring, isn´t it? :)))

It just didn´t sound very convincing to me. Especially the ´greater freedom of movement´ thing – in my opinion, walking heel first totally blocks your step; by stepping on the heel you nail you foot to the spot and there is no way you can later adjust that step.

But to be fair, I have been trying it out, just to see what effect it would have. I find I can do it in some steps (like in the media luna for example) but not in others; in certain steps it even appears to be counterproductive (like in front ochos). I do find it quite hard, seeing as I´ve been walking toe first throughout my tango existence, but I would like to experiment with it a bit. Nevertheless, walking ONLY heel first doesn´t make sense to me. A combination of the two, pourquoi pas, but on the whole I think there is more to be said for the ´toe first´ theory than for the ´heel first´ one.

Anyway, the second lesson was a blast – body movement and walking technique (yes!), adornos (yes! yes! yes!), not only very illuminating, but great fun into the bargain! The bloke was, or else looked, incredibly young, maybe my age, and has danced tango for 15 years – when did he start, I wonder – in primary school? I wish I had had to good sense to start dancing tango as an adolescent... But then he had learned from Gavito and from Javier.. and it so shows...

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

La photo du jour

I just love these two. They´ve got style, they´ve got feeling...

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Tango - Relaxed or Snobbish?

As a rule, different people will describe different milongas – ehm, differently; it depends on their point of view, their preferences, and also on the image they project and how they are perceived by their surroundings. That is clear. Therefore, the following speculations about the nature of the francophone vs. Dutch/Flemish tango communities are no more than that – subjective speculations. But even so:

I have been hearing, from several independent sources, sighs, complaints and assertions relating to the snobbery inherent to the Paris tango scene; I have also been hearing tangueros/as describe the (mostly) francophone Brussels tango community as ´pretentious and haughty´, especially in comparison to the Flemish tango community in Antwerp, and to the atmosphere of the Netherlands´ milongas, which are in general said to be very relaxed, easy-going and friendly.

Now, you can see the typical clichés: the easy-going Dutchman and the haughty Parisian (can be extended to all francophones, according to where you stand). But it so happens that I started dancing tango in Paris. Not taking lessons, I had done that for several months before that, but Paris is where I got really hooked, where I started attending milongas every night, or almost, where I became addicted to tango. I was a total beginner back then, so I didn´t get to dance with many hot shots of course, but I danced with intermediate to fairly good leaders, and danced enough to be able to improve quickly (and often more than my feet could take). Ok, I didn´t go to the Latina. But I went to other very nice places and I thouroughly enjoyed my tango début in Paris; I liked Paris, and I felt that the liking was mutual.

With Brussels it is similar; maybe I don´t notice anymore, I´ve been dancing there for so long, the milongas feel like home. There sure are some really good dancers who will hardly ever invite anyone who is not a great dancer and their friend to boot, but you have such people everywhere. But on the whole, I think the local tango scene is no more snobbish or pretentious than any other tango community in the world (let's face it, there will always be a tiny bit of pretentiousness about tango dancers – those people have put in a lot of hard work to become who they are, they won´t have that passed over lightly).

I have never danced in Antwerp, although I know some tango dancers from there; they say that the atmosphere there is very pleasant and relaxed, but they always hasten to add that the level of dancing is much lower than in Brussels. C. f. above.

And now I am dancing in the Netherlands. It is my second time after the Doble Ocho (I don´t count El Corte, because the chained salons are international really), and it basically confirms my earlier impressions. The Dutch are, indeed, very friendly and easy going, and the atmosphere at the milongas is very relaxed. It is so relaxed you could probably stand on your head in a corner and no one would be scandalized – they probably wouldn´t notice, and if they did, would dismiss it as insignificant. That´s something you learn quickly in a city like Amsterdam, and I own it is a quality I like very much. But when it gets to being invited by really good dancers – I don´t know. Maybe it just can´t be expected within a couple of days – all tango communities are have a fairly complex social structure, even those that appear to be quite open and unstructured at first sight, and it always takes some time to find your own place.

All this just to say that these generalizations shouldn´t be taken too seriously. The milonga environment is very complex and besides, one night may be completely different from another night...

However (now seriously) – some distinctions must be made.

THIS is elegant.

THIS, on the other hand, is sloppy!

Monday, August 06, 2007

The weekend milongas

This weekend the weather was lovely, even by other-than-Dutch standards:) and so, apart from going to the seaside, I danced a lot – outside!

I began on Friday at the Academia del Tango in Amsterdam. I was advised against this practica by a chance acquaintance (but an experienced dancer), still, I went there, because a friend I hadn´t seen for a while insisted it was really nice and practically like a salon. What can I say, perhaps I ought to have taken the advice; but I really wanted to check out this place. It is perhaps the oldest tango school in Amsterdam and very conveniently situated in the centre. And it wasn´t bad, but, well, it was a practica and it showed on the level of dancing – though it is true that some good dancers started coming in later in the evening. There is, however, one significant drawback to the Academia: it has a linoleum floor! And slippery like hell – it was like dancing on ice! It was not so bad for the slow tangos (though I did put in a lots of circle adornos to enhance my stability..) but the milongas! Some of my dancers found it amusing, you know, there are some fancy moves which are easier to execute on a slippery floor but, frankly, something resembling an ice revue is not my idea of what a milonga should be like. I really found that rather disappointing, because I think that if you decide to open a tango school, with all kinds of tango events, than surely a decent wooden floor ought to be your primary concern..?

On Saturday I went to an open-air milonga in a park in Leiden, and that was really wonderful. The setting was great, the people very nice, lovely dancing and I also managed to take some lovely pictures – to see here.

But the most impressive milonga was definitely the one on Sunday, in the Muziekgebouw, a modern glass building opening on the Amsterdam harbour, with a wooden terrace outside. As there were all-glass walls you could dance and watch the sun set over the harbour – beautiful. Besides it was really warm, so the doors were left wide open and people circulated freely between the dancefloor, the café next to it, and the terrace outside.

I got invited about five times, but somehow I didn´t get to dance with any really good leaders:(

The thing is, I expected it to be outside, and not knowing what floor there would be, I brought my oldest, plain black shoes with rather low heels which I only wear to classes and outside milongas with rough floor... And I forgot that, in a place where people don´t know you and don´t have a clue whether you are a good dancer or not, the only chance of getting invited by good leaders is to wear your flashiest shoes...and watching all these girls with extravagant Neo-tango and Comme Il Faut shoes I was cursing myself for leaving my lovely favourite pale-pink-satin-and-black-lace Comme Il Fauts at home... oh well.

Friday, August 03, 2007

El abrazo

BTW – what is it with the abrazo? I mean, I can´t make it out, it seems that you simply either have it, or you don´t. But surely something can be done about that?! Imagine milongas full of leaders with that wonderful, warm, firm yet tender, comfortable embrace... Paradise, isn´it? In reality, I know, such an embrace is rather rare. And you have its opposite, an embrace which either just isn´t there (you know what I mean?) or, worse, the forceful, stiff version, extremely uncomfortable to the point of impeding your dancing. I hate that. Which is why I got into this rant...

I went to a local practica two days ago; like I said, it´s a small town, one teacher of tango only, so the community isn´t numerous. They are, however, very nice and open, and I had a very pleasant evening, where in turn I got to dance with practically all the local leaders present. Two of them were fairly good, one horrible and one wonderful.

Now, the horrible one, apart from a muddy lead and scarce musicality, had that particular unpleasant embrace; it was so unpleasant I had to ditch him after the third dance (didn´t want to seem rude and haughty since it was my first tango evening here and like I said, the community is very small... also, I thought he might improve... but he didn´t, seemed actually rather pleased with himself, and when he invited me again later that evening I turned him down with a polite but decided ´no´. I had even asked him how long he danced, ready to make allowances for his inexperience, but when he said four years, I gave up all hope).

The wonderful leader, on the other hand, was an elderly man who was clearly a born dancer. He had obviously danced tango for a very long time, and was very subtly musical into the bargain. But what made the dances so great (I couldn´t stop dancing with him, it was so nice I had that wide smile of total bliss on my face) was not so much what we did with our legs and feet (which wasn´t bad either), but the embrace. It was The Embrace. And it´s funny how you can tell from the very start that a man who holds you like that simply cannot be a bad dancer. I mean, maybe it´s just a coincidence, but have you ever danced with a leader with a great embrace who was a bad, non-musical dancer?

And so I wonder – shouldn´t the tango teachers devote more time to the technique of the abrazo? Shouldn´t they make sure their students understand how important, even essential, it is for good tango? Some people have this gift and don´t need to learn it – some men just know how to hold women better than others – but I am sure that those who do not have this gift could greatly improve their embrace, if they only tried hard enough. Because to me, the biggest problem seems to be that those people are entirely ignorant of their faults... Will somebody tell them, please....!

I don´t know, this seems like a really nice embrace, doesn´it?

The Low Countries and tango

Have neglected posting again:( had a very memorable month of July, tangowise, though:))) and in the last days I have been too busy finding out all about tango in the Netherlands. Tango is my salvation; the local landscape had plunged me into a profound depression, which lifted after the first milonga:) seriously. I mean, the people here are extremely nice, and I like the water canals (though Venice is a better setting for them I should say) but I have this theory that the style, taste and the overall aesthetics of a country (and its architecture!) stem from its natural landscape. From which you may draw your own conclusions... If there is one thing that reconciles me to this country though, it is Amsterdam. A great city. Maybe it´s just that I am used to big cities, I like them, I feel good in them, and I have been spending the last couple of days in a lovely small idyllic town... Amsterdam, however, is a colourful city bustling with life, full of all kinds of people, and, yes, it´s got style. And then, all those funny little bridges over the canals, all those bicycles (love the Dutch bicycle culture!). If it weren´t so far north it would be one of the places I would like to live in. Luckily one can go anywhere with the train here, and tonight I am dancing in Amsterdam!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Back to tango!

Yes!!! The fact that I have got back to dancing surely justifies this long pause in posting.. My ankle is alright again (well, hurts a wee bit during barridas sometimes, but doesn't impede dancing in any way) and oh my, is it wonderful to spend evenings on the dancefloor again! The bliss of my first evening of dancing after that one-month pause:) On the whole I can say that that dreary tango-less month actually intensified the pleasure I get from dancing now.
And I began with grand style - on a workshop given by Fabian Salas and Carolina del Rivero. I wouldn't miss that for the world:) and it was actually great fun (colgadas workshops tend to be..). In the evening there was a lovely milonga where they made a demo, which was very impressive. Mind you, I wouldn't really want to dance like that myself (nor could I, of course), but the stuff they do is really incredible, and, well, fun. Cela dit, the use of some of the elements they teach is, at the best of times, limited. It would be sheer madness attempting them at any decent milonga. Ouch.
But life seems rosy at the moment... Lots of milongas to look forward to;) and will need to make some plans for the two weeks I will be spending in the Netherlands in the beginning of August. I have only danced in El Corte in the Netherlands, but Amsterdam sounds promising as well.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Beginners revisited

Ok, so, I went to the milonga, in spite of ankle and everything. I didn’t mean to; I take very seriously the advice I got from fellow bloggers and tangueros, don’t get me wrong. The thing is, I went for a drink with a friend, who also dances tango. He had arranged to meet up later that evening with some other people from his class on my favourite milonga, and we agreed to have a drink together before that. I wore fairly non-tango clothes and sneakers (very clever of me, eh? but I had danced in sneakers before and it’s not so bad... but anyway, just to point out I did take preventive measures). We had a very pleasant chat and when we got up, he said ‘You coming then?’ And of course I did. And frankly, it did me an awful amount of good.

For one thing, this is a milonga where I feel at home; I simply enjoy being there and seeing the familiar faces, kissing people to say hello on the way to the dancefloor... Also, much as I like to dance, it was fun being there not to dance, for once. We chose a strategic position on the sofa, watched others dance, had some wine – which was nice, because I normally never drink alcohol when I dance; I find it’s not good for one’s balance and I don’t very much like dancing with people who do, unless their balance is so impeccable that they can afford it, which is rare anyway. So we were sitting there, sipping the wine and having a good time, when the others arrived. They were two guys from a lower-level class, one of them with his partner who also brought a non-tango girlfriend.

Now, these two are not very experienced dancers and they hardly ever go to milongas. When they do, they bring their partners and dance with them. I guess it’s understandable, they just don’t feel up to navigating on a crowded floor and coping with an unknown partner, all at once; they think they still don’t know enough and are afraid to bore the woman or step on her feet, or both. But then, how will they ever learn like this?

However, I noticed a strange thing. They danced with their partner, the girl who came with them. But they also danced, and several times, too, with her friend, who had never danced tango in her life and had only come there to watch. They literally spent the evening dancing – either on the dancefloor or in an empty corner, teaching the steps – with someone who had nothing to do with tango! Because, apparently, with her they didn’t feel any pressure or fear of messing up; on the contrary, it must have made them feel, you know, experienced dancers. I was flabbergasted. And, looking at the floor, I saw this guy who never misses a milonga; he is a fairly advanced leader who makes up for his missing talent with diligence and, to be fair, the stuff he knows to do he does well. He is also a flagrant example of a dancer who uses his partners to boost his (apparently shaky) self-confidence. He always dances with total beginners and keeps on correcting them, to the point of being really obnoxious. I pointed him out to my friend and said ‘But what kick does he get out of that? I mean, wouldn’t he rather dance, for once, and have a good time with another advanced dancer?’ Don’t get me wrong, it is good to dance with beginners from time to time, even if you’re advanced yourself. They will learn, and you will have more good dancers to dance with in the future. Every decent advanced dancer ought to know that. But it is not what it’s all about, unless you intend to make your living that way, and, frankly, there are better ways to make a living.

Anyhow, my friend looked pensive. ‘Don’t get me wrong’ he said, ‘but it is actually nice to dance with beginners, there is much less pressure, and you don’t feel bad about botched moves. You know she can’t really judge you.’

‘Sure’ said I, remembering my beginner days, ‘and if it doesn’t work out, she’ll always think it’s her fault. Whereas, like I found out later, if it doesn’t work out, in about 80% of the cases it is the leader’s fault.’

My friend grinned.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Tango withdrawal symptoms

I cannot dance, says the doctor, for two or three weeks (then we'll see - meaning it could be even longer?)!!!

I am in a state of shock. It hadn't occured to me at all in the beginning - I thought, as soon as I can walk, I can dance - what could be more natural... Well, apparently not, I have to give my ankle some time to heal. But when will it be good enough to resist the tension of dance steps? Never mind the pain, but will it be as flexible and quick as before? I am constantly switching between panic and irritation..

And it is Wednesday, I should be going to my favourite milonga, but.. there I am, not knowing what to do; I feel totally lost. And, with horror, I realize the importance of tango in my life. Two weeks seem an eternity. I would go to the milonga, just to watch, but the idea of going there in my street shoes seems bizarre - I couldn't do that, it just feels totally wrong. And I would probably go crazy watching others dance when I know I can't be on the dancefloor myself.

I have been looking at an analysis of alcohol withdrawal symptoms and comparing them to mine, just out of curiosity:

Mild to moderate psychological symptoms
Feeling of jumpiness or nervousness - well, restlessness, yes; but it's only natural - not going to tango on a Wednesday night has broken a certain routine...
Feeling of shakiness -
not in particular - apparently the addiction is more mental rather than physical, thank God.
Anxiety - oh, definitely; will the ankle be all right? am I going to be able to dance like before? what will people think, not seeing me around for so long? and, WHEN will I be able to dance?
Irritability or easily excited - I am terribly irritable. I sit at a party, with very little sympathy for the people around who seem to be having fun, thinking 'Why do I have to be here? I should be at a milonga!'
Emotional volatility, rapid emotional changes - hard to say since even under normal circumstances..
Depression -
yes, yes, yes!
Fatigue - I wish! like I said, coming back home at night with my feet not hurting at all, except the accursed ankle, just doesn't seem right... plus I have all this time to sleep now - I still can't get used to it.
Difficulty with thinking clearly - hmm, let's see... no.
Bad dreams - as a rule I never remember my dreams. So who knows.
Mild to moderate physical symptoms - mild, very mild.
Headache - general, pulsating - no, not on top of everything else!
Sweating, especially the palms of the hands or the face - as above..
Nausea - well, yes, I feel slightly nauseous when imagining what my dancing will be like after a couple of weeks abstinence; I am trying hard not to think about it though.
Vomiting - no; but what an awful thought!
Loss of appetite - on the contrary; or rather more time to eat now, whereas when I used to go dancing in the evening, I often simply didn't have the time to eat dinner, and forgot all about it once I started dancing.
Insomnia, sleeping difficulty - only it IS so unusual to have the whole night to sleep now..
Paleness - ???
Rapid heart rate (palpitations) - yes, at the thought of dancing again!
Eyes, pupils different size (enlarged, dilated pupils) - haven't noticed, but who knows..
Abnormal movements - limping instead of dancing? definitely abnormal...
Severe symptoms
A state of confusion and hallucinations (visual) -- known as delirium tremens - now that I think of it - I am confused (disoriented, cf. above), my life seems to lack order; and I frequently hallucinate about tango steps, music, milongas...
Agitation -
yes; and the longer it takes my ankle to heal, the worse it gets.
Fever - not yet...
Convulsions - not yet...
"Black outs" -- when the person forgets what happened during the drinking episode - not applicable, seeing as I don't have any tango episodes to forget at the moment :-((

Saturday, June 09, 2007

âme soeur - corps soeur?

Cela fait 9 mois que j'ai écrit ceci, mais j'y crois toujours..
...Les milongas de Paris sont un rêve; ce n'est pas seulement le fait qu'il y en a plusieurs chaque jour de la semaine (d'ailleurs je commence à comprendre qu'il n'est pas possible de continuer à ce rythme effréné et aller danser tous les soirs - mes pieds en souffrent déjà), ni le nombre impressionant de danseurs et danseuses qui habitent dans cette ville ou qui sont de passage aux milongas parisiennes; ce qui ne cesse pas de m'étonner et de me ravir est le nombre de bons danseurs ici. Bien sûr, Paris est la capitale du tango en Europe, précédé au monde seulement par Buenos Aires; il y a d'ailleurs beaucoup d'Argentins qui vivent et dansent ici.
Mais ce n'est pas seulement une question du niveau technique. Dans la danse de couple il y a un phénomène étrange: si on danse bien, on peut danser avec, plus ou moins, tout le monde, et même y prendre plaisir; mais il y a certains partenaires, pas nombreux, avec lesquelles on s'entend parfaitement dès les premiers pas, une coordination des corps presque miraculeuse. Or, il n'arrive pas trop souvent qu'on rencontre son partenaire "idéal" - la probabilité est petite, mais elle existe. Elle augmente, naturellement, avec un plus grand nombre de danseurs disponibles; et alors là, Paris est l'endroit juste pour une telle recherche.
Hier soir, chez Luis et Pascale, c'était une soirée plutôt sympa, mais rien de spécial; j'ai rigolé avec Carlos après notre cours, puis j'ai dansé avec d'autres et finalment, onze heures passées, je suis allée aux toilettes, puis rentrée dans la salle mais restée appuyée sur le mur à côté de la porte. Je trouve que les choses, dans le tango, se passent souvent d'une façon étonnament romantique, presque kitsch; j'étais là, en regardant la piste de danse j'ai vu une ombre d'homme à ma gauche, lui aussi observant les danseurs. Il me voit, hésite, puis vient vers moi. Il est de taille moyenne, mince, sur la quarantaine peut-être, pas très beau, avec des traits un peu rudes. Il m'invite à danser, et je dis oui, pourquoi pas, il n'y a personne d'autre avec qui je voudrais danser. Et alors il me prend dans ses bras et là, c'est presqu'un choc - c'est parfait, il guide bien, il me tient fort mais pas trop serrée, on s'entend parfaitement. J'ai finalment l'impression de vraiment danser!
C'est bizarre; c'est comme si on était tous des pièces de puzzle et il fallait, sur la piste de danse, trouver ceux qui correspondent à notre forme..

Looking back

Still not dancing... decided to give it a break, so I can restore my ankle to its full use later - but I am not sure I will be able to stand it much longer. I keep on going over the moves in my head and not being able to actually do them is so frustrating.. It may sound like I am obsessing a bit - but please note tanguillo's comment saying that for us dancers it is sometimes hard to find balance in some things, besides the dance:) How very true.
Anyhow, seeing as my current tango life is quite uneventful, I am going to post something of an older date, on an eternal tango topic which we sometimes forget when concentrating too much on things like technique or etiquette; but isn't it, in reality all about finding your other dancing half? You know (I am sure you all know what I mean), the person(s) with whom dancing isn't a painful discussion but rather a smooth, effortless chat, even a harmony without words - a bit like when, with some people, one must constantly search for conversation topics while with others - even complete strangers - one can talk for hours without the slightest effort, almost reading their thoughts? That this may happen in a dance is a source of constant amazement and delight to me - only it happens so rarely..
The post is in French - it was originally written in that language and I couldn't bring myself to translate it. I hope that's ok.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A dancer with a sprained ankle?

Because that's what I am, at the moment. Not much, huh. Confined to my home for a couple of days, I can hardly walk - well, I sort of hop around, but it's not the same; and, being rather proud of the way I walk (normally), I so hate being reduced to this unsightly limp. But the worst thing about it is that I am unable to dance, had to cancel this week's dancing (the horror of it!), and who knows when that bloody ankle will be firm enough to provide reliable support on heels? However, I am still privatly resolved NOT to cancel my lesson on Friday, unwise though it may be...(wisely enough I chose not to ask for my doctor's opinion on the matter).
Anyway, the good news is that I shall have more time to pore over tango and related topics and write my blog which I have gravely neglected in the past couple of months (it all began with two festivals, one a week after the other, and the sleep deficit has been hanging over me ever since. I somehow cannot find the right balance between dancing tango and writing about tango - and sleeping and all that other unnecessary stuff which is imposed on us for inexplicable reasons, for that matter).
BTW one thing worth mentioning about the festivals is that I saw, for the first time in my life, Julio Balmaceda and Corina De La Rosa, and must join the already large number of people who think they are sublime! I have never seen anything like it before; their dancing is beautiful and impressive without any acrobacy, innovative and original without ever loosing the true essence of tango; a feast for eyes. Which is why I add these links - see for yourselves..
julio y corina tango vals
julio y corina 2
They dance like most of us would like to dance - only about a million times better:)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

At the Delhaize

Now this has got nothing to do with tango, but it is something concerning relationships between people, and besides it is really nice and I can't help mentioning it here:) So, I went to the supermarket the other day, it was early afternoon, no crowds, but there was still a queue of 4 or 5 people at the cash desk (it's a very small supermarket, only 2 cash desks and usually just one open). The employees are always rather nice and as the woman before me was paying, the man at the desk fussed about holding a bag open for her, thanked her and said - Au revoir, bonne après-midi..; she picked up her bag and walked out, he turned to me, I said - Bonjour, while he turned back to see her walk out of the door. She was a younger-middle-aged women, quite common-looking and she wasn't wearing a mini-skirt or anything like that, and so I mildly wondered what had caught his eye, when he distractedly said to me - Just a second, ok? - and sprinted behind her, out of the shop. I was genuinely intrigued by now and so I stepped towards the door for a better view and saw him stop her, explain something and thrust a piece of paper into her hand. And I thought - Jesus, is this what I think it is? I was dead curious. And so, when he came back after a while, I looked at him questioningly. Alors? Alors, he replied with a shrug, it's been five days that I watch her come and go... so I thought, what the hell! I've had enough of being alone all the time... I approved, and wished him good luck. And, well, I don't know the suite, but I still think it was grand... surely he gets points for courage, doesn't he?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Quite Comme Il Faut...

Now, aren't they lovely?!
And they are mine:)

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Had a most delightful time last night! I danced until I could no longer stand on my toes, and with some of the best dancers too. I remember sitting down twice, but never for long, and several people actually remarked on never seeing me off the dance floor. Around one o´clock I decided it was getting late and I should go home; and as I was massaging my aching feet, a girl sitting next to me whom I had seen at the milonga and talked to once or twice, a beginner, said ´Ah, mais tu as vraiment beaucoup dansé!´ I acquiesced. She went on ´Mais tu as de la chance, toi, tu danses tout le temps. Moi, j'en ai marre de être toujours là, assise...´ Anyway, the gist of the conversation was that she was totally frustrated, and really cold on top of that (well, you can´t really wear a warm pullover to a milonga, it wouldn´t be elegant, but if you wear something that shows off your body and then spend the evening sitting down, you end up being really cold). The problem, of course, is that she is a beginner, and not very patient one. She said it was a vicious circle, ´the men won´t dance with you if you´re not a good dancer, but how the hell are you supposed to learn, if they won´t dance with you?´ I told her it was perfectly normal and that all dancers have been through that stage, that it was bound to get better with the time, but that didn´t seem to cheer her up. Maybe she didn´t believe me.
I used to be just as depressed about not dancing much when I was a beginner; but it was also a really good motivation for me to work on my dancing skills and learn all I could. I would always get a few dances (I think everybody does, if they are patient enough - so no need to despair) and besides, I quite enjoyed sitting down and watching the good dancers on the dance floor - it was far better than watching a film, better than Carlos Saura´s Tango. At my first milonga I only danced with three men; still, I stayed until half past four and left with the feeling that it had been an altogether marvellous night.
And as my dancing skills improved, the number of my dancing partners increased. How often you are invited to dance, and by whom, is actually a very useful indicator of your progress (although, of course, there will always be some good nights and some bad nights, that´s just the way it is). I felt the most profound satisfaction when a man with whom I first danced as a beginner while he was very advanced and on the whole a rather good dancer asked me to do an advanced workshop with him. Hooorrraaay!!! He had been a very good indicator throughout - he rather likes to mentor beginners, telling them what they are doing wrong and how to do things right, which I found quite helpful as a beginner, but a bit annoying later on (especially as the stuff he would point out to me were things I knew I still had to work on). His comments grew scarcer, however, and then at some point he stopped commenting on my dancing altogether. I still remember my feeling of triumph:)


I need new shoes. Not any shoes. I need a pair of ´Comme il faut´s. Urgently.
My increasing obsession with these beautiful and, they say, incredibly comfortable shoes - which I take it means mainly that they are very stable and well balanced, and that´s about as much as you can reasonably ask of such 3- or 4-inch-heeled beauties - anyway, my increasing obsession with them happens to coincide with the loosening of my golden sandals´ straps. I could have them fixed, I suppose. I think I will, actually, because I´m very fond of them (they - and my feet, as a consequence - looked awesome last night). But even so, it sort of reminded me that shoes are perishable, and it might not hurt to get another pair? Just to be on the safe side... And since I´ll be getting a new pair of dancing shoes, it seems to follow logically that I should get the best that there is. Not that the ones I have are bad. I´ve already mentioned the golden strap sandals, and then there is the baby-blue/black pair by the Argentinian designer Sylvie Geronimi, simply lovely and very original. But are two pairs sufficient? And the third time´s a charm.. There´s a hitch, however. The closest shop where they sell ´Comme il faut´s is in Paris. Now, shall I go to Paris for a weekend? Wouldn´t mind checking out my old favourite milongas.. but when? No time.. Or maybe just for a day? Take the train in the morning, buy the shoes - if I find any I like - and come back in the evening? It would be feasible.. But is it not terribly extravagant, going all the way to Paris just to buy a pair of shoes? - that seems to imply that buying two or three pairs would be more reasonable - or would it?
Well, I might have to do it - driven by sheer necessity, as it were.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Posing in tango

This is really a reaction to the comment on my private ´tango nirvana´ theory... there is an important aspect of tango that I have omitted here, but which in my opinion is essential for understanding the tango dancers´ psychology; a sort of a strange dichotomy which probably exists in other dances as well, but is very pronounced in argentinian tango:
On the one hand, we dance tango strictly for ourselves and our partner, a good tango being a very intimate matter between the two dancing partners, an intense personal experience so to speak, which has nothing to do with a show, or a performance for others to look at. On the other hand, though, we also all dance to be seen - hence the shoe fetishism, the motley of different looks you will encounter at a milonga, the way of dancing itself - it is hard to imagine that any dancer, no matter how good they may be, would pay no attention to the image they project. There are always crowds of spectators at any milonga, and the dancers concentrate on themselves and their partner while being at the same time very conscious of being watched. Sounds pretty schizophrenic when put like this, but... Also, women will close their eyes and concentrate fully on the dance and the language of their partner´s body, but they will have carefully chosen their shoes and clothes so as to enhance the effect of their dancing moves. Not to speak of the various dance embellishments... And then of course there are those people who come to milongas ostentatiously NOT dressed-up (such attitude should be combined with high-level dancing skills though, in order to achieve the desired effect).

Sunday, February 18, 2007

As for tango addicts...

... I believe that the stage of addiction is absolutely necessary if one is to become a good tango dancer. And the longer it lasts, the better.. I suppose everyone emerges from it, eventually, because it IS rather exhausting in the long run; but it is something one simply has to go through, no matter how nutty it may seem from an outsider´s point of view. Or, as a friend of mine, a much more experienced tanguera, once put it: ´In tango, you have two kinds of people. There are those who take classes, but rarely go out dancing because it is too time-consuming / exhausting if one has to work the morning after, etc.. - these people go to advanced classes and know many figures, but they never become REALLY good dancers. And then you have those who become hooked and dance like crazy, hardly ever miss a milonga and stay out late although they have to work in the morning - and these eventually become very good dancers.´
Basically it just boils down to whether you adapt tango to your life or your life to tango. And in case someone finds that way-out, I would like to point out that there are tango dancers who simply cannot understand how someone can NOT dance.. It all depends on perspective.
Like I said, however, one is bound to sober up eventually and take dancing easy, ideally content with one´s technique and becoming
one of those cool, self-possessed and lofty dancers you sometimes see at milongas, who apparently no longer feel the urge to dance or will only do so for special occasions or partners. But I wouldn´t know, would I, being still a happy addict myself..
I have a private theory about the next and ultimate stage of dancing the tango, a sort of a dancer´s nirvana: the individuals who reach it no longer NEED to dance in order to experience the ecstasy of a perfect tango; the man and the woman simply look at each other and in the split second when their eyes meet, they KNOW what it would be like, they experience between the two of them a perfection beyond the imaginable and the feeling in itself is so intense that there is no need to go through the whole exercise physically; they just sigh contentedly and lean back to recover from it. I have not so far met any such individuals, but of course they would be very rare. Which is lucky, as an abundance of such illuminated tangueros would make milongas extremely dull for everyone else.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

In the beginning...

In the beginning of this blog there was the tango argentino...
It has now been one year since I have embarked upon the path of tango. I´ve been through the stages well known to all other tangueros - at first the weekly lessons, the pleasure of learning and concentrating on my body (a ´I dance, therefore I am´ sort of a thing), then the first milonga where, to my horror, I realized I could hardly walk - yet it was there and then that I completely fell for tango - and then lots of work and dancing to improve, and then my first tango trance when I danced my eyes closed until my feet were sore, limping happily back to my place at half past two on a summer night, still more dancing, and finally becoming a real tango addict (I still remember that week, in Paris, when I went out to dance almost every night, to the practicas, milongas and, of course, les quais de la Seine - most romantic, but deadly for your feet). My feet would hurt non-stop, a night´s rest was no longer sufficient to make the pain go away and, as I walked to the metro station, I had the feeling of stepping, barefoot, on sharp blades.. Yet I do not think there´s any inherent masochism in tango, as a friend of mine (not a dancer, of course, so what would he know?) once suggested when presented with this recollection. Yes, I suppose one COULD dance in sneakers... but it just wouldn´t be the same! It´s not just the shoe fetishism which, I admit, is a part of the whole tango thing, even for someone like me, who had always scorned high heels before and thought Doc Marten´s were the hight of cool; it´s also the undeniable fact that the whole of tango aesthetics is based on high-heel shoes - both the figures and the walk. One simply cannot achieve the same result without that bloody heel.. :) Anyway, one learns to minimize the damage, eventually, and most of the time a good night´s rest will suffice (plus perhaps a massage, a foot-bath, and some exercises - all these do make quite a difference).
I have noticed some women will wear high heels throughout the day, to work or to walk around the town in (though how far they actually get, or if they ever manage to catch a bus, I would be very curious to know); but I have never been one of these women and I find it rather alarming to see what a girl - including myself - will do to her feet when she gets into a tango trance (except for the fortunate specimen mentioned above, who can indulge in high heels without any apparent self-mutilation). Though, on second thought, it may not be so surprising after all. I suppose we all know that fairy tale about the little mermaid - the one that fell in love with a human prince and, in order to become human herself and be able to walk the earth accepted the condition set by the witch who helped her in her predicament, i.e. that every step she would take would feel as if she were stepping on a sharp blade.. That´s where I got the idea, of course..