“Like many of us in tango, I’ve been a dancer all of my life” –> What about those of us that havn’t?

This is in my humble opinion what is wrong with tango outside of BA today. Tango has become a private club that you can only join if you already possess the correct skills.

There are a couple of problems with statements like these, namely me. Not to mention how many Argentines didn’t come from this background as well.

All too often I hear teachers in this country say if you want to help out with teaching people to dance, you have to learn about many other dances as well, mostly ballet. I can’t help but wonder how many of these women that love to dance with Tete so much think about the fact that he was one of the first ever to teach tango? I can’t be sure until the next time I see Tete, but I doubt he ever donned a tutu and learned to dance on point.

Personally, I am guy that is over 40 and has only been dancing about 19 months, and is in fact a very nice dancer. Many people all over the world put my skill level at the almost 10 year level, and no, I have not been dancing 10 hours a day 7 days a week to get there. I focused on my chest, and walking all of the time, never on the steps. I went out and found my tango, it is not like anyone else’s dance. I am going to say this once as well, I feel that I am still very much a beginner.

Listen to this statement I am going to make now, all of you that think you can never learn to dance. ANYONE can learn to tango, and ANYONE can do it very well. There are no big secrets to be had to learn this dance, it is only time, and good teachers.

What a day it will be when the tango teachers in this country are judged on the quality of dancers they put out instead of the size of their ass!

I am going to fill in some blanks here that are going to make me really unpopular. When you are a new dancer and you keep getting turned down by those really awesome teachers, guess what: most of them can’t dance. How do you know they can’t really dance? Because they only dance with the same people all night long. By same people, it is usually the same three people. It is a dead set giveaway.

Think about it for one minute, if you are a really great dancer, you can dance with anyone. If you are not, you risk everyone seeing you at your worst. For a teacher, that can be certain death.

Stick with the tried and true teachers, the ones that have been around a long time. Stay away from anyone that steers you with their arms. Even in open embrace, steering is wrong. Find teacher that explains what it really means to walk to the music, not just says to do it.

I have personally seen to many people of every age walk away from tango frustrated after years of trying to learn to dance. This isn’t right. We have to do better as a community of dancers.

On a last note, don’t go to BA just to dance, go there to learn. Find a way to go for a full three weeks, take lessons everyday if you can, group and private. This is the one place you will learn to dance tango, and in my opinion the only place you will learn.

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Published in: on July 21, 2009 at 5:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Some tango drama of my own (what comes around, goes around)

So, it was bound to happen at some point. I had a major falling out with someone that used to try to teach me to dance. I am being really nice using the word try. I have said many times before that a beautiful dancer doesn’t make a great teacher, and this person falls very much into that category. We had a falling out just over a year ago. It had nothing to do with tango. She thought she was in a bind and needed some help, so she asked her ’friend’ for a favor.

I need to stop and explain my life for a minute. I lead a very charmed life. Work as a consultant to the office of the CEO of many really big companies. As a consultant, I usually live my life in corporate housing. You know, a furnished pad, maid service twice a week, concierge takes care of my shopping and dry cleaning, and my car(which is sometimes a motorcycle) is detailed every week by the guys working in the garage. Spoiled!

I work hard and make no apologies for the level of success I have.

So, back to the woman of the moment from last year. She was a friend only, but I take my friends seriously. I have very few people that I consider close enough to call a friend. I don’t think this friend ever understood that there was really no attraction to her for me. This is very important for what is coming next.

She asked me to move in with her, platonically of course. She needed some help dealing with some bills if she was to be able to fit in some serious travel. I sat her down and explained, this could change everything between us in a bad way you do understand. The reply? People have to go to the next level in order to grow. Ok, works for me. I moved from the plaza to the slums, just like that. This is ok with me, I can do this for a couple of months, no big deal.

What I couldn’t deal with was what came next. Being told that clients would most likely not come back because I was leaving when they were walking in. Being told there was going to be a swing class at 9 on Friday, would I like to come? Sure I would reply, then a text would come, sorry, you can’t.

As I recall, we made it an entire week. She tried her best to treat me like I was some kind of love sick puppy that would do anything for her. “Good luck,” was the last thing I remember saying to her. I meant, good luck with this idea that you can treat people as you see fit.

I said, “Chicky, this isn’t working out, I am moving out.” The saddest part for me was that she really didn’t give a crap at all. She tried very hard to manipulate me into paying her anyway. It was kind of funny, all she had to do was ask me to pay her, no manipulations needed. In fact, if she hadn’t said anything at all, I would have still paid for the place, it would have been the right thing to do. Manipulation without reason is almost always a sign of guilt. I told her I was moving out, it wasn’t working. I was done. She tried everything to get me to recant, we could ‘talk about it’, I hurt her dad’s feelings, she did all these things for me(of course, she didn’t really do anything at all, just took credit for everything, kind of like that last president we had).

So what does all this have to do with anything? Well, she saw me dancing at Nora’s week. She couldn’t take her eyes off me while I was dancing. She sat there with her mouth open like a frog trying to catch dinner. This is a woman that has not said one word to me in a year. Not a single email. She almost said hello to me last year at tango magic, but it turns out she was really just trying way too hard to make me look foolish.

This week, she doesn’t stop trying to talk to me, unless I am sitting alone, then she just walks right by. She goes out of her way to find the best dancers frisco has to offer, and tries to stop me and get me to talk. I wonder if she will ever get that I don’t need to be the most popular guy around. I don’t need to feel like the façade of knowing the best dancers makes my life worth living, it doesn’t. And for the few great dancers I am friends with, well, it has nothing to do with tango.

This is the best revenge a guy could get. I went out and I learned to dance tango. She has never put out a single tango dancer ever that didn’t come from ballet, and believe me, most of those that she taught are only good for show tango.

Here I am, everyone wants to dance with me, and I am happy to dance with anyone. This woman and I will never be friends, and sadly that will be her legacy to the dance as well. Tango is truly a cold world, you work hard your entire life to find love within this dance, and in the end, you are really only as good as your last dance. When the time comes for that last dance, and it will, you can cry into the night about the one that never loved you, or take comfort in what you have left.

Published in: on July 7, 2009 at 7:16 pm  Comments (1)  
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Floor Wars

Quick Note, if I get some time I will try to add pictures.

It is kind of funny, but no matter where you go to dance, if you are a lead then you are forced to have to share the dance floor with other dancers. This might seem like a simple thing to do, but the reality is that most leads are men, and with that comes certain levels of aggression. Now I know what you are thinking, men, aggressive? Come on, really?

The other night I was out dancing and got nailed left and right by this same guy. Turns out he does this to anyone dancing with the woman I was with. He was behind me and kept brushing up against me, then pushing with his back. Let me tell you what, he picked the wrong SOB to screw with! I simply stopped moving forward while dancing.  I never touched him or tried to interrupt his dance, however, I kept him stuck in a corner the better part of 2 minutes. I didn’t let him go around me.  He quickly ran out of moves with his partner, he was finished. When the song ended, he grabbed his partner and headed off to some other part of the floor.

So what really are floor wars? Let me try to explain. You are out dancing on the floor, having a good time. Next thing you know, BAM, someone just ran into you. Sometimes it is an accident, but, sometimes it is on purpose. Everywhere I have been there has always been a group of intermediate dancers that have 10 years under the ol’ dance belt with this sort of undeserved pretentiousness.  One minute you are dancing along having a great time, next thing you know, BAM, three couples have surrounded you and you are being bounced around like a pinball.

So now what? Well, first, believe it or not, take it as a compliment. You are now making people jealous. Next, learn take control or your place on the dance floor.  When you take lessons in BA, right from the beginning you do all kinds of exercise that help you dance on a crowded floor. These are essential things to learn if you are to hold your own on the floor. Start doing this at every practica, at your house, ect. Set up four chairs, with the backs facing in, into a square type position, you know, a box. There should be just enough room for you and your partner to move exactly 6 inches on every side without touching the chairs. Now dance two or three songs. Oh, and don’t touch the chairs.

After this, start putting chairs all over the place, but placed very close to each other. Now dance only around those chairs, in and out, back and forth. Again, everywhere you go, there should only be about six inches between you and the chairs. You will not believe how good you can become at this in just weeks!

Next, lets learn to play some games, well at least one game. I call this one the Diagonal Stomp. Here is how it goes down. While moving forward in the line of dance, the guy behind you starts stepping in and out of the line of dance in a diagonal motion. Turns out you can do all sorts of moves including ochos(front and back) and many turns this way. It also turns out that it is really hard to kick the guy out of the line of dance while he is doing it. While he is going back and forth, he is hitting your feet, by hitting I mean you are stepping on his feet. Yep, that‘s right, he is making you step on his feet.

What do you do? You have really two good options. First and hardest, but with the best results, learn to pick up your feet when you dance. That will give him a warning that you are not to be messed with, and he will stop, but only if you are good enough to do this without interrupting your own dance. Second, change from stepping with the beat to stepping on the upbeat instead. Then, as he starts to come to you, you head out on a diagonal and step back in behind him. If you go with this option, you now need to do to him what he was doing to you a minute ago, or he will end up behind you again and this time you will never get him to go away.

I hate these games, as should all of us. But because we are forced to play the game, we might as well become pros at it.

Self-Written Obituary

I remember seeing her in Seattle the first time, BsAs twice in as many trips, once in Portland, and couldn’t imagine what she was doing in DC at the same time I was there.

I remember asking her to dance, she agreed. As I rose from my chair, I couldn’t help but wonder why she was suddenly willing to dance with me. All the years I had been asking, nothing.  What, I wondered, was special about tonight?

I embraced her, and as I did so I felt something I had never felt before.  She was giving all of herself to me. I had never felt anything like this, it was so powerful, so passionate.

I whispered something in her ear as we danced, but have no idea what I said. When the song ended, as I was slowly releasing my grip on her, she suddenly snapped out of her trance, looked at me and pleaded, “Don’t let go”.

That is when it happened. That is when I died.

Published in: on April 2, 2009 at 3:06 am  Comments (2)  
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Bringing out her inner tango

“Tango is about the road, not the destination.”  That was the last thing that Alicia Pons told me this last weekend in Sacramento. I went to her workshops at Firehouse 5, and wow, what a workshop it was.

I have to admit, starting right before I left BA at the end of February, my tango has been out of whack. There was no question, I needed a lift, needed to find my steps again.  Alicia was the perfect chance to get back in touch with my dance.

It is just amazing sometimes, when in the zone, how much you can bring out of your partner, and she out of you. Sometimes when dancing with newer dancers, I have noticed that they start to embellish while dancing with me.

I noticed it first in Monterey a week ago. When asked about it, she replied, “I just started doing it for some reason when dancing with you.” Wow, together, we are bringing out her embellishments. That is cool.

After Alicia’s workshops, I noticed it with two other partners, but to a much larger degree. The more I try to listen to my partner, and the less I try to tell, the easier it gets to feel each other, the more we are able to accomplish together.

This, in my humble opinion, is Argentine tango. Reaching deep down inside while you are dancing, you just might find your best fantasies, a place you have never been, or just plain peace. Dance steps that you have never been taught that appear in the moment, without you ever noticing that they came and went.

Tango above and below the bay area

After spending a week in Sacramento with some lovely dancers, Michelle Gorre and Homer and Christina I am off to Monterey to check out the tango community. Turns out that tango is very nice here!

Even though my dance is really coming along, the thing I hate most about going to new milongas is that they can be daunting to newcomers, to say the least. While I totally agree that good dancers need to have places to go and dance with other good dancers, I also think there we as a community need to work harder to create places where everyone can dance.

To this end I really blame or credit the organizers of the milongas and practicas for creating the atmospheres that create really fun, or on the other side, really snobby, places to dance.

In Sacramento, my new crush Michelle (I call her chickypop) has a great venue and really goes out of her way to make everyone feel welcome. On the other side, another Sacramento venue, the organizer couldn’t be bothered to even talk to me, a new face in the crowd, until after she saw me dancing. How lucky I must feel that she noticed, right?

So when I walked into my first milonga in Monterey, how surprised was I when everyone was friendly. You would think the rule there was everyone needs to dance with everyone else at least once. Now, don’t get me wrong, it is getting harder and harder for me to dance with beginners all the time, but at the same time, I owe to the community that helped me learn to dance to give dances back, so I am fine with helping out at least once a week.

From this day forward, it is my intent to promote places like this, community places, and to find and create atmospheres conducive to creating great dancers all the time.

Published in: on March 16, 2009 at 5:15 am  Leave a Comment  
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Tourettes Tango

So, there we are, everyone out dancing at a practica having a great time. I decide it is time for a break, so I head to the super comfortable sofa to kick it for a bit and watch everyone else dance for a while. I have decided at this point in my life that watching other dancers is the best way to pick up new ideas for my dance.

I look over and there he is. That guy, you know the one, young, trying hard to show off, thinks he is the bomb. He has talent, and one day you know he is going to be a great dancer, but today, well, let’s talk about today.

Dude has all the right moves in his feet. He doesn’t bounce to much with every step. He has zero chest, so to move his partner he uses his arms. She is bouncing around like a rag doll, having a crappy time, and is too polite to just leave him. To a lot of people, they look like they are great dancers, and that counts for something, if only to them, or, really to him.

Here is what I don’t understand: You have a really beautiful girl in your arms, she has accepted a dance with you, a chance to share a moment with you. This is your chance to show her what kind of guy you are. So, given that information, why are you choosing to dance alone? What are you, playing sports with her? Not only are you dancing alone, but you are literally jerking her and throwing her all over the place. To the 90 percent of woman that relate dancing to sex watching you, you just struck out.

Why aren’t you dancing with her? Dance together, live in that moment between the past and the feature that only exists when you dance tango. Embrace her, connect with her, feel her movements.

Well, one day maybe, but not today.

Someone told me the other night that this guys nickname was Touettes, which was very fitting.

As far as I can tell, the best thing about Touettes dancing, the guy that gets the next dance with that girl can’t lose. Believe me, I will not miss my next chance to ask her to coffee after the tanda that she and I share.

Just a quck thanks, you know who you are.

My Teacher is …. that is what I hear from everyone I dance with these days. I am not sure how to react to this statement, so I let it go. When I get asked “who is my teacher”, I generally scratch my head and say for what? Well, for tango, they will say. I will reply that I don’t have A teacher, I have many, and am still adding to the list.

I don’t understand why this is so confusing. Ask one of the many people that you think are already great dancers, and you will never get one answer, or if you do it will be some brand name person from BA. What does this mean? Well to me it means you can’t learn everything from one teacher. As a matter of fact, it is more or less a rule that by the time you do finally really become a great dancer, you end up hating your first teacher, and in a lot of cases your second one as well.

I am sure you are asking why I am down on teachers these days. I am not at all down on teachers, I have a LOT of favorite teachers. In the bay area alone I really like Gary Weinberg, Christy Cote, of course Homer, and many others. In Sacramento there is Michelle Gorre, my newest little crush of a teacher, in Portland there is Jay and Alex, and others. You see, I get a lot from all these teachers, to limit myself to just one would kill my ability to create my tango.

When I was first learning to dance tango in BA, the focus was always technique and embrace, I worked long and hard on this with Andrea Mansilla, after this instead of leaning combinations of steps, I worked with Anabella Cruz Heck forever to learn just the basics of each step. How to do just a planeo from front and then back ochos, how to do sweeps, so many different ways, but no combinations, just how to achieve each step. From Matias Tripodi I learned how to play with the music, bigger and smaller steps, small combinations I can use all the time with the music. From Fernando and Gery I learned how to make a woman die by using my lead in a very soft yet powerful way, this was the beginning of my superpower, this was the first time I learned to feel tango. From the first class I had with Gary, I started to really understand the smaller moves I could see everyone do in the milongas in BA, but had never managed to do. Gary has a gift for breaking down the most complex steps and making them seem easy. From one milonga I attended and didn’t dance at in Portland OR. It was the Mississippi milonga, the first night it ever ran, I learned to dance. It was wild, I went home, reflected on what I had seen, and then made a leap in my mind that became the start of my tango.

It is easy to see why we get so attached to just one teacher. They have been dancing a long time, and are very nice to dance with. It is a very close and personal dance. We are not used to touching people this way, and all of the time, which also explains why we get so attached. But I think it is important to see that in order to grow, we must experience as many partners and teachers as we can.

While imitation certainly is the highest form of flattery, finding your own tango is certainly the end goal. May we never settle for less.

These are all my teachers, these here on this blog, and you, everyone I have ever danced with, shared a moment with, danced a tanda with. If I can dance at all it is because all of you are my teacher, and I just wanted to take a minute out of my night to thank each and every one of you.

Best Regards to you all,

TangoGod

A plea from a guy dancing tango in the Bay

There is no easy way to write a blog post like this one. I was expecting to have a hard time finding people to dance with in the Bay Area, but I was also expecting to find a community of people that loved tango.

So…

Why do all the women lean backwards when they dance? I have talked to four tango teachers at this point and they all agree that this happens too much, and no one seems to understand where it came from or why. It is really funny, but every place I have danced in the bay area my follow either thinks I don’t know how to dance, or that I am very good, both of which are wrong in my humble opinion. Every time I dance with a partner that leans back it ends in the tragedy anyone would expect. I step on her feet, I give one direction, she goes another, I am constantly being pulled off my axis trying to keep her on hers, ect.

I am so tired of this that when I go to the milongas and practicas, I watch for the first few tandas so I can pick out the woman I want to dance with. If you want to learn to dance tango but you don’t want to dance chest to chest, please, pick something other than Argentine Tango. Since the beginning of tango, when it was a man dancing with man dance, even during the golden age of tango when it was danced on big floors and was salon style, Argentine tango has been a closed embrace dance, if you have a problem with it, dance American style tango. If you want to feel this dance in your soul, if you want to understand what it means to share a moment, then you have to stop leaning backwards.

This one idea will control all of the other things that you have to learn to dance tango. How can you have musicality if you can’t step with the music? How can you dance together and share the lead and follow if you can’t follow each other’s intention? How can you share a connection so subtle and so passionate if you can’t touch your partner? I don’t believe you can.

I am going to offer a few suggestions, feel free to take them with a grain of salt.

                              1. Want to dance tango, learn forward, snuggle into the chest of your partner, you might find this uncomfortable the first couple of times you try it, but you will grow to love it fast, I promise.

                              2. This is a big one as well. DO NOT HANG ON YOUR PARTNER, HE IS NOT A COAT RACK. I was once asked “what is the acceptable amount of weight to put on your partner”, I answered, ‘none’.

                             3. This one comes from a friend of mine that danced in BA for the first time not long ago. She was told by her partner to stop dancing alone, he said”close your eyes and dance with me”. I will reiterate one more time. When you dance, close your eyes and dance with your partner, talk to his body with yours, and listen to each other’s bodies as you dance, this is tango, even more so, this is the passion of the tango.

Now, I might sound like I am being a little snooty, but believe me, I want more than anything else in the world to have partners to dance with. Believe it or not, outside of instructors I have only found three ladies I like to dance with, and this includes more or less everywhere but the easy bay, where I haven’t been to dance yet.

Ok, this rant is over, I hope not to have upset anyone very much.

Learning tango in the bay area

I haven’t had the opportunity to take a lot of classes in the Bay Area, but I am slowly working my way though as many instructors, practicas, and milongas as I can.

While for the most part I am having a hard time with the tango here, I have to try an remind myself that nothing really compares to BA.

The most top notch instructor for me so far has been Gary Weinberg. Gary has a way of breaking things down into the simplest form, making it much easier to learn the step. I have only been to two of Gary’s Milongas on Friday night at the Monte Cristo, one was a real hit, the other not so much. In BA when you have an instructor that thinks you are good, they usually help you out at the milongas, this is something that I have only really seen Christy Cote do here, but you would think it would be a no brainer everywhere.

Speaking of Christy, she has a really nice practica on Tuesday nights following her classes. She is one of the few instructors around that has a real reputation of putting out great dancers, as well as making a living teaching tango, no small feat. I am hoping after this weekend to have two more good practicas and milongas to write about, ODC tonight and the late shift tomorrow night.

Published in: on February 27, 2009 at 9:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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