Monday, 13 October 2014

To the shrinking violets of the milonga

Do you fear that nobody will want to dance with you at the milonga, so you consider not attending?

Do you hide your shyness by checking your phone messages or by making polite conversation, when really you would prefer to be dancing?

Ladies, on the dance-floor, do you often worry that you won't understand your partner's lead?

Gentlemen, do you feel intimidated by the couples dancing around you?

What does your body language say about you at the milonga?

Here's some highly recommended viewing, for all shrinking violets, not just those at the milonga!


Monday, 22 September 2014

Surrender or self-preservation?

Entrega (roughly translated as surrender) is that delicious and much-sought-after experience in tango, when you can allow yourself to become one with your partner and the music. You and your partner are in a bubble, being carried along by the music.  This is, in my opinion, true tango.

Trust is a prerequisite - trust in your partner, as well as trust in your fellow dancers and trust in the musical selections of the DJ.

How lightly do you grant this trust? Recent chats with a few tangueras revealed that some grant it far too lightly.  How powerless they have felt in having surrendered, when instead, a response of self-preservation was called for. Men have reported similar experiences.  So, when might self-preservation tactics be appropriate for men or women?

Your partner (man or woman)
  • is imposing movements upon you that make you feel uncomfortable (eg. leg-wraps, high boleos)
  • is not in control of his/her axis, and your balance is compromised
  • moves ahead of you, rather than with you
  • is moving in a way which endangers or compromises the comfort of other dancers
  • is stepping outside the embrace
Here, tango might be compared to sex between consenting adults. Don't do what you don't like.  Preserve your comfort, safety & dignity, and enjoy the experience!

So, what are some tried & true strategies of self-preservation?
  1. Cabeceo - it means that you have choice.  If you don't like what you see, or have had a bad experience with someone, don't nod to accept their invitation. It's the best line of defence.  However, we have all experienced Uh oh moments, so ...
  2. Brace - your body is alert.  You are ready to tense your muscles in order to maintain your balance or to slow down your partner
  3. Embrace - you may change the embrace, perhaps making it much closer to limit your partner's movements
  4. Say something - tell your partner that you don't feel comfortable
  5. Leave - if all else fails, reserve the right to say "Thank you" perhaps at the end of a song (not tanda) and leave the dance-floor
The choice is yours: surrender or self-preservation.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

It's not hard to see why he's a ladies' favourite!

Several seasoned milongueras have let slip that they simply adore dancing with him.

Just watch his delicious response to the music, the lovely embrace and how he communicates the cadences of the music to his partner.

Thanks Jantango for sharing these clips of Ismael Heljalil.


Monday, 18 August 2014

Cabeceo - more than an invitation.

We have written often about the power of the cabeceo - the invitation to dance. However, there’s a case to be made that the cabeceo injects other elements into the milonga – and not necessarily explicitly.

Clearly, the cabeceo is a strategy for engaging with other dancers, but it also shows a willingness to engage.   It can be very frustrating for a dancer, accustomed to using the cabeceo, to attend milongas where he/she is faced with dancers who rely on the direct approach.  He/she will sit, looking around for eye-contact, willing to engage, but receive no response.  The others will chat, dance only with their friends, or scroll through their text messages!  Going to a milonga, where everyone who wishes to dance the tanda is actively looking, is such a relief.

…. and what about the milongas where the cabeceo has become the norm?  I would suggest that the dancers have also adopted other codes of behaviour, typical of traditional milongas – and this spills over into how they dance.  There’s a greater likelihood that the line-of-dance and navigation are good, there’s a respect for other couples, movements are conservative, the atmosphere is calm, and the dancers are attentive to the music.  In other words, an engaging place to be.


Tuesday, 12 August 2014


Respect lies at the heart of tango, and it begins with that most respectful of invitations to dance – the cabeceo.

It continues with the embrace the man offers the woman – one of surrounding her with security.  An open embrace cannot provide this security, and one that puts her in strait-jacket does not respect her response.

So what else should the respectful man bring to his partner? Clear body communication and good body control will allow him to move with stability, balance, & precision.  Add to that a knowledge of tango music that will allow him to exhibit good musicality, with changing dynamics and energy.   He will have an ability to suggest the next movement …. and then wait for her response, finally moving with her.  His aim will be to create a resonance of movement and response to the music with his partner.  The bottom line – a constant focus on his partner: his lead, her response – as well as an acute awareness of the music.  Respect for her!

What can we say of the man who ignores much of this?  The man who believes that there is no reason to develop himself because he will dance anyway … most often by pressuring women with direct requests.  Is he disrespectful, arrogant, or just plain lazy?

Regardless of the answer, let’s encourage the men who show respect for women in their tango community by wanting to improve, using whatever means available to them. That involves more than going to lots of milongas and dancing every tanda in the same way.  Women deserve better than this! 

I suspect most women would gladly accept the cabeceo invitation of men who respect their partners - those men who make an ongoing effort to internalise the music and develop their social dancing skills. 


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