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. 


Thursday, 17 July 2014

Do cortinas matter?

How important is a cortina, apart from clearing the dance-floor between tandas?

     Does it affect the mood and energy of the milonga? 
     Might it complement or clash with the preceding music? 
     What is the ideal length of a cortina?
     Is it a problem if the same cortina is used all the time? 
     Should the DJ bother with this, and just focus on the tandas?

Well, I'm going to have a little gripe. I wish more DJs would indeed consider the contribution of the cortina. I've seen the mood created by the most thoughtful selection of music spoiled by a cortina which is soporific & energy-sapping or jarringly inappropriate.

Cortinas which allow dancers to not only clear the floor, but are also long enough to return to one's seat, have a drink and reconnect with those around, are considerate of the dancers.  So, nowadays my cortinas are usually around one minute in length, and that seems to work well.

Personally, I like using a variety of cortinas to complement or spice up the mood during a milonga - not too gloomy or bland.  On the other hand, the Heavy Metal cortinas which I heard some years ago in Buenos Aires, of all places, were way beyond the pale. Some current favourites: Pretty woman (Roy Orbison), Words of love (Mamas & Papas), Son of a Preacher Man (Dusty Springfield), Back to black (Amy Winehouse), Hard times (Ray Charles), Breaking up is hard to do (Neil Sedaka).

Am I being too precious? Does the cortina really matter at all? Next time you're at a milonga, take note and decide for yourself.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Centenario Aníbal Troilo

The great Troilo, bandoneón player par excellence, orchestra director and composer was born 100 years ago 11 July 1914, a day also commemorated nowadays as the Día del Bandoneón in Argentina. With the right partner, I love dancing to his music. Here are just a couple of my favourites:

Troilo with singer Francisco Fiorentino

With Alberto Marino

Reasonable quality Troilo recordings have been very difficult to acquire until recently.  So, if the Troilo bug has bitten you, head to TangoTunes.


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