More often than not, I dance no more than 7 or 8 tandas in my 3 hours in milongas in Buenos Aires. I do that partly to conserve my energy for a) the music I really like, and b) the women I really want to dance with. Any single tanda is both physically and mentally taxing, so when I dance I want to put all the meat on the fire.
So how do I spend the rest of my time in the milonga apart from sipping on my mineral water? I listen to the music and I watch the dancers. Sitting at a table at the edge of the ronda, I feel part of the milonga, even when not dancing. But as I watch, I also learn. Of course, I watch the ladies’ pivots, their embraces, their responses to their partners, in order to guide my ‘cabeceo’ in future tandas. But there is more.
I watch the men – their rhythms, changing dynamics, playfulness, intensity; how they protect their partners, how they move their bodies with their partners; and I note small variations in movements that I regularly employ. I notice how their dancing changes with different orchestras, with the emotion of the singers, with the ‘light and shade’ in a piece of music. Not all men dance this way, but those that do are worth my intense scrutiny.
I often wonder about men, and women, who dance every tanda. Might they be missing an opportunity to observe and learn from others?
My advice: STOP. LISTEN. LOOK. LEARN.
No, I’m not referring to those
fleeting relationships typified by an invitation to have a ‘cafecito’ after the
milonga. For those unfamiliar with this euphemism, the expectation is to share
more than a cup of coffee!
observed & approved of his dancing and his conduct in the milonga. He, too, has noticed her elegance and entrega. So begins the game of visually seeking out the other for the first time.
from her table, he approaches, maintaining eye contact, thus confirming their
agreement to dance. Only then does she
rise from her seat, in a heightened state of anticipation, wondering whether
her observations will be confirmed when she accepts his embrace.
As she places
her upper body against his, his embrace encloses her into a respectful cocoon
of safety and comfort. She relaxes and they begin to move together to the music.
simple movements, intuitively assessing her responses. She feels his responses
to her. They gradually become familiar with each other’s idiosyncrasies, nuances,
musical sensitivities and imperfections. During the 12 minutes of the tanda, they
begin a non-verbal conversation which slowly gains more depth - the start of a
journey of mutual discovery to be continued at a future milonga when their
paths cross again.
I don’t mean
… the one that we feel when dancing with a new partner, in particular – those times
when communication fails a little, and an opportunity for improvisation
I mean the Serious
… when you’ve watched the dancers at a milonga, assessed someone as a good
choice, successfully cabeceoed, taken up the embrace, taken the first step, then
suddenly thought, “Uh-Oh!” … or even “Oh-No!”You realise that your partner has a poor embrace: too tight, too loose,
or can’t walk well, doesn’t pivot, pulls you around, and you come to the
conclusion that this will be a long 12 minutes.
You’ve misjudged your selection, so now you have to deal with it.As a man, you need to quickly assess what
your partner can do, and do your best to make the dance a success – keep it
simple, give her the time she needs, make adjustments so that ochos work, etc.
As a woman, you can forget about surrendering to the music and your partner. This
situation warrants self-preservation tactics, i.e. good technique to maintain your
balance and a readiness to take evasive action, if required.
… when the behaviour of your partner suggests that the dance may need to be cut
short.For example, dangerous movements
in the ronda: frequent collisions due to
inconsiderate navigation, high boleos or sweeps by the woman; inappropriate
personal behaviour. In such cases, it’s
reasonable to have a few tactful words with your partner at the end of a piece
of music, and essentially put him/her on notice (remember, we’re talking about
the Ultimate Uh-Oh!).Should the
behaviour continue unchanged, then it’s appropriate to end the dance at an
opportune moment; regardless, the man should escort his partner back to her
table. Maybe we
should, in fact, value the Occasional Uh-Oh! moments because
they are the ones that define every unique tango conversation with our many
partners.They’re not ‘mistakes’, but
rather opportunities to adapt our dance in a way that will enhance the
experience with our partners.
We know you’ve
had them, so how have you dealt with your Uh-Oh moments?
What is it that typifies the tango embrace in traditional milongas of Buenos Aires?
Firstly, no fear
No fear of one's partner. No apprehension about whether you will make mistakes. No concern about what onlookers may think. It's about surrendering to your partner, the music and the moment.
Becoming one with your partner
Mould yourself onto your partner's body, without compromising your axis. The embrace is relaxed, secure and comfortable for both, and not crippled by poor posture.
While she 'stands up for her man' with a relaxed, good posture, his embrace provides security, conveying confidence and certainty. This allows her to surrender to the journey - his gift to her - knowing he will protect her all along the way.
You embrace your partner as though you really mean it. Let them in to become as one. Make a commitment for the tanda. There should be no 'maybe'.
You may also experience this elsewhere - not just in Buenos Aires. It is certainly how I like the embrace. What are your preferences?
In a previous post I praised the tangueras who are patient and taking a long-term view of tango, as a way of cultivating a strong pool of ma...
We promote close-embrace tango which is danced socially in traditional milongas of Buenos Aires. Our focus is on developing musicality, connection and sound technique - essential for this improvised dance.
Robert Youngson & Patricia Petronio
Contact tangosalon(at)adam(dot)com(dot)au to be added to our mailing list.
Telephone 0408 850 079
Weekly classes Monday 8:00 - 9:30pm Tuesday 8:00 - 9:30pm Baptist Hall 144 Tynte St, North Adelaide Cost $10