Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Cabeceo capital of Australia?

If you like an invitation to dance in the form of an outstretched hand, a tap on the shoulder or a more formal Would you care to dance?, then perhaps you should stop reading right now.

It may come as no surprise that I'm a strong supporter of the cabeceo.  Novices to this elegant technique of invitation typically find it challenging.  But once you get the hang of it and develop confidence, you'll find it quite empowering - for men and for women.

Why bother with yet another challenge?  You might well ask.  Isn't dancing tango hard enough?

Well, call me a traditional tango purist, if you like.  But for me, dancing real tango is about becoming one with the music and my partner.  It's not something I can simply switch on - with anyone, at any time, with any music.  I prefer to dance less often, and feel satisfied when I do.  So I prefer the choice to be mutual.

Over the past few years, we've been encouraging use of the cabeceo at our milongas: Comme il faut and La Esquina, and it's so gratifying to see that it has caught on.  Seldom do we see men approaching unsuspecting women with outstretched hand.  Rarely do they hover in front of their intended victim practically forcing her to get up and dance, or bluntly refuse him in public. Many experienced dancers in Adelaide now use the cabeceo quite effortlessly.  Dare I say, that it appears to be becoming the norm in some milongas here.

Perhaps it will eventually catch on in other Australian cities.  But in my experience, so far Adelaide easily wins the prize for the cabeceo capital of Australia.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Dance like a man!

Watching dancers at a milonga my internal voice sometimes yells out “Dance like a man!  So what is it that bothers me?

I simply believe that leaders in tango need to display masculinity, and some behaviours, in my eye, exhibit a lack of it.  For example, his left hand pulled in towards him, an open ‘embrace’ with his right hand just above his partner’s hip, walking with tentativeness, flexing his body sideways in order to walk outside his partner.  My advice regarding these: keep the left arm to at least 90 degrees, adopt a genuine, close embrace, walk decisively, and use body dissociation/rotation.

The man needs to transfer his male energy to his partner.  The mentality isn't about leading & following, it’s about clear, effective communication.  It’s about confidence, which is not arrogance; strength but not forcefulness; intensity not anxiety; feeling that you belong there, not fearfulness about being judged.  
Guys! Don’t dance as if you’re apologising for being out there.

The man needs to engender a sense of trust in his partner so that she can relax and be receptive.  He therefore needs to be confident and decisive in every, single move.  Uncertainty can be detected by his partner in a millisecond, trust will diminish and tension will rise …. the dance will  go downhill from there. 

In brief:  Stand like a man, embrace like a man & walk like a man!


Wednesday, 19 March 2014

How do you like your milonga?

In a post 3 years ago “What makes a good milonga”, I suggested that there were 4 key ingredients contributing to a good milonga: the (welcoming) organisers, the codes, the venue and last but not least, the music.  However, their interaction and effectiveness have a lot to do with the organisers’ desire to be pro-active.  Here are 3 typical approaches used by organisers – see if you recognise any or all of them in milongas you’ve attended:

1.     Heavy-handed: There is a milonga in Buenos Aires that used to have a list of rules on display at the entrance.  No doubt there about the expectations, and the organisers enforced them in a fairly cold and unwelcoming manner.  There was a feeling of tension and exclusivity.  Not keen to go back there, despite the high level of dancing.

2.      Pro-active:  Anyone who has been to Oscar & Lucia’s milonga Lujos at El Beso & Plaza Bohemia, or earlier at Maipu 444, will be very aware that there is a calmness to the dancing, a lot of respect for other dancers, and an implicit understanding of what is expected.  The organisers are highly respected, and are quite willing to intervene if necessary, but in a gentle and supportive manner.   As a dancer, you feel comfortable, because the behaviour of others is predictable and safe.  Definitely among my regular milongas.

3.      Laissez-faire: The crowd determines the behaviour on any one night, and over time, a trend develops – often downward.  The floor-craft is unpredictable, and the dancing styles vary from good salon through to stage-style.  The latter results in dangerous activity, frustration, and good dancers leaving the floor early or even the milonga.  Unfortunately, the organisers are either too nice, unaware or lack the confidence to intervene.  Maybe the milonga could be good, but it’ll take an extended time to slowly change its culture – using both active intervention when absolutely necessary, and gradually increasing the awareness of milonga etiquette through a range of strategies.

In brief, the organisers need to have a vision of what they want to achieve – presumably a good milonga – and how they plan to achieve it.

Have you experienced any of these approaches?

Friday, 28 February 2014

Ladies! What does it take?

Some time ago, I posted advice to tangueras, but here I'd like to delve a little deeper.

In the early days of my tango journey, I worked hard on learning to execute the figures being taught, struggling to replicate sequences and decorations.  I was expected to do my share of the figure, regardless of how it was being led by my partner.  I thought decorations were essential, expressive tanguera accessories.  When reflecting on the results at the time, effective and elegant are two adjectives which do not immediately spring to mind.

Then I began learning about good technique - thanks largely to hours working with the maestra de los maestros, Aurora Lubiz. My body was trained to be ready, able, relaxed and responsive to the music and to my partner - whoever that might be for the next tanda.

After some years of dancing and learning, another critical piece of the puzzle eventually fell into place for me.  It was about my state of mind.  It was about being truly in the moment and surrendering to the dance - entrega.  For this, I needed to
  • be confident with my partner, but not dominant
  • surrender and be actively responsive
  • allow the music to possess me, yet not preempt how my partner might respond to it.
Some of these points may appear contradictory.  But then dancing tango involves subtle give and take.  It's a deliciously, delicate balancing act.  Simple, but not easy.

Ladies, let's forget about the flashy moves and decorations. With sound technique and the right state of mind, you can dance successfully with any good milonguero.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

How was it for you?

Gentlemen! If you want to dance real tango, you should leave exhibitionist figures and mind-sets at the door when you enter the milonga.

You'll need to focus your attention on the embrace and the music, and not on elaborate steps. What is the point of executing tricky figures, if the connection with your partner is broken? Do you really want her to feel like a puppet in your arms, rather than a woman?

So .......

      if we dance, I don't want to be your partner for a performance.

      if we dance, I will want you to dance with and for me.

      if we dance, it will be to share the feeling of the music.

After the first tango of a tanda, some milongueros gently check with me that I feel comfortable. Such is their respect. They know that a woman cannot give of herself in tango, if she is not at ease. True milongueros know that for a partner to share her passion, there must be trust. 

Guys, to dance tango, you must listen to the heart of the woman. Cacho Dante.


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