fringeInside the Embrace, 2006 Archive

Commentaries on Argentine Tango and Life
by Stephen and Susan Brown
 

On Differing Styles and Overtraining
17 November 2006 — Stephen Brown

On Tango-L, Meredith Klein writes about her recent observations in Buenos Aires:
"[I]n the [traditional] milongas (Club Gricel, Nino Bien, Salon Canning, Confiteria Ideal) ..., it's not appropriate to dance in open embrace or to throw ganchos or boleos.  In these milongas, people dance in close embrace, use fairly simple steps, and prioritize the flow of the entire dance floor. ... However, there is another set of milongas and practicas in Buenos Aires where different rules apply.  At Villa Malcolm, Practica X, Soho Tango, La Viruta, La Marshall, and many more, the dancers are younger (mostly between 18 and 40) and get bored if they have to dance in close embrace all night, doing simple steps.  They are always pushing themselves and both competing and collaborating with each other to find new possibilities in tango.  This includes creating new kinds of movements, finding new ways to put familiar movements together, and exploring new ways to interpret traditional tango music (usually at least 80% of the music played in these milongas is golden age, just like at the traditional milongas)."

For more information about the latter scene, see Andrés Amarilla's The Guide: Nuevo Tango in BA.

What happens when the young dancers change venues?

Meredith continues:
"Argentines and foreigners who know the milonga scene in Buenos Aires are very sensitive to and respectful of the rules that apply in each venue.  On Monday nights, the practica at Villa Malcolm ends earlier than on other nights, so afterwards dozens of dancers head over to Salon Canning several blocks away.  When they arrive, you wouldn't know that they were the same dancers.  The women who were wearing dance sneakers at Malcolm are now in Comme Il Fauts, and perhaps they even put on makeup and changed their clothes to better fit into the milonga environment.  People who were practicing jumps, 360-degree underarm turns and colgadas at Malcolm are now sedately and happily executing their ocho cortados.  Perhaps at 5:30 am, they'll start tearing up the floor again, but by then pretty much everyone has gone home and no one cares."

On Tango-L, the always insightful Brian Dunn adds a wonderful dimension to Meredith's observations:
"Last night, I was watching the 'midnight transition' between El Motivo/Villa Malcolm and Canning that you describe here, and another thought struck me.  These young dancers dance the small compact 'Nino Bien' stuff exquisitely!  Superb musicality, delicate intricate footwork, tiny tiny little flicks of heel, toe and ankle, just a delight to watch."

"Then I realized that by pushing themselves and each other in friendly competition at high-energy go-for-broke practicas, they are also 'overtraining' their navigation and musicality skills under these high-energy conditions, which tends to make them very expressive and solid partners when crowded floors require them to reduce the scale of their movements.

"This overtraining principle is exploited in many kinds of sports and performance training settings. ... By pushing their edge in the 'tango workout' practicas, the low-stress 'Nino Bien dancing' of these young dancers is well within their 'performance envelope,' rather than being closer to the maximum they are used to.  This leaves a lot more available brain power (and heart power) for musicality and connection.

"To achieve the same end, regardless of one's stylistic preferences in social tango, any tango dancer who values floorcraft, connection and musicality in milonga settings (as I do) might want to consider overtraining their floorcraft and movement dynamics with higher-energy "big tango" practica work."
 

permalink

Changes in the Tango Scene
9 November 2006 — Stephen Brown

On his ToTango webpage, Keith Elshaw recently offered the following comments about changes in the tango scene:
"Three big changes I have been noting for a while are currently cresting:

"1 - More awareness of social dancing imperatives as opposed to learning from/wannabe stage dancing on the intermediate level."

"2 - More 'Nuevo' devotees only wanting to learn stage-type dancing and not giving a hoot about social dancing and/or getting along on the floor."

"I see lots of both types. They are carving out their places in the spectrum and resultant divisions are affecting business patterns in the world of running milongas."

"3 - Social dancers are getting really hot for Canyengue. This is sparking a whole new interest in the oldest of the recorded orchestras and classes in the old style dancing."

In thinking about how this affects the music choices, Keith adds:
"I perceive a wave of new interest in Canaro, Lomuto, Donato and Orquesta Tipica Victor, for instance. Right now, if you are a dj, you darn well better have a good version of Canaro's Poema ready to go. It is a "new" hit.  Just like Donato's "Ella Es Así has been for 3 years now.  Oh, dear ... the Nuevo people don't want to go in this direction at all. They are asking for electronica and such."
 

permalink

Bridge to the Tango Videos To Be Discontinued
6 November 2006 — Stephen Brown

An era will come to an on January 1, 2007 when all Bridge to the Tango instructional videos will be withdrawn from the market.  Between 1996 and 2001, Daniel Trenner produced 72 instructional videos for his Bridge to the Tango label.  The videos cover his own teaching and dancing, Rebecca Shulman's and that of a number of other masters from the older and younger generations.

Some of the titles may become available in DVD format in the future, but that will involve complex negotiations in Argentina involving the the rights to the video images and the music used in the videos.  Some of videos—including those with Daniel, Rebecca and the earliest recorded in the masters' series—will never be available again because the original video production was not suitable for conversion to DVD.

The Tango Catalogue, which has been the exclusive distributor of these videos, is closing out its Bridge to the Tango catalog at 25 percent below retail through December 31, 2006.  Quantity and wholesale discounts are also available.

For more information about the affected titles and how to obtain the videos while they are still available, see Video Resources for the Tango Dancer.
 

permalink

What the Bleep Is Tango?
9 October 2006 — Stephen Brown

The great tango composer Enrique Santos Discepolo called tango "a sad thought that is danced."  Some people hear lonliness in tango.  For some people, tango is a shared intimacy.  For others, tango is sex on legs or the vertical expression of horizontal desire.  In many communities, tango seems to be synonomous with anger.

For me, tango is all of these emotions and none of them.  Tango connects deeply and opens the holes in our hearts that we were taught to be scared of, and whatever emotions we have stuffed into plug those holes is what pours out of us.  On those lucky occasions when tango empties out those holes and we are able to get past our emotional considerations, we know real joy and a still mind.

See What the Bleep!?.
 

permalink

An Interview with Roberto Alvarez of Color Tango
8 September 2006 — Stephen Brown

While Orquesta Color Tango was in Dallas (to play a concert on August 4 and a milonga on August 5), Lydia Essary interviewed director Roberto Alvarez.  Their discussion ranges from Osvaldo Pugliese, to electrotango, to orchestra personnel, to musical creativity, and to the premeire of the orchestra's upcoming musical.

The interview is posted on the Creative Tango website in English translation and original Spanish.
 

permalink

Dancing
31 August 2006 — Stephen Brown

"Dancing is not getting up any time like a speck of dust blown around by the wind.  Dancing is when you rise above both worlds, tearing your heart to pieces and giving up your soul."

Rumi, Persian Poet
 

permalink

Argentine Tango: The Way You Dance It
16 June 2006 — Stephen Brown

On Tango-L, Sergio Vandekier writes:
"Argentine culture has developed different styles of Tango (traditional, open, close, embrace, milonguero, nuevo, canyengue, etc).  They all have a common vocabulary of movements and expression in the way they are danced with some changes in technique and embrace but all those styles belong to the same generic dance.  They overlap in this regard and they are characterized by improvisation. ...

"Tango has followed in its form and content every change in Argentine evolution, the dance as well as the music and the lyrics. ...

"Foreign personal styles and gender roles may leave authenticity behind. This means that when you dissociate a tango style from its native culture it loses its pristine form and content and could become something else.

"[T]his does not mean that a tango that lost authenticity is a bad tango, ...

"Tango (the way you dance it) represents society codes, gender roles and also your personality."
 

permalink

Finding Self Expression and Freedom in Argentine Tango
16 June 2006 — Stephen Brown

The dancer who wants to own tango cannot rely purely on instruction.  The dancer who is seeking self expression and freedom in their own dancing needs to look past the limitations that are inherent in any pedagogy.  In that regard, good teaching facilitates self-discovery and self-learning.  Perhaps taking such a philosophy to an extreme in the few lessons and classes that he taught, jazz pianist Bill Evans refused to show his students the chord voicings and progressions for which he was renown because he did not want to deprive them of the opportunity to discover the knowledge on their own.
 

permalink

North American Tango Festival Update
14 June 2006 — Stephen Brown

The number of tango festivals in North America is growing, with the number announced having topped 40.  The organizers for at least one festival held for the first time in late 2005 have yet to announce whether they will reprise the event in 2006.  Additional festivals may be announced as the year progresses.

Some of the festivals emphasize dancing, and some feature big-name instructors.  Either way, a good festival offers many hours of dancing, an extensive class schedule with quality instruction, and an opportunity to meet and dance with tango dancers from all over.  Many of the events are surprisingly affordable.

The list has been deleted.  For a current worldwide list of tango festivals, see Tango Festivals and Other Events on this website.  Another resource for festival information is Tobias Conradi's festivals.tango.info.

For some thoughts about dancing at tango festivals, see Dancing at Tango Festivals (23 May 2004), More on Dancing at Tango Festivals (25 May 2004), More on Dancing at Tango Festivals (2) (25 May 2004), and More on Dancing at Tango Festivals (3) (28 May 2004).
 

permalink
Evolution
8 June 2006 — Stephen Brown

At Evolution Tango, George and Jairelbhi Furlong have the following story:

There was a master swordsman who had a student that could mimick all of his moves perfectly.  The student off course, was proud of his accomplishment.

After years of study, the master told the student, "Go and practice everything I have taught you, and do not come back for three years!"

The student did as the master said and returned after three years: "Master, I am frustrated.  I practiced everything as you taught me, and a third of the form does not feel like what you showed me."

"No good," the master says, "Leave again and do not come back for another three years!"

Once again the students leaves and practices continously for three years.  After that time he seeks out his master:  "Master, I do not understand.  I feel that I am getting worse!  Two thirds of the form feels different from what you taught me!"

"No good!" the master says, "Leave and do not come back for another three years!"

For the third time the student leaves and for the third time after practicing for three years, returns to his master: "Master, I have failed.  Everything you have taught me is gone.  The form feels nothing like what you showed me."

The master smiles at his student, "Good, now the form is no longer mine, but your own!"
 

permalink

Becoming an Expert
6 March 2006 — Stephen Brown

At Creating Passionate Users, Kathy Sierra writes:
"'When you're done with square one, pick it up and take it with you.'  Horse trainer Linda Parelli says that, and her take on amateurs-vs.-experts is that the amateurs forget the fundamentals. ...

"[P]erhaps that's one more thing the superior performers do better than the rest of us—they keep practicing the fundamentals.

"For the superior performer the goal isn't just repeating the same thing again and again but achieving higher levels of control over every aspect of their performance. That's why they don't find practice boring.  Each practice session they are working on doing something better than they did the last time. ...

"Most of us want to practice the things we're already good at, and avoid the things we suck at. We stay average or intermediate amateurs forever."

For the complete text, see Don't forget square one... and How to be an expert at Creating Passionate Users.
 

permalink

Destiny
14 February 2006 — Stephen Brown

"[W]hat destiny does not do is home visits.  You have to go for it."
        – Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Shadow of the Wind.
 

permalink

Knowledge and Wisdom
1 February 2006 — Stephen Brown

"To attain knowledge, add things every day.  To attain wisdom, remove things every day."  Lao Tse
 

permalink

Tango Workers or Dancers?
10 January 2006 — Stephen Brown

On Tango-L, Barbara Garvey writes:
"!Caray¡  I am constantly amazed by the overanalyzing of technique ..."

On Tango-L, Lucia responds:
"So very true.  If it is not technical analysis then they are into partner psychoanalysis.  No wonder that there are many more tango workers than dancers.  So admirable and rare are the couples who dance for the  pleasure of it, without giving a damn about perfect technique.  They share their pleasure with anyone seeing them."

For some related thoughts, see The Joys of Simple Tango.
 

permalink

North American Tango Festival Update
1 January 2006 — Stephen Brown

The number of tango festivals in North America could top 40 in 2006.  Already, organizers have announced dates for more than 30 tango festivals in North America over the next 12 months.  Organizers for several long-standing festivals have yet to announce their 2006 dates.  A number of festivals were held for the first time in late 2005, and the organizers have yet to announce whether they will reprise these events in 2006.  Additional festivals are likely to be announced as the year progresses.

Some of the festivals emphasize dancing, and some feature big-name instructors.  Either way, a good festival offers many hours of dancing, an extensive class schedule with quality instruction, and an opportunity to meet and dance with tango dancers from all over.  Many of the events are surprisingly affordable.

The list has been deleted.  For a current worldwide list of tango festivals, see Tango Festivals and Other Events on this website.  Another resource for festival information is Tobias Conradi's festivals.tango.info.

For some thoughts about dancing at tango festivals, see Dancing at Tango Festivals (23 May 2004), More on Dancing at Tango Festivals (25 May 2004), More on Dancing at Tango Festivals (2) (25 May 2004), and More on Dancing at Tango Festivals (3) (28 May 2004).

permalink

2005 Archive


bandoneon - back to top

Tango Argentino de Tejas

Home   Video Resources   Tango Music   Other Topics   Dallas Tango   Links