tango, the comfort food of dance

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This is what happens when I watch Top Chef after tango practica….

For me tango is like comfort food served family-style.

Comfort food highlights all the ingredients in a simple, no-fuss kind of way with lots of love.  To have a really simple, delicious dish requires excellent technique.

Sure I like to eat at fancy restaurants every once in a while.  I might marvel at the presentation, amaze at the garnishes, and ooh at desert but I can’t eat it every night.  It would be too much, get too old too fast, and would feel too external for me to enjoy it.

Wrap me in comfort food served tango style any day.

a mash-up of things-overheard-at-class

A mash-up of things overheard at class:

Brand-new male beginner: This is boring, all this walking. When are we going to learn how to dance?

Intermediate female dancer: When I walk in tango it feels like heaven.

Brand-new female beginner: What is the count for tango?

Brand-new male beginner: I can’t hear the music. How do I find the count?

Intermediate male dancer: You need contra-body for it to work and feel like tango.

Brand-new beginner (male and female): Can you do a demo with some kicks, jumps, and fancy moves? {BTW it was at practica and my answer was no.}

Intermediate dancer: I just can’t get enough of …Canaro, D’Agostino, Di Sarli, Calo, D’Arienzo etc…

What’s my point? Well, many people come to tango with a pre-conceived notion of what tango is.  I have seen people come to tango for one reason and then stay because they experienced something they never had before.   There are, however, folks that just don’t fall in love {gasp} and that is okay too.

The Tango Walk

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Originally published October 13, 2009 and added to in 2011.

To walk in tango is not an easy thing.  When people come to their first tango class and they are shown ‘how to walk’  they look bored.  They expected something a little more dramatic.  Ah, but there is so much in the walk and when they discover how hard and delicious it is to walk, then they are hooked.

I found this quote by Miguel Zotto and thought it was a precise and beautiful way of describing the ‘tango walk’.

Tango is like writing a letter, it has a beginning, periods, commas, stops and an end. If you are doing figures and gyros (turns) all the time, people don’t see anything and that is why there is the walk- the invention of the people. In this dance of the people, which is what tango is, all the famous couples have used the walk, and they use it constantly.

The tango is on the ground, It is caressing the floor. It is the ball of the foot supporting the weight of the body, right on the axis and each person on his/her own axis. If you make pupils walk at the beginning, they get bored and want to learn steps and more steps – to show off at the dance hall. So you need to have the luck of meeting a teacher who tells you: No. Look. You must walk. First walk.

And this cute quote from Javier Rodriguez and Stella Misse:

Javier: When a man walks nicely, the woman dies in his embrace.
Stella: When a man walks badly, the woman wants to die.

tango in red
Image by zabara_tango via Flickr

Diamonds in the rough – polishing our tango technique

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Diamond

We are all diamonds in the rough when it comes to tango.  I believe each and every person can become a great dancer if they constantly have an open mind and are willing to work on their technique, alone and with a partner.  Yes, I am talking about Tango Fundamentals.  Most everyone in my small group gets excited about Fundamentals class.  I think it is because they are starting to realize that good technique = good dancing.  That’s why we call it our FUNdamentals class because it is F.U.N.

Here are three ‘simple’ fundamentals that we practice:

Pivoting.  Such a simple thing yet so hard to do with elegance, balance, and frame.  For me the true testament of a great tango follow is her pivots. Quick, light, and collected is what we strive for.  Leads pivot too and this helps with their walking…

Walking.  Again simple but so difficult to do beautifully.  If both lead and follow walk ‘on the line’ it is easier to a) stay in a comfortable embrace with chests facing one another, and b) stay to the line-of-dance and keep our balance….

Balance.  I find this is a learned skill.  If each dancer is responsible for his or her own balance there is a comfort and connection in the embrace.  If one or both are struggling with their balance -and where their balance is – then the embrace can turn into a tiresome wrestling match.

I have only touched on three fundamental techniques.  What are some essential fundamentals for you and your dancing?

The magic of tango

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There is something special that happens at The Bridge Lounge on Monday Nights. Well-dressed, black clad, sparkly people with strange bags full of fancy shoes glide up the stairs and into Tango Practica.

The Bridge is transformed into tango heaven and the dance floor is full of blissed-out dancers. There are numerous hugs – hello & goodbye – much laughter, and music that is truly sublime all of which creates a magical atmosphere.

You may see them leaving hours later with very contented looks on their faces, with or without some of their possessions (blissed-out tango dancers are very forgetful). They may even hug goodbye again and then wave, already yearning for next week’s dancing.

There is always this magical quality at Practica. I can never put my finger on how and why it happens and some weeks it is different with different combinations of dancers.  There does not seem to be a full-proof equation for success but I am convinced that music plays a major role.

I also feel that this tango magic is found in the details like well-stocked mints (my community may only come for the mints actually now that I think about it), or the table/chair placement, or the thoughtfully constructed tandas, or the Tango Special drink that Nicola pours with care, or an extra mop of the dance floor.  Maybe it is that they are all dancing with intention…again intangible and mysterious; the magic of tango.  We wouldn’t have it any other way.

I {heart} Monday Night Tango at The Bridge shifted to Tango Tuesday in the Fall of 2011. Visit Valley Tango for the current schedule.

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