Every leader wants their follower to have a pleasant experience dancing tango, and if not pleasant.... awesome. But sometimes the best dancing intentions get snagged by simple technical problems in the dance that can actually cause the follower pain. At the moment I have a painful back in a few areas and dancing tango in an embrace that puts undue pressure on my back and neck can really put me out for weeks. It turns out that I am not alone. Many followers have a similar experience , even if they don't have a chronic back problem. It is just so difficult to give feedback on the embrace on the dance floor. We are all sensitive souls. So I thought I would share a few leaders' tips that come from my conversations with followers. These do not relate to any kind of dance style, but rather comfort of two bodies moving together in close proximity.
So what do followers want in a tango embrace? In my experience most want a clear, present and gentle embrace that enables both the emotional and bio-mechanical possibilities of the dance. We want to move freely and confidently without feeling "compressed". This means that our spine and heads should be in natural positions. From my perspective, an embrace which inadvertently changes these positions will most likely lead to pain or discomfort, especially if this posture is held for 10 - 12 minutes.
Here are just a few tips on the embrace for leaders that I share from a personal perspective. Of course, there are tips for followers as well, but I will cover these in another article:
In the tango I am a leader and a follower and as a consequence I have the privilege of experiencing this amazing dance in its entirety. Both roles in the tango are strong, present, musical and connected but the leading role has a unique opportunity to "generate" the movement of the dance, be creative and set the pace. Most importantly, having a duel competency means more dances and more fun. I encourage all followers to take the opportunity to lead. In many European countries, leading women are the norm.
Here is a review from a tanguera who recently took a beginners' course as a leader:
"I took up Argentine tango because I was searching for a technical discipline in which mastery required successful attainment of meditative concentration and the development of interpersonal trust (especially between strangers). After working with Rachael for about a year as a follower, I decided to extend my practice into leading. Entering the dance through this door was a challenging experience- ultimately increasing both my skills as a follower and my compassion for leaders! I will definitely continue my practice of developing my technique in both leading and following. I also look forward to the increased freedom on the dance floor: there are now so many more potential partners!
Rachael is a skilled facilitator. She caters successfully to classes of mixed ability and experience. For example, she regularly extends upon the introductory technical exercises for students with previous dance experience without making a fuss about it. As a result, absolute beginners do not feel isolated or intimidated, while professional (/tango) dancers remain challenged through a deepened understanding/ extension of any given exercise. She weaves a classroom atmosphere that is disciplined, safe and fun. If, like me, you seek a master of this discipline who is technically proficient, a gifted educator and a down-to-earth facilitator of social space, I highly recommend enrolling under Rachael at Libertango." -Taz
Book for Tango 101: An Intensive Beginners' Experience
Dates and Times: February 2018
Thursdays 8,15,22 February, 1 March 7:30 - 8:45 pm
Saturdays 10 , 17, 24 February 6:00 - 7:15 pm
Venue: Hellenic Club of Cape Town, 24 Bay Road, Mouillepoint
Cost: R1540 per couple or R770 per person
Limited places available
On the weekend I co-facilitated the second tango retreat at Temenos with fellow dancer, Lizelle Steyn.
In the gentle surrounds of the Temenos gardens, with male peacocks aplomb in mating season, we explored some of the personal teachings inherent in the Argentine tango, while learning to improvise movement with a partner.
Like many interactions ,the tango offers a mirror to understand our relationships with others, and can help us to identify blockages in our relating in order to facilitate change. Key features in our communication are the ability to empathize, reach into ourselves to practice compassion and very importantly, to be in our own balance. Many of us know that our own psychological balance provides clarity of thought and emotional security to enable us to connect with others generously and fairly. When we are not "in our own axis" as we say in the tango, we may react too quickly, too harshly and self-protectively. Unfortunately we can rarely press 'rewind'.
Another beautiful gift of tango is the need to be totally present in order to dance. It is not possible to dance while we plan, strategize, or judge . It simply does not work. The tango demands our presence on a moment to moment basis . As a follower, I find that I quickly lose understanding and may even trip over a foot or two if I lose my mindful connection with my partner. As a leader, my own interpretation of the music and my desire to shape the dance can become brutal if I am not finely attuned to, and accommodate my follower's interpretation of my lead. And as leaders and followers, presence also means that our bodies should be made available to connect, finding just the right amount of tension to enable give and take, not too much and not too little. In tango, we physically embody an 'intention ' to connect.
If all this sounds like a lesson in vulnerability, it is! We do make ourselves vulnerable when we embark on the tango adventure. As a dancer of many years, I have observed how we as dancers respond to this vulnerability . Many people form a protective shell, hardening around their ego needs "I love dancing, but it's my way or the highway! YOU are a tool for my art!" or "Let me show you how its done (wink wink)". In this sense, the need to connect is not separated from the need to fuel the ego, dominate or judge. But there are also many people who embrace the transformative potential of the tango and have become closer to the person they want to be - present, authentic, compassionate. The mirror that we put up to ourselves when we dance the tango provides this potential.
Personally, I will always find tango a challenge. For me , listening while not judging is difficult. My brain is in analytic mode most of time. In the tango there can be no agenda for the leader or follower. We co-create something beautiful and most importantly connected. I am so happy that I dance!
Hi Magnificent Tango Creatures. Well done for persisting last night with the intricate rhythms of D'arienzo. I felt that by the end of the lesson there was definitely improvement. Carl has been very diligent and suggested some tango listening homework for our dancing to the music of Juan D’arienzo.
Here are the list of songs that we danced to last night:
If you do a search on youtube you can see how other dancers have applied the rhythms. Please take note that if you are watching a tango performance the use of space will not be relevant to the social dance floor. However, you can certainly learn a lot about rhythm from looking at videos.
Carl has offered a video that he found from a lesson on youtube relating to dancing to D’arienzo. I like it a lot. Similar tools to what we have been using. BUT also consider that in a social dancing environment we use less space. Please note the elasticity in the legs. Ladies, observe the tapping adornments with the feet and the lovely adornment following the salida at 0:35 sec.
A lot of the rhythm in tango comes from the bandeneon, a uniquely tango instrument which is related to the accordion. D’arienzo’s orchestra had a whole lot of them pumping like mad in the front.
To understand the music of D’arienzo I think that you need to see some videos of him conducting his orchestra. I am sure I am related to this guy J. He reminds me of my dad.
Here is ‘Loca’ (Crazy)
Here is ‘Remembranza’ (Memories) with singing by Osvaldo Ramos, a tango rock star of his day. I particularly love the interaction between D’arienzo and Ramos.
This has a very different feel to Remembranza by Ozvaldo Pugliese which has a very languid feel, albeit with a strong "compas". Jorge Maciel was also a tango rock star of his time.
And to top it all, for those who need a bit of heart blistering love and loss for the day, here are the translated lyrics of Remembranza.
How long are the weeks
when you are not close to me.
I don’t know what superhuman strengths
give me courage far away from you.
The light of my hope having died,
I am like the shipwrecked in the sea
I know I get lost in the far horizon
but I cannot resign myself.
Oh! how sad it is to remember
after having loved so much
that happiness that went by
flower of an illusion
Oh! forget my scorn,
return, my sweet,
to our love
and it will bloom again
like that flower.
In our warm and rose colored room
everything it’s the same as it was
and in each ornament, in each thing
I continue looking at you like I did yesterday.
Your photo on the little table
is a witness of our love
and that already withered hydrangea
which was the song of my pain.
Please feel free to share to anyone who may be interested in D’arienzo.
3. What recommendation would you make to someone who wants to try the tango?
I would advise letting go of one's fear of the difficulty of dancing the Tango, and to join a Tango dance school like Libertango, to learn from the bottom level. Rachael is warm and supportive, a delight to have as a Tango teacher.
Learning Argentine Tango was always in my mind. You watched it on the TV, looked it up on Youtube. And in your mind you fantasize about the moves of the couple. You see yourself as the third person. But in your mind it stays a fantasy.
Then one afternoon your wife asks you if you want to learn to do the Argentine Tango. You read the invitation with skepticism, because they talk about connection and feeling your partner. I agreed to it. When sharing with friends you doubt whether your rhythm problem will surface. But in my soul is that small tingling feeling that make dreams feels like a reality for a moment. And the weekend arrived.
We were 6 couples. Thank God that I have a wife as a partner. The first sessions was the basics. What are the basic steps? Moving forward? To the side? I thought that too. The basics was more. It was feeling your partners’ rhythm. At that moment I didn’t know that this “soul rhythm” would be the starting place of every move. Throughout the weekend we learned a lot of steps – forward, backward, sideways, box steps turn and more. Steps where your partner can show her elegance and desire. If this is what I got out of the weekend, it was a waste of money and time. But I didn’t waste my money or time.
Argentine Tango is like having a candle lit dinner. You invite your partner to the floor. And if she accepts, it’s the start of that magical evening candle lit dinner. You feel her presence. You invite her to take the first step. She feels like trusting you and follows you. Not a quick follow – a slow thoughtful move to the side. Your heart smiles because it was more than you dream of. Your step closer to smell her perfume, step slightly past her. Her smell fills every sense in your body. You close your eyes to hear the music fills the air. The moment intensifies. You hear her breath. Then you move to the side back so that you can make this wonderful box-step over. Then it feels that time stood still in your dinner.
You invite her to show a bit of herself. She twirls around you like the stars around the sun. You don’t have to open your eyes to see the star in front of you. You feel her moving. She fills the gaps that you show her. Afterwards you realise that she has change the direction of your dance. During the dance your gut mimics the half-beat of the music. It flows to your feet. And you feel alive. And at the end of the dance, when the music stops, when the night is over, the wine is empty, your know your dream evening around the table has just finish. In your soul you know you have connected with another soul.
Then afterwards you plan the next candle lit dinner, the next Argentine Tango around the floor.
This is what the two ladies have shown me. Connection with my partner when I can’t see. Money? Priceless every second.
Thanks a million.
Rachael Glaser: tango junkie, teacher, diva, sourceress