Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Two who Follow (poem)

We lose our inhibitions when we are 
possessed by the Voice and dance to her song.


The Two who Follow
            by Mark Word

The bandoneonista plays with such passion,
I wonder if he is in ecstasy or pain.
I am drawn to accompany him--
The other musicians as well--

In our collective hypnotic trance.
Together we bring to life the dots on paper 
Of a composer who wept after he first heard 
His tango painted in the air,
Brushed with the bow of violins,
Shaped by the percussive blows 
Of the piano's hammers on strings,
Composed of the amalgamation of feelings,
Made pliable by fire of passion,
Stoked red hot by the bandoneón´s bellows.
And brought to life by men and women,
Moved to sculpt out a visual tango,
A moving, breathing, dancing work of art.


Like thousands before us, I stand to join
The men and women before me and sculpt
With my co-collaborator, my compañera.
In our art of tango we begin with our eyes,
Which meet 
in a private, secret moment,
Containing all the passion of every woman and man
Who have held each other since the world began.
These were the roles which we did not choose 
Because they chose us.  They chose us!
We embraced these roles and then each other.


She holds me and allows me her space,
To feel her heart's rhythm.
Our ears hear the same voice,
Every move we sense through 
  our fingers,
    our arms and shoulders,
      her breasts against mine.
Our entire being melts together,
Our divine and earthly auras entwined.
She feels my chest fill with air
In tandem with the breath of the bandonéon.
The three of us begin a new melodic line,
A new musical phrase with its own story.
Her posture allows me to take a step
On a path I never have been.
I switch my weight, and we step forward
On our left feet, my leg against hers.
I push forward and her body tells me
That she is present, fully there.
Her body says, "Go slow, enjoy this moment."
The music and her presence
Bring us both forward on a new beat.
Led by the music, we join the violins,
Their pizzicato plucking on two and four,
Something I had never noticed before.
I circle her on her outside,
Left thigh to left thigh.
This is path I have never trod,
A vista I have never seen,
With sounds I have never heard.


La Música stops us in her familiar way,
With a flury of notes,
But her last sound is a grace note--
Soft, tender... a prelude to silence.

My companion and I stand in silence,
Her leg entwined with mine,
As if not to let me go too fast,
As if to hold us for a moment more as one,
Balanced and strong--
A sculpture finally still,
A monument to the moment.


I look at her and silently nod.
I have no words.
But I know one thing:
I will never call a tanguera,
"The-one-who-follows" again.
We heard the voice together.
We became one.
We became "the-two-who-follow."


The composer sculpts the music, and the music, us.


Post Script:
Passion is intense feelings.  Passion is the producer.  Thoughtful insight is the director.  I strive for my blog to have a producer/director -- a balance of passion and thoughtfulness.  I don't think I did a very good job with balance because even a dear friend chastised me with my lack of finesse (a nicer word than deserved).  Sometimes I am clueless.

The last post, "Follower: A job without promotion," was all about the problem of using the the terms "follower/leader" in tango.  One comment by "Nancy" asked if my bias colored my feelings.   My response was that of course my bias colors my feelings!  From the overwhelming majority of comments, I can see that I failed to portray my what was on my heart words of reason and prose -- too much passion of the mind.  So I tried once again with this poem... passion from the heart is kind and humble.


Photo credit:
Dancing couple:  http://fineartamerica.com/featured/dancing-couple-deepali-gosain.html
Visit the sculptor's webpage:  http://tango-beat.blogspot.com/2011/06/follower-job-without-promotion.html 
para MSRS

Friday, June 24, 2011

Follower: A job without promotion

My new blog address is:

Tango-Therapist.blogspot.com 


Please visit me there.  All the content from Tango-Beat is still there, but in deference to a company with a similar name (Tangobeat.com), I have changed the name of my blog.  Please visit them too -- a great resource but with a very different mission.


The updated version of this article is:  http://tango-therapist.blogspot.de/2012/04/follower-job-without-promotion.html 


--  Thanks!


Tangueros, would you dare try to lead this woman without knowing her power?

Definition of tango terms:
Women know better they are NOT followers -- person who does not lead.  A person willing to have a role without any possibility of promotion or future leadership position.

Female warriors have it better off in the military than many female tango dancers.

Females in the corporate world have it better off than many tangueras.

Okay, now I have said it.  I didn't want to.  But it slipped out.

Intelligent, talented women don't like being followers without the chance of promotion. This is especially true in roles that would stop them from ever having a chance to become a leader. They do not like being in a position without hope of promotion.  Tango, one would think, should be the worst dance in the world for intelligent, talented women.  Women do not want to be perennial privates in the Army or mail room clerks forever.

Notice, I have said above that the military and the corporate world are better for women than tango is for many tangueras.  Not for all.  Some women know instinctively how terribly deficient the word "follower" is for their role in the most magical dance of all partner dances.

So why not a revolt, ladies?!  Where are the women warriors or at least female tango philosophers to lead the revolt that must some day happen?  My theory is that women put on their tango shoes and feel the magic.  They shrug their shoulders and say, "Let's make tango, not war."  Or they just say "so what?" or they say "stop talking and let's dance."  The power of tango shoes.


Really, ladies, followership is a concept of subservient, mindless obediency, as it is expressed by many  tango instructors -- especially women instructors, who give lead-and-follow validity, like a black man who insists on being called the "n-word."  Am I upsetting a few folks by saying this?   Good!  Why do you keep coming up with ways to protect a terrible term for something so beautiful as the rol femenino (the feminine role)?  

Why to you keep using this word, "follower," and then come up with excuses for it?  Imagine using a any rude, rank, and meaningless derogatory word and then trying to tell people its good side and philosophical uses!   Why is it that so many English-speaking dancers have decided to use this term to describe the nearly indescribable role you have in dancing tango?  Of all words, why the "f-word" -- "follower"?


Let's think philosophically for the next generation of dancers.  Leadership is a military concept.  Yet followership is not a military ideal.   Please trust me on this; I have over 20 years in the military.  Leadership is central to the warrior ethos. If a soldier is in a following position, it is only with the idea of learning to lead, learning what a true leader is.  Ever see a promotion ceremony at a milonga:  "Now she's a leader, first class"?  No.  Women do not need men leading them, and there is no need of promoting "followers" because they are not in reality followers.  They are women doing magical and wonderful things.  Intelligent things.  Creative things.  They are women.

Sure, some of the best teachers in the world use poor words to describe what they are doing.  But why are they good teachers?  Well, for one thing, we learn by doing.  If we relied just on their words -- we might learn the wrong spirit of what tango is, that is,  if we had only words like "lead and follow" to go on.

So what is the solution?  It is primal.  Easy.  You don't need a book.


Sex is the solution
Start using the words feminine role or simply "lady," "gal," or "woman."  "Lead-and-follow" has neutered tango.  That is something you might do to a cat, but please not tango!  The masculine role and feminine role are roles of the sexes.  Let's not take human sexuality out of tango!  Should we really desexualize the roles of tango?  God save us all!  What would the old milonguero ghosts say?  Surely this must be a sign of the world truly coming to an end! 

The True Leader
Also, we must have a philosophically sound way of describing the beauty of tango.   Lead and follow are dead-end terms because men are actually not leaders.  The music is and always has been the true leader which both roles must follow.  We form up like soldiers on the dance floor ready to march around in circles when the leader (the music) tells us to.  We go fast or slow because the leader tells us to.  And the true leader is a woman:  La Música.


The masculine and feminine roles are magical and mysterious.  Yin and Yang.  One is not powerful and the other not.  One is not creative and the other not.  Sharna, a local Washington DC, instructor calls the feminine role "the keeper of possibilities." 

Okay, all you "keepers of possibilities," can you start a revolt?   I am getting tired of hearing you line up and call yourselves "followers" with only a slight cringe on your faces.


I just put on my tango shoes.  I surrender!   Let's just dance.

More on this subject: "The End of Leading is Nearhttp://tango-beat.blogspot.com/2010/11/end-of-leading-is-near.html  

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What is your Floorcraft IQ?

He drives a lot better,
now that he's asking.


You may have never seen the above sign on a truck, but this is common in the US.  The sign on the back of the truck reads: "Tell me how I am driving" and then it lists a toll-free number.  


You can bet that the truck driver with that sign on his vehicle drives a lot better now.  Perhaps he used to be a bully, but now the toll-free number rings on his boss's desk.  Suddenly the driver he behaves very politely on the road.


How do you like my driving?
Imagine having signs on the men's backs at a milonga like this -- but don't do this.   Could you imagine the floorcraft improvement if we had how-am-I-driving signs on everyone's backs?   At the end of the night each tanguero would receive some advice from the others.   Again, DO NOT do this.  You might have fights, hard feelings and demotivate a bunch of tangueros!  But mentally every tanguero should be thinking about how other might rate them.

Imagine how other men and women might answer the below questionnaire.


Floorcraft Intelligence Quotient (FIQ)


On a scale of one to five, how was tanguero #?? in the following.
No extra credit for playing
bumper cars!

5 = very true  
4= mostly true     
3=sometimes true     
2= Often not the case.  
1= Not the case at all.

You would answer "0" if you did not experience a particular thing.

The best possible score is 5 points for each item, multiplied by by the number of items answered x 2 =  TIQ.


  1. He enters the dance floor, leading the woman in a safe way (not led by her).
  2. He kept with the flow of the dancers in front of him (not a "rock in the stream").
  3. He danced near to me but without tailgating.
  4. Never backed up into me -- and no close calls either).
  5. Never bumped me or my partner -- or even came close to bumping.
  6. Never ran his tanguera into me or my partner.
  7. Stayed in a lane one or two but when it was crowded; never changed back and forth.
  8. Appears to have his number one job as protecting his dance partner.
  9. He can dance very well in a small place on the crowded dance floor.
  10. If there is a mishap, he is pleasant and apologetic even if it is not his fault.
Extra credit info:
My best advice to this tanguero to help him and others enjoy tango in this milonga is:

Examples (write in or circle below):
1. Ask men you like to be frank to you about your floorcraft.
2. Keep up the good work.  I like dancing near you!
3. You are a great dancer, but please lead the way with your floor craft as well as your great dancing.



Photo Credit:
http://www.whytraveltofrance.com/2007/09/04/franco-american-conversations-how-am-i-driving/

Tangueros with signs:  Washington DC milonga "Cococabana."  José, Ruth, Mark and Deborah.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Assertive Female Cabeceo

"As she slid across the table and looked into my eyes I realized she wanted to dance.  In fact I found her gaze irresistible."

I cannot argue with the majority of women who are sure that the cabeceo* is a male-generated requested to dance.  Recently, I even heard the words, "I hate the cabeceo" from a woman who is an advanced dancer.  If not the cabeceo then what?  But the argument goes on and on with the ladies who are sure that the cabeceo is for men, their egos and for women to be submissive.  ¡No comprendo, de veras!


All I know is that I dance with women who make it very clear that they would like to dance with me by their eyes and posture.   Who exactly is in charge of the initiation of the cabeceo is often an enigma.  I would even argue that any man who is in touch with the social skills of a primate, will be very aware of a woman's willingness to spend time with her -- even if it is just for one tanda.  And the same is true of a man's eyes.  Primates are awfully sophisticated with this sort of thing, you know. 


The argument comes back from women, "I can make it clear that I want to dance with him, but he still doesn't respond to my communication.  So it is clearly up to the man."  Not true.  How is that any different for me or any man?  I can show interest all night to a women and she may not respond.  Just because a man wants to dance with certain women, she can look uninterested or even off in another direction when he comes near.  Please tell me how is this "up to the man"?  


So to fix it all, some would stop using non-verbal cues to request a dance.  Does that mean I should now start asking all the women who have been looking away?  God save us, if men and women start asking everyone with whom they would like to dance.  There would be a wave of discontent at the milonga.   Let's try it for a night for the women who hate the cabeceo.  That would put an end to the controversy!


*Cabeceo:  From the word "cabeza" (head), a nod of the head, indicating a desire to dance.  For more on this and tango etiquette, please visit this link:  http://tango-beat.blogspot.com/p/los-codigos-tango-etiquette-made-easy.html


Photo credits:
Find some great cartoons about dance at

Monday, June 13, 2011

Finding the Missing Self in Tango

Tanguera returning to her Self

Diálogo Tanguero

This is the second of an ongoing series of dialogues with friends who have found a spiritual or philosophical meaning in tango.  This dialogue came out of a conversation from a tanguera whom I have never met.  She privately responded to an blog post in January, an article entitled, Tactical versus Strategic Tango.  She took to heart the wisdom I am learning from veterans of war and what helps them get better. "Teresa" (her pseudonym) took this warrior-wisdom to the next level-- life practice and the milonga dance floor.

Tango-Beat: Teresa you told me that your tango life seemed to take you away from your usual self. First tell me what is your "usual self?"

Teresa: I work with impoverished and downtrodden peoples, and it makes me truly happy -- to give of myself, to honor human dignity above all else and do what I can to make other people's lives a little easier. That is my usual self.

Tango-Beat:  So how were you were you different in tango?

Teresa: My experience so far has been largely "receiving" from those better than me.  I find it a bit confusing because by nature I tend to be a giving person, but tango brought out another side of me, a self-centeredness that I was not comfortable with. So why was it that with tango had I become so addicted to perfecting my dance that I put aside my nobler self? I am a bit disappointed in the months spent in this mode.  But I am at same time thankful that I confronted my ego now with just two years into the dance instead of much farther down the road. I do not place blame on anybody as I let myself be led down this path. 

Tango-Beat: So how has this changed? What did you do to return to a philosophy of tango that reflected your life philosophy?

Teresa: Well, I realized that I had to change this path or tango and I would have to part ways. So I went to our next class/milonga with a totally different focus. Honestly by night's end I had such peace in my soul, I was elated. I tried to stay committed to my focus on community versus performance. This is for me, at this time, I am not suggesting to anyone else how they should be. So I showed up at the beginners class to be a follower if they needed one. It turned out that they desperately needed a few more followers. This was my first big test. I danced with beginners. It felt good to GIVE expecting nothing in return.  I gave my self at the class and I did it with all my heart, that when it came time for the milonga I was so peaceful inside that the dance came from my soul and it was everything I strive for it to be. Gone was that perfection nagging, the performance mind. From this mental place my inner self and soul at peace with herself .

I realized that this all sounds so dramatic! But I am a very sensitive, deep-thinking, spiritual person and so I struggled with the disparity between who am as a person and how I have been as a dancer.

Tango-Beat:  I think your story is important for all of us. Tango will help our life philosophy, but also our life philosophy influences our tango.

Teresa: I feel like this is a new chapter in my tango journey. I want my actions to speak for themselves. Then if others ask about this new peace, I will feel free to share my concerns and the changes I am making.

Tango-Beat: Thanks for sharing this with us.  Your "beginners mind" helps me and I think it will help many.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Enslaved Tango Blog Writer

"If you finish your blog, you can come to the practica."

September 2012

Margarita and Elena let me have the keys to my cell today, and they are now allowing me to tell my friends and family where I now live.

Santa Fe, New Mexico.  I like it here.  I dance a lot.  The community is caring.  I really did not mind being enslaved by two tango-hungry women in their basement for over a year.

Well, let me explain.

It all started back at the Denver Tango Festival in May 2011, more than a year ago.  I was dancing with Margarita.  She was sure she knew me.  Then it dawned on her that she had been reading my blog.  She was introduced to my blog through her friend, Elena, who had danced with me in Austin, Texas.  Elena shared my blog with Margarita back in November 2010.


So Margarita had been reading my blog for a while, and knew way too much about me:  My tango philosophy, my military service, my passion for music, and how I was using tango as therapy.  Suddenly she found herself dancing with the guy who was writing the blog -- the Tango Therapist.

We hit it off, and danced several tandas over the course of the Denver Festival.  We sent each other a few messages on Facebook, but then I never heard from her again. 

A month after I returned from Denver, unexpectedly Elena and Margarita announced through an email that they were coming to DC, and I agreed to introduce them around at local milongas.  What I didn't know was that they had decided to enslave me.  Tango slave.  Human trafficking.

Elena drugged me with Ambien and I slept in her back seat all the way to Santa Fe.  They put me a basement cell.  But to tell you the truth, being a free slave (slave to tango) and a captured slave was very much the same.  Really, it was an easy transition.  

Okay, this enslavement thing quickly developed into the Stockholm Syndrome.   I started siding with these criminal dominatrices.  It was brainwashing I am sure.  But at the time the washing felt cathartic, you know.  Sure, I considered escaping the prison they had made for me in the basement, but then I was unsure what freedom would bring me.  It wasn't so bad.  They let me out sometimes.  They were kind to me at times.  


So it didn't look too suspicious, they allowed me to dance with other women.  It was just like living in DC.  I was dancing a lot.  I only came out from my apartment to go out to dance.  Really, nothing new at all to my regular routine.  They even would take me to tango festivals and one trip to Buenos Aires to be their tango-slave-taxi there.  Life was good. You would have never caught me humming Negro spirituals, or mumbling about freedom.

But what about all the rest of the time?  There's more to life than tango, right?  Well, they gave me a TV . . . but I never turned it on.  They allowed me to continue writing my tango blog from the basement cell.  They edited everything I wrote before sending it out on the Internet.  This was great.  Yes, they were checking to see if I was giving out my whereabouts to family and friends, but the positive side was that I now had two editors.  They caught typos and awkward sentences.  All in all, I was gaining more than I was losing, although I did miss my children.  Elena and Margarita let me talk on the phone with my kids.  On Skype, Ben and Toby even said they liked the way I had fixed up my cell.  

This is my first unedited blog since being enslaved.  So now you know my story, and why I disappeared from DC.  I will tell you later about how I was finally freed.  The short story:  My blog readers started a "Find Tango Therapist Committee" on Facebook. Some wonderful tangueras from Germany, Santa Monica, DC, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio came all the way to Santa Fe to free me.  They all showed up at the same time, and Margarita and Elena invited them in for tea.  We all went to a milonga that night.  One of the committee freedom fighters is offering me my own second floor room, better food, two trips to Buenos Aires a year and the same freedom to dance with other tangueras at milongas.  She says she adores me, but I am not sure.  You see, most men just have one loving dominatrix and I don't know if I can go back to just one now.  Two make it easier because they sometimes get into a fight, and take out their frustrations out on each other rather than me.  It works quite nicely.  I am starting to understand the Mormons.

By the next blog, I hope to make a decision about my future enslavement.  Your comments are welcome. Should I go with the adoring slave-owner, or the two rather frisky tanguera slave-owners?  I'd appreciate your opinions, dear Readers.

Sincerely, 
Esclavo Tanguero
a.k.a Tango Therapist

PS:   I am going to try REALLY hard not to write anything more bizarre than this story in my blog.  I promise.  And for a few who didn't look carefully at the dates:  No, this did not happen.  Yet.


Photo Credits:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Simplicity in not Complicated


"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." Leonardo da Vinci

This poem for some reason came out in Spanish first.  Translation in to English follows by the cheapest translator I could find -- me.  The original is below in Spanish.


Simplicity is not Complicated

The milonga, yes, is as life goes.
In life I look for explanations for everything,
But life is so simple that I do not find
The answers to all my questions.
Tango knocks on our hearts,
And your embrace as we walk
Changes into a a path of light
Which leads me to the truth:
The milonga, yes, is as life goes:
Connection, whether spiritual
Or through your embrace
Contains all the profundities of simplicity.















La Sencillez no es Complicada
        por Mark Word
La milonga, sí, es como la vida.
En la vida busco explicaciones para todo,
Pero la vida es tan sencilla que no encuentro
Las respuestas a todas las preguntas mías.
El tango toca a la puerta de nuestro corazón,
Y tu abrazo mientras caminamos
Se transforma en un sendero de luz
Que me lleva a la verdad.
La milonga, sí, es como la vida:
Una conección, sea espiritual o a travez del abrazo
Contiene todas las profundidades de la sencillez.





Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tango in Hell and Heaven

No sore feet.  Be good.
Heaven's angles dance tango.
Hell's angels dance tango.
But heaven's angels dance
All night without sore feet.
So be good. Live well.

It will all be worth it.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Cathedral Organ Tanguera

Strike a key and then wait for the sound.

Dancing with some women is like playing a cathedral organ.

Let me explain: Lately I have figured out a way to dance with women who are chronically behind the beat. I have to have body language that is 1/2 beat ahead of the music, which is okay musically, but very complex for a tanguero.

However, if the woman is actively in her feminine role, my role is easy because she is following the true leader -- the music -- whom I too must follow.

If the woman is fully aware of the music, the tanguero does not have to pretend he is playing a church organ, which has to be one of the hardest instruments to play. First of all, by itself a cathedral organist is using all ten fingers and both feet.  That is hard, but the most challenging musical challenge is that what the organist hears is often delayed from what all the fingers and feet are doing!  In some cathedral the pipes are so far away that the delay can be a full second off!  It is unfathomable for me to think of the training and discipline to play in this way. Yet as a tanguero, I have insight to a degree of the task of the cathedral organist because of some women and their delay.  Click here on this mind-blowing video link that demonstrates the sound delay at St. John's Cathedral in NYC.
This is not God's Design:  Delayed Tangueras

A tanguero should not try to fix a woman who does this at a milonga. In a practica he can at least suggest that it feels as if she is listening way too much to the tanguero and not enough to the music. I have seen huge changes in women after saying this.  And they sometimes say, "Free at last!  Free at last!"  It's a holy cathedral moment.

I will fault no tanguera or tanguero for not being in the music because they have been taught to lead or follow each other.   This is a teacher problem not a student problem.  Once we begin on the leader/follower analogy we are already on the wrong path.  No wonder musicality is such a chore sometimes and in mostly in "advanced" classes because we have to go back to being new tangueros/tangueras and start listening with the "beginner's mind"!  Why not have the beginners mind even while you are a beginner and learn from the start that the music is the true leader?

Women who depend too much on the man will slow him down and make his musicality miserable or very difficult.  (Ladies, don't complain that men who do not follow the music if you are not following the music yourself!)  On the other hand, too often men who are not listening to her sense of the music and her abilities as a tangera end up "dancing" but not to the music.

El Rol Femenino y Masculino
The following tango training video is incredibly illustrative of this concept of delay. The teachers use the "military analogy" of leader/follower, but they really have caught the spirit of both people being active. I am in a job that has me surrounded by female colleagues. Much of my work is intuitive as a therapist and I regularly have men and women crying in my office. Not a typical "man-job." However, in tango I am fully in my male energy. On the other end of the spectrum I know tangueras who are surrounded by men in their work, and they love tango because they feel fully in their feminine energy. Lead and follow is really a very poor analogy, but it is here to stay. I like "yin and yang" or "male and female energies" to explain what is going on when the Leader (la música) takes us out onto the dance floor to follow "her voice."

So watch this video and notice the terrible delay of a woman who is far to passive, relying on the man too much and dancing behind the "compas" (pulse) of the leader's bidding (yes, that's the music).



Thanks to Modern Tanguera who introduced me to this video.  Visit her blog at:  http://moderntanguera.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/leadership-and-followership/

Photo credits:
Organ console http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/26/nyregion/26organ.html
Lady on organ:  http://churchorganist.blogspot.com/


Extra Credit:
Just for the fun of it and if you are interested, here is another video (secondary to the organist link above).  Watch this organist at Notre Dame in Paris. The delay on this central organ is not that bad, but he must play ahead of the beat because the choir is standing by the pipes.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

An Open Letter to Tango Musicians

The Pan American Symphony Orchestra (PASO)

Some musicians may be open to hear what their most attentive audience wants.  What would you say to them if they would only listen?  Below is a letter to tango musicians and more specifically to the director of the Pan American Symphony.  I did get a response, which was basically, "thanks for writing."  So the letter goes unanswered.

If you have been following my blog, the series on musicians "killing" tango came from my first draft to the director of PASO (below).  In my very first post in which I mentioned PASO, I included a video of clip of the Pan American Symphony Orchestra, but I realized something in talking with my dance partner after posting the video clip and article.  I was lamenting to her that I would have liked to dance to such great live music. My partner countered that not everyone wants to dance but just "intensely listen" to the Orchestra. The words "intensely listen" hit me. I realized that if I am dancing, only then am I really listening intensely with my whole brain.  She agreed that this too was her experience in tango.  Sitting and intensely listening to tango is only valid for musicians actively playing tango.  I know this feeling of intensely listening in two ways only -- playing music to any kind of music or dancing to tango.

I can only speak for myself, but when I am dancing to tango more than any other dance music, my mind, body and soul are engaged, not just my ears and brain.  Perhaps this phenomenon could be called, "intense listening-via-participation."  I make pauses as a dancer because the music does when I dance tango; I may have been stepping only once per measure at the start of the song, but during the variación at the end of the piece, my steps may become only a blur, mirroring the virtuoso bandoneón's climax.  Sitting could be intense, I suppose, but it is not participatory and way too cerebral for a music born out of the African canyengue clave (tresillo).*

Musicians often want people to stop and listen to them and "fully enjoy" or "to fully take notice" to their art.  However, I believe that this is a mistake with tango and most Latin American music, which is both a psychological and a somatic experience.  Latin American musicians distinguishes themselves by wanting people to be moved to dance to their music.

So it is not just one person or orchestra tipica, but to all modern tango composers and musicians for whom I write this appeal:


Sergio Alessandro Buslje,
    Artistic Director and Conductor
Pan American Symphony Orchestra
125 Michigan Ave., NE
Washington , DC 20017
panam.symphony@gmail.com


Estimado Director Buslje:

I fully enjoyed the quality and passion of the Pan American Symphony Orchestra's performance I recently attended.  Your mission statement on your website and the breadth of what you are doing to promote Latin American music is impressive.  More than having a mission statement, your fulfillment of this mission is highly esteemed by critics.  You are with out a doubt influencing modern tango composers and musicians.  For this reason, I hope to appeal to you as a life-long musician and a dancer that you change your presentation slightly.  I suggest that at some point in your concert you allow common people to dance to your music.

I think this is really the spirit of tango -- the people's dance.  Tango has survived especially because of dancers, as has been the case with other Latin American music.  Jazz is no longer a dance "in the street," but tango, cumbia, salsa and samba are.  A dancing public demonstrates something essential about Latin America.

My experience from living in Latin America, being a dancer, and from being a Latin percussionist is that Latin Americans hold their music close to their hearts but "listen" through their bodies as dancers.  I hope that whenever you perform in the future that at least at some point you invite the public to dance.  Doing so would teach the unknowing public a great deal about what Latin American culture and music has to offer the world:  A music that moves the soul and body.

What are you thoughts about this?

Sincerely,

Mark Word
Washington, D.C.


PS to my readers:   Since I received no response to this, perhaps some other musicians you know would benefit from reading this and the series, Musicians Killing Tango:  Click on the links -- Part One; Part Two; Part Three (part 3 included DJs as proxy musicians).  I believe that if musicians read these articles, they will get insight into a great business plan for themselves.  Musicians who value the dancer are doing themselves a business-wise favor and at the same time keeping the music they love truly alive.  My experience has been that modern tango ensembles and composers too often are influenced by Piazzolla or other composers who were not thinking from the dancer's perspective.  Then these present musicians get a gig to play live tango and wonder why people don't like live musicians.  It isn't the live music so much as the musicians not knowing what is danceable and loved by dancers.  Those who love to dance need to help out the sometimes unwitting musicians who want to please dancers but do not know why they are not invited back.  Dancers must find a way to tell them how to please the audience-that-moves!  I hope these blog discussions help create a better musician-dancer alliance.

*The tango clave is denied by many musicians and ignored by most authors.  The Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clave_(rhythm) is an example of forgetting tango's clave, while mentioning even the tresillo in Middle Eastern music and southern Asia!  However, if you love tango and know tango, the tango clave is clearly there and omnipresent even in silence.  More on this subject will follow with videos of each of the claves.

Photo credit:
http://www.panamsymphony.org/about2.html