Sunday, July 31, 2011

Highs and Lows at a milonga

If you put out your hand, perhaps you may find yourself richer than before. 
We all have had a tough milonga.  I have a pretty good idea that mostly the "highs" people have at a milonga are from excellent dancers, and the "lows" are from some beginner that tortures you though a tanda. Well, that has happened to me too, but not last night.

First, the Mountain High
Last night I put my hand out to a woman as she came near, wending her way through the crowd as I stood near the dance floor smiling at her.  She had assented to my cabeceo from about 4 meters away.  However, as I put out my hand, two women put theirs in mine!  Now I had a problem!

Every milonga has a story!  About four tandas later I told the lady who had mistakenly thought I was inviting her to dance, "Ma'am, I think I owe you a dance."  She seemed eager but very shy.  I asked her name, and from this intro, I started speaking to her in Spanish.  I found out that this little Peruvian lady had taken lessons but had never gone to a milonga before.   I don't think I will ever have a self-esteem issue after all the praise that sweet woman bestowed on me.  She didn't know that she was to stay with me for the three waltzes of the tanda.  She lavished embarrassing praise upon me, and nearly took off!  I had to stop her from leaving.  I told her about "el grupo de canciones" of a tanda.  I knew that as she was leaving that it was my way out of dancing more, but instead I danced the entire four songs of the tanda.  It was really wonderful. She was remarkably talented. It was her maiden voyage.  She made my night.

Now the Valley
I dance with a lot of very accomplished dancers; so I am certain that no one in my tango community will know who I am talking about.  After many wonderful dances with friends and some strangers, I finally danced with an accomplished -- no let's say, Very Accomplished Dancer.  In the middle of a milonga tanda she says, "You are dancing by yourself."  I was not sure what this means, mostly out of shock.  I have danced with women who are doing all sorts of decorations and I know how this feels.  It is hard for me to continue after such a nebulous and brash criticism but I listen to the music and do my very best.  She is sweet and it does not at least look like she is upset with me as we walk off the floor.  We go back and continue to talk.  She explains that I don't lead clearly with my torso and that milonga is more than just walking!  I am sure that I need to go in and revamp the entire way I dance.  Perhaps I should just find a bridge and end the torture I cause many pooer women!  She makes it clear that I am messing up on the most elemental level; so for the moment, I am considering just giving up altogether.  "Thanks for making this clear now!  I should have given up 4 or 5 years ago," I think to myself.

This phenomenon is called "Tango Trauma."  But it is easily healed.  Sure, I DO want to heed this unsolicited sage advice regarding my level of suck-ed-ness.  Surely it will make me grow because it did not kill me to hear her opinion, right?  Undoubtedly she had a good point that I have a long way to go and end point will lead me back to the most basic of things:  the embrace.  But how am I to psychologically survive to the next milonga?  I needed some sort of special milonga antidepressant!

I took one little "pill":  I remembered the little Peruvian tanguera.  I remembered how I got to be her first ever partner at a milonga and how she just was besides herself in joy.  And then a whole host of women stood in line behind her and reassured me of my worth.  The therapy worked.  I am whole again because I know that I hold no grudge against my Sage Adviser.  So even if you don't have too many experiences with other dancers, let these words embrace you:  You are unique and every person deserves to dance without criticism at a milonga.  When it does happen, sure it will hurt, but you will have many people who were and will be glad to have you in their arms.  Stick with these memories and thoughts.

Life has it's highs and lows, so does the milonga.  Dwell on the view from the mountain top.  You will need it to endure the Lessons of the Valley.

Outstretched hand photocredit:
The embracing words:

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Dance of Life

The Dance of Life is not the movement of bodies alone
But of hearts and souls and minds as your life and my life have shown.

This Dance is not just joy or celebration of a day
But a dance of valleys and peaks -- all what a soul can say.

So hold me and maybe I will laugh or perhaps cry.
The Dance of Life is a silent embrace without a why.

--Mark Word, the Tango Therapist

Monday, July 25, 2011

Developing Originality

There's nothing new under the sun?  There is you!  Wondrously unique.

A philosophical and somewhat cynical view of the world says that "originality is dead" and that there is nothing new under the sun.  Well, that is a cranky-old-man view of the universe.  Once we start getting older, we too easily can intone what the stoic biblical writer said:

“That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.” – Ecclesiastes

The same writer said that there was a season for everything:  A season for war and a season for peace, as season for tango. . . well, not tango, but the other things.  You see, tango is new and original!

This is your season to be original.  

You have learned what the masters have done, but now it's your turn to be more of who you are and not just copy greatness.  If you are a young person at heart, everything is new from your perspective.  And isn't that the perspective that should be central -- not what others have done or said, but what you are discovering all for yourself?  Just because someone else has been to  Laguna Arenál in the Cloud Forest in Costa Rica, does that mean that you shouldn't discover it all for yourself?

My earlier post on the insight I got from a conversation with an artist friend has had immediate results to help me understand my own path in tango as an art.

The day after I posted The Unbalanced Tango Faculty, I was dancing at the "Milonga de Los Santos," in Washington DC, and a few new insights about originality in tango came to light.  In Friday's blog on the "unbalanced tango faculty," I imagined a fictitious university called "The University of World Art," and I imagined that tango had its own college -- "The School of Tango."   I was thinking that my expression of tango was mostly in the area of recognizing and valuing the social aspect of tango.  I mentioned that I was a small-time teacher in this fictitious university.  I portrayed myself only interested in the social tango and the connected tango walk insofar that a simple expression of tango would help me as a trauma therapist (using tango therapy).

However on Saturday night, a tanguera friend, Carol, commented that I do a lot of "steps" that no one else does.  She had said this before, but this time I was more aware of the value of originality from my conversation with my friend, Alex.  As a trained artist, a painter, Alex had mentioned "originality" as one of the three things that art instructors obsessed on.  The other two were skill and the expression of some social theme or value.

Why Originality is Natural
Think snowflake.  Original. Unique.  Each brain, each soul, each person is unique.  Therefore we should fully expect that we all have the innate ability to develop originality.  But there are obstacles to this natural fact.  I think I know why originality is sometimes stunted -- not only in tango or any art but also in much of how we think:

We copy too much. 

I have discovered this all by mistake in tango.  If I had a lot more money, I would be taking private lessons and more group lessons so I could copy the masters.  However, at the moment I hardly can pay for milongas; so dancing with others has been my "School of Tango."  The "faculty" consists of teachers like:
  •  Classic tango composers, such as Biagi and di Sarli,
  •  Lots of tangueras, with their own unique response to my attempt at accompanying them on the wooden path,
  • Watching others dance live or on film clips.    

Picasso's work you may have never seen:
He knew the basics first.  
Don't get me wrong; I have had some very important teachers, and I mention them in my meager, low-budget Tango Résumé.  I value teachers because I learned this from being a musician and a late-blooming athlete.  Great musicians and great athletes often continue getting coaching throughout their lives.  Both Pablo Picasso and Tiger Woods learned from their talented fathers, learning the basics from the start.  Without coaching, surely both would not have done well with originality and a higher development than their initial coaches, and then later their continued growth with truly great coaches.  Especially for people like me who have less talent, we need more time with the masters.   I know that I have a deficit in having good coaching, but also, it has unwittingly pushed me to listen better to the tangueras with whom I dance.  Often they have danced with great tangueros, and they respond in different ways than I expect.  Because of this, for example, I have learned to do a triple volcada and other "1000-dollar moves" because I am paying attention to how these ladies respond.  Also, even a beginner tanguera can allow something that I would have never thought of without her.  What a great "School of Tango"!

So value the basics and copy the best, but then eventually develop your own style.  This is easy.  The task is philosophical and psychological.  First, we must value originality, and see it for its natural value.  The biblical writer was 90% right and 10% wrong.  And the 10% has transformed the world he knew to the one we know.  Secondly, let's face the facts!  How can we deny our own brain's uniqueness, and thereby allow this uniqueness to play itself out along with other influences from others?  I know many  musicians who did a terrible job of copying other musicians, but people liked the way they played.  Originality sometimes is the outcome of not being a very good copycat.  Technical skill along with listening to the music and your partner will bring originality to your dance.

Ultimately for everyone the the "teaching faulty" should be the music and the many tangueras/tangueros and coaches with whom you can co-discovered a new expression of art.  Has it been done before?  Who cares if it feels new and is new to you.  So try to experience originality as a child does.  "Becoming as a child" or having "the beginners mind" is the cornerstone for the artist who values originality and the wonders of life.  

Back to Carol's Comments:
After our first song of the tanda, Carol told me, "That was wild!"  I wasn't sure that "wild" was good.   She assured me that "wild" was good.   "Well, the music made me do it!" I said.  Osvaldo Pugliese made me do it.  I had very little choice in the matter.

Then during the very next dance I discovered a new turn I had never done before.  I will call it "vuelta de ochos caminandos de Carolina" (description below) because Carol inspired it.*  So originality is listening to who you are, who she is, what the music is saying and coming out with something new.  Perhaps the move might be new ONLY TO YOU, but who cares if someone else has done it if you stumbled onto it all by yourself?  Others may have seen a pristine waterfall in the Amazon, but if you stumble upon it yourself, then you too have "discovered it" just as much as Cristobal Colón "discovered" America in 1492.

At the milonga be original
unless you see this sign.
So go out and discover your own New World of originality, your own "America."   But if you do, dance with the Natives and then go home.  You don't have to take over anything or kill anyone.  It's bad tango etiquette.  If only the Spanish and Pilgrims had known tango etiquette the world would be a different place!   

*Attribution to the music and partner:
Magic moments and discoveries must be recognized and appreciated -- like blessings.  I highly suggest that you recognize the music and your partner's role in this magic if you want to develop "Good Tango Karma."   

Very obscure foot note about the move I named after Carol:  
The description of this particular move is a series of about three or four back ochos for her while the man is doing ochos caminandos.   The name "caminando" is because both are taking the same amount of steps (walking together).  The man has his right foot forward (when the turn is counter-clockwise).  A clockwise turn is difficult in close embrace but is possible and requires the man's left foot forward.  The man must over-step the last part of the ocho (on the unison fourth step) in order to make her pivot to make a full circle.  If you have any questions or want to see this, I may record this and put it on YouTube.

Light bulb photo credit:  

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Unbalanced Tango Faculty

The Tripod of Tango: Skill/Social Value/Originality

I realized something about tango during a conversation about tango and art.

Alex, a painter and graphic artist friend of mine, told me about his experience in a prestigious school of art in California.  He had a great instructor, who pointed out three schools of thought that pervade at most large schools of art.  His mentor told him to look for three types of teachers who have their special focus:

1.  The Obsession for Skill as an artist.

2. The Obsession for Originality as an artist, to do things others have not done before.

3. The Obsession for Social Meaning -- to create art that speaks to the larger human condition.

This same teacher, however, pointed out that no matter which school of thought you followed, the artist will die poor if he or she does not create something aesthetic that others can understand.  Skill, originality and a social meaning have no value if people cannot understand it or are not drawn to the artist's intended message.

Skill by itself has no soul.  Originality can be simply weird or too visionary for it to be appreciated.  Social meaning can be a preaching stump for some "enlightenment" that will only embarrass the same artist in 20 years.

Imagine now if we look at tango as it is taught and practiced today throughout the world.  We hear so much in classes about our stances and balance.  So, one might think that tango, as an improvisational dance with intricate balance issues and changing of individual and shared axies that tango itself would be taught in a balanced way. But it is not.

One might think tango as a socially rich dance with an intricate social etiquette, that it would be taught with a balance of technical skill, social sophistication and a keen eye for original expression that values the larger social picture. But it is not.

One might think that tango as a remarkably original art form as we see at the highest levels of the performing arts (unlike in ballroom dance which looks more and more the same at the highest levels) -- that TANGO of all art forms would look like a tripod, a very balanced structure of Originality/Skill/Social Value.  But it is not.

At the University of World Art: 
The school of tango's faculty is unbalanced 

Our schools of the Art of Tango are very lopsided.  The majority of our teachers in tango are following the Obsession for Skill path. 

This is the sad state of affairs for tango.  Imagine if a school of jazz -- perhaps the most improvisational music since baroque -- just worked on skill, intonation and theory!  Imagine if sociologists, community activists and social rights organizers were mostly interested how well their plans could be implemented rather than how many lives were positively impacted!  Imagine if the school of Arts & Sciences at any university had no faculty member interested in the principles of exactitude and technique to add to the social impact and original expression of the arts? 

The School of the Art of Tango has an overwhelming faculty obsessed with Skill & Techniques.  The head librarian has all the steps ever created all neatly cataloged.  Sure, the teachers may be very balanced as dancers with originality.  In fact they may be sought out as performance dancers because of their originality and musicality as their most salient strength.   They may love their work for the social connections and the social meaning of human connection between dancers.   However, they do not help their students with floorcraft or community building.  Instead, they teach steps they most like or what their students want to copy.  They teach without pairing it with a particular piece of music that spawned it.  The Skill & Techniques Faculty may dance well in close embrace, especially when dancing just for fun, but they teach open embrace because social connection is secondary to opening up and showing one's skill with sacadas, ganchos, vocadas, colgadas and boleos.  Skill is what the vast majority of teachers hammer.  You will NOT get good grades in the School of Skill & Techniques if you dance musically while in close embrace.  No cool scadas, colgadas, volcadas?  You'll get a C and not be allowed to perform with the top students upon graduation.

Practice what you preach
Okay.  I too am an unbalanced teacher.  I admit it.  My ability as a teacher is only to get people to walk, to listen each other's souls and the music.  I am a very lopsided teacher.  My methods are only focused on connection because I use tango as trauma therapy.  An amazing thing happens, however, in therapy.  People learn to dance well and fast.  Their musicality is outstanding.  But my focus is all about the social aspect first.  That is my bias, my own obsession as a non-tenured teacher in a small, windowless room at the School of Tango.  At my closet-sized office, I have over my door my own "tripod" of balance.  Although I do believe in the balance of Skill, Originality and Social Value, my little sign reads:  "The heart.  The soul.  The connection of two."  Yet, doesn't this sound rather primal too?  To me it sounds like what tango was and not what it has become.  It sounds like a Buenos Aires with no dance studios and tourists. 

The world of tango teaching is not all bad out there.  Tango is resilient.  Often the people who once just loved Tango Nuevo with a strong electric bass and drums and were "step collectors" magically fall in love with the classics, the social embrace and the simplicity a musically inspired tango walk.  Also, teachers of social tango abound who know about the art of balance.  You must find them (or be one yourself).  Excellent skill-focused teachers respond to their students too; so tell your teacher that you want to develop your own expression of tango; tell your teacher you want to develop a way of dancing that will connect you socially to people for the rest of your life.  I have had had some great teachers who taught from the heart and practiced a balance of social value/skill/originality.  Without them as my guides, I would not enjoy tango as much as I do.

While out on a search for your teacher, look for balance.  Balance looks like a tripod.

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Photo Credit, and to see the artist's work go to:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The female ego in tango

Two Egos:  One tango

As a general rule, I find women to be leaders in many things in society and my life.  They are remarkable creatures on this planet.  I adore my mother's spirituality and I was the most adoring brother a sister could ever have.  So please understand, I am not a misogynist.  However, I am all too aware as a therapist and in my private life of the female egotist and how she sometimes goes undetected because of so many great women around her.

The female ego
That is an interesting trio of words: "the female ego." One rarely hears those words together. The usual three words that one hears is "the male ego."

Surely anyone with human experience must be aware that women have egos too -- some female egos are just as hyperactive as any man's ego. In fact, no one gender or race or nation seems to have any special patent on ego or being egotistical.

The problem now, is that men are often the most active apologists for the female ego in ways that women were never so actively supportive of the male ego. This phenomenon in the world of tango works itself out in such ways as having a male teacher that is dismissive of the men and the male role in ways that even the most crass man-hating woman could ever be.  It doesn't matter if it is a man or a woman, gender (or role) bashing is unenlightened no matter who the source is.
Here are some of the unabashed male-bashing that goes on in my experience:

1. "Women dancers are generally better than male dancers."  What a great way to bash men and keep the gender imbalance going!  Why would a man want to hang out with women with this opinion -- even if it were true?  I never thought about this idea until a woman more recently told me her opinion.  She is not alone, but she has many who hold her world view both on and off of the dance floor.  She is the female egotist.

2. "Women do everything a man does but backwards and in high heels."  This is another great way to start out a beginner class!  How motivating for me to hear how easy my job is compared to the women in the class.  I first heard this quote from a female tango instructor, who incorrectly attributed it to Ginger Rogers.  Yes, it was a beginners class.  For the record, Rogers adored  Astaire and would have never said this.  Here's the real quote: "Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels." ~Faith Whittlesey (anti-abortion spokesperson for President Regan).  Most high level dancers actually believed that Astaire was far more talented as a dancer and listed the women at his level.  I only see the remarkable spirit of Ginger Rogers, who still inspires me.

3. "The cabeceo is to protect the male ego." The cabeceo is a way of respecting boundaries and protects men and women from dancing with people they prefer not to without having to vocalize it.  Both men and women can use the cabeceo or ask for a dance.  That is my experience.

4. "The follower has a lot more difficult task."  This is a quote by a male author, using tango as an analogy for the business world.  Wait a minute!  The business world will never understand the magic of what is happening between a man and a women dancing tango because even the most avid tangueros and tangueras themselves do not seem to have the philosophical vocabulary to explain it very well.   But let's address at least the problem of this claim at the business level of "followership."  Leaders such as Joan of Arc, Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi did not have an easy job.  Their followers had it harder?  My best bosses made my job easy and my worst bosses have made my job impossible. I can only speak for myself.   In the world of tango if a woman is dancing with a man who dances like a slave owner, then she indeed will have an impossible job and the more difficult task of the two dancers.  However, if the man is accompanying her (acompañandole) as his adorable companion (compañera) and they are both following the music, then she has a task not harder or easier because it is a mutual experience.

Egos love comparisons, but as soon as comparisons start, the magic ends.

I am not a protector of the evils of the male ego.  What atrocities have been committed by the male ego!  The point here is that the "female ego" does not have much usage in the English language, as if there is no need to speak of this phenomenon.  Yet is alive and well in the world and in the world of tango.  I seek out compañeras who feel the magic of the mutual experience.  It feels as if they make my job the easiest in the world, and on a good night, the feeling is mutual.

There are women who need ego development (the word "ego" is the Greek term for "I".) For those who feel I have been too hard on women, please read "The Female Ego."   Book description: A therapist provides advice to women on self-fulfillment and increased happiness, as well as adjusting to lovers, family, and career situations without suppressing the female ego.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sometimes She Guides Me

Trust:  "Embraced movement while in the dark."

Sometimes she guides me
   by Mark Word

On the dance floor she closes her eyes.
She accompanies me in darkness,

Trusting that she is safe.
Sometimes she says that she felt
As if we had traveled far and wide,

Yet we had only gone a few meters.
Sometimes we have traveled far
But she was hypnotized 
By a simple walk and she felt
As if time and space had stopped.

But in life, sometimes I close my eyes,
And I accompany her in darkness,
Trusting in her wisdom and kindness.
Sometimes I look up,
And my goals are nearer
Because of her.
Sometimes space and time
Stop in her loving arms.

My tango with her is more than a dance.
It is the art of embracing life.

Photo credit:

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Wide Spectrum Tango

How wide of a spectrum is your taste for tango?
I am more and more aware of how tango dancers are like musicians.  Some musicians find themselves out of work because of two things.  First, they want to play what they like.  So if they only like 1950's country western, they find themselves in a niche that may never have a revival and their audience may die off before they do.  

The second type of musicians have a wide spectrum except their "spectrum of light" is not in the visible spectrum of the majority of people (red through violet).  It is like being able to see a band of light invisible to the naked eye, such as x-ray light or infrared, but your friends and audience cannot see what you do.  

Some dancers will find themselves not out of work like these musicians but perhaps out of inspiration to dance because of having either a narrow spectrum of tastes or a spectrum that most other dancers don't "see."   It is true that some people turn to socializing or just listening to the music, and it is not an indication of snobbery or a narrow spectrum.  Much of Piazzolla's work, for example, is not something that many tangueros/tangueras in Argentina would dance to.  However, they may have a deep love for this music.  Also, in Columbia, where Gardel died, one can hear tangos being played on the streets, but less dancing.  Again, listening is okay, and an perhaps an indication of a wide and discriminating taste of tango -- perhaps more discriminating than mine, because you will find me on the dance floor for anything, kind of like clapping between the movements of Beethoven when I first heard his work live for the first time.  I was a boy from a small town in Nevada.  I had a passion for Beethoven's music but little cultural development.  (Luckily, I wasn't the only one clapping.  There were other small-town people in the audience too.  We just did not know better.)

Having a wide spectrum which normal people do not have, however, can be a good thing.  This may be a "visionary" taste and appreciation.  This person can be very alone unless people join the vision.  Rembrandt's use of shadow was not appreciated in his lifetime.  He stood alone.   Being visionary is the way that new music is created.  Classically trained musicians disliked cords that jazz musicians played.  A C minor 7th with an added 9th would have made Bach roll over in his grave.  Rock 'n roll musicians loved playing cords, like C major 6th, that jazz musicians hated or felt were too simple.  They put their noses up in the air and stopped working as much.

It's ideal to have a very wide spectrum of tastes in tango.  If your tastes are either very narrow -- one composer, let's say, or one era, then milongas will become very disappointing.  You can tell yourself that you have discriminating tastes, but that could be tantamount to refusing to share a glass of wine with a friend because she only has white wine and not the quality that you allow your taste buds to experience.  That is the problem with developing tastes in anything.  Sometimes it is a great advantage of not becoming to trained in things.  This is the paradox of becoming more sophisticated in any art. 

The task at hand is psychological.  If the goal is individualistic, then you will find this path very interesting and deep.  However, if your goal in tango in your life is social, then the realm of tastes of your friends will be important as much as your own.  Also if your goal is social, you will minimize the mumbling under your breath (negative self-talk) when you consider the context of a milonga.  Are you in NYC at a milonga, or are you at a milonga in the middle of Nebraska?  The context is important in a social setting.  (Sorry, someone in the middle of Nebraska may have one of the best milongas in the world; so I offer apologies now.)

I knew a man who had nothing good to say about a local production of Amadeus.  First this was poor social skills on his part, because my friend had given us all a free ticket to the play.  Then my friend put on a party after the play.  Why was this guest being so critical of a gift?  Secondly, he did not take into consideration the context.  He was used to going to NYC; however, this play was in a small town outside of Boston.  Would I ever invite him to a high school play with my children in roles if he didn't understand the concept of context?

Similarly, if I go to El Paso to dance, I would go there because I have good friends there.  I would also know that the DJs may not play the repertoire of tango I enjoy, nor even follow the idea of tandas.  I would expect to hear a lot of tango nuevo songs, played over and over and sometimes in the same night!  But I would dance with friends and enjoy myself in that context. 

I should mention that I worked a lot as a musician.  As long as I was playing I enjoyed the music.  I wouldn't go home and listen to much of what I played, but I enjoyed a wide spectrum.  Musicians who had a small spectrum we called "bag" musicians.  "That is his bag; he only plays 40's Jazz," we'd say.  Also, I saw embittered musicians who hated new music.  They just wanted to play their "bag." 

Musicians who were working appreciated the dancers, our colleagues on stage, and the challenge of doing whatever genre we were playing in an authentic way.  It is a challenge to play simply and authentically.   There are lots of ways to make yourself challenged.  We could exchange places -- I would play the bass and the bassist the drums.  Or I once learned to play country western left handed -- making yet a new challenge.  

I would not say that the narrow spectrum tango mind is a disease.  We are all born with a no-spectrum tango mind, unless our parents played it loud enough to hear it from the womb.  For different reasons we may grow up to expand our love or tango, or it stays very narrow.

My spectrum was very narrow (that is, NO-Specturm tango) until I heard it as an adult.  Then I noticed, as many many people, that I preferred tango nuevo because as an American I was used to a stronger bass and the presence of drums for dance music.  But my spectrum keeps growing.  I love it all, but of course, I have many favorites.

So when I hear someone refuse to dance because they are waiting for a tango they like, I wonder if they are enjoying listening or are they sitting there tortured by the music they do not like.  If I have a hurt foot or an aching back, of course, I am going to be choosing the music very carefully before I dance.  However, many listeners and dancers who justify their "tango bag" will ultimately have no reason to be at a milonga.

Recently I went to an alternative milonga.  Now it is true that I felt that the DJ chose some music that was very difficult to dance to, but I did enjoy myself in the social context, and I was exposed to some music that truly was great and it inspired new ways of moving.  I smiled and held friends in my arms.  Considering the context -- a milonga that I purposely chose because it was very close, that I knew the DJ's vision of danceable music is different than mine, and that it drew a certain crowd -- how could I complain?

May your spectrum grow from the middle of the tango rainbow!

Photo Credit:

Monday, July 4, 2011

Good Tango Karma

This way to good karma

Imagine if ideas for dance steps were the same as writing a novel.  Each tango move, let's say, were a story in and of itself.  Imagine for a moment -- just pretend --  that each tango step were intellectual property.  Now let's also assume, that unlike in the world of intellectual property and commerce, that in the tango world we all agreed to share and simply give credit where credit is due.  

This world already is very real in the world of Karma -- tango karma.

These are the steps to good tango karma:

1.  The music inspires and gives you a totally new idea.  You silently or openly acknowledge the music when some new beautiful movement results.  The music includes so many things:  The composer, the musicians and the DJ.  Go over and thank the DJ and find out what he or she knows about the music.

2.  You are dancing with a women or a man who consummates this new idea from the music and takes you to a new place you never have been.  I try to remember this woman by naming the step after her.  Sometimes it is only for that moment, and I cannot go back to remember her or the movement, but I recognize the magic of that moment and from where it came.

3.  If you are a teacher, you take this new move to a tango class and teach this inspiration taken from the music and your partner.  You give credit to these sources of inspiration and ideas.  Also, you might mention the composer and orchestra who inspired the move.  Why not PLAY this music too?  If your partner is there at the class, you demonstrate the new step together.

Giving credit opens up a whole new world of the joy of movement, of a community which embraces each other.  In literature or scientific journals not giving credit (even in a foot note) would be grounds for a law suit and/or being severely reprimanded by the professional community.

I have suggested in early posts la Música is the true leader.  But music is much more.  It is our great inspiration.  Our partner corroborates in the inspiration.  So this is "tango karma":  If you really want to be prolific with ideas and the beauty of tango -- acknowledge your sources of inspiration.    If you do not want to have bad karma, tango teachers, always teach with the music that inspires a step.   Certain orchestras make you dance differently.  Mention that.  And if you really want to have good karma, mention the tanguero or tanguera who inspired the new idea.  If the idea was taught by an old milonguero/milonguera, give credit.  It is probably too late now, but wouldn't it be nice to know who inspired him or her -- which composer, orchestra, piece of music and person in his or her arms?

This is the way to good tango karma, and much more enjoyment in this art of movement.

Photo credit (not sure who did the original photo -- but found two sources) and two good articles: