Tango Argentino > Open Embrace is an Oxymoron and Tango-fusion is Gibberish

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by tangomonkey, Apr 24, 2015.

  1. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Now that I have your attention...

    I've been away from tango for just over a year - life events and stuff - and haven't posted a blog entry on my site or done much dancing during that time.

    Lately I've been back to the dance and have been "re-born", as it were, evaluting past opinions and preferences about the music and the dance. I've purposefully been dancing a wide range of styles, to Golden Age classics through the latest electronic "music". Only dancing close embrace, with weight sharing, to Golden Age music interests me anymore.

    An open question to forum members: when do you dance open, or to to non-traditional music and truly enjoy it?
    jantango likes this.
  2. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    I dance open only with the beginners or when trying to learn some new figures when I need more space.
    If I need more space in close embrace I tend to release my embrace a bit to get comfortable since some figures
    impossible to perform in close embrace.
    It's not always about he embrace sometimes it's for the show to myself. :D
  3. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    You might not get a lot of people wanting to discuss their choice or love of open embrace or alternative music on a thread that disses both right in the subject line.

    Jus' sayin'

    ocean-daughter likes this.
  4. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Yes, I know. I'm being somewhat tongue-in-cheek, although I personally have come to those conclusions. I know I am in a small and diminishing group of dancers who'd agree.

    Where I live there is a vibrant and large tango community - the vast majority being "V" embrace dancers, because that's what almost all the teachers teach. And most of these "V" embracers (as far as I have seen) open the embrace to do various figures, steps, etc.

    I have to respect the music I dance to, and I simply don't have any for most "alternative" stuff. My opinion is obviously not shared (I wouldn't expect it to be) by a large number of people, judging from attendance at "alternative" and "fusion" milongas.

    I've always preferred close embrace with weight sharing but have gone with the crowd and can comfortably dance "V", sliding back and forth from "V" to open, and only open. For me, these styles are unfulfilling and I've decided I won't dance that way anymore.

    I make no judgments about other dancers - their likes, preferences, in music and dance style. I've grown to dislike particular dance styles and music (I've never liked the electronic stuff), not the dancers. Forum members can say why they like what they like - dance style or music - and it's all fine with me, as it should be.
  5. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Oh dear!!! It's not about "figures" either. For me it's about dancing together.
    That means in an embrace. But it's as usual, each to their own.

    As for the many who do "tango moves" to non-tango
    or accompany the rather strange tango fusion non-dance music ,
    it's another "no thanks".

    But . . . . .
    We do dance to other music (well many do but not everyone) no matter
    what the embrace. Vals and Milonga are not tango (although some dance
    as if they were) and many dance the music they hear just as we dance tango
    based on what we hear. Inevitably the dances should all be different
    in both look and feel.

    In BA there are Tropical breaks often beginning with Cumbia, which in some
    milongas is danced with traspie in an embrace, and jazz breaks which a few
    dance also in embrace including me. And I shouldn't forget Paso Doble.
    Just don't call any of it Tango or Tango fusion of neo-Tango because they are not.

    The real point is that the Argentines in central BsAs evolved a way of dancing
    which suits a wide variety of music. After all the Californians adopted
    an embrace for Balboa to dance Charleston music safely on a crowded floor.
    I enjoy dancing a form of patternless Balboa when the opportunity arises.

    So if it's dance music, tango or not, which moves me to dance
    I'll often dance it in an embrace, It's just not necessarily tango.
  6. Cal

    Cal Well-Known Member

    I don't enjoy dancing in an embrace that is rigid, heavy and doesn't allow me to breathe in my movement. In that circumstance, I'd enjoy dancing in an open embrace much more.

    As to music – well, I don't want this to come across as snarky, because it isn't meant to be. But there are some leaders who say they like only golden age tangos and I suspect it's because they know the music and orchestras so well that they've long ago interpreted how to dance a particular song of a particular orchestra and that is now the ONLY way that they dance to it. They don't really have to "listen" to the music anymore, because they already know the exact what/where/when of every instrument. While that kind of intimate knowledge of every song is very impressive and gives a lot of confidence to some leaders, it can also mean that some of those leaders then just pull out their – pardon my wording – choreographed interpretation of it. That's OK with me; I, too, quite often find dancing to the familiar to be very comfortable.

    But there are times when I would really prefer to dance to music that is new to the dancers. Neither dancer knows what's coming next, and it's interesting to find out. If the leader really knows how to listen to the music, can interpret it on the fly, and can dance with readable movement, well, I find those dances are ones that really hone my following skills, and are the ones that make me feel most alive as a dancer.
    ocean-daughter and UKDancer like this.
  7. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    I've been thinking that we mostly have a group of tango music / "close embrace" people who regularly contribute here; at least much more so than several years ago. Maybe the other folks will speak up now.

    The first meaning for "embrace" in the dictionary I have at hand is "To clasp or hold with arms, usu. as a show of affection. HUG"
    I don't exactly feel great when I get one of those "sort of hugs," myself. (and had a slightly awkward moment with someone whom I used to dance with years ago as she seemed to be deciding if she SHOULD embrace me or not).
    (ugg just thought of the one arm around the other guy other hands clasped between the bodies "man hug")

    So, yeah, the question was not, do you agree with the title of the thread, but I do.

    Meanwhile, I dance "open" with someone that I feel is not comfortable with truly engaging with me in a "close embrace," or someone who is not connected enough, and not doing definite enough weight changes, that I have to severely limit what we do so I don't step on her.

    I can think of several to many memorable tandas with "favorite partners" who have never learned "close embrace," and also the occasional tanda with someone "new" where we both had a heck of a good time.

    I haven't danced AT to non traditional music since... I can't remember when.
  8. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    Tango, vals and milonga are the music of Argentine tango, like it or not.

    I dance to enjoy myself, and if I want to enjoy the embrace, I will enjoy the embrace.
    And when I would like to enjoy the figures, and I feel that my partner is into it,
    I will enjoy figures more, than embrace in that particular moment.

    The think is that I lead as I enjoy it with my partner. It's personal dance, it's our dance.

    I know how to dance tango, vals, milonga, open, salon, close embrace.
    At very crowded milonga, or without people as well.
    I go dancing because I enjoy and want to have fun,
    when I have emotional problems I go to psychotherapist. :D
  9. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    If you were more into traditional music you would know that's very difficult to know the music and the orchestras.
    Only experienced DJs know that and they are quite difficult to find, it happens that certain DJs define their tango repertoire.
    It's true that happens that local DJs have repertoire; there are two reasons for that: they have certain taste for music
    and they know people visiting their milongas.
    As a follower try to invest where are milongas with alternative music, don't try to dispute leaders and DJs.
    They are there because they enjoy dancing to that music.

    In my experience people who dislike traditional tango music are the ones who cannot listen it because they can't hear it.
    And I know people, and I was one of them, who could hear a lot for quite time, and I took lessons on hearing music.
    Now I got better because I invested time and energy to appreciate that music and have a lot to learn.
    And some play mostly alternative music just only their students are not introduced to traditional tango.
  10. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Actually NO! Tango is tango, Vals is Vals and Milonga is . . well you work it out.
    But they are all music that is played and danced to in Milongas, Argentine
    and elsewhere. But then some other music is also played in milongas in Buenos Aires.
  11. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    Well, this is certainly an interesting OP ;)

    There is actually quite a lot of non-tango music that I enjoy dancing tango(ish) to - but it has to have the same properties make good tango music work:
    1) It needs to be rigidly structured. If there is no structure the follower can not predict what I am going to do, and is just working on keeping up to me.
    2) it needs to play with its own structure. If it does not offer me more than just a metronome I am going to be bored - the musicians playfulness needs to inspire me.
    3) When the musicians mess with me they need to let me back into the structure, and not gloat about having outfoxed me. (which is the reason that I don't enjoy late piazzola - his music is positively antagonistic towards dancers - there is not enough predictability, and once you are out of synch he does not offer you a bridge back. Much more fun to listen to)

    And - probably not surprising - that means that most of the non-tango I like dancing is either dance music, or only one step removed from dance music: I enjoyed the time when all dj's were playing Balkan waltzes and other dancer, and some middle eastern songs work well too. Big Band Jazz works, but I always feel like dancing swing would work better, but my swing is awful, so I have to turn off that part of my brain. With the eastern European and middle eastern folk dances I have at least no idea what dance would actually work best for them, so winging it with tango does not feel as dissonant. I liked some menuetts (sp?) and other early music, but again, this is not played that often. I am not too fond of most electronic non-tango - the percussion lines tend to be too fast and somewhat monotonous - 4 minutes of milonga speed tango without any traspie or other structure that the follower can play with are a bit boring, and the melody lines are often too slow and with not enough structure to toss back and forth - the best one can do is taking turns doing ones idiosyncratic interpretation of shapeless music - which can be fun with the right partner, but I tend to miss the connection that a shared interpretation of music creates.

    Open vs. close embrace is trickier - I strongly prefer close embrace if the follower has the strength and precision and sense of the balance point of the couple to maintain close embrace without me having to keep them there or having to hold them up or having to do the work of maintaining the shared axis all on my own. Oh, and understand their own footwork and vocabulary well enough to not start things with their feet that their body can not back up - e.g. if a follower is not able to keep the contact between the torsos quiet and comfortable during a giro because their footwork creates geometries that their dissociation can't deal with it is probably more fun to open up the embrace. Basically as soon as I can feel a followers back against my right arm, or one shoulder more than the other one I know that I will have more fun dancing open or openish embrace. Basically I dance as close as a followers technique allows, and I accept that a lot of people chose to develop other skills than the ones required for close embrace.
    Mladenac likes this.
  12. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    I watched documentary "Pichuco" and it is showed how Anibal Troilo often adjusted arrangements for dancer.
    That arrangers wanted to make to complex for the dancers.
    Even Piazzolla was corrected many times while playing in Troilo's orchestra, later he left because he wanted to make his own music.
    That means for listening and not for dancing, I read/heard that he wanted to make his music for listening not for dancing.
  13. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    Once you have learned to hear the music at all (see below), I think it becomes easy to know the music & orchestras. However, there is no short cut: it takes time and effort to become familiar with even the central repertoire by listening and dancing.

    Agreed. And I blame the teachers of beginners, mainly, for not demonstrating the central role of the music right from the start, and also the novice dancers themselves for expecting to appreciate the finer points of an art without making the commensurate effort.

    But your post was in response to a complaint that some dancers 'know the music' so well that they have choreographed their dance. The DJ puts on Poema (does anyone still play Poema?), and out comes the Poema dance, apart from one confused intermediate who is dancing his Bahia Blanco (but then he always dances Bahia Blanco, even in Vals). In my experience, this is quite common: play a 'top 100' song, and a little buzz runs around the room, and a predictable group of regulars (who selected their next partners during the cortina, bless them) are already on the floor. If the song happens to be Bahia Blanco, then the leaders are already wafting that left foot in vague circles, ready for that all important side step on the first beat of bar 17 (they have to stand and chat throughout 16 bars, of course, because that is what it said they had to do on the crib sheet given to them at their first ever real workshop, and by way of a bonus, it shows up the newbies who were crass enough to lead off after only 8 bars).

    I might know the music very well, but the dance should still unfold as though I was hearing it for the first time. If I'm also really listening to my partner, then I probably am hearing the music for the first time, too.
  14. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    It's a loaded question, because it presupposes that the closest, weight-sharing, embrace is better or more authentic than any other. Throughout tango history, every style under the sun has been fashionable; and there is something in the tango psyche that makes some (lots) want to belong to a minority group: there is cachet in being a member of the few, rather than of the many. In order for there to be enough mutually exclusive groups for all of us to find our tango home, there has to be a wide range of styles and preferences available.

    That said, I have only a mild preference for the sort of embrace you describe. A bit like Gssh, I

    I wonder whether part of feeling comfortable in a variety of tango styles comes from dancing a wide range of other dance styles, too. For my sins I am a Ballroom & Latin teacher, and have always been used to close contact (in the range of BR holds) and more open positions in Latin (including, of course, no contact at all) - and there feel no less connected. Perhaps as your post was intended to provoke comment, I might throw this into the ring: the sort of 'connection' that you seek is actually rather crude, direct and one-dimensional. There are subtleties to be found elsewhere, and they probably require a wider skill-set to enjoy to the full.

    As for the music, I very rarely enjoy dancing tango to anything but traditional tango dance music. There is usually a better style with which to express such music and why drive a square peg into a round hole?
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2015
    Mladenac likes this.
  15. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    I think it's tuning to various types of AT music and learning the structure of songs that helps you easily adapt to songs and orchestras.
    Some orchestras have quite diverse sound, while some are unified, it's not so simple to tell.
    If you go to international events with international DJs (Europe) you will always hear new music.

    Regarding to choreographed dance, I would like to note that even some professionals dance same choreography to different songs.
    There are people who buy that, if they didn't there wouldn't be such professionals. ;)
    Some have their usual set of figures, but they at least adjust to the songs, so it's musicality where they shine. :cool:

    When I dance I try to adjust the songs I hear to a dance couple I partake and the whole environment.
    It is the same song, but I almost never interpret it the same,
    traditional tango songs are complex enough so I can pick suitable parts for dancing. :)
  16. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    What a strange direction this discussion is taking.

    You should know that fashion had little to do with the evolution of social tango.
    It was form following the function of two people dancing the music together
    in and according to the different conditions which prevailed. Fashion in tango
    has resulted from the revival and the resultant potential for commercial revenue,
    something which drives most modern so-called "Fashion".

    As for the cachet of being one of the few, I would rather be one of the many
    but I have to go to Buenos Aires for that. Having so many different (diluted) ideas
    of what tango is makes tango so much more difficult than it need be.

    It is very disappointing to read such a criticism by a dance teacher
    of a style that you have admitted previously you don't do, don't understand
    and have little knowledge of. To call close embrace crude and one-dimensional
    is a gross misrepresentation. Oh, and for the benefit of others, I do have
    experience of other styles and do still dance Latin, Swing and Modern Jive
    but ballroom only very rarely these days since I prefer the "multi-dimensional"
    close embrace rather than the contrived rigidities and posture of ballroom holds.

    If you feel just as connected in open dancing as closed, for me that says more
    about you as a dancer than anything else. For the avoidance of confusion,
    I agree there is connection in all partner dancing but those connections
    vary in extent and in depth of feeling according to the type of dance involved.
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  17. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    Well, I'll take that as a compliment, and let the rest go ...
    Cal and Zoopsia59 like this.
  18. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Some time ago I did a blog post on Linetzky's Sentimientos, here. I used to dance it, but no more.

    Glad to see some discussion. Often when people say what they dislike about styles other than their preferred one, they choose an example or two of bad dancing in those styles.

    I know dancers who dance open, “V”, or shifting “V”-open with great musicality. I also see – many more – with very poor musicality, in general simply lacking any semblance of matching their dance to the music. That there are very poor dancers using these embraces is neither here nor there, and has nothing to do with my preference to dance (mostly) CE. My preferring to leave behind embraces other then CE is because, for me, dancing in CE with weight sharing is the best and surest way to achieve a deep and rewarding connection with the music and my partner.

    Who does? Close embrace is not as you describe it, when properly done. I’d change the embrace too if I felt that way.

    Maybe that is true for some leaders you know, but I don’t think so for most. Certainly not me. I know the Golden Age repertoire quite well, yet my dance is never the same, neither to the same piece of music or any other. It is a dance of improvisation reflecting the music, not a step-by-numbers sort of thing. Knowing the music, a specific tango, allows me to be more free and heightens my improvisation. It certainly does not make me dance choreography – exactly the opposite.

    Yes, I think that’s correct always, to familiar music or not.

    Yes, and couldn't agree more, about the musical properties. I find most “alternative” music one-dimensional, monotonous. And the electronic stuff seems more constructed to induce a trance-like sate than to open up our emotions.

    Yes, both points are quite true. No-one wants to dance with a “heavy, rigid,” refrigerator or force close embrace upon those not experienced or interested in it.

    Eminently practical.

    To provoke comment for and against my views, yes. CE with weight sharing is magical, not crude and one-dimensional. The subtleties are more subtle, as it were. Most are obviously to feel but not to see. I see many “V” and open embracers whose dancing is bombastic, lacking nuance. Admittedly, that is not how the better dancers dance, and is not a valid criticism of the embrace.

    I have had no such experience. I don’t dance that way and as far as I can tell no one in the few places where I regularly dance does either.

    Yes!, per my comments to Cal.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2015
  19. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    I was not really thinking about connection - i think that connection comes from first from experiencing that a shared experience of the music. It is interesting that you mention "no contact" - one of the other places where i have felt experiencing connection is (comparatively) easier is when doing shines in salsa and us both just hitting the music the same way and playing off each other. It is the same feeling that we not only hear similar things, but also share things about what we hear. Watching somebody dance or feeling them directly makes it easier for me to appreciate what they are doing with the music, and noticing how they play of what i am doing with the music. I think the structuredness of the music is probably the most important thing for that.

    No, i am mostly thinking about close embrace as plain more technically interesting (and challenging). If we are dancing torso to torso everything is - as you said ;) rather curde, direct and one-dimensional. The only tools we have are footwork and dissociation. We could dance the same way in open embrace, but usually people use the open embrace to introduce a third tool - using the arms to vary the shape of the embrace, to create angles between the torsos. and besides using this third tool for things where it is neccessary and useful like leading the follower to walk backwards using overturned forward ochos, or back saccadas, or things like that, it is often used as slack to compensate for misjudgement/imprecision in the footwork and degree of dissociation possible. The vast majority of tango vocabulary is doable in close embrace, and does not require this extra degree of freedom of movement - though it is often much harder, requires more core strength and more precise timing. Basically i think of close embrace as the equivalent of tightrope walking - there are things one can't do on a rope, and just walking backward and forward, making a few hops, and sitting down and getting up again might not be interesting when done on a 10 feet wide path, but they can be exhilarating on rope. I mean, i started with tango nuevo - i appreciate the pushing of the limits of what is possible - but i am nowadays more interested in how far i can push what i consider the core of tango. The space i am looking for is the space a poet has when writing a haiku - pushing the what is possible without abandoning the form.

    This reminds me: in another thread somebody mentioned how much tete was prone to showing off stuff. I think it is important to realize that his famous "look i am dancing with no hands" stunt had very little to do with his skills - it shows off what an excellent follower silvia is. At its heart close embrace is (at least in my opinion) the purest expression of the followers dance - it is their skill that maintains the geometry of the couple and the embrace, not the leaders.
  20. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    I would somewhat disagree - as a leader i can not dance if i don't know what is coming next. I need the music to repeat phrases, telegraph breaks, and so on.

    I think the most important thing for an enjoyable dance is the follower interpreting the music, too, and communicating their interpretation. As i just said, this works (for me) best without any embrace, or in close embrace - both offer me ways of experiencing the followers interpretation of the music. To some extent this is probably why i am not too worried about followers having learned a song by heart - they probably heard different things than i did, and i heard different things than they did, and what we are going to dance is going to a synthesis of the two perspectives on the same piece. And them knowing the song, and experiencing it differently than i do, and sharing it with me, is what makes dancing with a partner worthwhile for me. One of my fondest memories of dancing was a really amazing bahia blanca, and at the end she told me that even though she was now now living in BA she was born and grew up there, and misses it.

    P.S. I like that doublequoting is possible!

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