Tango Argentino > Tango : Romance vs Technique

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Violins, Sep 24, 2014.

  1. Violins

    Violins New Member


    I would like to propose to you a topic which made me think a lot recently. Is tango a romantic, passionate, transcendental dance or simply a cause-effect sport-like, egotistical dance?

    I don't want this to become too complex or philosophical. I am offering this as food for thought because my teachers seem to try to completely eliminate any romance out of Tango. I offer below three examples:

    1. We've been told to close our eyes (both as leaders and as followers) and see what happens. Obviously, if the leader closes his eyes, chaos ensues. If the follower closes her eyes, loss of balance might occur. The teacher then told us: "If you feel enchanted by some mystic feeling and feel like closing your eyes, you better get a hotel room". That's natural, hotel rooms are a great idea, but why bringing that up in a tango lesson?

    2. The same teacher told us that in Tango, people dance it to feel good about their technique. It's very satisfying to know that you can make a woman do all kinds of steps with the least effort. I find this to be exaggerated. That's like saying: "I feel good about myself for using her as a piece of meat to achieve my means". Or "I feel good watching a certain category of movies by offering pleasure to myself".

    3. Another teacher told me that close embrace has nothing to do with feelings, magic or anything like that, but helps in performing some figures.

    I was constantly being told things like these, but I am afraid I forgot the quotes or the main ideas. Therefore, I am unable to reproduce them at this point.

    What does this mean? What is the point of treating Tango as a sport dance? You cannot just take away the soul out of it. If you cannot hear the music, if you cannot have presence and connect to your partner, if you cannot feel, if you cannot be there for the woman while being conscious of your inner desires, fears or emotions, the dance will look robotic. Choreographic. Or milonga style.. Where you dance just to feel happy in 1/16, 1/32 or 1/64 rhythms.

    Once I discuss with teachers about this or get some other opinions, I would definitely refine my post, but until then, what do you think? Do you dance tango just to increase your cardio? Do you dance it to show-off to the public? Or do you really feel the music, cease to care about time and everyday's problems? Is it a matter of choice?

    Thanks in advance for your patience.
    newbie likes this.
  2. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    You know, early on I got the feeling you were learning "Argentine Tango" from someone who, shall we say, does not teach AT as their first dance, but one among many.

    A lot of what you've been told is contrary to what most people think of as "Argentine Tango," at least the one from Argentina that hasn't fully incorporated the adopting culture.

    Maybe some do, but most don't, at least in my experience. Or maybe I ignore people who dance to feel good about their technique.

    , but also to do so with a parnter.

    Well, sure. You CAN treat it as a "sport" if you want. But, again, that is not the main emphasis in AT which retains the cultural links to Buenos Aires.

    Is one way of interacting with another human being to music. If your instructors truly don't know what it's like to feel that your partner's body might as well be your own when you are dancing this style, they don't understand it. (Although the more weight you share the deeper the feeling of oneness.)

    we dance for the fun of it, and as a change of pace from the usually less energetic "tango."

    I have seen people watch me when I dance enough to know that there are people who are pleased by what they see. But I am not "performing" since I would do nothing differently if there were no one else in the room. (Well, that's not exactly true, because the people around us affect how we dance. Hopefully you get my meaning.)
  3. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    I say it's sort of in the middle. You're not dancing with this person because you're planning to take them home later, but there is romance there if only pretend. When I dance with certain people, I fall a little in love for that 10 minutes. That doesn't mean I'm going to jump them later, and in some cases I would never consider even kissing them. But I give in to the romance and magic of the dance and the music.

    And when following, in close embrace with most partners, I close my eyes. No balance issues. I do open them for open or even semi-open embrace or if things start getting hectic.
    tangobro likes this.
  4. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    As to why I dance AT...it's to feel the connection and express the music. I do enjoy the technique as well, but it doesn't come first.

    Ballroom is for show. Swing is for fun.
  5. tangobro

    tangobro Active Member

    I think it's both of these and more because, to answer your last question, It's a matter of choice. Your teachers, as professionals, may have made certain choices - motivated by their own reasons. If you are not choosing the same professional path as your teachers you will make choices motivated by your own reasons.

    I once heard that you could sit in a milonga and watch 100 people dancing to the same music - and see 100 different dances. OK, an exaggeration - but I think the point is that tango varies.

    It's been said that you don't learn tango, you grow tango. Your teachers may help you nurture the seed for your tango but it should become your tango.
  6. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    The important thing is what are you expecting from tango, a romance or a technique?

    I got an input from various teachers, and I decide what to make with my dance.
    From some follower I can expect more "romance" from some more technique.
    After adjusting my wishes with possibilities I get more pleasure out of it. :D

    I used to be a romance guy only, now I am both.
    And I enjoy tango now more than before.
    Since I am not focused on romance, if it happens it great, but when not it's ok.
  7. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Yes, but if people really know what they are doing they will all look like the music. I've only seen this a few times, and it was fantastic.
    Gssh and Mladenac like this.
  8. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    First, i am not sure why you feel the need to exclude "happy" from the universe of inner desires and emotions one can be conscious of - it takes up quite a bit of real estate in mine, and i like it that way. I think if i feel happy i should be allowed to express this in my milonga (and vals, especially vals!, and tango). I think tango dancers like everybody else should experience and express the whole range of emotions, and artificially limiting what is acceptable and what is not turns a real expression of emotion into a studied pose.

    Ok. Then, what do you expect to learn from your teachers in class? They are not there to get you in touch with your emotions - that is your job. They are there to give you tools that might enable you to actually express them. They are your pit-crew - they care about your tires, and gas, and the aerodynamics - driving is your job. One of the images that i learned while studying silat was the concept of kembang - flower. They don't believe that it is possible to teach or learn how to fight - a fight is a completely individual, unrepeatable, spontaneous thing that only happens at that moment, at that place - the flower of ones martial art. What they do when they practice/study is preparing the ground for this flower to blossom.
    Studying tango is the same thing - the dance at the milonga is the flower of our personal dance. What we do in class is preparing the soil, watering the ground, fretting if it is too wet or too dry, everything to create favorable circumstances for that flower to bloom. A teacher can't give his flowers away, but they can talk and teach about what fertilizer they used, and show how to dig trenches and haul stones. Might not be the right choice for our garden, but we see their flower when we see them dance at the milonga, and can decide if the way they tend their garden might be something we want to emulate.

    Close embrace has nothing to do with feeling or magic. I have had magical dances in all kinds of embraces, and not-embraces, but that has in the end nothing to do with the embrace - it has to do what kind of connection is happening between me and my partner at that moment. You can get that feeling of oneness when dancing freestyle at a club if you and your partner are open to it. The close embrace allows a very specific kind of communication, but it is as easy to be cold and forbidding in close embrace than any other way. In some ways it might actually be easier. By reducing the individual freedom and making every single step of partners crucial to maintaining integrity of the geometry of the couple things are put into stronger contrast. We don't talk about it as often and as enthusiastically as about the great dances, but close embrace also generates supremely miserable dances when we are not on the same wavelength, hear the music vastly differently, or are not in the right mood/frame of mind. There is a reason that close embrace dancers tend to be picky in who they dance with.
  9. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    This. It happens rarely, but when the couples are dancing with each other instead for themselves it is an amazing feeling to be part of that.
    Steve Pastor likes this.
  10. Violins

    Violins New Member

    Once again, I can count on you offering great answers and insights.

    @tangobro : That is interesting. And it's more interesting because just last evening I've had an exercise in which we had to perform Atrapadita + Barrida + Front Ocho + Back Sacada and we were supposed to act simultaneously with the other couples no matter what (even talking). They said that in a Milonga you dance with everybody, because you have to care about everyone around you, to offer space when needed and to try to feel the same music.

    @Mladenac : To be honest, I am to be found at the romantic end of the spectrum. When I decided to take this dance, I had in mind one thing: a gentleman HAS to know a social dance. And what could be more sophisticated than Tango? But I would be a total liar or a hypocrite to ignore the fact that I am also interested in the possibility of becoming one with the right woman; in having that beautiful, reality-defying embrace which is evoked in movies such as "The Scent of a Woman". This is why I hate changing partners in my class. I don't like to be matched with some shy girl who hesitates a lot, trips a lot, looks at me with guilty eyes or dances mechanically. I know beginners are like this, but what I know and what I feel are two different things. From a technical point of view, it's stupid to dislike dancing with everyone. Because only so can one improves his mark. However, if I do not feel her, if I do not see that passion in her eyes, that artistic intelligence, that fluidity in her moves, I will "pray" that the song ends quickly so I can change the partner again... I want to transcend myself with each dance, and I feel I can only improve my inner self (personality issues / desires / expectations / conceptions) while dancing with someone I choose. This is also another reason I prefer Tango Nuevo all the time over Milonga. I want to be able to fully express myself, without being "limited" to fast dancing. I know one is not forced to dance 2/4 in a Milonga, but that is not my style. I like to take my time in-between steps and pay attention to the music. Without hearing lyrics about how the man has been cheated on or something.

    @Gssh : Thank you for your reply. I think I understand better the roles and reasons of the teachers now. I do not mind being happy at all. It's just that I feel limited in milongas (see my last sentences addressed to Mladenac). I am also a violin addict... Once I hear the violin I feel I can pour out the best in me. The conceptions I have at this point might come out of beginner's ignorance and are most probably prone to change. But at this point, that is how I feel and that is why I proposed this topic.
  11. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member


    This answer is not to be patronizing. I know a lot of people who at first liked tango nuevo more than traditional.
    Tango nuevo is quite musically poor to traditional tango, and milonga is very fun once you learn how to dance to it.
    Take your time. Don't be judgemental about the music and other dancers.
    It looked more appealing and they could relate more to it. Over time this thing changed.
    Movies like "Scent of a woman" is selling you something, like fashion industry. They were acting.
    A lot of thing you crave for will happen in 3-5 years time. You are also a beginner.
    I got told that I am dancing something different and that I don't dance mechanically.
    It takes a lot of time and introspection, and listening to the music to be fluid and to hear nuances in the music.

    About being a leader in AT:
  12. Henry Williams

    Henry Williams New Member

    Just the other day I looked at a couple dancing. Great technique I thought. But they are dancing like brother and sister. What's the point?
  13. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    Maybe they are brother and sister. ;)
  14. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    To express that they feel like brother and sister? To hold each other like we want to be held when we feel sad and lonely and look for comfort? When we really, really need a hug? What use would a dance be that you can't dance with your mother, the wife of your best friend, your niece? That we cant use to express feelings of friendship, kindness, companionship, feeling mellow, comfortable and relaxed? Again, there are lots of ways to connect to other people, there are lots of emotions, lots of fears and desire, and it seems to me that you think there is only one "right" emotion, only one "right" way to express it, to connect to your partner, to connect to the music?
  15. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    Isn't shyness an emotion too? What about the joy of connecting to somebody who is shy and hesitant, and calm them, give them support and confidence, and bask in the moment when starts feeling comfortable, gets in touch with the music and herself, and smiles, not for me, but for herself? Maybe she is not looking for passion in the dance, but a tiny island of peace and safety?
    oldtangoguy and ocean-daughter like this.
  16. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    I see sexuality as an extra spice in dance life but I do not see it as a part or the base of the dance. With other words I do not see sexuality as the element creating passion in tango as we dance it today.

    The emotional content in tango, which looks like passion, has two sources within me. One is the music which comes with different shades of emotions and I need to learn to tune in to those tunes in my dance. The better I am tuning in the better a song can catch my heart and lit my eyes!

    The other source is the timing - how my movements and musical elements are related. If there is totally random movements to music you do not get a feeling of dance but if the movements are synchronized with music you get a clear feeling of it as a dancer and onlooker.

    All this can go up to flow if you meet your kind of person in a tanda!
  17. Henry Williams

    Henry Williams New Member

    Far from it. I know others don't feel like that - as you have described.

    Each to their own. But I only dance with passion - either real or acted. And I only like dancing with women I am somewhat attracted to [which covers most women ;)] My acting skills are not that honed to dance with a follower I personally don't find attractive - or out of sync height wise.

    And I would not dream of dancing with my sister or a niece.
  18. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    I am not sure if i can express this in a meaningful way but i will try: that sounds very limiting and mechanical to me. I firmly believe that tango can be a transcendental experience, a way to experience a deep and honest connection in the dance with the music, with another person, and ultimately with oneself. I don't believe that this is unique to tango - anything where people invest themselves in something, and collaborate on creating something together will have opportunities for that. But to get there requires openness, the willingness to be vulnerable and to actually experience what is happening. And the truth is that tango is a just a dance, and what we experience in it is dancing, and we meet the other person as a dancer, in her relationship to the music, to the dance. And this relationship to the dance can have many facets, and sometimes it might even be what you feel is shallow - pushing ourselves and each other as far as we can , and dance the milonga on 1/16, or 1/32, or 1/64 or 1/128 till we can't push it further, and enjoy our connection, how in synch we are, our speed, our precision. And that can be transcendental too.

    A great dance is not about passion, and attraction, it is about dance. The feeling after a great tanda should not be "we should get a room and continue this "for real"" but "we should do another tanda" - because the dance is the real thing, its a whole universe for itself, and tying it down to who we are (or could be) in relationship to each other outside the dance is diminishing it. This doesn't mean that tango is not a shared interest where one can get to know partners, and that one can do with partners, but it is really not privileged there (actually often people who are in relationships with each other find dancing with each other more difficult than before, because now the dance becomes a continuation of what happened between them before, and in the same vein they know what happens in the dance will continue to affect them afterwards - it becomes more difficult to let go) - it works about as well as birdwatching, or something.
  19. Henry Williams

    Henry Williams New Member

    Maybe I have a different social more. I don't associate "passion" in a dance, especially if the dance is acted out with passionate deep "feelings" , with "getting a room" - unless it is for a practica of course. Both are great fun - but unconnected. The former can be much more emotionally draining.
  20. Henry Williams

    Henry Williams New Member

    For me "passion" is "do every micro-move with intense feeling" rather than focus on flicks and tricks. Less with intense passion / feeling can be more than packing all the sequences into a tanda.

    For me this is emotionally exhausting when it hits the sweet spot.

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