Tango Argentino > What tango do we dance?

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Gssh, Mar 4, 2015.

  1. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    "Technology" struck me as inappropriate, too. The term is usually used in regards to material things.
    Methodology, technique, and style seem to be more appropriate.
  2. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Well. of course you can ask yourself all sorts of questions,
    I'm just questioning the relevance. And now of course you
    have opened a whole new area of irrelevance, at least to me.

    I thought you were categorising how the dance worked but
    now I see you are concerned (even more?) about how it looks.
    This certainly is the problem of the age - image, image, image!
    Of course this is in itself is a natural result of the televisual,
    visual entertainment age. People are few who continue through
    their lives preferring to entertain themselves rather than be
    passively entertained. Nor do many seem to realise that images,
    moving or still, are not necessarily reality and not to be trusted.

    The image of tango as a dance is truly dire. I am fed up of having
    to explain to outsiders that the tango I dance is not the flash tango
    of SCD, DWTS and that Len Goodman et al haven't got a clue.
    Many of the real dancers at home will have nothing to do with Tango
    because they perceive it as a self-absorbed non-dance of strange
    move, odd leg movements done (not danced) without regard
    to the music which usually isn't even tango.

    I'm much less interested in what it looks like than what it feels like.
    However, like many skills in life, if it looks right (especially to other
    dancers "in the know") then, more likely than not, it is right.

    Very briefly the dance in BsAs was/is affected by the locality and
    the floor conditions. The differences that existed were less than
    exist now and were largely to do with variations in embrace,
    closeness and angular relationship of the partners. Some variations
    were caused by cultural circumstances and by the frequency
    of dancing. The best dancing existed in the more culturally open
    (morally decadent?) city centre where milongas existed day and night
    and women danced without supervision.

    This is a different argument but where is your information of the dance
    of the other neighbourhoods coming from?
    Exactly, we don't have to do it. Just dance and enjoy it!

    I have no alternative to suggest. The alternative for me was to forget all the teachified
    deconstruction, embrace my partner in BsAs way (the final piece learned in BsAs from
    jantango) and dance the music, in a committed and constant parallel embrace.
    And practise a lot with partners who like dancing that way. They can be found.
    jantango likes this.
  3. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    I like methodology - i had been thinking about technique or style, but both already have meaning for people who talk about tango.

    Not really - i used "looks like" in a more holistic sense - i really have to work on my vocabulary.
    Mostly from living BA and talking with people who complained how homogenized things were getting, how canyuenge used to be much more influential, and how the modern way is more influenced by the downtown style of the people who did not work proper jobs, and less by the suburb styles that was/is a dance for proper couples on a date. I have to admit that i have never taken the trip to go to one of the neighbourhood milongas that supposedly still exist far out in the suburbs- everybody agreed that it would be pretty impossible to get even a single dance there (and that the dancing would probably be not that good, either, because the people interested in dancing don't dance there anymore).

    I found it actually interesting how even today "milonguero" is not quite a compliment in BA - when describing somebodies dance it is usually a compliment (especially when it is "old milonguero"), it is much less so when used to describe somebodies dating or work habits.

    Why in a committed and constant parallel embrace? What about embracing my partner in the BA way (the final piece learned in BA from martha and manolo) and dance the music at a 90 degree angle with my partner?

    Ok, this is a bit tongue in cheek, and i actually dance in a committed and constant parallel embrace (there are actually more people out there that i can dance that with than trying my by now exceedingly rusty canyuenge - and the tendency of djs to play the smoothed out golden age music doesn't help - early tango is so much more fun).

    But having a strong preference for dancing parallel is actually how i started thinking about this - convincing dancepartners to give comitted and constant parallel embrace a try, and i found that talking about the underlying methodology (and the differences from the methodology they were used to) helped a lot. A lot of followers seemed to be much more amendable to trying it when i was able to articulate the whys and hows behind what i was looking for in the dance beyond "this feels nicer to me, and it will feel nice to you too" - especially when they were fighting years of experience that told them that "being heavy" was a cardinal sin, and were perfectly happy with what their dance felt like to them.
  4. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Well . . . . . Yes!!!! Especially since I could never have anticipated
    this response following your earlier rather mechanical descriptions
    of how we dance. Still, for me it's welcome.

    People everywhere look at the past with rather rose tinted glasses.
    We tend to remember good times and cut out the bad.

    You do not need to go that far out of the centre. Four of us made
    it all the way to La Boca (not the tourist area, the really seedy part)
    to a social dance in Club Bohemia on a Saturday night. They were
    not used to foreign visitors but after they had recovered from the shock
    they made us welcome. The dancing, just a daytime walk away from
    San Telmo, was rather different with a more vertical posture and
    an angled embrace. It was a social occasion, informal dinner and
    dancing usually I suspect mainly amongst couples and definitely
    among the regulars. A visitor would not get a dance.

    Canyengue's influence was as the street dance forerunner of tango.
    But its part was over more than a hundred years ago, ceasing altogether
    once a more refined salon was apparently repatriated from France.

    Clearly its influence was present in the dance which reached London
    and Paris before the Great War but it was Tango and I have seen
    no mention of Canyengue in the European context. However, the
    then Tango seemed to be halfway between the old Canyengue
    and the evolving later dance of the Golden Age.

    Canyengue now is regarded rather wistfully, Martha & Manolo having
    promoted some sort of minor revival. Now, rather unfortunately a
    partner will identify some rhythmic guardia vieja as Canyengue
    even though the music is formally identified as tango.
    Canyengue never was a salon dance, it was an outdoor street dance
    and it pre-dates the music recording eras.
    It's foreigners who use "milonguero" as a compliment. Teachers almost universally
    use it as a style so its bad connotations are lost now, besides which the dancers
    known as milongueros are mostly gone. In no way can you describe an 80 or 90
    year old, maybe a milonguero in the past, disparagingly as a milonguero now
    but rather as a compliment for still dancing the dance of the senses.

    I dance that way because it's the way I like best and can dance
    all the music including music beyond tango. It's very different from
    the Martha (sadly now departed) and Manolo way which is not very
    sociably salon friendly being selfish of space, unpredictable in direction
    and disruptive of the progression of the ronda.

    No argument from me there.
    I can convince dancers who are willing and have the adaptability in 30 seconds.
    No long-winded descriptions are needed & only the briefest of verbal guidance
    if necessary. To a dancer, the principles are relatively elementary even if they
    take some time to practise and perfect.
    I don't understand or maybe this is also where your problem lies.
    My partners are not heavy, they don't resist in the way that seems
    to imply. Are you seeking the rather artificial apilado construct
    of forward pressure from both partners?
    jantango likes this.
  5. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    I did not know, and it is hitting me surprisingly hard. RIP.
  6. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    So, I submit that the rather artificial apilado construct is no more artificial than back the woman around the room.
    And, THAT got me to thinking about when that became a norm.
  7. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Hmmm, to begin with I read it as you musing out loud as it were.
    But you know that I have rather different views to most people on here
    so I will join you in your musings and hopefully give you something
    more to think about.

    Canyengue was mentioned by Gssh, and that was a halfway stage
    between dancing side by side and what we have now. It looks
    awkward and in comparison to what eventually evolved (call it milonguero),
    it can feel rather strange. But neither were based on backing the
    woman around the room, there was/is much more variety than that
    involving stepping forwards and backwards while facing in different
    directions, turns and rotations etc. It's social dancing.

    Ballroom dances socially also have more variation in direction
    than the woman going backwards since in many of the (pattern) dances
    there are backward and forward movements for both partners.
    It's mainly in performance and in competitions of ballroom and tango
    that we see extended straight line movements with the woman
    progressing backwards. So yes, that is an artificiality as there are
    in many other kinds of competition in many other pursuits.

    There are close embrace teachers in Europe teaching a straight in-line walking
    dance but I consider that to be a limited subset far short of the potential seen
    in Buenos Aires. And some teach an apilado dance which involves the woman
    presenting forward, sort of resistive, energy while going backwards, a kind
    of reduced version of Gavito's exaggerated performance apilado. It makes
    what should be a simple dance far too complicated and intuitively difficult.

    So for me, these exaggerations of style are the result of visual entertainment
    and the visual judging of dances. Social dances are generally better danced
    than observed and tango is the most extreme example of a dance that is being
    changed by the image conscious environment and the entertainment circumstances
    of the recent times since its revival. And we must bear in mind that the revival outside
    Buenos Aires emanated from tango shows, especially Tango Argentino, the show
    which toured first 25 to 30 years ago. It was not the social dance which inspired interest
    abroad but performance dancing and the performers asked to teach were pleased
    to teach what they knew which really was not social dancing.
    jantango likes this.
  8. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Well as JohnEm pointed out, typically there are a number of steps in ballroom that are not based on the woman going backwards at all. There are also quite a few dances that were part of "society" that were patterns to be learned rather than "led" dances. (Such as reels)

    That said, I would guess that, in general, the construct of "backing the woman around the room" is the natural by-product of the development of traveling improvised dances and having men lead. The leader needs to see where he is going so the non-leader gets to go backwards.

    So really it's not so much backing the WOMAN around the room; it's backing the FOLLOWER around the room when the dance is improvised AND traveling. Because if you think about it, the dance needs to be both for "backing the follower around" to make up a large percentage of the steps (not meaning improvised vs choreographed for show/competition, but improvised vs set patterns like reels, chacarera, etc)

    Of course, I could get into a gender discussion of sexism in early European improvised partner dances, and possibly even make some insulting generalizations about men's attitudes towards pushing women around (not to mention relative abilities to learn dancing)

    But I won't. (except I sorta just did.. oops! ;) )
  9. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    "Professor," he said in kindly reproach, "you are backing your lady. When I was a young feller we considered that such an insult that we'd fight the feller that backed a girl we liked."

    Here's a clue from 1904.
    The gentleman thus moves continuously backward during the Pursuit, and the lady forward. While this is not a hard and fast rule, it is better to observe it, as, in dancing backward, a lady's skirt is more of less in the way, even though it be of the regulation dancing length.
  10. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    What dance is this referring to?
  11. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    NO! The corollary from my comments is that turning and dancing sideways etc.,
    also provides the leader with the ability to see in every direction and navigate
    the floor. Just walking forwards (with the woman backwards) is a very restricted
    and rather over-disciplined version.

    NO (again) for the same reason. Yes, you can walk even in BsAs,
    usually when the floor is less crowded, and many women welcome it
    as part of the dance but certainly not the totality of the dance.
    They like walking forwards too, given the opportunity.

    I don't see the relevance. Chacarera in particular is a flirtatious courtship dance
    of two people who only briefly touch at the conclusion and very chaste that is too.
    The majority of the movements for both men and women are actually forwards.

    That comment hints at prejudiced sexism to say the least, and best avoided.

    Oh good Zoopsia!
  12. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I had mentioned improvised vs patterned. So the relevance was simply to illustrate what I meant by that so that people wouldn't think I was talking about social dancing vs choreographed performance.

    In non-improvised social dances that use a learned pattern, you don't have the leader/follower dynamic. Even in square dancing, the caller is the one doing the improvising so the man is still not "leading".

    BTW, as I'm sure you know, in many pattern dances, there is quite a bit more contact than occurs in chacarera.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2015
  13. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Please Steve quote your references for these rather obscure quotations.
    Context is everything and this particularly demonstrates that:

    The extract is from:
    "Dancing : a complete guide to all dances, with a full list of calls, the music for each figure, etiquette of the dances, and one hundred figures for the German"

    and can be seen here:


    In your browser Search the page for "Pursuit",
    and you will find it as a transition in so-called "Round Dances".
    But since it is a rather rigid dance instruction book 100 years old
    it is of little relevance here. It is very prescriptive and rather strangely
    it describes and uses the 5 foot positions of ballet.
  14. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Walking is "over disciplined"? Not sure I agree, but maybe I am misunderstanding your point.

    In any of the dances, changing your orientation, turning, turning back, etc are all harder to smoothly execute from one move to the next than simply walking. While the dances may include a lot of those things, one doesn't start out doing them all.

    The 1st thing I learned in a Fox Trot lesson was the basic (from the leader's point of view) forward, forward, side, together in a slow, slow, quick,quick rhythm. No one was suggesting that we would never do anything else, but we did that first, which means that the follower is walking backwards. Then promenade was introduced which changed our orientation so that we both faced line of dance.

    So people learning a dance would learn 1st a move that involves the leader "backing the follower around the room"

    Personally, I am happy to do very little forward walking. I can do the rest of the dance best in high heels, but the high heel makes forward steps more awkward. That means I have to have the right balance between a heel that reduces stress on my achilles, but is not too high for me to walk forward smoothly.[/QUOTE]
  15. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    The Professor quote is from Cowboy Dances, 1938. That's one of the things that got me wondering about the woman walking backwards, which I hope we can agree, is pretty artificial construct.

    The pursuit quote is in a section on "Round Dance" in Dancing by Marquerite Wilson. This book was published in 1904, but has an 1899 copyright notice. Waltz was the "Round Dance" being described.
    Lloyd Shaw, who wrote Cowboy Dances, also describes the Pursuit Waltz.

    The skirt thing caused me to recall something I read that there was a boom in shorter, tango compatible dresses back in the Tango tea Era.

    Anyone know when people started dancing tango as a "Round Dance," or, a dance that progresses around the floor in a counter clockwise direction with the woman frequently going backwards?
    Castle Walk?
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2015
  16. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    You keep taking my comments out of context and dropping my qualifiers.
    I said "just" walking, which excludes all the other possibilities.

    Here is an example of a "just walking" dance:

    which was posted recently in another thread about walking.

    In northern Europe there is a close embrace walking dance taught,
    admittedly with pauses for big turns, and the prescribed protocol
    is that everyone must precess in a single line around the floor,
    not passing and not creating a second inner ronda unless conditions
    in the outer one are too crowded. It creates a queue, each couple
    waiting for the one in front to move. That's not a dance and it is
    No, one doesn't start out doing them all but teachers could make a start,
    I know too many who seem not to do so. I had to abandon teaching
    to find my own dance and develop the ability to freely and smoothly turn
    which also needs co-operation and ability from your partner.

    That appears to be the first part of the simple social foxtrot taught to people
    to enable them to at least get round the floor. But if so, you have missed out
    the equal stepping back part (forwards for the woman) taught here. It is a
    progressing dance with the man orientated facing outwards.

    Maybe so, but much (most?) teaching in ballroom is artificial, standardised
    and stylised. What is taught in classes to a syllabus is usually very different
    to what had evolved socially (naturally) which you can perceive in every
    ballroom (and their Latin) dance. Personally I would criticise the teaching
    rather than use it as an example.

    That's fine, in an embrace I would feel your discomfort before even attempting it,
    it depends entirely on the partnership and the circumstances.
  17. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    I am never sure that there is any benefit in obsessing about dates
    in social dance. There are currently some very strange dates being bandied
    about in Buenos Aires in connection with the era of Canyengue.

    These are all social dances, nothing is written down until some academic
    observer or historian draws up his own conclusions. I think it is better tracing
    the context of a dance and perhaps the prevalent influences of the time.
    If you seek unposed paintings of dance from around the turn of the 19th to 20th
    century in the art galleries in Europe you might be surprised to recognise
    how this dancing probably influenced tango in Buenos Aires, that most
    European of the Latin American capitals. Anti-clockwise precession around
    the floor and rotating dances in the salons and halls of Europe preceded
    the move of tango from the streets to the confiterias and the ballrooms
    of Buenos Aires.

    The woman frequently (sometimes solely) progressing backwards appears
    to me to come the stage/performance influence - that necessity to project the dance
    in a restricted space to entertain an audience sat far away and only on one side.
  18. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Well I'm not doing it on purpose.. that is why I allowed for the possibility that I misunderstood.

    OK, but not being in northern Europe, I had no idea such a "style" existed. After all the discussion was about the evolution of the typical social dance construct (woman going backwards) in the past. Exaggeration of a style in an art form is something that usually happens late in it's development, as it heads towards the beginning of a new period of experimentation. A current tango style of only walking seems somewhat irrelevant to the original question as I understood it.

    I don't understand... you say teachers could make a start, so you had to abandon teaching to do it? It seems a tad hyposcritical to complain that teachers don't teach what you think they should and then be unwilling to continue teaching yourself. Unless I am once again misunderstanding, wouldn't it make more sense for you to teach it rather than stop teaching?

    Or did you mean that you had to abandon "teachers", not that you had to "abandon teaching"?
  19. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    True, but the discussion seemed to have moved to women walking backwards!

    My bad!! I don't teach, but I did abandon formal learning from teachers.
    If I did teach, I would not start where most teaching appears to,
    but where perhaps informal learning used to begin in BsAs:
    essentially encouraging partners to learn from each other
    by moving in a hug to the music.
  20. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    Even allowing that you are writing about tango, you would probably find yourself in an empty room by your second session, sadly. Judging by the constant stream of them, the worst 'teaching' of the style you dislike comes straight from BsAs.

    I've given up attending workshops and anything to do with formal tango instruction - it seems to have nothing to do with tango. I can't bear the idea that I'm given three or four bars of choreography, and forced to rotate partners far too frequently to learn anything useful about the body language of any of them; and to repeat the same choreography, ad nauseam, regardless of the unsuitability of the music playing at the time or the space round me, as others start and stop. They want money for it too....

    Postscript: it's a really big ask for most people in many parts of the world to start hugging complete strangers while simultaneously trying to dance. Those of us who do enjoy dancing close take much for granted. One of the most valuable gifts that any teacher can bring to their work is to work from the student's position and perspective and not their own. It's rare.
    Steve Pastor likes this.

Share This Page