Archive for the ‘EDITORIAL’ Category

A show named Tango Argentino   2 comments

A show named Tango Argentino

The current revival of the tango spread with blazing intensity, thanks to the globalization of communications. It started to rise around 1990, after 30 years of no major tango activity, with the unexpected success of a musical revue aptly named Tango Argentino. Producers Claudio Segovia and Héctor Orezzoli synthesized all the implicit dramatic qualities of the tango on the stage. They focused on the taciturn man of Buenos Aires (who is secretly idealistic with a devastating sense of humor) and the seductive Buenos Aires woman (who is alluring and drop-dead elegant). But it was the performance of the dancing couples that captivated the public’s imagination, reintroducing a dance in which the man flaunted his masculinity and the couples embraced each other in a sensual ritual full of irresistible beauty.

This week, 30 years ago, Tango Argentino appeared for the first time on an international stage at the Paris Autumn Festival, which began on November 11, 1983. That run lasted one week, but those few days were enough to change history: the tango as dance resurfaced with an unexpected force, and became huge around the world. There has never been a time in history when so many social dancers are dancing Argentine tango as it was danced in the golden years of the 1940s and ’50s.

Posted November 14, 2013 by Alberto & Valorie in EDITORIAL

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Chicho is pissed off again   Leave a comment

Chicho is pissed off again

A Commentary By Alberto Paz
November 13,2013

Every now and then I run into a lengthy rant by the well known dancer Chicho Frumboli. After unintentionally inspiring an entire generation of dancers to act like circus acts on the dance floor, Chicho seems to have had some sort of epiphany because he keeps trying to ride out the storm that his adventures as a young transgressor helped create.

The latest manifesto landing on my desk informs us that Chicho keeps watching videos of great dancers “in the history of our tango… people who set the pace and marked styles, who defined milestones in the evolution of our dance…

I’m still learning,” he writes, “enjoying and wondering why those things are lost, why fashion and trends around the world are so empty?

 He reminds us that for years many professionals have given the best of their knowledge to many people everywhere… He seems to be incensed about the alleged rejection of Argentine DJs and professional dancers, by dancers and fashionable DJs in some European cities.

 I know, as an Argentino, how our personality is, sometimes good, sometimes not so good. But, how can anybody talk about or openly criticize a DJ or a pair of dancers…?” he asks. He would like to know who’s doing that and what are the basis for all the criticism. He asks, what knowledge they have to believe that there are better or worse DJs or dancers. “I don’t feel competent or able to decide who is good or who’s not,” he writes, “we are all learning, still learning.”

 He sadly admits that many of the people who are against the tango, spent a lot of time taking classes with him, as well as with many other professionals. He now wonders if maybe it was a mistake to give out so much.

 He reminds us of a well known fact. Nobody owns the tango, no one can appropriate this dance, and anybody who ignores that, is in for a big disappointment. Just as championships and competitions are promoting a cartoonish facsimile as Tango Argentino, European DJs (which for Chicho don’t meet the criteria he expects from tango DJs) present a tango from a very limited repertoire which is also not real.

Chicho addresses European dancers and DJs who know what he’s talking about, the selective ones, the critics, those who talk without knowing, those who teach after only a couple of months of taking lessons themselves, those who climb on a stage without being artists, those who want to become famous. For them, and those who lock themselves to dance for hours in a marathon shrouded by a complete vacuum, and those who decide on a style as a group tendency and exclude those who do not dance that style or are at that level, he says…

 Why don’t you open your minds, why don’t you keep on learning, why don’t you get informed, why don’t you share, why don’t you set an example, why don’t you make a contribution to the tango and do something for the tango instead of talking, talking, and talking???”

 Wrapping it up, Chicho quotes a female friend who said that the tango is stronger than all of that, the tango is above any trend, fashion and style. The Argentine tango is not going to die no matter how hard they try to make it disappear. It’s been that way since 70, 50, and even 10 years ago… There is much dancing yet to be done, there is a lot yet to be discovered, there is still plenty to listen to.

 “People, please open your mind!”

Posted November 13, 2013 by Alberto & Valorie in EDITORIAL

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Live and let dance   Leave a comment

Live and let dance
By Alberto Paz
This editorial was originally written on Nov 28, the year of the tango 1995 in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was part of ongoing discussions about what could be done to take care of the tango so it remained strong and not become a hollow shell like happened to ballroom tango. A little over three months earlier, the country had been introduced to the first wave of “milongueros” from Buenos Aires at the 1995 Stanford tango week.
Copyright (c) 1995-2013, Planet Tango. All Rights Reserved – Permission to reprint and share is granted as long as the proper attribution is clearly indicated

Valorie and I were the first to publish an actual hard copy newsletter starting in 1994. El Firulete was born out of the need to educate an entire new generation of dancers, to provide a forum for open discussion, and to foster and preserve the rich cultural heritage of the Argentine tango. We did it while keeping a lighthearted attitude, sometimes laughing at ourselves, and working hard to enjoy our tango more. It can be argued that life is a tango, and that for many, tango is their life. It has been so for us since the early nineteen nineties.

Success breeds imitation, and sometimes envy and jealousy. As public figures we have buried our happy faces in the ground like the ostrich oblivious to the danger around, but like the ostrich we have left our behinds exposed to the proverbial kicks. To be honest, we have many good friends who have helped us spread the goodwill along the way. But it’s also disheartening to be surrounded by people who react in virulent ways to other people’s happiness. That is also tango for you.
Tango music and its dance are all about feelings and emotions. In a culture where emotions are held close to the vest, the way people act can have a profound effect on a community. For the good of tango we always tried to keep a good supply of olive branches, but for good measure we also have a few pieces of the tree.

1995 will become without a doubt the year in which the face of the tango in North America will change forever, and the onset of a global wave of social dancing will sweep across large and small cities in the United States. We’re still relishing memories of our first contact with “milongueros” during two memorable weeks in July in Palo Alto. And already we’re engaged in discussions about preserving the newly found essence of the tango from the influence of those who want to make it the eleventh dance of the competition circuit.

Within the tango there is a tradition of respect for the elders that tango dancers understand and value. But with some notable exceptions, our young communities lack elder milongueros. People who come to dance tango are often at the mercy of self-appointed teachers and tango experts. They can become pawns of politics and power plays. A word or two here and there can be enough to turn some people off, and for some to walk away and never come back.

So it is up to those who know, and who live and love the tango, to speak up against those who attempt to legislate behavior, and who pass judgment on who’s good or not based on their personal promotional agendas.

Tango will never become a hollow shell because the Argentine tango is about life. As in life, there are those who merely survive and those who live; those who simply get involved and those who truly make a commitment. Tango has evolved from obscure and hybrid origins to become a way of life for people all over the world. Many have and many more will attempt to “own” it, to make it the latest fad, and to legislate behavior. But unless someone puts shackles on people’s ankles, tango will continue to exist because it lives in each one of us: in those we love, in those who hate us, in those we care about, in those who ignore us, in those we know, in those we never met. Tango lives every time we say I love you and every time we don’t. It exists when we long for a hug or a kiss that doesn’t happen. Tango lives when we are angry, when we are jealous, when we feel insecure, when we feel powerful, when we are tired, when two lovers or two strangers embrace and move together.

We will die, but somebody else will walk across the floor and catch somebody’s eye. And silently they will move around the floor, oblivious to what you or I or anybody else might decide is good or bad. It is about their lives, not ours.
So live and let dance.

Posted July 28, 2013 by Alberto & Valorie in EDITORIAL

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Let’s Be Careful Out There   Leave a comment

Let’s Be Careful Out There

Mental health is a serious issue that doesn’t get the necessary attention it deserves. Occasionally somebody goes way over the edge and tragedy ensues. Like the absurd killing in her sleep of a tango dancer and Pilates instructor by her disturbed husband who committed suicide, leaving the proverbial question of why it happened, unanswered. A few days earlier the woman had written a foreboding poem on her Facebook page.

A social media site like Facebook,where people are in daily contact with a lot of “friends in name only (FINO)” most of whom have never met, is not the place to be abusive of ex-spouses, or to air dirty linen in public. Unruly children, regardless of biological age, are bound to run into parents everywhere. The world of tango is not excluded. Lack of tact and propriety in venting family or personal feuds in public are good enough reasons sometimes for an adult wanting to intervene.

When one of those FINOs went into a public tirade about her daughter’s “lame-ass father,” I commented on the wisdom of writing in public, “he hung up when she asked him to take her to the doctor for an infection that was giving her shooting pain. She was way upset and she called me at work asking what to do. He doesn’t give a damn and that’s that.

Her reply was very eloquent, “If you or anyone else can’t handle that, then you are the psychological screw up. I tell it like it is. He has time for his Bible studies, to distribute Gideon Bibles in Motels, has time to sit around and blow off his daughter while she’s suffering. And I’m divorced because I have a brain and don’t put up with this kind of crap! You’d better block me because I’m going to litter your inbox with TRUTH! So if you hate TRUTH, then hate me.

People may feel the need to be very sorry for this person. Personally I had no love nor hate available for her. I saw a dangerous person capable of a different kind of harm, as she continued.

BTW, my daughter is 18. She talks about how her dad treats her poorly. Yes, I confirm it so she doesn’t wind up picking up the same kind of man, a selfish, selfish, selfish man who is a major hypocrite. Puts on the airs at church and treats people badly at home. You would be contributing to the psychological screwing by saying I should defend his behavior. Shame on you!!!!!!!! Maybe you like hypocrites? Yes? Put on the airs of holier than thou, eradicating truth? You’d better believe I’m putting it on Facebook. I’m sick of the people who think he’s so holy when he doesn’t give a shit about his own kids. He deserves far worse!

But, but…

You sound like a sorry excuse for a man. I bet your tango dancing sucks…

But, but…

And clearly if you have kids, you must not give a damn about them like my ex doesn’t give a damn about her. Go continue to abuse women… I’ll be sure to warn my tango friends about your abusiveness in case you wind up in their tango community.

And that my friends, is how psychotic and hysterical words that have been repeated so many times in high school bathrooms all over the land, make their way into our sacred adult tango world. And that’s how character assassination begins.

Now, the words of a possible mentally unstable person are not as dangerous as those of the ones who willfully propagate innuendos and harmful gossip because they lack character and moral fortitude. So let’s be careful out there…

The weird hold   Leave a comment

The weird hold

By Alberto Paz
August 2012

The 21st century has witnessed a very curious phenomenon apparently intended to transform the experience of the Argentine tango by waging a frontal attack on one of its fundamental elements, the embrace. The mythical abrazo has fallen victim of fashion.  A new look to the dance, the weird hold,  has invaded dance floors around the world.

Contrary to what the new generation of dancers might have been led to believe, good teachers will always explain to their students from the first tango lesson,  that the tango begins and ends with the embrace. And that the tango is danced connected from and inside the embrace.  That is something not open for discussion.

Recently a former student and wonderful dancer from the early days made a rare appearance at the local milonga. After a while she asked with a perplexed look, “What’s with the weird way these women are holding the men?” I had seen that change in newer dancers for a couple of years now, but her question got me thinking again.

Argentine teacher Sol Alzamora, answering a similar question about the weird hold, pointed out in a workshop held recently in Los Angeles that “this is a fad, but not a good way for the woman to embrace. It closes off the shoulder and prevents the woman’s disassociation when she needs it.2

Julio Duplaá, veteran milonguero and organizer of the milonga at Club Sin Rumbo in Buenos Aires, was heard in a radio interview complaining about the abundance of boleos and kicks on the dance floors, and the new way to hold that has become fashionable among young women. “People, let’s respect the embrace. I don’t know why the girls grab you by the waist, or hang their arm from your shoulder, my God, you poor guys!!

There is a blog named Maldito Tango hosted in daily newspaper La Nacion‘s website where the topic has been discussed openly under headings such as Hold me well, that this is not flamenco, and I won’t dance you, never again.3

On the subject of the weird hold, a reader wrote that “it completely blocks the man’s right shoulder, it destroys it, and it limits the man’s dancing possibilities. The embrace,” he adds, “should have the feeling of a hug between friends who like each other. It must provide mutual containment, but not become a trap or a squeeze.” The general view in this blog seems to be that women are often judged harshly by the way they embrace. They agree that it is difficult to conform to all audiences. They give advice to women, “The ladies must be very careful not to hang from their partners, not to bury their heads like a “turtle” and not to fall on the guy as a resting cow. It is not advisable to place your hand on the gentleman‘s nape because this can be seen as a sign of “ownership” inelegant for a salon dance.” Some female dancers agree but add that worse things can be seen, “if the hug is flabby, or cold, the men will also complain.”

Well known artist Mariano Chicho Frúmboli, was asked about the women who hold the men by the love handles or placing their hand on the guy’s kidney. In a Yogi Berra fashion, Chicho prefaces his answers on controversial topics with, “I think I’m among the first to be in favor of freedom in the tango and its movement, whatever its expression, as long as the essentials are respected.

I could say,” he says, “that the women that touch you ‘there’ may be ‘franeleras’ like the hundreds of guys who’ve done it for many years, still do it and will continue doing it.” The jargon ‘franelera‘ describes a woman who teases men by repeating a provocative conduct, like stroking arms, legs and hands causing arousal, without the intention of following through because that’s the way they are.

But,” he adds, “I could also say that it is part of a trend, as it once was Geraldine’s personal embrace, Tete’s stacking or apilado embrace, the tango nuevo and those things that fade in the crowd after a while, and that luckily, are movements, postures, personal attitudes that belong to those who felt that way, really.

Chicho offers a third, perhaps more complex response to the weird holding conundrum. He says that the fad may have come from Europe, recalling that in the early 2000’s he saw in Paris a couple of guys he believes were the first ones to lower their right hands almost below the woman’s waist. A few years later the hand of the man holding the woman’s hand as if holding a “tray” become a style (if we can call it that way) very popular at the dreadful tango “Marathons”. So Chicho concludes that, the man’s hand holding a tray, plus the man’s hand almost touching below the waist of the woman, plus the woman’s hand touching the lungs, kidneys and love handles of the man are likely styles concocted in Europe and brought to Buenos Aires by the tango tourism boom of recent years.

Chicho concludes putting the blames squarely “in the lack of accountability of many professors and teachers who teach this type of tango hold only a few months after taking their first class. Without knowing anything about history, its traditions and the great dancers, they are giving seminars on “dynamic energy” teaching a deformed “style,” that’s far removed from what we know as Tango. At the end Chicho leaves a question in the air, “Who are we to criticize, judge and marginalize?” and a piece of advice, Guys, let’s take a step forward and do something for the tango … let’s not criticize but be generous, let’s teach and share essentially what we learned to save the tango from dying.”

Teaching and Sharing

The job of a teacher is not to judge or engage in subjective arguments about fads or to use fads as a teaching tool. A teacher has to be able to open minds by explaining, demonstrating and inspiring with logic and tangible evidence. A tango teacher should know and be able to teach that there is one fundamental reason for the way we need to embrace to dance Argentine tango. That reason is to establish points of contact between the dancers to allow the body language communication so essential for tango improvisation, the hallmark of Argentine tango dancing at the social level.

Style follows technique, and good dancers develop a personal style only after acquiring solid technique. What identifies people as tango dancers is the unique way they dance Argentine tango: with a higher-than-average degree of closeness. Tango is the ultimate contact dance.

When asked why they hold the men instead of embracing, some women said that a friend or a teacher told them to put their arms like that. None was able to give a reason for the middle finger poking on the man’s back or for shooting their elbows up and out, while others reacted with a blank stare as if not understanding the nature of the question. What is even more perplexing is that female tango dancers who pay such a detailed attention to their footwork and take pride in their footwear, don’t seem to mind the awkward look their upper bodies have when their hand is flat holding the man and their elbow is shooting out and/or up. It is possible that nobody has ever taught them the fundamental and important techniques required for embracing while dancing tango.

Experience has proven that a woman dancer can tell and appreciate the difference between a man who knows how to embrace her and one who just holds her with an open hand and pressing fingers on her right lung . Evidence shows that lots of men don’t have that same sense of appreciation, are afraid to request a proper embrace, or just come to dance with ulterior motives.

When the first generation of dancers in North America fell in love with the tango, we were mesmerized by the look of the dance. We learned that it was the direct result of the environment in which the dance had been developed. Since the late nineteen thirties tango dancing had always been danced in close quarters, in crowded salons where couples were constrained to a space that had the shape of a traveling cylinder. As they danced, each couple carried their own personal space around a very crowded dance floor. For people who have not danced in an urban place with hundreds of couples sharing the floor, it is difficult to wrap around the concept of dancing close, occupying just the space needed by the embraced bodies, and keeping the elbows tucked in and down so they don’t pose a hazard to other dancers. The claim of dancing the authentic Argentine tango, should be anchored very clearly on these images, even if there is nobody else on the dance floor.

There is another fundamental aspect of tango dancing we all learned in the early stages of development that has been gradually forgotten, misrepresented, or mistakenly equated to the lead and follow aspect of ballroom dances. Tango is not a lead and follow dance. When the man embraces properly, the woman moves when the man moves by virtue of her body being in the embrace. To the trained eye is very easy to spot people who dance tango as if it was another lead and follow dance. The time it takes to process a lead in order to follow makes them dance off the music. Some say that alternative music serves as a palliative for the frustration of being unable to dance the rich nuances of tango composed for tango dancing. So, what makes good tango dancers dance to the music that was composed for dancing tango?

Whole new generations of tango dancers learn to dance tango without the benefit of understanding or even knowing the existence of the ever-important concept of La marca, the way the man sets the pace and indicates where and when the woman’s free foot created a new axis for her body.1

There is not a direct and accurate translation of the Spanish verb marcar, as it relates to dancing.  It is definitely not  the action of tagging, branding, or stamping. The closest description of marcar is, setting the pace. La marca, is a language that is unique to the tango dance. It’s a corporal communication between the dancers that carries the beat and rhythm of the music from the loudspeakers into their bodies and on to the dance floor.

Using this corporal communication, the person playing the role of the “man” also marks where and when the  free foot of the person playing the role of the “woman” lands on the floor. This can be a radical concept for the thousands of followers all over the world who carry their weight on the rear foot in order to follow, as opposed to experienced tango dancers who carry their weight on the front foot closest to the man in order to allow the man’s mark to place their free foot on the ground when her body moves within the boundaries of the embrace. This is provocative and challenging knowledge that empowers tango dancers.

Good posture and the dynamics of the embrace are very important to learn, understand and use the concept of la marca, for the ultimate thrill of tango dancing, which is tango improvisation. In adopting the dancing posture, the man encircles the woman with his right arm, creating a wedge space where she will dance. The entire left side of her body has contact with the right side of his body. The embrace serves the purpose of establishing five essential points of contact.

It helps if the shoulders are relaxed because that keeps the elbows down. As the dancers stand facing each other, the woman indicates that she’s ready to  be embraced by slightly separating her left arm from her body. Then the man begins to embrace by extending his right arm forward and straight down until the inside of his forearm makes firm contact with the side of the woman’s body, regardless of her height. This will allow the man to mark the woman’s movements to his right as she dances into this right  arm, and to his left when he moves forward pressing against the side of her body.

Next, the man needs to bend his lower (right) arm from the elbow and encircle the woman just above her waist, loosening the right shoulder to reach without bending. He can adjust for the woman’s height by raising or lowering his lower arm from the elbow so that his right hand can rest horizontally on the right side of her back, keeping his fingers relaxed and closed. The placement of his lower arm and right hand is important to mark the woman’s change of directions often called forward  and back ochos.

Once the man has embraced her with his right arm, the woman loosens up her left shoulder to reach forward, raising her left arm, and placing the inside portion of her left upper arm triceps firmly resting against any part of the man’s encircling arm. Make sure you understand that this point of contact is the upper arm triceps against the man’s arm. This will allow the woman to receive the mark for the right foot by the action of the man’s right arm on her left shoulder.

Finally, the woman needs to rest her hand with her fingers closed anywhere along the shoulder line of the man, keeping the elbow down and always below the level of the left hand. Let’s repeat this, the left elbow must be lower than the left hand, regardless of where on the shoulder line the hands rests.  See the composite picture below for a variety of ways to place the left hand to complete the embrace.

It is the woman who determines what is close enough. If need be, the woman can scoop her hand under the man’s biceps and hold it like a small pocketbook. She can also rest her left hand on the man’s shoulder or upper arm or even behind his neck. The hand must be relaxed, with the fingers closed. No banana bunch, fingering or karate chop hands. There shouldn’t be any tension in the hand placed on the man’s body. The man should barely be aware of the woman’s left hand.

On the open side of the embrace, the man and the woman hold hands with their arms forming a double V. This happens as the man raises his upper left arm to his left pointing his lower left arm up toward his partner, to form his V, keeping his shoulder relaxed and pointing his elbow down.

The woman extends her right arm forward and up forming a V with her elbow pointing down not out, resting her right palm down on the gentleman’s palm.
The man closes his fingers around the lady’s hand gently, and slightly turn his wrist inward to create a slight tension between his palm and his partner’s palm.

This is not a handshake but a soft connection. There should be no squeezing or gripping. The open side of the embrace must not used for balance or to avoid falling off axis! If dancers approach the embrace in this fashion, any subtle motion of the man’s upper body will be felt very clearly by the woman, and her upper body will move accordingly. Since feet follow the body, dynamic interactions of the upper bodies result in a visually pleasant and smooth displacement of the dancing couple. There should never be any space between the man’s right arm and the woman’s left arm.

We think that embracing properly establishing points of contact is part of the “pre-flight” checklist that insures connection and the raises the expectation of a good dance. It does become the centerpiece of good posture, and promotes the much touted shared intimacy of the tango. However, very tempting as it may be to be lured by the subjective, romantic, and emotional qualities of a good embrace, we must be fully aware of the essential techniques regarding how to embrace when it comes time to dance the tango.

It takes two to provide the five points of contact, and it takes two to understand the dynamics of moving as one, now, with the man assuming the responsibility for circulating and the woman embellishing the ride. None of this is possible or even an option unless men are made aware of the existence of and the importance of learning the concept of La marca1. Unless they learn how to embrace to establish points of contacts, and are not afraid to move their bodies around the floor carrying women in their arms, rather than being concerned with the motion of their feet. When men embrace women, they must be aware that they are first and foremost protecting them with their bodies, from out control dancers. More than involvement, it requires commitment.

Freed from the misguided idea of following, female tango dancers can concentrate on honing skills such as always carrying their weight on one leg, establishing an axis, and using the free leg to receive her body when the man moves her inside his embrace. Perfecting the free leg extension forward, backward and laterally, feeling comfortable changing axis, and always keeping her weight on the leading foot closer to the man are probably the most important attributes tango dancing women should look forward to perfect. The hallmark of a female tango dancer is never having both feet on the ground. This is a phenomenal declaration of confidence on the skills of their males counterparts, that’s why in tango we trust. As men, we trust that our right arm and shoulder will not be compromised, blocked, or disabled by a hold that limits our dancing possibilities. We trust that a woman’s ability to disassociate her upper and lower body, to hold her axis without falling, and to embellish without interfering with the dance, will not be sacrificed be holding in a weird way.

One thing for certain is that the pure essence of the Argentine tango we dance at the social level requires commitment, effort and understanding by both men and women of the essential elements that define what we dance, Argentine tango. That’s probably the most profound meaning of “it takes two to tango.”


1. Gotta Tango by Alberto Paz and Valorie Hart
2. Put Your Arm on My Shoulders a Facebook group
3. El Abrazo Femenino a Debate by Marina Gambier, Maldito Tango Blog

Posted August 11, 2012 by Alberto & Valorie in EDITORIAL

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The only one missing is the bearded lady   Leave a comment

The only one missing is the bearded lady

“Elephants, clowns and dancers, tamers, camels and polar seals, but have no doubt that the bearded lady is the one who sweats to see the circus succeed.”

The bearded lady, at least until early in the twentieth century, earned her daily bread in traveling circuses that went from town to town. Drums and rattles introduced her with: Come, have fun, marvel! Learn about the misfortunes and miseries of our monsters. Enjoy the authentic, genuine, the amazing bearded lady, and if you dare, for a pair of coins you can touch her beard and talk to her.

Alongside the contortionist who played the violin with his foot and the juggler who was doing stunts on horseback, the bearded lady was the cornerstone of a classical circus that smelled of elephant dung and urine of a tiger. She embodied the horror, suspense and monstrosity, she was the main attraction of the circus. The public, watching the stellar show, covered their mouths and eyes, filling the tent with voices of admiration and awe: Ah …Oh …! Yeah…!

Early in the twenty first century, more people outside of Argentina than inside of Argentina are dancing the tango. Those who are not natives of Argentina are confronted with a culture that is not their own, and some are trying to make it a meaningful experience. Regardless of nationality, the tango lifestyle requires great effort and commitment. It is difficult to learn to dance, to learn the music, and to socialize. People should be aware of those who, while outwardly banging the drum for the Argentine dancers, devise ways to remove most things Argentine, the essence that once nourished them. The great majority may not be aware of what they are doing, so a friendly reminder might help.

There is a high standard for dancing Argentine tango. While it is a dance of the people and for the people, it has a level of difficulty that must be reckoned with. There is a structure of the dance from whence improvisation is created. There is a learning curve and a developmental curve that comes from putting in hours that lead to weeks that lead to years of taking classes and dancing socially. Even the uninitiated eye of a newcomer can look at a room full of tango dancers and see various levels of ability. Most important is that those who dance Argentine tango hold themselves to their own standards of excellence. The judgment of self is the most rigorous!

In the world of Argentine tango, sometimes it seems that there are more social dance “teachers” than students and dancers. The odds for a new woman showing up at a tango dance party and being given express tango lessons right on the floor are very high. Nobody can dare tell her how unsightly are her open legs being dragged around the floor by a selfish “teacher.” Why mediocre to average dancers renounce to take the long road to improvement in order to become express teachers of unaware newcomers? Besides the backhanded disrespect for established teachers, some experts on human behavior may suggest that creating a layer of really bad dancers is a way to elevate mediocre to average dancers to a higher perceived level of proficiency.

As newcomers, one of the first lessons we all received for free was the suggestion to going to Buenos Aires, sitting at the milongas and watch for weeks at a time. Believe it or not, we did. Many like us did. The thrill of being able to step on a dance floor like Almagro and Sunderland for the first time, knowing what to do, is indescribable. So, when we go to a milonga, we still expect to be the ones dancing, and the visitors and newcomers to sit and watch. We don’t expect to see mediocre to average dancers taking new women to a dark corner of the room to “teach” them the “advanced” leg wrap taught before the milonga.

As a matter of fact, dancers with good mileage under their feet should expect to be able to move around the floor without having their path blocked by clumsiness and verbal “teaching.” They should expect not to fear for their safety because some clown practices You Tube videos on the floor using some woman as a prop. We would advise women in that situation not to smile as they’re made to look their worse.

Above all, we suggest to new, mediocre, and average dancers to respect the tolerance, effort and dedication of the milonga hosts, who see the attendance to their milonga dropping week after week as the number of circus acts increase infringing into the dancing expectations of those who knowing how to dance, come to dance.

Photo courtesy of Universal Studios, Salma Hayek as Madame Truska

Posted November 14, 2011 by Alberto & Valorie in EDITORIAL, HUMOR

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The truth, the whole truth   Leave a comment

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read the announcement of the second launch of Hugo Lamas and Enrique Binda's book "Tango in the Buenos Aires society, 1880 -1920.” Actually it said “El Tango en la Sociedad Porteña, 1880-1920” because the book is written in Spanish, which may have been the reason why Mr. Farris Thompson left it out of his profuse bibliography in his fairy tale book about the way the tango was stolen from the black population in mid nineteenth century Buenos Aires.

What makes Tango in the Buenos Aires society, 1880 -1920 unique is that it is a non stop debunking machine that eats and spits just about every white lie, tall tale, and stereotype that have passed as “tango history in every book ever written on the subject since the beginning of the twentieth century. Including the tales about the mythical tango of the Afro Argentines. And the dancing at the bordellos, and the men dancing with each other…

The book was first published on November 1, 1998 and it almost immediately disappeared from the book shelves. Hugo Lamas is the pseudonym of Hugo Alberto Vainikoff. He was a teacher and a historical researcher. With his wife, Julia Navarro and a group of friends founded in 1970 the magazine “Tango Buenos Aires.” He passed away in 1999, one year after the book’s first publication. Norberto Enrique Binda (1946) is a civil engineer but is strongly associated with the tango. He’s a collector of original 78 rpm records prior to 1935, a researcher and a historian. He has contributed articles in various publications and Internet forums on the subject. Since 1970 he is Member of the National Academy of Tango and its Board of Directors.

We became aware of the book during our Katrina exile in Buenos Aires in 2005 reading old issues of B.A. Tango. In one editorial Tito Palumbo had written about the book and predicted how it was going to shake up the tango establishment bringing down many statues built with mud pedestals. The expression conveys its message of exposing false prophets and snake oil salesmen better in the original jargon.

When Katrina hit New Orleans on August 29, 2005, we were teaching in Tallahassee,FL and ended up teaching our way around the country and finally in Buenos Aires for four months before we could return to find out what was left of our lives. The aftermath of the hurricane, the breaching of the levees, and the flooding of the city altered the plans we had to shoot the video for the DVD of our book Gotta Tango.

A friend gave us an old Dell laptop and the publisher emailed us the manuscript of the book so we could continue working on minor details before publication. That was the state of things when I read Palumbo’s review of the book that was relaunched on Saturday, July 30, 2011 at “La Manufactura Papelera.”

We’ve always found great fortune in knowing people in low places, so after verifying the no availability of the book, we called on upon some people who called some people who asked us to meet some people at an apartment on Calle Parana. I still feel the tingling that I experienced when I found a single copy buried deep in the bottom of a shelf. That night I didn’t sleep pouring over the pages of a very complicated book to read because of its plain narrative style. The authors use verbal language, almost conversational, presenting documentation and researching their parts in the most exhaustive way. In developing the work related to the central theme emerge sociological, theatrical, literary, musical, biographical, aesthetic, and testimonial connotations, revealing of that time.

They write that in tango circles there is a need to clarify confusing aspects and periods, particularly prior to the nineteen twenties. But since to do that requires laborious work nobody wants to do the required investigation, at least seriously. The existing literature does not answer to any aspect of the matter, and it is not based on verifiable documentation. It pretends to teach about unlikely events, repeated at will by the authors because of a lack of rigorous and methodical investigation of the subject matter.

All scientific work must contain a body of verifiable documentary. In the absence of that, not only it loses its purpose, but it becomes suspect of copying from others: such is the case of the infamous “book from books.”

That is what we had done in the first three chapters of our manuscript. Like everyone else who has written about tango in the last fifteen years, we had repeated like fairground parrots the same old cliches, tall tales, and exotic lies that has percolated around the tango lore. What Katrina did to New Orleans and our four months in exile played a fundamental role in the way our book went through an epiphany of sorts. We had to start all over again, we decided. Our publisher agreed grudgingly, and the rewrite of Gotta Tango began in earnest.

When Gotta Tango finally was released for publication in November of 2007, we were very proud of being the first ones to have written about tango history with honesty, accuracy, and verifiable information.

We acknowledged our deepest gratitude and respect to Hugo Lamas and Enrique Binda for their formidable and well-researched book El Tango en la Sociedad Porteña, which put within our reach a verifiable and contemporary documentation that narrates a period of the history of tango from 1880 to 1920 where bibliography did not exist before.

As another anniversary of Katrina approaches, we count our blessings for the many things that have guided our destinies, thank the thousand of anonymous readers of our book, and join the celebration of the Lamas and Binda families for having gotten a second chance to set people free with the truth.

Posted August 3, 2011 by Alberto & Valorie in EDITORIAL

BUENOS AIRES SR. HIGH   Leave a comment

The competition and envy of the women
By Deby Novitz
It starts in childhood with mothers being jealous of the relationship their daughters have with their fathers. I know. My mother was very jealous of the relationship I had with my dad. She made no bones about it.It gets passed on unless, the child grows up and deals with it.I have always been competitive with one person in my life and that is me. I have always used myself as the meter to do better. Have I ever been competitive with other women? Sure, in the workplace. In relationships with men? No. What for? It seemed futile.I was lucky I realize in many ways to live in the Bay Area. I feel now that I lived in a microcosm in many ways that probably was not representative of the real world. The majority of my time in the Bay Area was spent in technology and around nerds and technoids. The Bay Area in general is a very tolerant place to live.Living in Argentina has opened my eyes to experiences I never dreamed of. Although I considered myself street savvy, I have walked into situations completely blind. The competition between women here is fierce. At times it can be a blood bath. The cat fights are endless. You need to know who really are your friends, and even then, you cannot always be sure.

I have had dates here with men who talk about their daughters as though they are their lovers or their wives. It is nauseating or a little weird. They interrupt dates to take phone calls from their daughters or worse call them. Like dude, you can’t wait to talk to her? You are on a date with me, hello. But they do. They spend all their free time with their daughters, not their sons. They take them shopping, they go to lunch with them, movies.

This being the foundation, it is no wonder, women fight in combat here over the men. They are always looking for that attention. Sure it happens all over the world. I don’t deny that. However, here it is more noticeable. You have the “Comehombres“, the women who will destroy a relationship, just to destroy it. They don’t want your man, they just don’t want you to be happy. They will go after your man behind your back until your relationship is destroyed.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that my “amiga” was not my amiga. She was poisoning the well or ruining my relationship with my then boyfriend. My Spanish was not that good then. She would fill his head with nonsense and I was unable to defend myself. He began to lie, became hostile towards me. The relationship became unbearable. I ended it. I had too much self esteem. I confronted both of them. Denial of course. She went on to ruin more relations and my ex, well, he felt stupid for ruining ours. He never apologized. Yet he could not understand why I would not come crawling back.

I have had other so called “amigas” who made it a habit to try and sleep with the boyfriends and husbands of as many women as they could, including those of their friend’s. I was appalled. I would listen as they would justify and invent stories to the circumstances. Some would try to make it public through our tango community as a badge.

I would think silently how low their self-esteem must be to do this. I suppose in their twisted mind they think they are desirable stealing the man of another woman publicly. It is a form of competition and maybe self-hatred, who knows.

I began to realize that whenever I introduced a man I was dating to friend of mine he would disappear. I chalked it up to the way things are here. Then a man I had been dating for awhile stopped calling me. It seemed weird. He stopped answering my calls and my texts. It wasn’t like we were in love but we had a nice friendship. It was strange.

I ran into a mutual friend of ours and finally after a few glasses of champagne he told me. My “amiga” made several advances and one night my special friend took her up on it. He was too ashamed to face me after that. Obviously no relationship or friendship was special enough to this friend, since I realized that she was going after all my men. Chau amiga, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

When I talk to my other women friends, they commiserate. Not all women here are this way. It is probably more so in the tango. Yesterday a friend called to tell me the latest. A women is so jealous of me she is telling the men who dance with me I have AIDS. I am amazed.

She watches me dance and sees the men who dance with me. I had begun to suspect she was doing something. She would go sit at their tables and talk to them. Some of them would never dance with me again. I would wonder, but not enough to ask or talk to them. Some of them didn’t even want to greet me anymore.

It blows me away that someone could be so consumed with jealousy they could do something like that. She has many many more years in the milongas here than I do. That is no reason to spew ugly gossip. If that is the only way you can get a dance, then you are pathetic as a person. This is the side of the tango the tourists do not experience.

When I wrote my blog post about the men, several of my guy friends called me and told me it was not fair, I needed to write about the women. “They are psycho.” said one of my friends. “I refuse to date them, they are a bunch of jealous maniacs.” said another. I was a little put off by their comments because I have some really great women friends here. But I understand what my friends were saying.

When you come from North American culture these kinds of games take you back a little. They seem so juvenile. More like what I did when I was in junior high school, not now as an adult. Calling people names, doing things behind people’s backs to get their boyfriend. Please, how old are we? I thought we got past all this. No wonder I am still single…happily and without jealousy and AIDS. Thank you.

Reprinted with permission of TangoSpam:La Vida Con Deby
The not so secret life of an American woman in Buenos Aires. In 2004 she sold everything she owned to move to Buenos Aires Argentina. She went from being a high powered computer geek to a tango dancing bed and breakfast owner and English teacher. Now she is in her new incarnation as a clothing designer for women selling her original designs in Palermo Soho in Plaza Serrano.

Posted August 2, 2011 by Alberto & Valorie in EDITORIAL, GUESTS


Ernesto Sábato (born 1911), novelist and essayist, one of Argentina’s most challenging 20th-century intellectuals, once said,
“To deny Argentine nationality to the tango is an act so pathetically suicidal as to deny the existence of Buenos Aires.”

Who would ever put into doubt the legitimacy of the origin of the tango? The Argentine detractors of tango, that’s who.

During the first half of the twentieth century, some prestigious Argentine writers dedicated themselves to discredit the tango, to deny its origin or to reject it. Because of their prestige or the excellent positions they occupied, their opinions were echoed in some national and foreign newspapers, besides being exposed in lectures and chats or being expressed in their books. Many of the lies that have made it into the lore of the tango can be attributed to the detractors of the tango.

For example, Ezequiel Martinez Estrada (1885-1964), originally from rural Argentina, established a reputation as a poet; he also published a few short essays. In 1921 he married the Italian-born artist Agustina Morriconi, who definitely subordinated her career and unquestioned talents to his; she was, by all accounts, the muse of much of his poetry. Beginning in 1924, Martínez Estrada taught literature at the Colegio Nacional of the Universidad Nacional de La Plata. He would continue this for decades, losing the job only when Juan Domingo Perón rose to power in 1945 (and returning briefly after Perón fell from power in 1956).

In 1933, responding to the 1930 military coup by José Félix Uriburu, Martínez Estrada published Radiografía de la pampa (X-ray of the pampa), the first of a series of rather pessimistic sociological-psychological-historical essays that would make his reputation. It is in the context of that publication that he wrote,

“The tango, the music of the night, saddens these places of diversion [the cabaret], because in its rhythm brings reminiscences of the abject past, and the sophisticated voices of the refused life. It was born at the end of the workday of the black uprooted from his land and enslaved in the tobacco, sugar and coffee plantations. The tango encompasses in its cadences the slavery and the will to sink in the flesh its own fatigue, until turning it into pleasure.”

It is important to clarify that the slaves in Argentina were always used in domestic chores and not in plantations. Argentina never had coffee plantations. Martinez Estrada seemed to have forgotten that slavery was abolished in 1813, long before the existence of the tango. Even more important is that in 1933, the tango had already undergone a major evolutionary process under the inspiration of Julio De Caro, and that the upper class, inspired by the success of the tango in Paris, had built the cabarets where the tango was being danced, ten years earlier.

Like many detractors of the tango Martinez Estrada resorted to the vilest of lies, the use of racial stereotypes from a time before he was born to deny the tango its national identity and roots.

TIME FOR RESOLUTIONS   Leave a comment

Another year went by, and the new year is moving in at a frightening speed. If history repeats itself, we are now well into the second half of another one of tango’s forty-years cycles. Which means it might be downhill from here on. We’d like to say it ain’t so but who are we to tamper with time and fate?

The current cycle in tango’s reemergence as a worldwide attraction, began roughly in the 1980’s, rising up from the ashes of tango’s decline at the end of its prior forty years cycle, which peaked during the Golden Years. The musical Tango Argentino is credited with getting the current cycle going, and soon after, city after city, country after country, new generations of people began to fall under the spell of the tango and its power to bring people together. Same as before, at first there was a wave of romanticism, militancy and a genuine appreciation of the priceless contribution of the elder dancers from the previous cycle. Then the music of the Golden Years became available on CDs, and gradually displaced the madness and pretentious sounds of a tango that didn’t want to sound like a tango but demanded to be recognized as tango.

Eventually, as the dance reached this point, it also became the subject of divisiveness as opportunism and a desire for instant gratification unleashed an entire new cadre of “promoters, teachers and musicians” proselitizing entire communities. Even those, who intently chose to ignore the deep roots, solid trunk and rich sap which constitutes the body of tango traditions, have fallen under the inexorable truisms recorded in hundreds of lyrics by dozens of well known authors. That is perhaps, why we are not surprised, much less disappointed, at the freelance insensitivity, selfishness, chicanery and unethical behavior coexisting alongside mutual respect, bonding friendships, camaraderie and sincerity.

Just in case the end is near, if we are to believe that the tango indeed rises and falls in forty year cycles, it behooves us to make some resolutions far and beyond the ending of the Eight Count Basics. Over the last couple of years, this publication has failed to adhere to its self-imposed monthly schedule. Blame it on the traveling, blame it on the teaching, blame it on the dancing, blame it on the enjoyment of a new home base and blame it on a desire it to do it all without being able to stretch the twenty-four hours constraint of a given day.

Rather than trying to delude ourselves into believing that the world of tango needs us to do it all, we want to focus on the areas which we enjoy at being at our best. Teaching and dancing are at the top of our list. Creating opportunities for others to share the fruits of our teaching and partake in the enjoyment of dancing together, follows right in line.

Although writing has been part of our contribution to educate, the time and costs involved in putting out this publication are excessively inefficient in achieving its original purposes. The creative juices of an artist can not be turned on and off at will, so as inspiration strikes, a couple of book projects may now have a chance to be brought from the back burner to fruition, along with an largely overdue series of instructional videotapes.

Even if we are to be moving into a down cycle now, enjoying this moment and this tango should have the effect of riding the wave so we can be ready and full of experiences should a new cycle begin in the foreseeable future.

Posted December 21, 2002 by Alberto & Valorie in EDITORIAL

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