Tango is not only a fascinating dance, but also a fascinating culture, idea, lifestyle, and philosophy. In many ways, tango is a metaphor of life. The pursuit of tango is the pursuit of connection, love, beauty, harmony and humanity, i.e., an idealism that is not consistent with the dehumanizing reality of the modern world. The world divides us as individuals, but tango unites us as a species. In tango we are not individualists, feminists, nationalists, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, etc., but interconnected and interdependent members of the human family. We are humanists. Tango calls us to tear down the walls, to build bridges, and to regain humanity through connection, cooperation and compromise. If you share this conviction, please join the conversation and let your voice be heard, which is urgently needed and long overdue.

Together we can awaken the world.




October 1, 2017

The Issues on Cabeceo


Last week I went to En Tu Abrazo - Encuentro at Grand Geneva, Wisconsin, a mesmeric event through which the organizers, Ray Barbosa and Richard Miller, pushed the Midwest tango to a new height. The event was well organized, with an intimate and friendly environment governed by milonga codes, like-minded and experienced dancers, excellent DJs, golden age music, close embrace, and high quality dancing, all reminiscent of a Buenos Aires milonga.

The venue was a rectangular room with fixed seats. Men and women were seated separately on the opposite sides of the room, so they had to use cabeceo to invite partners. This arrangement created a coherent atmosphere as the participants had to pay attention to each other and be emotionally engaged even before the dance started.

But, using cabeceo from a distance is proven to be a challenging task. First, the woman I try to invite is sitting among other women who may also want to dance with me. Second, when two or more women respond to my cabeceo, how do I make them know whom exactly I am inviting? Third, if two men nod at the same woman, how can either man tell that she is responding to him and not the other? Finally, her response may be so subtle that it could be overlooked.

Perhaps due to cabeceo is still a relatively new skill to a lot of us, I made more mistakes in this event than I have ever made in Buenos Aires, even with such an experienced crowd. I learned later that someone had responded to my cabeceo, but I failed to recognize. In another case I walked to a woman who did not respond to my cabeceo, but I thought she did. There was also a case in which the woman who accepted my cabeceo did not look at me as I was walking towards her, and I ended up danced with the woman next to her who kept her eyes on me. Two times I walked to someone only to find that they had accepted other's invitation. There were also occasions two women stood up when I reached their table, both thought they were the one I was inviting.

In retrospect, I believe I should make my cabeceo more conspicuous and unambiguous. I should be more aware that a subtle cabeceo is difficult to detect from a distance. When there could be confusions, I should make sure that all involved parties knew exactly whom I was inviting. I should turn around to see if there were another man communicating with the same woman. I should stand up to make eye contact with the woman sitting behind other women. I should move closer to the woman sitting far away from me before cabeceoing her. When walking to a woman, I should stare at her exclusively and avoid making eye contact with another woman to avoid confusing both.

On the women's part there were also improvements that could be made. I must say that in the milongas of Buenos Aires most portena women respond to cabeceo quiet differently from most women in this country. Their facial expression is more expressive and unmistakable. If they are not sure about my cabeceo, they would make gestures to let me know they need more information, such as tilting their head, leaning sideways to let me see them more clearly, looking around to see if someone else is responding to me, standing up if they are behind others, pointing at themselves with a questioning facial expression, or using lip or sign language to communicate with me, etc. An Argentine woman would not look at me with a blank face, as many women in this country do, but would use facial expression and body language to convey her emotions. She would accept my cabeceo with joyful smile, nod, wink, bow, or other expressions to let me know she is delighted to dance with me. She would also stare at me intently when I walk towards her, so I know there is an unmistakable agreement between us. In other words, an Argentine woman is more proactive, which makes a huge difference because such openness and expressiveness could prevent errors not only by the two involved, but by the third party who may also be involved as well. Also, such enthusiasm would lead to a more intimate and satisfying dance. 

Here again we see the influence of culture on tango. (See Tango: Historical and Cultural Impacts.) We Americans have an exaggerated ego due to our individualist, feminist ideologies, which emphasize personal dignity, rights, liberty, individuality and independence. (See Tango and Individualism and  Femininity and Feminism in Tango (I).) Many are ashamed of showing dependence on others, or letting people know that they need others, or begging others for a dance, etc., which could lead some to seem aloof, cold, reserved, indifferent, arrogant and rude in the milongas. When doing cabeceo, the Americans tend to show less spontaneity and more self-esteem,  especially if they do not get the expected attention or response, whereas in Argentina people would take very different approaches in the same situation. For example, in Buenos Aires, a portena woman took the trouble to walk to my seat during the cortina to tell me she had been trying to cabeceo me, and she pointed to where she sat so I could cabeceo her later.

July 14, 2017

A Dance that Teaches People to Love


We use the word love to express many different feelings. To love a country is to feel deeply attached to the country. To love tango is to be fascinated by and addicted to the dance. To love a child is to adore the child. To love a friend is to appreciate and feel comfortable, agreeable and close to that friend. To love someone with superior intelligence, talent, character, or physical attributes is to hold great respect, admiration and reverence for that person. To love someone of the opposite gender is to be sexually attracted to and want to marry and have children with that person.

None of the above alone completely expresses the true meaning of love. True love is a combination of all these feelings. It is the deepest appreciation, attraction, attachment, admiration, adoration, veneration and affection for someone for whom you are willing to give up everything. True love is altruist. It has no ego and pride. It is selfless, kind, generous and patient. It trusts, surrenders, devotes, obeys, gives, supports, yields, tolerates, endures, forgives and protects - just like the way we treat each other in tango. Love, like tango, is a relationship in which each partner must do his/her best in order to bring out the best of the other. The synergy of love will cease if the interactions stop; therefore, it should not be taken for granted - as tango teaches us.

Another truth about love is: men and women have different expectations of love. Men are strong and goal-oriented. For men, love means to provide, support and defend - more in a physical than emotional sense perhaps, and that is also how men expect from love. A man cannot feel loved if he is not appreciated, respected and revered. Women, on the other hand, are more delicate and feeling-oriented. For women, love means being adored, pampered, protected, and particularly being romantically, adventurously and heroically pursued. A woman cannot feel loved if her fantasy and emotional needs are not met. In other words, men need to learn to be more sentimental, thoughtful and attentive in their relationship with women, and women need to learn to be more respectful, appreciative and agreeable in their relationship with men. Men and women are different, and they play different roles in life and tango. Learning tango helps us to understand each other's needs, to play our respective roles, to cultivate team spirit, and to achieve harmony through love, cooperation, accommodation and compromise. (See The Gender Roles in Tango.)

It needs to point out that, throughout human history, most relationships are not love-based, but need-based. Men and women have learned to love each other, because they need each other, and for the sake of their common happiness, they have no choice but love each other. Which is true in tango also. Like hatred, kindness is reciprocal. You do good to others and others will reciprocate the hospitality. In that sense, love is determined kindness, and the consequence of such efforts, as attested by tango. Before individualism and feminism brainwashed us with egocentric, selfish, resentful and hateful messages, that is what people do to each other throughout human history. (See The Spirit of Tango.)

The ability to love is God's best gift to the mankind, which makes us better husbands, wives, friends, coworkers, tango partners and citizens. Imagine a world in which people all love each other, in comparison to the world in which we live. (See Tango Is the Search of a Dream.) Love is not only a feeling, but also a skill that needs to be studied, taught and learned. Of all the skills essential to a healthy, functional, stable and harmonious society, love perhaps is the most important one. This is true in tango also. (See Tango Is a Relationship.)

Unfortunately, the American education completely ignores this. Our schools are dominated by capitalism, individualism and feminism that teach young men and women to be greed, individualistic, independent, self-seeking, strong-minded, disagreeable, competitive, and aggressive, i.e., everything that is opposite to love. The results are disastrous. According to an internal Department of Homeland Security report dated March 1, 2017, most foreign-born terrorists operating in the United States do not become radicalized until several years after entering the country. This means our own culture has contributed to the radicalization of the young minds. This culture is also the root cause of the dissension, disunity, extremism, hostility, polarization, antagonism, uncooperativeness and dysfunction in our governments, and the rapacity, competition, intolerance, hatred, tension, brokenness, divorce, crime and violence in our society today.

Nothing has done more harms to our society than narrow-minded radical ideologies that teach people to be greed, selfish, disagreeable, resentful, antagonistic and hateful. This country is desperately in need of love, and tango, a dance that teaches people to love. (See The Art of Love.)

June 13, 2017

Dancing to Rhythm and Melody in Milonguero Style


Rhythm - the duration and accents in music, characterized by interrupted, regular, steady and repeating beats - is the most essential element in music, which can exist without melody, as in the drumbeats of primitive music. Rhythm is what makes us tap and dance when listening to a piece of music - we dance to the pulses of the music.

But music is more than rhythm. It also has melody - the linear, coherent, fluid and sweet tones in music. Melody cannot exist without rhythm, but it adds emotion, sweetness and continuity to music. Melody is what causes our steps to become elegant, sentimental and lingering, as we try to express the beauty, emotion and fluidity of the melody.

Some tango music are more rhythmic, such as D'Arienzo's and Biagi's, which are easier to dance to. Others are more melodic, such as De Caro's and Pugliese's, which are more difficult to follow.

In social tango, the milonguero style is more rhythmic. This style focuses on the sensation and feeling caused by the motion of two intimately connected bodies. It suits to music that is more rhythmic. The simplicity and rhythm-generated feelings, often being described as intimate, comforting and soulful, are what make this style popular among feeling-oriented dancers.




On the other hand, the Villa Urquiza style is more melodic. This style is danced in a loose embrace, emphasizing the visual impression of the footwork. It suits to music that is more melodic. The style, often being described as fancy, stylish and beautiful, appeals to movement-oriented dancers despite its short on intimacy and soulfulness. (See The Styles of Tango.)




The milonguero style is the dominant style in Argentina, Uruguay, Span and Italy - perhaps due to the cultural ties between these countries. (See Tango: Historical and Cultural Impacts.) In recent years it also starts to win popularity in other parts of Europe, North America and Asia. The following video is a good representation of this style.




This clip has been used previously in this blog, so you probably have seen it. But for the purpose of explaining how the milonguero style is danced, I want to call your attention again to some fragments highlighted below.

17:24 - 19:33 (129 seconds)
This fragment is a classic example of how the milonguero style is danced. It is danced in simple and rhythmic steps. Pay attention to the rhythmic pattern used by the first couple. It sounds like: 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and, 5 6 7 and 8 9 10 and, or: slow and slow and slow and slow and, quick quick quick and quick quick quick and. The steps are simple, but the speed, direction and length of the steps are varied. Most steps are small, sometimes a big step weaves in, and rock step, forward step, back step, side step and turn are blended to make the choreography interesting.

As you can see, although simple, the dance is mesmeric. The woman obviously is intoxicated with it. She snugs in his arms and dances in complete agreement with him, totally comfortable with everything he leads her to do no matter how simple it is, and not acting in excess of her role to cause complication, noises and disharmony. Her steps are simple and inconspicuous; no adornment is made to impress. The attention is focused on the music and feelings. One can tell from her facial expression the power of such simple and rhythmic motions.

13:40 - 14:04 (24 seconds)
Here is another good example, also danced in rhythmic, simple and synchronized steps, focusing on the oneness of the union, not the performance of the individual.

If these are the representations of the milonguero style, then our tango, although danced in close embrace, is not the milonguero style. The tango that most Americans dance is too fancy, less rhythmic, and not synchronized. Even the music selections in our milongas are often too melodic, reflecting only our perception of tango.

I don't think myself, or even a milonguero, can dance the milonguero style with most women in this country, because achieving that degree of coherence takes a woman who is able to synchronize. (See Driving and Synchronization.) In order to dance as one body with the man, the woman has to overcome her independence, ego, habit of acting on her own, and desire to show off, etc., surrender to the man, and follow him unconditionally.

I mention this because many women in this country have a different philosophy. They do not buy the idea of surrender, obedience and submission. They are not comfortable with intimacy and simplicity. Their femininity, or gentle and quiet soul, as the Bible put it, has been corrupted by ideologies that encourage women to be rebellious, independent, disagreeable and aggressive. They only know how to be themselves, but don't know how to be one with another person. They try too hard to impress, but overlook the one thing that a woman must do well first in tango: to surrender. Consequently, they miss out the magic that tango can offer. 

3:30 - 3:43 (13 seconds) and 5:45 - 6:13 (28 seconds)
The milonguero style is a rhythmic dance, but it can also be danced melodically, as demonstrated in these two fragments. 

Tango songs played for dancing the milonguero style generally have lucid beats, accompanied by sentimental melodies. The beats are strong, steady and easy to follow. But sometimes the emotion takes over and the beats diminish or are hidden into the background. In such case, the dancers should adapt to the changing mood and dance melodically. Dancing to rhythm, the movement is vertical, forceful and interrupted. Dancing to melody, the movement becomes emotional, horizontal and continuous. Slow motion and pause are often used to suspend a step in order to match the lingering notes, or to wait for the next phrase to start. It is a moment of emotional display and exchange.

My personal take is that many women in this country do not follow melody well. When the beats fade and melody takes over, they feel lost. Many women don't know how to dance to melody and express emotions. There are certain palpable impatience and anxiety in their movements as the music tells them to slow down or wait, because they still struggle to catch the beats. Which is not surprising given the fact that most people are only taught to step on the beats and not trained to follow melody. But dancing to melody is an ability a tango dancer must have, especially if you are a woman, for melody represents and can better express femininity. (See The Gender Expression in Tango.) 

In short, the milonguero style is a rhythmic dance. It is designed to stir up sensations and feelings pertinent to the rhythmic motion of the two intimately connected bodies. It is danced in close embrace with simple, small and synchronized steps, and is fully enjoyed when the partners surrender to each other, put in their feelings, and move together as one unified body. The focus of the dancers is on the music, embrace and feelings rather than the steps. It is best danced to music that is rhythmic. Given the intimate nature of the style, it can also be danced to music that is melodic. But dancing to melody in the milonguero style is different from that in the Villa Urquiza style. The latter uses fancy and stylish steps, the former uses slow motion, suspension and pause to maintain its simplicity, synchronicity and soulfulness. As the milonguero style becomes increasingly popular in this country, we need to learn the correct way of dancing it in order to fully enjoy its magic power.






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May 10, 2017

The Gender Expression in Tango


Unlike in America where gender expression is deemed politically incorrect, in Argentina it is a cultural symbol, which is evident in many aspects of their life* and particularly in their dance.

In chacarera, for example, the man deliberately demonstrates his masculinity, as saying to the woman, "Look how strong I am!" And the woman deliberately displays her femininity, as saying to the man, "Am I beautiful enough for you?"






Such unconcealed gender expression is evident in their tango also.








For Argentinians, male strength and female beauty are positive traits that the two sexes use to allure each other. Masculinity and femininity are not sexist displays, but attractive features resulted from millions of years of natural selection, which allow the human species to sustain and flourish. Opposite, interdependent and complementary, men and women are created for each other. From their union comes children, family, society, and moral principles that hold the society together, such as love, fraternity, agreeableness, teamwork, role play, and cooperation. The sustenance, harmony and stability of the society would not be possible if men and women were not attracted to each other and loved each other. Therefore, gender expression is not a sign of social inequality. Rather, it is a binding force that strengthens the society.

Feminists only think of men and women as separate and independent individuals with conflicting self-interests, but fail to see them as a team in which each sex needs, depends on, supports and complements the other. Their proposition that "the history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man towards woman" is a rabid and untruthful claim. Human history is not a history of gender animosity. All men are sons of their mothers and brothers of their sisters, and all women are daughters of their fathers and sisters of their brothers, who love each other by nature. In fact, for a period much longer than the recorded history human society is matriarchal, and the love between men and women has been well documented throughout the recorded history as well. While inequality is a fact of life, it is more a common social issue than women's issue, and the solution to that is not to repudiate gender differences, gender roles and gender expression, or to incite hatred and antagonism, masculinize women, imitate men, reverse roles, assert women's independence, women's emancipation from family and women's self-reliance -- even in their sex life, and promote lesbianism and same-sex marriage, etc. The attempt to uproot and reconstruct the world according to radical ideas never has made the world better, as attested by the disastrous consequences we are facing now, because such wishful thinking is anti-nature and anti-human.** (See Tango and the Relationship of the Opposite Sexes.)

True solution lies in embracing gender differences, gender roles, gender expression, love and cooperation, which are nature's way to achieve unity and harmony in contradistinction to the arbitrary culture of individualism, feminism, animosity and antagonism. (See The World Needs a Different Philosophy.) Thanks to tango we have a living testimony of how that works. "Tango is based on the ideas that men and women are interdependent rather than independent, that masculinity and femininity complement rather than un-equalize the opposite sexes, that being a masculine male and a feminine female is attractive, beneficial and desirable, that the harmony of the two genders is arrived at through mutual submission and cooperation rather than confrontation and power struggle, and that love triumphs over hostility. While individualism and feminism focus on our individuality and independence, tango focuses on the partnership and oneness of the two. It asks us to be friendly, submissive, humble, adaptive, cooperative, agreeable and yielding. Tango proves that the two sexes can form a harmonious relationship by conforming to these values. Despite the challenges that tango faces in the West, it continues to exert positive influences on our societies, I believe, because unless we adopt its values, we are unable to fully enjoy the dance." (Femininity and Feminism in Tango (II))

Gender expression is important in tango also because the juxtaposition of opposite moods complementing each other is a marked feature of tango, which is heterosexual rather than homosexual in nature. Tango music has a rhythm that is lucid, strong, steady, forceful, or masculine, accompanied by a melody that is soft, beautiful, sentimental, fluid, or feminine. Dancing tango, you have to imagine that you are playing the music with your body. The man and the woman are different instruments. One is like the bandoneon, the other the violin. One is the passion of the drum, the other the beauty of the melody. Each with its unique sound, expressing different emotions. Both are indispensable and irreplaceable, and they must complement and collaborate harmoniously in order to create a beautiful tango. (See The Characteristics of Classic Tango.) The attempt to make tango a homosexual or gender-neutral dance would only nip the vitality of tango. Without gender expression, tango will loose its richness, beauty and charm. (See Artistic Sublimation and Vulgarism in Tango.)

______________________________________

*I was dancing at Club Gricel and suddenly my partner uttered a scream. She was struck by someone. As I wondered how could that happen, the man of the couple who clashed with us said something reproachful to me, like a male goose protecting his female goose. Perhaps it was my fault, I apologized. We moved on and forgot about the incident. On my way out of the venue, I was approached by that man, he said he wanted me to know it was his fault and he was sorry. The man had to be virile in front of his woman, but privately he admitted his mistake. -- That is an Argentine man, not flawless, but good in nature. I had no problem to forgive his being manly.

**"If we want to achieve the perfect degree of human nature, or at least close to this level of perfection, then all rules and regulations of mankind should be adapted to human nature. Because experiences prove that we cannot use rules and regulations to bind human nature without destroying their happiness. The attempt to obey rules and regulations that contradict human nature is the main source of human suffering. Any attempt to promote human wellness will not have any result until there is no radical reform in this respect." (On Human Happiness by John Gray)

March 29, 2017

Revealing Her Beauty in Tango


The fact that more women dance tango than men may be attributed in part to their beauty. I don't think it's coincidental that the percentage of women with a beautiful body in tango is very high. Perhaps the desire to demonstrate their beauty and to remain fit helps to explain their large turnout number. Women's highly developed sense of beauty certainly contributes to the formation of this beautiful dance.

Tango is notably good at displaying a woman's beauty. Because tango is danced in close embrace in which the torsos of the partners are connected, the woman has to rotate her hips in order to step on the side of the man, causing a twisted body position (TBP) that highlights the curving line of her feminine body.

TBP is different from contra body movement (CBM) in that CBM is turning the right side of the body towards a left moving leg or turning the left side of the body towards a right moving leg, but in tango, the woman keeps her upper body still and rotates only her lower body, which projects even more the curves of her waist and hips that characterize her gender. (See Dissociation and Gear Effect.)

TBP occurs in the following scenarios:

She swivels her hips to the left and stretches her right leg forward to the right side of the man.

She swivels her hips to the right and stretches her left leg forward to the left side of the man.

She swivels her hips to the right and stretches her right leg backward to the right side of the man.

She swivels her hips to the left and stretches her left leg backward to the left side of the man.

These scenarios occur in many tango steps such as front ocho, back ocho, walking on the side of the partner, walking in diagonal steps, dancing around the man in molinete, zigzagging in molinete, turning a half circle around the man in media luna, etc. TBP is the reason why women's beauty can be fully displayed in tango.

This gives us a clue on how to make her look more attractive in the dance. For example, we can display the suppleness, flexibility and grace of her body by using steps that involve TBP and hip rotation. We can make her step diagonally to our right and left. We can alternate her ochos to make her continuously rotate her hips. We can increase her TBP in back ocho by stepping diagonally to her side to make her twist her body more than if we walk straight in line with her. We can combine different steps to increase the variations of her posturing. We can suspend her TBP with slow motion, or pause when she is in a twisted body position, etc.

Keep in mind that a woman's body is very flexible and can do amazing things if we know how to lead her. Be careful not to overdo, though, as tenderness, comfort and feelings are equally important to women. (See Tango Is a Feeling.) In fact, feminine beauty is so vividly revealed in small movements that in some cultures women are taught to walk in tiny steps. In ancient China, women's feet were wrapped from a very young age to prevent them from growing bigger, so that they had to walk in that way. Women's wearing high heels in modern times serves the same purpose. In other words, we can unfold a woman's beauty regardless of how small the steps are, because that beauty lies in her femininity, and perhaps more characteristically in small movements.

Therefore, dancing tango is not doing big ochos and big turns endlessly, which is a common delusion in our tango. (See Floorcraft, Choreography and Hastiness.) Rather, it is using a combination of conspicuous and especially inconspicuous movements, big and especially small steps, normal and especially slow motions, fluxions and especially suspensions, pauses and poses, etc., to express the feelings stirred by the music. The number one reason why women love tango, I believe, is their sentimentalism. Tango is an intimate and sentimental dance, and women are particularly emotional and good at expressing feelings. Feminine beauty thus lies more in a woman's psyche than in her appearance. Revealing her inner beauty is a leader's most challenging and rewarding test. (See The Conceptional Beauty of Tango.)