Sunday, June 18, 2017
Did you see this video on Facebook? When Man Yung saw it (he's got a Facebook account, not me) he just HAD to show me right away.
"Look at all those pretty dresses! Oooooooooh!" he said.
And indeed, it was a video of the best most awesome fantastic tango dress ever. Every time the lady stepped out of range of the camera during a giro, her dress (and shoes) magically turned into something entirely different AND tango appropriate!
"Ooooooooooh!" I said (too). "I wish I had a dress like that!"
But not everyone has a Magic Unicorn Tears and Rainbows Tango Dress given to her by a generous Tango Fairy Godmother. Like all ordinary run-of-the-mill random tango follower, I had to learn the hard way -
What should I wear to Tango?
1. No 100% silk please.
I didn't have any dresses for tango when I first started. I'm not sure what I was wearing back then, but four months into tango lessons, we went to a tango festival milonga in Paris and I had to BORROW a little black dress from a non-tango friend because I literally had NOTHING to wear to the milonga.
After we came back, Man Yung took me clothes shopping and we bought a) a vermilion jersey dress with a silk paisley and floral chiffon overlay and b) two silk dupioni dresses, one in fuschia and the other in electric blue.
Silk takes to colour well so those dresses were very pretty. However, they were not so good for tango. When I tango, I sweat - and the silk chiffon clung to my skin and looked like a horrible lumpy mass. When I tried to hand wash the dress, it shrunk!
The dupioni dresses had no stretch. Only a slit at the back which ripped up more and more (stop leading so many enganches Man Yung!) Had to sew up the rip and give those dresses to my mom.
Man Yung always thought that silk clothing was cooling but his tango experience taught him otherwise. He bought a copy of loose fitting silk Hawaiian shirts (once again, silk takes colour dye very well so the patterns on the shirts were amazing) and tried to dance in them. The shirt kept the heat in and it was like a oven! He sticks to his Lacoste cotton pique polos now, they wick away sweat and keep him as cool as possible.
2. 100% cotton also a no-no.
Unless the cotton has a pique weaving, cotton shirts tend to stick to the skin when wet too. I wore some 100% cotton short sleeved shirts to the first Camicando festival we went to in Buenos Aires. With the heat and humidity and non-stop action of taking classes, my cotton shirts got sopping wet and were uncomfortable to wear.
100% cotton has no stretch, like silk. Tight clothing will rip under "vigorous tango action" (ha! that sounds funny but it is true), and even non-tight clothing will crease. I found out I had to avoid all cotton, linen and other wrinkle unfriendly fabrics for tango. It is kind of sad when you see ladies dressed lovely for the milonga, and they turn around and their dresses are all creased at the butt.
3. Synthetic stretchy fabrics are the way to go.
I wore Lululemon tank tops paired with flowy skirts to dance for years. The tops were comfortable, easy to wear, easy to wash, and a lifesaver on sweaty hot days. I know, it sounds kind of ghetto showing up at the milonga in yoga-wear, but some of the tops had dressy details like fancy patterned straps and low-key logos so they didn't look completely out of place in a milonga. If the skirt was fancy, the outfit looked great. And I never ripped anything! Gained fifteen pounds during that period (that was my fault and my ice cream maker's fault, not Lululemon's) and the clothes still fit.
4. Don't wear clothes that you hate...
You would think it was intuitive, not to wear anything that you hate to dance - but I know I still did!
Maybe it was something that Man Yung picked out for me that he loves because it reminds of ballerinas or Disney Princesses (but I feel like a dork or a doily while wearing it).
Or perhaps it was just uncomfortable. Made me itch. Like dresses with goddamn LACE patterns catching on everything and shredding bit by bit. Many ladies enjoy lace but for me it is a nightmare of itchy catchy tearing fabric.
Fringes! Nice classic tango cliché. Man Yung says dresses with fringes look really good when you are moving around on the dance floor. I tried on a dress that was just ONE BIG GIGANTIC FRINGE from the neckline down. It moved around so much I had to wrestle with it, put it in a headlock and then kick it in the stomach to get it on and off. And how was one supposed to wash such a creature? If you throw it in the washing machine I bet it would come out tangled and looking like coughed up hairball. Dry cleaning only dresses are NOT a good idea for sweaty ol' tango.
5. ...Or that hate you. For dancing tango.
Sometimes you know when a dress hates you. Like, you will be dancing merrily away, and then the strap breaks and your boobs pop out.
If the straps break and the seams burst while you are dancing, that dress is telling you something. Like, "Quit moving around so much you silly bugger - I was made to be worn STANDING STILL." Or perhaps your dress is telling you need to lose weight in the meanest way possible. That could be construed as "tough love" but I would interpret it more as sheer spite.
6. You don't need to go to a "Tango Fashion Store" to get a tango dress.
But you could. Or you can get them custom made. Turn up the "Tango" and the "Sexy" with clothing that is back revealing, navel revealing, leg revealing etc. For "performance" tango dress styles you probably need to go to a specialist tango designer to get all that but with built in protection against "wardrobe malfunctions". More power to you! But it isn't absolutely necessary.
I have bought many dresses at the mall (Melanie Lyne and The Bay have a good selection). Other very fashionable tangueras I know have bought stunning tango dresses in mom-and-pop stores on the street and at TTC Subway Stations (!), standalone boutiques and even online (although online is kind of risky because you don't get to try the dresses on before you buy. Skill at sewing and alterations or a good return policy is really handy in this case).
You just need to find something that is stretchy, comfortable, pretty (nice colours and patterns with a bit of style) and lo and behold! Tango dress!
In fact, most dresses that fit in the above criteria can even double as dresses you can wear to work, under a suit jacket or on casual Fridays.
7. The best Tango Dress is the one you makes you forget that you are wearing it.
I know people always say this but the best tango dress is the one that you feel so comfortable in, that feels so "you", you forget what you wearing and you just dance.
It is absolutely true! You aren't tugging at it because it doesn't fit well, you aren't worried about what people are thinking, and you can just enjoy being yourself, being with your friends and dancing the night away.
You can get to that state either by developing unshakeable confidence i.e. I don't care what I am wearing I am fabulous! Or you can get to that state by getting a dress that is so fantastic it obliterates any self-esteem issues you may have.
Mostly I think it is a bit of both - just the right amount of confidence AND a dress that isn't too bad.
As for me, I am definitely getting on the waiting list for the Unicorn Tears and Rainbow Fairy Godmother Tango Dress. Can't wait until it comes out in the stores! :-)
Sunday, May 7, 2017
Recently, a beginner woman leader asked me for advice on how to improve her leading. She had been taking a lot of classes but was still too nervous/scared about her abilities to lead in a milonga.
I told her that there aren't any secrets.
"To begin with, you don't need a lot of steps. If you can lead a salida, walk forward, turn left and turn right, and do an ocho cortado, you are already well equipped, stepwise, for any social dancing situation. After that, all you need to do is practice and gain experience by leading more in the milonga."
"But what if it is crowded?" she asked. "It is terrifying trying to lead when there are so many couples spinning around you. I don't want to bump into anybody!"
I think that a lot of women are deterred from improving their leading precisely due to this kind of fear. "The only way to get better at navigation in a crowded setting is to DANCE MORE IN A CROWDED SETTING," I said. "Just leap into the thick of things until you get used to it and you overcome your fear. You will bump a bit initially but it will get better as you get more confident and experienced. Remember that all men leaders - including your favourites - had to go through the same thing and bump like crazy when they started.
"I benefited a lot from leading at the busiest local milongas, and then deliberately going to tango festivals where there are crowds AND the craziest whirling flinging dancers trying to show off all around you. If you can survive that, you can pretty much survive anything."
"In any case, men leaders are generally courteous to women leaders - they usually try not to bump into a woman leading if they can help it," I added. "Men learning to lead have a harder time. I think men leaders are more aggressive to other men leaders and they will bully each other on the dance floor and get all pugilistic due to excess testosterone. ONLY ONCE did I encounter a man leader who deliberately knocked into me when I was leading. Several times in one tango! I told him off at the end of the tanda while he sprouted inane and irrational justifications on why he was entitled to dance like an asshole rather than a gentleman. I was rolling my eyes in disbelief. He must have had a fight with his girlfriend before the milonga, poor sad baby."
She laughed. "That's all great advice and I'm going to try leading when it is crowded. However, I still don't think I'm ready. I think I would like to practice more on my steps in class and in practices. I don't want to look stupid in the milonga - what if my favourite leaders are watching? They won't want to dance with me anymore looking like an idiot when I lead!"
"I haven't had any leader stop wanting to dance with me because I was leading," I said. "And people aren't really looking at you - they are more concerned about the way they are dancing or who to cabeceo to care about looking at how you are leading. And what's more - I can guarantee to you - despite how awkward you feel, you won't look stupid leading because you are already FIVE TIMES better as a dancer than _________________, the biggest hotshot in the milonga."
She looked at me in surprise. "That is not true! How can I possibly be a better dancer than _____________? He knows so many steps and he does them so quickly and skillfully!"
"Yes, he dances faster and bigger than anybody else but he is also reckless and unmusical. Most beginner women leaders are already better tango dancers than the local hotshot because they care about their partners, the music, the feel of their tango and the safety of the people around them. This means that they will work on and improve their embrace, their musicality, and their walk and their navigation. _______________ may be able to do more steps but all he cares about is showing those steps off and fantasizing about becoming a star tango professional. Instead of embracing his partners, he contorts them and pushes them out so he can have more space for fancy footwork. Instead of dancing to the music, he sacrifices the compas so he can squeeze in more steps. And instead of respecting other couples on the dance floor and making sure that the milonga is a safe place, he zips around like he is a formula one driver on a racetrack and leads his partners into dangerous high boleos wily nily. You can ask anybody in the milonga for their opinion. Who looks more stupid?"*
* This doesn't mean all women leaders are good though. I've seen women leaders who dance just as dangerously as the hotshot - and sometimes worse because they don't have sufficient experience with navigation. They end up whirling really fast in the middle of the dance floor and people have give them a wide berth. Once anybody - male or female - stops caring about dance floor safety because they want to show off, they become horrible dancers.
Sunday, April 2, 2017
Our beloved maestro El Gallego Manolo just celebrated his 85th birthday last week with a wonderful exhibition in Salon Canning. His partner was the beautiful and talented Natacha Poberaj, the 2006 world Tango Salon champion. We called Manolo on his birthday and he was in high spirits and still excited about his performance with Natacha in Canning. He was especially happy that through the magic of modern technology, we had already seen videos of the exhibition in Facebook.
Here's the Milonga, Tango and Canyengue they danced to for your enjoyment!
Here's the Milonga, Tango and Canyengue they danced to for your enjoyment!
Martha's Apartment in Buenos Aires
A Non-exhaustive set of Tango links in Toronto
- La Cachila - weekly milonga
- Paradiso -- weekly milonga
- Practica El Beso
- WE Tango
- Tango Sur - classes, shows
- Rhythm and Motion - classes, milonga, practica, annual Toronto Tango Festival
- Tango Obsession - classes, weekly Practica La Coqueta
- Tango Lirico - classes, practica, weekly milonga
- Tango de Oro - classes, shows
- Tango Soul Productions - classes, weekly milonga, shows, El Congreso annual Tango Festival
- Vivatango - classes
- Tango Argentino - classes
- Club Milonga - classes, special events
- Alternatango - classes, weekly milonga
- University of Toronto Tango Club - classes, practica
- El Abrazo - classes
- Tangoloft - twice monthly milonga