Sunday, August 26, 2018

Death of the Embrace

A couple of years ago a very respected veteran Toronto Milonguera told me that a Milonguero Encuentro could not be organized in Toronto.

I was surprised she would say that.  There seemed plenty of "Milonguero Style" Toronto dancers in Toronto.  It's not like everyone is flocking to Nuevo Tango.  Why wouldn't an Encuentro work?

She was right, of course.  There are maybe TEN really good Milonguero Style dancers in Toronto now.... and most of them don't even come out to dance anymore.

Another Toronto Milonguera told me recently that she goes through phases of not wanting to come out to dance.  It was just too disheartening, arriving at some of the more popular milongas in town, anticipating a having a good time dancing - but leaving disappointed because:

1.  The FIVE really good Milonguero Style leaders have all decided to stay home (and not get kicked in the shins at the crowded and crazy popular milonga);

2.  Being asked to dance and having to dance with Flingy leaders who just want to do ten million giros, enganches and ganchos - all in the same tanda.  And not leading them very well either.

3.  Not being asked to danced by any of Competition Tango Laddies, because they like to stick with the Competition Tango Ladies who have all gone to the same classes as them and have been trained by the same Competition Tango instructors and therefore have a chance to understand WTF they are leading.

4.  Being asked to dance by any of the Competition Tango Laddies, and then not knowing WTF they are leading because hey, she never learned the same "Choreography".

5.  Not being asked to dance, or refusing to dance, because it's a raging seething sea of Flinging and Tango Competition Choreography out there.

#1-5 above means no fun AND it also means the Embrace is dead.  Or dying.  Or people think the Embrace is something that it is isn't what it really should be.

Even Flingers and Tango Competition Choreographers can write f'g beautiful, literate, convincing, bring tears to your eyes essays about the Embrace.  They truly may believe they are good/excellent/Tango Gods of Embrace because they have lots of dance partners/placed well in a Tango Competition/Teach and Perform Tango.

But come on, are they even Embracing?

Flingers only need the "embrace" like a Judoka wants you to put your hands on any part of his or her body in a fight.  Someone's gotta be touching you in order for you to execute a (Judo) move on them.


Please hold me tight... so I can throw the s*** out of you.*

Tango Competition Choregraphers look like they have perfect embraces - of course, they score points for them in Competitions!  The better the "look", the higher the score.  Some of these types of dancers will "rearrange" their partners embrace (basically by pushing them out of it) so it would look better and they will have some space to do some nifty Tango Competition Standard movements and adornos.

No, no, no!

I am in the minority I guess in the Brave New Tango World of flinging and competition but that's not the Embrace for me.

I won't Embrace someone just so I have a grip on them and can make them "do stuff".

I am not Embracing someone in a certain way so that I would "Look Good" and "Score Points".

Embracing someone and thinking "Moves!" or "Looking Good!" is a failure to Embrace.

To Embrace, you have to be completely present in it, not elsewhere with your thoughts.

You have to give your whole Embrace to your partner, and in return they have to give their whole Embrace to you.

All those Tango pauses you are supposed to do with the music?  They aren't to show off your Tango posture or to show off your ability to pause strategically to win points and admiration.  They are moments to feel the Embrace more deeply and intensely.

And to connect with your partner completely.

Dancing Tango without the Embrace is like stuffing your mouth with shovels of food, but Tasting absolutely nothing.



*By Mhultstrom - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27764362















Monday, August 6, 2018

Sorry - No Points for that

A couple of Toronto's more notorious high kickers and reckless Tasmanian devil whirligig flingers just participated in the Canada Tango Championship last week.  I shuddered and eye rolled until my eyes disappeared into the back of my head when I received word that they were competing.

There was big collective sigh of relief all around when neither of them placed in the top three.  Thank God!

Do we really need these freakin' dangerous dancers to believe that they are entitled, via "good results" in the competition, to kick and knock the bejesus out of everyone around them?  Hell no!  Now don't laugh, but I truly believe that since their heads are so inflated with their own imaginary greatness already, placing in the top three will make their heads so big they will start hitting people with their faces when they dance.

However, the fact they didn't "win" this time only gives me temporary comfort.  I'm sure they are going to try try try again.   And one of these days they are going to make it into the top three, or maybe even WIN, because you can actually win these things (especially in Canada with it's small pool of dancers) by being persistent and signing up year after year after year.  Once the "best" tango couple wins, there's going to be a vacuum and the "next" best will win the next time.  And so on, and so on. One of these days, your local obnoxious kicker/flinger is going to make it and unfortunately, not because they've miraculously become better, or more caring dancers.

As you know we are NOT fans of the "Tango Competition".  It has set a rather superficial and skewed standard of what is considered "good" in Tango in order to make what is not quantifiable quantifiable for ease of judging and now, as we have rightly predicted back in 2008(!), the Tango Borg has taken over the Tango Universe. 

Coming to a Tango Community near you!  Or maybe they are there already :-(

These days, thanks to "Tango Competition", a lot of dancers believe that the only indicator of "good Tango" is how much one can conform to Tango Borg standard, a great deal of which is about looking attractive while dancing and not breaking rules.  Unfortunately, few or NO points are going to be given for any of the following:

1.  Creative, original, idiosyncratic steps.

2.  An embrace that makes you melt.

3.  Musicality that makes you smile.

4.  Ability to adapt to any partner - regardless of size, height, experience - and make them feel wonderful and not inadequate or awkward when they dance with you.

5.  Ability to dance on very crowded dance floors without hurting yourself, your partner or other people.  That means being agile, considerate AND also means being able to edit the stuff you do and still make your dancing lovely and fun, and being able to restrain yourself from showing off the whole goddamn space-hogging figure you were taught/invented.

6.  Being completely bad-ass skillful with the cabeceo.

7.  Being a top notch Chamuyo bull-shitting flirty charmer with your partners.  And making them laugh!

8.  Willingness to dance with ladies who have been sitting all night and haven't been invited to dance because they are not young/attractive/skinny/or don't conform to Tango Borg standard of beauty and skill.

9.  Being "yourself" and no-body else in Tango.  Unless you were born Tango Borg, in which "yourself" means same same same as everyone else who is competing and you will probably WIN.

10.  Just being a great person and a joy to meet and talk to at the milongas.  We have some wonderful people like this in Toronto Tango.  They make everyone feel welcome and at ease and everyone loves seeing them at the milongas.  They may even organize Tango events for charity.  Beautiful souls.

The important things that makes Tango truly Tango for us unfortunately does not score points in Tango Competitions and it really seems like to us that this whole competition thing is rapidly making Tango go to Ballroom competition Hell in a hand basket.

Yes, we have been talking about this topic FOREVER (more blog whining can be found here) but do people ever listen?






Sunday, July 22, 2018

"Just the Way You Are" (sometimes isn't enough)



I've been thinking about writing about this topic for a long time but have hesitated/procrastinated because honestly, I didn't want Man Yung to read this and get mad.

OK, honey, remember you promised that you won't get mad?

I used to admire dancers most for their skill.  For their musicality.  For their elegance, their walk, their moves, or even, ha ha, their "authenticity", whatever that may be.

Yes, all of the above is still admirable, but there's something that trumps all of that.

It's so rare that in fourteen years of dancing and watching other people dance, I have only seen it in three (ok, maybe four) couples.

Those three couples (or four) were so into each other AND into each other's Tango that they didn't give a rat's ass about ANYTHING else.

Now, when you are a couple in Tango, things are not necessarily going to be "Happily Ever After".

You may have met before Tango.  Or you may have met while dancing Tango.

You may have the most wonderful relationship outside of Tango.   Or not.

You may think you are better at Tango than your partner.  Or worse.

You may wish that your partner could dance better.  Or you wish that you could dance better because you feel your partner isn't exactly happy about the way you are dancing.

You may have an ideal image of what you and your partner should look like or dance like in Tango and let's face it, your partner's skill, height, looks and dress does not fit into those parameters.

You may prefer to dance with other people not your partner.  Or you want to dance with your partner very much, but he/she seems to prefer dancing with other people rather than you.

Or neither of you want to dance with each other really.  Or you only want to dance together sometimes for appearance's sake because after all you guys are a couple but let's sit apart in the milonga so that other people won't be afraid to cabeceo us (separately).

Why not one person stay home and play mahjong/watch Netflix/do some online shopping while the other goes obsessively every night to milonga?  Or, in order to avoid any kind of confusion for other tangueros/tangueras that you may be together, why not go to different milongas on different nights...on different continents?

Now, the following describes US (and I just had to google "Irene and Man Yung Tango Kill Argue" to get to the link without having to sort through all our past posts):

You argue a lot over Tango and want to kill each other constantly.

And people still go up to us and say to us, "Wow, you guys dance so beautifully together!  You guys look like you are so in love!!!!"

Thanks for the compliment, but we are NOTHING compared to the three (or four) couples I've seen.

Man Yung keeps on saying to random ladies he dances with, "Love means never having to say you are sorry".

Well, there's absolutely no place for apology in the Tango of those truly blessed couples.

No need to say sorry to each other - when the leader isn't really leading right and the follower isn't really following right.  Nothing is a "mistake", you know each other's Tango so well you just carry right on over any glitch.

No need to say sorry to anyone around them -  when the intensity of their uninterrupted eye to eye staring vertical tango love making is making other people think "For God's sake go Get a Room!"

No need to say sorry to Tango itself - because it doesn't matter how cheesy or "wrong" their Tango is, their all-consuming "Love" makes it right.*

* You look at them and objectively, they are dancing all wrong and ridiculous but it looks fantastic because they are so much in sync and have so much chemistry.  So there.

Do you know what I'm talking about?  In fact, the turdier they dance, the more it shows how much they truly love each other because they just DON'T CARE.  They can be dancing like s*** or maybe not like s*** but it doesn't matter because they are thinking all the time their partner is TANGO PERSONIFIED and OMG TANGO WITH HIM/HER IS THE BEST TANGO IN THE HISTORY OF ALL TANGO.

Yes I envy that and wish that Man Yung and I can be like that instead of "Irene and Man Yung Tango Kill Argue" but oh well.**

** Man Yung says: "No, I cannot be like that, Irene!  My goal is continuous self-improvement, and that includes Tango.  I am constantly improving MYSELF in Tango by watching Youtube vids on continuous loop for more steps.  You must too!  No rest in turdy Tango for the wicked Mwahahahaha!  Crack the whip!  Back to work!  Roll that watermelon!" ***

*** This post is totally serious and we have discussed this topic together and we really do admire those couples for the way they love each other and love each other's Tango.  A love like that is even better than winning any Mundial!






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