Saturday, June 27, 2015


I've been working on something lately.  How to be even more minimalist in following.  I already don't do much in terms of adornments, it's true.  But can I pare it down even further - do even less?

I explained to Man Yung.  "I imagine that I'm on a tightrope.  I begin in a wire harness with a safety net on a low wire, so I won't hurt myself when I fall.  When I get better, I lose the harness and the safety net.  To balance,  I start with a balancing pole, and then lose that and use my arms, and then when my balance is better, I use nothing.  And I'll walk on tightropes that are higher and higher, and longer and longer."

"So where are you now with the tightrope walking?" asked Man Yung.

"I'm trying to stay completely balanced and not step down until you have led me to do so.  And I can't use any aids.  That means I can't do anything to slow you down or to slow myself down to balance.  I can't use toe taps or foot flicks - no split second adornments to cover-up when I've lost my balance and to time my steps.  I cannot listen to the music myself to time my steps - I have to listen to you.  And I have to disregard technique - no thinking about keeping any type of posture, or embrace, or collecting my feet, or pivoting a certain way.  I focus only on the feeling of balance and timing."

"Is it working out for you?"

"Yes, I suppose.  But it is hard to be completely minimalist in following.  When you suddenly change directions, or change the way you do a step, sometimes my balance is thrown off.  It's also impossible to do this when I'm tired.  And also difficult with different leaders when I'm not used to dancing with them.  However, I think that I'm on the right track," I said, my eyes gleaming with excitement.  "My goal is to get to the point where I'm reduced to nothing but a single point of consciousness when I follow.  Totally without weight, and therefore completely balanced.  Then I'll be able to walk on the tightrope, further and further, without breaks in my balance.  Across a city block.  Across Niagara Falls.  Or even to the Moon and back!"

"Hmmmmm," said Man Yung.  "That sounds like Tango Zen bullshit."

I looked at him in shock.  "What do you mean?"

"The theory sounds pretty, but in reality, sometimes Tango is like Charlie Chaplin at the circus, walking bow-legged on a tightope while monkeys are trying to pull down your pants.  There are no perfect conditions in Tango. There's no one way to follow, no one theory that would work on everything, no one size fits all to the path of nirvana.  The most important thing is for you to follow me with your heart!"

I frowned.  "Yes, I suppose you are right.  Dancing with you is really like Charlie Chaplin at the circus.  Most days I'm lucky to escape with my life.  Thanks!"


Sunday, June 14, 2015


Big festival weekend in Toronto.  Went to NONE of it.  Doesn't showcase local talent (except for the high-kicking dancers from the only studio who is hosting it), as if all the dancers and teachers here in Toronto are all backwater hicks who still dance Tango like was still 1999.  Many other dancers we have talked to didn't go either, even though all the other milongas in Toronto closed "in support" of it. As one dancer said sagely, "There is life outside of Tango, you know."

We could easily write a hilarious and unflattering post bitching about "El Festival", but instead, let's talk gratitude.  Thank you for having a festival that holds absolutely zero temptation for us and for closing all the milongas, because no milonga to go to = we can go practice by ourselves.  And I don't have to share Man Yung with any of you gals!*  Instead of once a week, we went three times this week.  Me, my man and the music.  Not only is there "Life outside of Tango," sometimes there's "Tango outside of Tango".

*You know who you are, all fifteen of you, always sitting at our table and/or coming right up to ask Man Yung to dance!  

I know dancers out there sometimes practice.  They go to practicas to practice.  They have hardwood floors at home and practice on that.  Sometimes they go to milongas to practice.  What are they practicing?  I think a lot of people are practicing "moves".  Or 'adornos'.  Some are practicing 'walking'.  Others are practicing 'embrace'.  A newbie friend saw two local dancers dance eyes closed and 'without arms' two Saturdays ago.  She asked me filled with wonder and curiousity, "What are they doing?"

I replied, "They are being assholes."  And then I chuckled.  Because knowing the two dancers in question, they weren't going to go anywhere or get any better practicing armless dancing.  It was just something they were doing in a crowded milonga to show off that they were expert enough to dance armless.  Yeah sure, if you just stand there and shuffle around slowly while grinding your chests together, going 'armless' is just fine and dandy.  Try doing the same with some giros and ganchos, maybe a little corridita... not so easy now, right?

But I digress.  Up to a certain point, you've got to practice your moves.  And adornos, and walking.  Embrace....I hope that you are embracing your partner like you mean it, and not practicing making your embrace more than what you really feel and trying to hoodwink your partner into thinking you have the yummiest embrace in the world to prove you are an excellent dancer...when in fact, you are cold and hollow to the core.

After that comes the nebulous Argentinian concepts.  Cariño.  Pasión.  Entrega.  Can you be gentle?  Good... but be even more gentle.  How much do you love?  Okay, but love more, with even more intensity.   Surrender?  Surrender more, surrender again...surrender always.

And not only in Tango.  There is life outside of Tango, and Tango outside of Tango.  Can you be gentle to your loved one, care for him, listen to him with your fullest attention and not only to his words, but also his heart?  Can you love your loved one, love him with all of your being and all of your soul, with more passion than you could ever think possible?  Can you give him everything, all of you and more?

That's what we practice, in our lives outside of Tango, and in Tango outside of Tango.  Inside and out.   Will it make us better dancers?  Maybe.  Will it make us better people?  We hope so.

Lunch at Osvaldo and Coca's that in or out of Tango?  During our trip to Buenos Aires this May, we didn't take any classes to "learn" anything, we talked very little about Tango, and spent a lot of time with our beloved teachers and friends.  Yet, we feel that we have improved a lot in our dancing, and it has all to do with loving and caring for our friends and being part of their lives. 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Roberto Segarra at El Rodriguez, May 18, 2015

Roberto Segarra is turning 95 this year!  It is always such a delight to bump into him in the milongas of Buenos Aires.  He is still going strong and sneaking out of the house to dance all night.

I enjoyed a beautiful tanda of vals with Roberto at Marta Fama's Wednesday milonga, El Rodriguez.  Sorry, but sometimes guys half his age don't have the same kind energy when dancing!

After our dance, Roberto said, "You dance so wonderfully, I got lost in the music and I totally forgot what we were dancing."  Milonguero!  Sweet talker! 

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