Articles

Tango is a social and partner dance

Dancing at Cafe FloridaTango is a social and partner dance that originated in the city of Buenos Aires, where, together with its music, poetry and culture, the population consider it their identity.

To learn it, you will embrace not only your partner, but Tango itself, its music, culture, and home city.

In my classes, I will guide you into the beauty of Tango music, how to interpret this music with your body, how to enter the dance floor and stay there while you dance. I am going to guide you into the embrace of your partner, into the society of the milonga (Tango dance party), into the culture of Tango, and into the city of Buenos Aires.

In the second half of the eighteenth century, when Tango appeared for the first time, the main social dance was the waltz.  Tango continues and intensifies many of the elements already present in the waltz, for example, taking the proximity between partners to the limit and making them dance in close embrace. Another element already present in the waltz is the line of dance, in which all the couples on the dance floor circulate in a counterclockwise direction. Tango also incorporated this, but now the couples do not have to be continuously moving. Now, dancing Tango, they have more freedom and a more creative use of the space.

In order to make you understand “with your body” these characteristics of Tango, and educate your sensitivity in regard to these and many other elements that shape Tango to be what it is: “A unique manifestation of the human potential”, I will train you with exercises and concepts.

If you have the desire, the passion, the stamina, the perseverance and the necessary patience, I will help you be a part of Tango, to be Tango yourself, to be a “milonguero” or “milonguera”.

In response to those who expect to learn patterns and fireworks in my classes, and get disappointed because I am not giving these kids such unhealthy candies, and ask me with a disappointed tone:  Is then Tango “JUST” walking?

Yes! If you got nothing inside you:  no emotions, no passion, no feelings, if you are an empty shell, if you are a robot that only works and tries to take advantage of everybody… yes… it’s “JUST” walking, as you expressed.

But, if you are a HUMAN BEING, with capital letters, is not.

Your walk is yourself. The way you walk expresses who you are.

If your walk is only utilitarian, your whole life probably is the life of a tool.

I am looking forward to seeing you and dancing with you soon,

Marcelo Solis

Walking, dancing, body and words

FeetHumans are the only known beings that walk upright. Our walk is as characteristic as our rational mind. They are related.

You can know about other people by looking at the way they walk. You can know yourself better if you can see yourself and see the way you walk. Others can know about you by paying attention at the way you walk.

You can improve yourself by improving the way you walk.

How is the life of an average American affected by the lack of walking that is becoming more and more a characteristic of the “American way of life”?

This is a very “American” problem, because the rest of the world walks, and a lot.

Tango has made an art of walking in company, with your partner, on the dance floor full of other couples.

Where else in real life would you walk as proud, happy, honestly and powerful, besides the dance floor of a true milonga?

Body and words:

Body and wordsHow to talk about something without knowing it? Do we really know our body? Perhaps the ignorance of our body produces the ignorance of the materiality of the world in general, of its reality.

Learning to dance is as important as learning to talk.

Is it possible to learn to speak without the participation of another human being in the process? Would it be possible one day in the future for a baby to learn how to talk from machines?

Speech is transmitted only with the participation of our body, and when our body teaches others how to talk, we dance.

Language is an aspect of dance. A word that is not danced – that does not have the support of a body – is destructive, evil, anguishing, a dead end, conducive to perish, not alive.

True dancers do not talk too much.

Resources:

http://www5.uva.es/agora/revista/2/agora2_12_mariacuesta.pdf

http://www.nyu.edu/classes/bkg/tourist/feet.pdf

http://youtu.be/1l_4OW_Ir7M

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVPLIuBy9CY

http://on.ted.com/babybrain

I am looking forward to seeing you and dancing with you soon,

Marcelo Solís

What is your goal in learning tango?

Susana Miller & Marcelo SolisI want to ask you a question: What is your goal in learning tango?

Tango is a multidimensional form of art.

Most see it primarily as a dance. This is absolutely true: it is a dance. However, what I consider unavoidable to understand is that dance involves much more than an activity reduced to visiting a dance studio, practicing a series of body movements and gestures that later are going to be repeated more or less by heart, with attention only to the body movements, without any consideration of the music (and by “music” I mean: listening to every musical note, beat and silence of it, knowing the name of the song, who plays it, who composed the song, the general history of all of it and all of them ..), the environment in which the dance is going to be performed (in case of tango: the “milongas”), the social aspects of it (the codes of behavior at the milongas, its ethics and aesthetics), and the role that the dancer (as an individual participating in that whole approach to dancing) is going to take.

If I am going to learn all that, if I am going to dedicate that much of my time and energy to it, I would only do it if I am passionate about it.

And why? What is my goal in all that?

Sometimes, in my classes, I have to face the problem of letting my students know that dancing does not require “pretending”, but rather “being” yourself. A particular movement is usually so simple, that the real core of the move is the character that you imprint in it, which is your character, your “self”.

Since there exists a prejudice to see dancing only as a “performing art”, the initial approach is usually to “pretend”: something like pretending to be on a stage dancing for an audience. And a movement that in essence is very simple (and easy), comes out with a very artificial look. That is all unconscious. Naturally there is a tendency to hide ourselves from the eyes of others, and that artificiality serves as “defense mechanism” to protect you from whoever may take advantage of knowing you.

All that makes you put in a lot of effort. Dancing is supposed to be easy. It will be easy if you strengthen yourself.

Tango asks you to be honest, and show your honest self. Very probably, at the beginning you do not recognize yourself in what appears when you allow yourself to be natural, let it go, and you may not like it! But, good news, once you know yourself and how you actually move, you can change it, you can shape it, and you can work on making yourself more elegant without pretending. And that is going to make you stronger. And for that, you will be thankful to tango forever.

That is why I consider the process of teaching/learning tango as requiring some “familiarity” approach. Let’s be aware that the generation of my parents in Argentina learned tango from close relatives and friends, so those “defense mechanisms” were at their lowest level of alert.

When I came to teach tango for the first time to the Bay Area, I tried to adapt my teaching method to the general rationalistic/ballroom-like approach the students were expecting (my limited knowledge of English, and the fact that everybody was more or less of a stranger to me also contributed to the adaptation of that approach). However, overtime I realized that it mostly did not help students to understand the particular characteristics that makes tango what it is. So I decided to return to the “familiar” approach we all are used to in Argentina, although sometime it does not match the new students’ expectations.

Many times a new student asks me:

When am I going to be ready to go to milongas?

My answer is:

Whenever you want to go.

The student would reply:

But I am a beginner, those people in the milongas are too advanced, and they are not going to dance with me!

What you really need, in order to go to a milonga and have a good time, is basic social skills. Basically, you need self-awareness and a good sense of placement. If you are nice, people will be nice to you. If you relax and enjoy of being at a place where everybody is enjoying the experience of tango, pay attention and listen to the beautiful music tango is, allow yourself to be happy (tango should make you happy. Why would you do it if were not so?), the aura of happiness makes people want to be near you.

Milongas are the best places to see people dancing tango. It is the place to see tango in its own environment. It is a great opportunity for you, during your first visits to the milongas, to watch the dance, to see the dancers. You will learn a lot just from watching.

Also, if tango is to become a part of your life, the milonga is going to be your home. Those who do not regularly go to milongas develop an abstract (false, incongruent) image of tango. Beware: there are many “teachers” on that list.

Tango is democratic. At the milongas, your title, either you are a PHD, a CEO, a Prince, a tango teacher or a performer does not matter. What matters is how good you are as a milonguero or milonguera.

When I talk about milongas and milongueros, my image is one of my favorite milongas in Buenos Aires. I work on reproducing their main characteristics here, in the Bay Area, organizing and hosting such milongas as Café Florida, Lafayette Milonga and San Jose Milonga, and educating my students as milongueros and milongueras in my classes. I want to take an opportunity now to say thank you to all my business partners, assistants, dedicated students and regulars of the milongas and classes I host. It would not be possible without you. Thank you!!!

In order to effectively recreate what I enjoy there, one of my key activities are my tours to Buenos Aires. I organize a tour twice a year, during spring and fall. These tours are very educative: Buenos Aires is a big city; you have hundreds of choices to do tango activities. But keep in mind that tango is, for many, a business, a source of income.

When tango came back to the mainstream in Argentina, during the middle 80’s, it was a” tsunami”. It suddenly inundated the sociocultural scene of Buenos Aires and other cities. It produced a big demand on the “market” that was very undersupplied. The milongueros at the time, were very unaware of that process. You can take a look to the documentary “Tango, bayle nuestro” (“Tango, our dance”), by Jorge Zanada, 1988. It that documentary you can see the old milongueros of 1987 stating that tango “had died”.

It happened that most of the people, who took the lead in satisfying the strong “demand” for tango, were “sociocultural entrepreneurs”, only tangentially related to tango. Some of them are still predominant in the tango scene of Buenos Aires. Their initial lead was essential to the revival of tango. They helped to create the conditions that allowed later the milongueros’ comeback to the mainstream, so the people with real knowledge of tango were able to organize milongas and teach new milongueros.

That is why, if you go to Buenos Aires without a guidance of a real insider, most probably you will come to know tango as an entertainment industry, much improvised, very “homemade”, but an industry, not a culture.

One last thing: is walking boring? When you exercise your walk at the beginning of the class, do you feel bored? I have to tell you: if you get bored when you do this exercise (walking), you most probably will be a very boring person to dance with, when you dance during the milonga later.

That is the moment to exercise your passion, your feelings, your emotions to come out in your walk, your connection with the music, not to show it off (the pseudo performer that pretends), but to explore your own emotions. THAT will make you a dancer who is fun, enjoyable, and interesting to dance with.

Tango is passion

Marcelo dancing with Ashkhen at Cafe FloridaDear students, milongueras and milongueros,

I’ve being very busy since I came back from Buenos Aires. I had plans to be in BA right now, but so much is going on, I am still here.

Among many things that I had no time to do writing about tango is the one I missed the most.

In the meantime, all that kept me busy –mainly, teaching new students- gave me new experiences, new approaches, and new thoughts about how to present tango to those who are curious about it, and show up to a tango class for the first time.

Tango is passion.

A new student asked me in the middle of her first private class if I thought that she was going to be able to dance tango. I answered that we were dancing to the music of Juan D’Arienzo Orchestra, recorded between 1940 and 1943, with Héctor Mauré singing and a 20 year’s old Fulvio Salamanca at the piano. I told her that Mauré used to be a professional boxer, until a bad punch made him quit boxing and dedicate himself exclusively to singing. I told her that if she gets to love tango to the point of finding that information really interesting, relevant, then she would dance, otherwise, not. That I could not order her to “love it”, same as it would not be possible to order someone to fall in love with a person. Whether she falls in love with tango or not is nothing I can do about.

I cannot make a new student passionate about tango. I can share my passion with my students. But many would judge me crazy, obsessed, neurotic, and I would reply that while you judge, you cannot dance.

Dancing tango implies dancing every single note, every nuance in the expressivity of each musician of each song. It takes knowing those songs and those musicians as you know your closest relatives and friends.

I am satisfied if the new student learns, at least, to respect tango for what it is.

I am very patient. Tango made me so.

You do not have to rush in getting to know tango. Tango is infinite. Also, you have to enjoy your path in becoming a real milonguera or milonguero, enjoy it the way you enjoy a tasty flavored meal, even for the moments it may get too spicy.

I will not say “I told you that already.” I will always present the concepts you need to know and apply, as if it were the first time I am presenting them to you. Repetition is needed, but we can make repetition a non-boring exercise if we do it to the wonderful music that tango is.

I promise not to say:

“Just”. Sometimes I’ve being in the situation of explaining a move that is simple in appearance, and the student says “Just that!?”, or “Ok, just that”, or something similar. Each single move is very, very, very important. Every little part of a move is something you have to feel fully.

“I got it”. Each move in tango requires decades to be understood. We have to begin somewhere, and I will patiently show you the move. But you probably won’t be able to see it all. So, please, do not undervalue it.

You need to be very humble to learn to tango. Please, accept that you start from ignorance, and have respect for the one that shares with you something he loves a lot. It is like introducing you to my family.

Now, I remember a joke: One boy says to another boy – Look at that woman! She has a moustache!!!

The other boy responds – She is my mom.

And the first boy clarifies –The moustache looks very well on her!!!

What can we do to contribute to the health and continued development of Bay Area Tango community?

Dear milongueros and milongueras,

Tango is fun. It makes us happy. But Tango is also RESPONSIBILITY.
What can we do to contribute to the health and continued development of Bay Area Tango community?

Here is my answer:

Milongueros and milongueras: 1- Dance better. 2- Behave better. 3- Dress better.

Milonga organizers:
1- Choose good DJs. 2- Give milongueros the necessary set up a milonga should have. 3- Pay attention to what actually happens on the dance floor. 4- Get to know, greet at the entrance, and say goodbye at the exit, to everyone coming to the milonga. 5- Introduce new people at the milonga to the regulars. 6- Travel to Buenos Aires and go to traditional milongas with high level of dancing to see how things are organized and run there.


DJs:
1- Go to Buenos Aires and visit milongas to learn how to do their job, not one time, but several times a year.

Teachers: 1- Stop trying to attract customers by showing them steps inappropriate to the milonga, and therefore, to Tango itself. 2- Go to the milongas, and show their students and the community that the way they teach is the way they dance at the milongas. 3- Go to Buenos Aires not one, but several times a year, study there with the milongueros, meaning: the ones that dance Tango. Prove themselves to have their place in the wide Tango community, and not to be mere local instructors without any connection to Buenos Aires, and therefore, to Tango.

To follow these guidelines, we will get together and put them in practice in all my classes and events through the Bay Area.
I am looking forward to seeing you and dancing with you.
Warm regards,

Marcelo Solis

 

What I get when I pay the entrance fee of the milonga?

When I go to the supermarket, I buy groceries, take them home, and then do with them pretty much whatever I want.

The same happens with any merchandise I purchase.
If I decide to become a member of a Club, I only take home my membership card , and the pride of belonging to my beloved Club. The Club stays where it is, and I come to the Club for whatever activity (social, sports, etc.) it is for.
When I come to the Club I belong to, I have to observe behavior For example: taking a shower before getting into the swimming pool, no diving, no smoking…
If I do not follow these guidelines, I will first receive a call, and eventually will be expelled from the Club if I keep ignoring these warnings.
When I come to the milonga, I first pay at the entrance. What am I getting for my money? A dance? A glass of wine? A snack?
I may get all that, but I am also receiving something more important. All these are elements that the organizers of the milonga provide you with the intention of enhancing the experience of attending.
The money I pay at the entrance is used to organize it: pay the rent, arrange the chairs and tables, clear and clean the dance floor; the lighting, the ventilation of the room, the DJ, the sound system, the personnel that takes care of everything, and for all the freebies organizers give you to make you and all the milongueros and milongueras feel more than welcome to the home of Tango.
The milonga is where Tango lives, where Tango is kept alive.
When you are at the milonga, whether a well known milonguero/a or a new good student, you are making possible that Tango lives. You bring Tango to life, in your body, in everything you do with your body, not by dancing only, but by everything you do.
Once we start dancing, we realize that everything we do is dancing. Dancing feels so natural, It makes us feel so at home in our bodies that it makes sense to see all aspects of our life from the point of view of being at the milonga.
The fee we pay at the entrance of the milonga is not the price of what we are getting for that money. The $10 does not make a milonga a profitable business. The true organizers of true milongas do it for passion of Tango, not as a business. With that $10 you just contribute to the necessary setup of the milonga. But in reality the milonga is pretty much made by you.
Since it is you who actually makes the milonga, the milonga will be the way you are: the quality of the dance, the behavior, the outfits of the dancers, the ambiance, all these characteristic of the milonga are what you bring with you.
Not liking the milonga you attend is comparable with living in a neighborhood that you do not like.
Everyone at the milonga is essential. So everyone must be aware of having the responsibility of making the milonga a good place, even and especially, for having fun, as we are responsible for the world we live in, and particularly, for being happy.
In that sense, the organizer of the milonga is not the one accountable for how a milonga is.


Tango and Buenos Aires

Marcelo and Nestor La VitolaBuenos Aires is the world capital of Tango, and its birthplace.

There, I wish to share with you the friendship and appreciation of the milongueros that I am lucky to enjoy.

We all feel Tango in our bodies. In each move, each new milonga we go to, each partner we dance with, each new learning experience it reveals, Tango belongs to us, and we belong to Tango. It is a wonderful feeling, and one of the key reasons why Tango is so appealing, why its rhythm is so haunting.

However, Tango also belongs to others, to people we share it with. If we do not pay attention to that, we may fall in a very egotistic, self-centered, selfish approach to tango. That would leave us with nothing, or with something we may call tango, but it is not.

Among the others we share Tango with are those who have danced it before us. Most of them are not with us anymore, but a bunch of them are still alive, and dancing in the milongas of Buenos Aires. Would you miss the opportunity of meeting them, seeing them dance, chatting with them, and dancing with them? If you let it pass you by, it will be a big loss for Tango, especially for “your” Tango, the one in your turn you will share with those who come after you.

The Tango Journey

Dear students, friends, milongueros and milongueras: How long since you have started your Tango journey? A while ago I had a conversation with a student in my class (not one of my regular students). She complained about studying Tango (although not continuously) for three years, but not achieving very much of it. I asked her what milongas she had being going to, since I never saw her in any milonga. I realized from her answer that she was not a regular in the milongas. Well… if after three years of studying Tango you still do not go to milongas… something is not right. Another student (a regular one but returning from a month long break) was feeling a little sad because I gave her corrections about her posture: the basic “please lean forward a little bit, find a soft point of contact with your partner’s face…” which is often difficult to do for ballroom dancers. At the end of the class she said with a crying intonation that she felt her dancing was not improving. I reminded her that the correction about her posture was the same I gave her at her first class (a year ago?), that we had done many exercises in classes, that I gave her drills so she could practice by herself to incorporate these details in the posture, and that I gave her the same correction over and over again many times. 1.Posture is essential. Why? When we dance Tango we engage in a multiple faceted experience. If you like a simple description, it is like a diamond, but furthermore, for me, it is like a “string” in the “string theory” of physics, with outside and inside dimensions. One of these facets is purely mechanical: a couple dancing Tango makes a mechanical system. Our posture is, in essence, the way we set up a fundamental piece of that mechanical system. If a part of your car is not well placed or not well shaped, your car won’t run. 2.I can teach you, showing what is necessary. I can give you a set of different exercises to do. I can make you do these exercises at a class, but nobody can change your posture or make any other necessary changes but yourself, as well as nobody can do your dance but yourself. 3.That takes us to an important realization you have to make in the very beginning of your Tango journey: you will need to make changes in yourself, many kind of changes, many self-explorations, many plain acceptances of corrections, many learning curves. All that will require a great deal of courage. Tango is not about satisfying your ego. It is about Tango itself. It is very important to take a minute, and think about what is our goal with Tango. Be aware that you are about to be part of a community. The natural habitat of that community is the milonga. It is not the class. The class is merely a school to prepare you to be at the milongas. It is not the festivals. They make only exceptional moments in the life of a milonguero. It is not the stage, where Tango is as real as a Hollywood movie or a Broadway production is real life. The life of a milonguero consists of everyday milongas. So, we have to make the milongas our wonderful experience if we want to be milongueros. Many of you know how much I love to learn and practice martial arts. In a martial art class, when your teacher is giving you corrections, all the oxygen in your lungs and your brain is taken by the fact that you just tried to beat the other person , or avoiding to be knocked out by him or her. Nothing is left to talking back, giving excuses. So, you just listen. And that is great, fundamentally, because you always learn something when you listen. I understand, you have a life that sometimes gets in the way of your desire of dancing Tango. You have a day job; you are stressed out by many factors like the economy, your health, your children, etcetera, etcetera… What I propose, when you get corrected, is to just listen, consider, and try. Do not come back with excuses. There are way too many excuses not to dance well. Our learning process is not a continuum. I understand that you may be tired. Something might be going on in your life, and you cannot focus on your passion as much as you would like to. However, my job is to do what you pay me for: showing you how to dance Tango. I know that you know all that. I know that you know that I know it. I will be patient. After all, I do what Tango does, something older people in Tango always tell you: “Tango is waiting for you”.

Tango is education

Marcelo Solis at Cafe Florida on New Years EvePerhaps you were asking yourself: Why a Tango School?

When I receive a new student in my class I know that he or she wants to learn to dance. But teaching involves not only showing the moves, but also giving the student a sense of placement, making him or her aware that you cannot just do any move at any time.
So, I must give the new students a sense of Tango as a whole, make them understand that they are learning a culture.
I heard someone calling Tango a “sub-culture”. I do not agree. All the elements I have learned while studying Tango are substantial in the general society, and the broader world culture. I learned the importance of my body as the root of my existence. I learned a lot about my interaction with others, how my happiness or unhappiness affects everybody around me. In sum, I learned that everything I do affects everybody in this world.
I have realized the importance of teaching the beauty of Tango.
In my classes I teach all the elements you may have in your checklist, that every Tango instructor claims to teach. Name your favorite element, I do teach it.
However, more important than the element itself is the meaning that the move carries within.
A week ago, I attended an event related to Tango. I was chatting with a couple. They told me they took some tango classes. They asked me if in my classes I made my student change partners. I replied that, yes, but that it was not obligatory, as I knew many couples liked to remain together during the class.
Then they said they were learning “ganchos” in one class, and that they found uncomfortable doing “ganchos” with other people.
Well, I told them that, anyway, learning “ganchos” did not make much sense because if they went to Buenos Aires’ milongas, they would find out that you were not supposed to perform “ganchos” there.
They were surprised, and, I think, a little incredulous of my assertion. Since they never went to Buenos Aires, they could not tell for sure. But I do.
In my 15 years of teaching Tango in the Bay Area (and 19 years teaching Tango in Argentina and worldwide), I have discovered that the main obstacles in teaching a new student is to overcome all the previous ideas about Tango he or she brings to the class, and change them into what Tango really is.
Now, you are probably asking: What Tango is in reality?
My answer is: Tango is what happens in the milonga. And when I say milonga, my image is that of the very best of the most authentic milongas in Buenos Aires.

This is what guides my instruction, and that is why, along with others who are after the same goal, I created the Escuela de Tango de Buenos Aires.

What I get when I pay the entrance fee of the milonga?

When I go to the supermarket, I buy groceries, take them home, and then do with them pretty much whatever I want. 

The same happens with any merchandise I purchase.
If I decide to become a member of a Club, I only take home my membership card , and the pride of belonging to my beloved Club. The Club stays where it is, and I come to the Club for whatever activity (social, sports, etc.) it is for.
When I come to the Club I belong to, I have to observe behavior  For example: taking a shower before getting into the swimming pool, no diving, no smoking…
If I do not follow these guidelines, I will first receive a call, and eventually will be expelled from the Club if I keep ignoring these warnings.
When I come to the milonga, I first pay at the entrance. What am I getting for my money? A dance? A glass of wine? A snack?
I may get all that, but I am also receiving something more important. All these are elements that the organizers of the milonga provide you with the intention of enhancing the experience of attending.
The money I pay at the entrance is used to organize it: pay the rent, arrange the chairs and tables, clear and clean the dance floor; the lighting, the ventilation of the room, the DJ, the sound system, the personnel that takes care of everything, and for all the freebies organizers give you to make you and all the milongueros and milongueras feel more than welcome to the home of Tango.
The milonga is where Tango lives, where Tango is kept alive.
When you are at the milonga, whether a well known milonguero/a or a new good student, you are making possible that Tango lives. You bring Tango to life, in your body, in everything you do with your body, not by dancing only, but by everything you do.
Once we start dancing, we realize that everything we do is dancing. Dancing feels so natural, It makes us feel so at home in our bodies that it makes sense to see all aspects of our life from the point of view of being at the milonga.
The fee we pay at the entrance of the milonga is not the price of what we are getting for that money. The $10 does not make a milonga a profitable business. The true organizers of true milongas do it for passion of Tango, not as a business. With that $10 you just contribute to the necessary setup of the milonga. But in reality the milonga is pretty much made by you.
Since it is you who actually makes the milonga, the milonga will be the way you are: the quality of the dance, the behavior, the outfits of the dancers, the ambiance, all these characteristic of the milonga are what you bring with you.
Not liking the milonga you attend  is comparable with living in a neighborhood that you do not like.
Everyone at the milonga is essential. So everyone must be aware of having  the responsibility of making the milonga a good place, even and especially, for having fun, as we are responsible for the world we live in, and particularly, for being happy.
In that sense, the organizer of the milonga is not the one accountable for how a milonga is.