Dear students, milongueras and milongueros
The Escuela de Tango de Buenos Aires is an enterprise entirely dedicated to tango. It is through tango that we understand culture. It is a way of life. It is a way to see our own lives in the context of realities such as society, individuality, beauty, responsibility.
These words seem abstract, but they manifest as real problems in our everyday life.
Tango lends the experience of past generations, gives us the perspective of how people in the past lived and danced, of the mistakes they made in the process. It offers us the opportunity to make better choices in present, and through our sense of responsibility, personal strength and awareness, to make life more beautiful.
Tango shows us that our individual lives are meaningless without a connection to past generations and traditions that link us to others in the present and throughout history. Passion for life, which we can only achieve and sustain through our individuality, is necessary to give meaning to our lives and make valuable contributions to society.
What I am describing can be found in the lyrics of many tango songs. For example, below is a verse from “Canción de rango”:
“Que bailen los que vienen pa’ bailar,
que escuchen los que quieran escuchar.
Pa’ todos hay un tango acompasado,
pretencioso y retobado reinando en mi ciudad.”
This first verse talks about society, made up of uncountable individuals driven by their own passions: dancing, enjoying the music… there is something in tango for everyone. Tango is for all.
“Yo canto porque vivo la emoción
del tango cadencioso y compadrón.”
In these lyrics the individual presents his motives: passion, emotions. Still, these passions are related to something that transcends him: tango.
“Yo canto cuando alguno pega el grito
que hay un tango compadrito
buscando un corazón.”
This verse demonstrates how he is moved by responsibility of responding to a call from tango and others.
If you listen to any rendition of this song, you will be moved by the total commitment of the orchestra/singer into the composition. The authors, Suñé and Kaplún, really left the ball ready for a goal in this match. I enjoy all of them: Demare/Arrieta, Biagi/Acuna, Tanturi/Castillo, Caló/Rufino, Pugliese/Córdoba, Troilo/Goyeneche. I just discovered the last one: http://youtu.be/Lo51tqpkLSk
I am not going to talk about the dance. You must do it, if you want to know anything about it. It is pure beauty.
The Escuela de Tango de Buenos Aires is based in Buenos Aires, where it has a staff of regular and guest maestros such as Olga Besio, Blas Catrenau and Luciana Guido, Diego Converti and Graciela Gamba, Omar Cacerez & Vidala Barboza, Alejandro Beron y Verónica Vazquez, Néstor La Vitola, Verónica Olivera, Nito and Elba, and Néstor Pellicciaro who is also one of the co-directors.
The other co-director (and author of this article) is me, Marcelo Solis, working in San Francisco Bay Area.
ETBA also has branches in Europe and Asia.
Since tango is a globalized phenomenon that is rooted in Buenos Aires, we promote a strong connection to the roots of tango at each branch abroad. Teachers at every location organize classes and events keeping in mind that their goal is to see their students dancing in Buenos Aires’ milongas, helping them to integrate to the milonguero culture.
In order to make that possible, every year, the Escuela organizes several tours to the tango capital. See more information about tours here…
I recently came back from Buenos Aires where I was guiding my tour.
The experience was very positive, and all of the participants became better dancers. That makes me feel deeply happy and proud.
And now the question is… what makes you a good dancer?
My answer in the framework of tango:
1. To be madly in love with the music. Tango originates as a dance first, and then a specific music was associated to it. The first milongueros would dance using the particular technique of dancing based on the embrace, to the rhythms in vogue at the second half of the 1800’s: waltz, polka, habanera, that came to the port of Buenos Aires from abroad, and a local rhythm called milonga.
Musicians were itinerant at the time. They played improvisations based on popular melodies, and received payment directly from the dancers. The musicians who paid attention to the dancers learned to play to their cadence, the natural inertia of a couple dancing embraced. That was greatly appreciated by the dancers and rewarded with a greater pay. That is how tango evolved as a musical genre.
This process went on, with a period where tango was partially disassociated from the dance; the tendency that today, in retrospect, we relate to Carlos Gardel, a singer, and Julio De Caro, a violin player, composer and director. It lasted until 1935, when Juan D’Arienzo initiated the Golden Era of tango by reconnecting tango to its roots as a dance.
The music from that period (that continued strong for a decade, and faded out gradually after –although never completely disappearing) is played nowadays in the milongas in Buenos Aires.
That is why it is not possible to understand Tango without passionate love for its music. The music tells you how to dance, tells you what tango is.
2. To have the patience to achieve a great control of your movement, up to the “subtleties” level. Be never satisfied with what you are already able to do. However, do not allow the quest for improvement deprive you and your partner of the joy of dancing.
3. To have the passion and the commitment to practice, to put aside other things and make time to practice. Nothing will change or improve in your dance without physically doing and repeating your exercises in order to build up the necessary good habits. I heard people saying that this is neurotic obsessive behavior, an addiction, and other similar things. My response to them is: when an activity makes you stronger, wiser, more aware and alert, healthier in general, it cannot be classified so negatively.
4. To be generous, pay more attention to your possibilities and opportunities to give, rather than calculating how much you would receive. I tell you right away: it may be a long time before you can truly enjoy it. It is always going to be a work in progress that is never finished. It will ask you to be always in alert mode, to consider more what you can do and how much you can give, not how much good it is given to you. From the moment you go to your first class or your first milonga, the right attitude will be “I come to participate”, rather than “I come to receive”.
5. To have the desire to share, pay attention to your partner’s joy, to dance “with” your partner. That is the same principle stated in 4, but on the partnership level. At the couple level, tango is made by two people. They have to act as accomplices, give support to each other, encourage their respective strengths, provide support and a friendly challenge in relation to their respective weaknesses.
6. To respect the other people’s space. Tango is intimate, but should not be invasive. That is why, to give one example, “cabeceo” is so essential to tango: you ought to ask a lady from a distance if she would allow you to get so intimately close to her. The lady has to be aware of the following: a good dancer is clean, well mannered, respectful, strong, considerate and gentle.
7. To be humble, even when you have a lot to be proud about. The greatest of the greatest dancers keep learning.
8. To be aware that tango is not only “your” tango, to acknowledge that it has belonged to others before you, to respect what tango is, so your love for tango grows on the soil of what has already been done. That implies your acting in order to know tango better, its history, the people who made tango their lives.
9. To assume responsibility that others who come after you will get to know tango from you.
I would like you to tell me what other elements, in your opinion, make a good dancer. Please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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