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.