Visual Aesthetics in Tango – who are they for?

At some point in our Tango development we begin to care about what we look like when we are dancing.


We are not professionals. The crowd, certainly, is not focussed on the aesthetics of every heartbeat of our dance. There is – in fact – no crowd at all – but yes – there are people that are watching.  And they might want to dance with you.

Beauty needs someone to appreciate it. And the person that you are dancing with cannot see very much of you at all – they can certainly feel your skill, your focus – but in the moment your visual appearance is largely lost to them.

And this I think is where the circle is squared. I feel your beauty through your technique, your balance, you connections to the floor, to me and to the music. It is indeed absolutely beautiful. Someone watching cannot yet feel you – but they sense the same qualities that I am feeling – because when they watch you they see the years of effort, the balance, the grace and the connections.

So in fact you look beautiful precisely because you can express each moment with technique, without noise, purely and appropriately.

True beauty comes from deep within us – and Tango is a wonderful light to show that to the world.

And who would not want to dance with you when you look like that?

Tango conversations – who is talking to whom?

All of us that have been dancing for a while will have enjoyed the moments where there is an interplay between lead and follow that we often refer to as a ‘conversation’.

Until very recently I never thought to question who was having the conversation – there are only two of us after all. But now I am experimenting with the idea that in these moments I am often listening – and the real conversation is often between the follower and the music.

But the key – I think – is that word ‘mostly’ – when she dances with the music she needs to know that I am there – that I have not abandoned her. There is a moment when I give everything over to her – and I remain as a stable engaged structure – but never should she feel lost – just playing with her own responses to the emotional landscape in isolation.

One of my wonderful teachers talks about the fact that the music knows nothing about dance, and our job as dancers is to introduce the music to dance. We take this role on as a couple – we accept the musical landscape and together we negotiate our response. It is natural that the focus of our relationship – the two dancers and the music – shifts in all possible combinations. Sometimes the music might suggest a walk, and the leader responds – he has listened and the conversation is between him and the powerful rhythm of the music. For a musical phrase the follower might just enjoy the result – and be walked. But then the focus changes – there is a wonderful series of complex tumbling notes that the follower responds to.

I think this role of the leader – to be always there – to always be dancing even in stillness – to never abandon her – to participate as the focus shifts again and again – is so important.

The skill is to jointly agree who has the focus, and to exchange our roles from leader and follower between the two dancers and the music so as to create a work that is creative, natural, balanced and spontaneous. And – ultimately – musical in itself.

As we all learn after a few years – the semantics of leading and following simply demonstrate a lack of vocabulary for what beautiful Tango consists of – the continual exchange and creation of meaning between two people and the music – with a constant flowing and shifting of the role of all 3.


When ‘Correct’ is not good enough

For so long as students we all strive to be correct.

We learn figures, we watch performers and teachers. We work hard – trying to be ‘right’.  Trying not to make mistakes.

To learn to be more correct seems to be why we go to classes.

Recently I have began to feel that correct is boring. That the woman is in danger of disappearing – of loosing her individuality to the correct and familiar execution of what is asked of her.

As a leader I have been studying the footage of milongueros – building up video resources and notes – and the one thing I do not see is any sense of uniformity. They share fantastic musicality and creative skills, which they express in such extremely individual ways.

And who among us would have the temerity to describe them as wrong?

Just one example – I have been learning from clips of Pibe Avellande – particularly that wonderfully creative dance with Luna Palacios at salon Canning to Rodriguez.

Is there anything at all that is “correct” about the posture of El Pibe?

I can just hear the teachers now – ‘stand up straight’ ..  ‘don’t hunch’  .. ‘be more gentle’ .. ‘don’t stretch the woman’s arm like that’  .. ‘walk properly not like a crab’ – in short – stop being amazing and just dance Tango like everyone else in the class.

Of course I don’t have the 40 years – or the talent – to be so creative and so connected to the music as this.

But I am already so enjoying it when people that I am lucky enough to dance with express their own individual interpretation, when the energy flows back and forwards between us. When neither of us are following or leading – and when right and wrong don’t exist between us in the same way that they used to.

It is so exciting when you feel on the edge – when you take risks, enjoy the moments of surprise – and stay with the emotional landscape of the music however the dice fall.