After eleven years living, dancing, teaching tango, and writing in Buenos Aires, I came home to L.A. in 2014, where I'm reconstructing my life.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Death of Tango?

Periodically the doomsayers on the Tango-L and elsewhere on the internet love to bring up that in their opinion, the tango is on its way out in Buenos Aires, and some say, in the world. I don't know where they get this idea, because it seems to me that nowadays all around the world there is no pocket too small to have a tango community--from Vietnam, China, Egypt, Slovenia, to hamlets in Michigan and Maine, and Calgary, Canada.

Recently an expatriate tango blogger posted her opinion that the tango is dying in Argentina for economic reasons. While it's true that economically things are bad here, what else is new? Times were tougher ten years ago and the milongas were legendary.

I've lived here in BsAs for 7 years and the milongas I go to are just as packed with locals as ever--summer or winter, the Saturday afternoon Milonga de los Consagrados is always full of hundreds of dancers, mostly local, just a few foreign (photo above.) The other regular milonga we always go to is Nuevo Chique on Thursday afternoon, and if you don't get there by 7 you don't get a seat. The organizers of Nuevo Chique, Ruben y Marcela, recently opened a new milonga on Tuesdays at the same location in Casa Galicia, and it's doing just fine.

I also heard that last Monday in Gricel it was standing room only. Generally the Saturday afternoon milonga at Maipu 444, Cachirulu, is jammed and in fact the organizers are opening another one on Tuesday. I think at El Beso. Sueno Porteno in Boedo Tango on Wednesday. is a huge success and is always crowded.

Several new milongas have opened, while some older ones are losing attendees and are fading away. It's a fact, some are hanging on by a thread. That is the rise and fall of the business, the waxing and waning of the fickle public--like any other enterprise dependent on being popular or trendy to attract customers.

While it's true that inflation has made all prices shoot up, it was never true that ordinary working locals went to several milongas every night of the week. A few milongueros did and still do, but they usually don't have to pay admission. Normally people go to dance on the nights before their days off. When Ruben was young and dancing every night, he'd sleep a couple hours in his car before reporting for work at the TV station. But that nochero life doesn't appeal to him anymore and dancing 2-3 times a week is sufficient. However visiting tourists do dance every night, often at several milongas, because that's what they're here to do for 2 weeks or however long their vacation is. They pay the entradas and the organizers are happy to welcome them.

Don't worry. There is definitely no danger of the death of tango in BsAs any time soon!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Free Embraces Here!

I know, we've all seen the videos and even perhaps the live campaign, but this one is beautifully done and you just can't help but be moved. The music doesn't hurt either.

It reminds me of the blessing of the tango embrace--as many free hugs as we have time for, accompanied by emotional, gorgeous music. How fabulous is that?

Watch this for three minutes of feeling good and then better--the length of one tango.

For one moment our lives met
Our souls touched.
--Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Festival Flack: Plea for Honest PR to Know Before You Go

When I still lived in the U.S., the phenomenon of tango festivals was relatively new. I attended a few--the first three Denver festivals, Norah's Week, Tango Magia in Amsterdam, but mainly I saved my money to come to Buenos Aires for a couple of weeks whenever I could.

Lately I've heard from lots of disillusioned people about festivals in the U.S. that they used to attend but will no more because they are now over-run with nuevoists who make traditional dancers fear for their lives on the floor.

Recently a good friend of ours, Tony Parkes, attended an event of the Berlin Tango Festival, and was so disappointed that he wrote the following letter to the organizers. Because this is not an isolated case, and because there has been much discussion of late on "festivals unexpectedly turning nuevo," I'm printing it here with his permission.

I think a lot of work has to be done if we want to preserve tango as we know it. I recently attended the Friday night tango festival ball in Berlin and felt compelled to send the following email to the organisers....

My name is Tony Parkes, an Australian dancing tango for 7 years. I have lived the last one and a half years in Buenos Aires, dancing on average 5 nights a weeks. because I am visiting friends here I registered for the 2010 Berlin Tango Festival. The purpose of this email is to convey to you my immense disappointment at the ball last Friday night. Tango friends here in Berlin advised me not to go Thursday night because they expected that it would most likely be an indulgence in nuevo tango, and some who went confirmed this. But we all expected the Saturday ball to be more conventional tango. Three of our group of six have danced in Buenos Aires, and all 6 of us as I said above, were immensely disappointed.
Apart from the music played by the dj, there was nothing else at the ball that anyone who dances traditional tango could enjoy. And that includes the "Buenos Aires Tango Orchestra" who played nuevo music.

Of the several hundred people on the dance floor, 99% were dancing nuevo with no knowledge of the line of dance nor respect for the space of others. There was no tango energy, just couples dancing mindlessly, selfishly, arrogantly - and no dancing with the music. The music could have been jingle bells or happy birthday and they still would have performed their same extravagant, exhibitional gyrations. There were but so few people attempting to dance with feeling, connection with their partner and love for the music.

I am aware that the nuevo phenomenon is happening in North America and in other places in Europe which saddens me. In Buenos Aires I have enjoyed many dances with both north and south American women, and of course European women too, and I expected something similar here in berlin. so now to attend what you have labeled a tango festival hurts me. please answer me can you use the word tango ?

The reality for me is that you have falsely labeled your festival (I have been told that in past years it was traditional tango) so people like myself and my friends who enjoy tango pay money to you in expectation of another enjoyable tango experience. There was no chance of that on saturday night. and for the first time in my 7 years of dancing I walked off the pista during a tanda - to Carlos di Sarli no less. I am not asking for my money to be returned, I just ask that you look at yourselves and have the honesty and dignity to remove the word tango from your marketing.

Yes, once again, we have to face up to the importance of marketing. People should know what to expect when they make expensive travel plans to dance tango. Which only means that festival organizers have to publicize the event correctly--if it's milonguero, if it's nuevo, or if it's let's wait and see who shows up and pays and then the majority rules, which I think is the usual case. Cold cash is hard to turn away--in the same way that milonga organizers here often let anyone in who pays the entrance fee. Ruben says that when he started to dance tango long ago, a man couldn't enter a milonga without a coat and tie, and with his shoes shined! Can you imagine that happening today?

It would take guts and fearlessness and integrity to market a festival as milonguero or nuevo or anything goes, and then stick to it. If it's nuevo, make sure there is plenty of room; if it's milonguero, require that dancers follow the line of dance and don't do large moves. Information should be given out in the publicity for the event as to what style will be danced, on the registration forms, in emails, in handouts, and in oral announcements at the event. Let dancers know what to expect and then follow through.

It will take courage. What if you throw a festival and nobody comes?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Solo Tango de Jeanine

Yes I know, I'm a bit out of it down here, but I just saw this performance last night and wanted to share it with you in case you missed it. This was 18 year old Jeanine Mason's finale solo on So You Think You Can Dance 2009--and yes, she was the winner and became America's Favorite Dancer. While nothing about it is really tango, it is fabulous dancing.

Here is the original full-length version:


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

DNI Success!

At last, I received my DNI after only seven years of tramite. (You can read some of the backstory here.)
But it expires in August!

Friday, June 04, 2010


I give to you and you give to me...true love, true love.

The more love you give away, the more you get; the more you give of yourself in tango, the more you get in return from your partner, the music and the dance. This is not to say that we should give our dance to anyone who asks; we need to choose wisely--quality over quantity--but once committed, we should not hesitate to give our all.

Which tango partner would you prefer--a giver or a taker? Do you want to dance with someone who is stingy? If it's, What's in it for me? instead of a mutual gift, chances are it won't be sublime for anyone. (Sallycat wrote a great post on The Gift in tango.)

I've noticed that folks who have generous natures and are generous of spirit, usually are generous with their time, money, help, possessions, and love. (And they have lots of "takers" as friends.)

Folks who are stingy with their money tell a lot about themselves, and are most likely also tight with everything else. Do we want friends and lovers who always avoid the check, or accept invitations without reciprocation, or are after what the other person can do for them in a relationship? Do we want stingy tango partners?

Selfish people usually have more and bigger stuff; the generous often accumulate less material things. Perhaps, though, one gets way more out of life by sharing what they have with others.

The stingy folks don't get it.

When we give, we get. It's that simple. In tango and in life. We usually get out as much as we put in, and often even more. The source is eternal, we will never run out, our love and our tango will continue to grow and fill our spirit and those of others we give it to. When we are givers we automatically become receivers. Maybe we don't finish the race with the most toys and the biggest hotels, but we finish "first" by having lived lives that matter in the community of souls we live in.

The old milonguero way is to give the woman a good experience, and when she's relaxed and happy, she in turn gives back to him. He feels like a better person and like more of a man. It works out great because it does take two to make one tango! Otherwise it's just two separate people dancing for themselves, and/or the audience, which is so not Tango.

As Ruben says, (and sometimes it sounds a bit macho when I translate in class), the woman gives her body to the man so he can make beautiful music with it, and then they are both happy.