Tango: my life as a not-so-good leader

And you thought that YOU were the worst dancer in the world ?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

What women want 

A tango e-zine from Gainesville (the U.S.A, Florida) lists all the requirements needed for "tango males" [their words]. It takes them no less than 19 paragraphs, and it's so long that one e-zine is not enough, they had to split it in two issues:


Out of these 19 commandments, one is about technique (and still, not really sharp). It's so short that I can reproduce it here in extenso:
"Dances to the Music: He dances to a particular piece of music being played. He never carelessly does a series of pre-set steps without attention to how they fit with the music. If the tango is fast and rhythmic he doesn’t do large sweeping steps that have nothing to do with the music, because he wants to show off. He always dances on the beat. After pausing, he starts dancing again on the beat."

I find that even this lonely paragraph is questionable. Always dancing on the beat? Never heard of dobble-time, contra-tiempo, syncopation? Never read these words by Gavito:
"I step on the string bass, I lead the woman on the violin; if tango was supposed to be danced on the beat, then one drum would be enough, no need for a full orchestra." But I actually praise and worship this lone technique paragraph, lost in a ocean of womanish requests.
Because all the (very lengthy and detailed) rest is about look, attire, hair, outfit, attitude, perfume. It seems the only thing in the mind of Gainesville women is "If they see me dancing with him, will the other women here be jealous?".

Anyway, if I ever go to Gainesville (very unlikely), my report is already written:

Before coming, I've taken a Cologne shower. Also I've put massive amounts of deodorant on my underarms, and kept my hair stiffly in place by a generous helping of gomina. My fingernails are manucured, to avoid causing any scratch.
Now here I am, sat at my table in the milonga, wearing an ironed white shirt under my dark-blue suit. The cortina comes, it's time to invite a lady. Eye contact, she smiles back, I stand up and walk to her table. "Shall we dance?". I extend my hand, she takes it and stands up. We can hear the first notes of "Desde El Alma", but I don't rush, we're not even in the abrazo yet. I smile to her and say "Vous etes très en beauté ce soir!". She can't speak any french, but she guesses it must be a compliment and blushes slightly.
Finally I take her in my arms. Here there is a short playful episode, some nice handwork between the two of us to find the most comfortable -for her- position of her right hand into my left hand. Each lady has her own favourite hand position, I know I have to adjust. Now the abrazo is settled. A smooth, close abrazo, as it seems it is what she prefers. I can feel her breathing, and as time goes by, we end up breathing "à l'unisson". My back is exposed to the flow of dancers, like a wall that protects my partner against bumps caused by other people.
And indeed bumps there are, because other people are moving and I'm not. I don't know a single step. I saw "Shall we dance?" but even the simplest moves shown by Richard Gere proved too challenging for me. So, I'm staying where I am, very confidently. I feel I'm conveying this confidence to my partner. I'm not here to impress her with my steps. And obviously she feels secure. This time she won't be endangered by some advanced step. Everything is crystal-clear, she doesn't need to guess what the next step will be: there won't be a next step. We keep silent, I don't want to disturb her dance. From the outside we're looking like an oil painting, but actually we're sharing an unforgettable inner dance.
Three minutes later the song ends and the other couples freeze in a dramatic pause. So do we. By the way, we have already been freezing for three minutes. Like the true gentleman I am, I escort the lady back to her table. Quite easy, because her table, of course, is just there. Here I feel that a final compliment would be appropriate: "It has been a privilege to be leading you". She thanks me with a grateful smile: "You're the best leader I've ever danced with!

posted by Pablo  # 2:35 AM
Actually there is no contradiction in what Gavito said and their recommendation of dancing on the beat. There are many rhythms in any given tango - it's up to leader to choose which beat to dance to (main, double-time or even triple time) and to which lead the follower. Regardless, leader steps on the beat.

You are right about the rest of their recommendations - rather maudlin

Cheers, Oleh Kovalchuke
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