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About Tango Argentino / Argentine Tango

by Ralph Nimmann, Cambridge

Below on this page:
What is T.A.? | The magic of T.A. | T.A. Links | T.A. & 'Dances of Universal Peace'

More links & contact @ end of page
- updated November '10 -

Introduction

Is Tango Argentino - also called 'Argentine Tango' - "the most advanced form of dance at this time on this planet", as my friend Margaret Grover said?
Is Tango Argentino a spiritual practice, as our Riga tango teacher Natasha sees it?
or is it a "vertical expression of a horizontal desire"?
Why are Tango Argentino classes attracting more and more people, whereas numbers are dropping in many other groups?

I like to share my views, and why my wife Vitalija and I (Ralph), are learning Tango Argentino besides our favourite Dances of Universal Peace.

At one of the weekly Tuesday evening Milongas (Tango Argentino ball) in Cambridge two advanced teachers (Korey from Kansas & Mila from Moscow) gave a dance demonstration. We just stood and watched them dance. It was so beautiful and harmonious, that it moved me to tears, which does not happen very often.
There is some magic attraction in dancing Tango Argentino - maybe it's our soul's longing for Oneness?

How does Tango Argentino work?

Tango Argentino is quite different from the commonly known simplified European "Ballroom Tango":
What looks like a telepatic communication between the dancers, is a subtle body language, which consists of elements, like letters in the alphabet.
Both partners lean slightly forward inclined towards each other, weight on their toes.
The leader, usually the man, signalises his intention of movement from his chest - the follower, usually the woman, focusses on the leader's chest and keeps her shoulders always parallel and right in front of the leader - following the movements of the leader's chest.
The rule is, to have the weight always on one leg at a time - this needs to be felt by the woman through the slight sidewards swaying of the leaders chest while changing weight from one foot to the other.
The leader needs to expand his awareness to the followers body and legs - he needs always to know on which leg his partner stands.

           Tango
acrylic on canvas 2006
 by Vitalija Zelenevska
'Tango' - acrylic on canvas 2006
by Vitalija Zelenevska
The dance begins with sideward swaying - then the leader moves his chest in any direction - and the follower steps with the free leg into that direction and the dance begins. The leader mostly steps forward, whereas the follower mostly steps backwards. You never step on each other's toes.

The idea of Tango Argentino is to move as one being with four legs, to spontaneouly choreograph and improvise movements to the mood of the music. Dancing Tango is like putting letters (dance step elements) together and form words - and from the words whole sentences. The perfection would be writing a piece of poetry with both bodies.
This is why each dance of Tango Argentino is aways different.

Dancing Tango Argentino requires a fine sense of rhythm, balance and the leader's ability to project his intention clearly and responsibly with the chest.
The follower needs to know some basic steps and the rule to follow the leader's chest. It helps not to have any expectations what steps might follow - only to follow and to surrender.

The music is mostly tango rhythm, but it also can be waltz - or anything else.

Of course - the above short introduction describes only the basic rules - when the dancers advance, they raise above those rules and may perform amazing movements, pivoting and decorations.
This can lead to anything between nearly acrobatic fast sequences - or to sensual, very slow motion.

The Magic of Tango Argentino

Being led from the centre of the chest, which is also the location of the heart chacra, gives Tango Argentino a special heart note.

When two people dance in harmony and perfection as one being with four legs, it is like transcending the "I" and ego, while being on a higher "we"-level.

                        - Tango Argentino - 
                   Photo by Diana Mansfield 
from the book 'A Passion for Tango' by David Turner
Tango Argentino - Photo by Diana Mansfield
from the book "A Passion for Tango" by David Turner
Leading is not a macho-style showing off - the leader's steps are more minimalistic; actually he serves the follower by aiming to lead sequences with tender loving care, which give plenty of opportunity to her beauty being expressed through movement. The leader can also create opportunities, where the woman can improvise or choose additional decorations. The women are the queens of the dancing floor.

Another level of awareness while dancing is being a part of the whole group, which moves anticlockwise around the empty centre of the room. Each couple becomes a part of this group organism, dancing with the flow.

The practice of changing partners every few dances brings with it the experience of being held in more or less close body contact - a kind of healing and comforting body bonding therapy, which especially the English hardly practice at all. Our society is deprived of hugging - Tango Argentino brings this human quality back to life.

Tango Argentino is very subtle: the normal dance position (one foot apart) only becomes a "close embrace", if both partners feel comfortable with this. Many women close their eyes when dancing in close embrace, so they are less visually distracted and can enjoy the dance more intensely.

Tango Argentino and sex? Well, some photos and graphics use a pinch of sexuality to advertise Tango Argentino, and some participants may come with sexual desires.
However: after one year learning and dancing with many partners, my experience is much more that of hugging friends and being hugged - and leading the dancing requires so much concentration, that there is no space for sexual feelings. Of course I enjoy dancing with beautifully looking women, especially when they are good dancers.
It seems to me, that dancing Tango Argentino also brought fresh attractive aspects of my wife to life and to my awareness, which we both enjoy.

As a man I had to learn, that being a clear straight forward leader is not negative (like being "macho" - or like other male generated things like going to war, dominion over the environment or the female gender, scientific research without responsibility etc). Subconsciously I associated "being a clear leader" with "being bossy" and "belittleling my partner". I am learning to beam out clear intention - and was surprised to hear, how much my partners enjoy being led.

From the poetic description: "Why Tango? A leader's appreciation":
"They face each other, assume the position, breathe in anticipation. The powerful music of the bandoneon swells for them to take in. The man initiates movement; the woman feels the direction and timing from his body. They are now mirror-image figures. He has her agreement to be led - and therein lies the balance. Without agreement and balance, there is no Tango.
He guides her into a walk. They are already there. So simple....yet excitement grows - the prelude to three minutes of exquisite communication between the sexes. The passionate song unfolds. You don't have to know the person or even want to know them..... The dancers seem to have no expression - except concentration - on their faces. The emotions are brewing within.
The heart is beating. Someone has to decide what how they move - that's the lead."
(from http://totango.net/whytango.html

Being an emancipated woman - and surrendering to a man - how does that go together?
I heard from various partners, that when the men shows his caring and his responsible side, they feel safe, can relax and enjoy the attention; the women don't need to worry while following.
Tango is an opportunity for a woman to play a purely feminine role in a man-woman interaction. Read the detailed article: "What Women Want and What Men Want in Tango" at www.gainesvilletango.org

          Dancing couple
from www.tangoshusheta.com
Dancing couple
from www.tangoshusheta.com (DenverPulpo images)
A glimpse of tango heaven: "As soon as we began to move, I could tell that this dance was different. His lead was smooth and balanced, I knew exactly what he was asking me to do. We moved with invisible harmony. I closed my eyes: everything disappeared except for the music and the perfect connection between us. I turned; I swiveled; I balanced on one leg while he turned me in a circle. I did things I had never done before - things I could not repeat with anyone else. All I had to do was focus on the subtle shifts of weight; if I paid attention to that, and only that, I could do anything. The dances blurred into each other. When I opened my eyes between dances, I could barely recognize the room." (Emmeline Chang, New York, from http://totango.net/emmeline.html)

Changing partners in Tango Argentino is very common. Even when you come with "your" partner, you usually end up having danced with some others as well - change and contact with others is rather pleasent.

Tango and meditation?: I would say yes, definitely, Argentine Tango is a meditation, focussing on the 'here and now', keeping your own + your partner's body balanced and moving in harmony and beauty.
Quote from http://tangozen.com: "Tango Zen is Walking Dance Meditation, which combines Zen meditation principles with Tango Dancing. That is, Tango Zen is meditation in motion, and if practiced properly, may enable one to meditate and experience Zen moments while dancing or walking."

PS: After 2 0r 3 years practicing and learning Tango Argentino, my wife Vitalija and I stopped attending the Milongas and classes. One reason for me was: I had to practice a lot in order to keep up with and progress in T.A., and it was quite frustrating, having developed the sense for harmony and beauty, to feel how far away I still was from that! I would have needed to practice MUCH more and intensely to get there.
At the same time I experienced how profound the Dances of Universal Peace (see below) affected me, how despite (or because of?) the simplicity, I experienced moments of bliss, connectedness with the group and deep fulfilment while singing and dancing.
In T.A. I learned a lot, and it sometimes made me cry seeing how really good dancers would move together as one being. In the Dances of Universal Peace I find community, contact with others as well as with my inner core - and the Divine.

Tango links and more

More about Tango Argentino in Cambridge:
  • NEW: from February 2007 Thursday evenings 8–10.30 pm: "Salón de Tango", University Sports and Social Club, Mill Lane (near Silver Bridge), Cambridge. £4 - £3 concessions. See www.tangoevent.com
  • We have a Tango ball (social dancing or milonga) in Cambridge every Tuesday evening from 8:30pm, preceded by drop in classes for beginners and intermediate dancers at 7:30pm, both at "The Centre at St Pauls", Hills Road.
  • Most Fridays there is a practice evening 8pm at Ross Street Community Centre in Romsey
  • 2nd and 4th Saturday each month there is another milonga, 9pm - midnight, at the Unitarian Church Hall, preceded by another beginner's drop in class at 7:30pm.
  • ... and more events & visiting teachers coming up and courses, also for advanced dancers - read more about "Tangamente", "Tango Bar" and "The Practice" at www.cambridgetango.com and www.latindance.fsnet.co.uk/tango.htm (incl. 'Tango Nuevo')

Tango Argentino around Cambridge:

Tango websites UK & world (selection):


Tango Argentino and the 'Dances of Universal Peace'

Since this page is in my "dances" directory, which is all about the Dances of Universal Peace, I'd like to compare them with Tango Argentino:
both provide plenty of contact with other dancers, but in different ways. Both have spread around the world - and In both you may find glimpses of heaven, harmony and beauty.

I love the Dances of Universal Peace (DUP), because we sing chants from different cultures and dance at the same time - the whole group becomes one, and we raise above our ego towards a "we" level in the group. It can become a mystic experience - or be a glimpse of heaven.
Words, melodies and movements come from a wide background and in different styles - they are rather simple and repetetive - the magic lies in the simplicity and can sometimes develop in harmony singing while dancing.
The focus of the peace dances is clearly spiritual, while we dance holding hands in a circle. Some dances are for partners and can involve exchanging glances and hugging each other.
Peace dancing requires a leader, who often accompanies the singing with a drum or gitar and who ideally acts as a Divine channel, helping the group to experience these magic moments.
The chants and music honour the many spiritual / religious ways.
Dancers usually take their shoes off while dancing, outdoors often with bare feet to honour the sacred space.
Why not try the combination of singing and dancing in a spiritual setting?
Check Dances of Universal Peace in Cambridge - Ralph's DUP programme or
DUP in the UK: www.dancesofuniversalpeace.org.uk - DUP world wide: www.dancesofuniversalpeace.org

In Tango Argentino oneness can be experienced with a partner, and the body contact is more intensive than the DUP. Normally the dancers don't talk nor sing at all, but concentrate on the dancing - the followers often close their eyes. Blissful moments can be experienced with the partner - and on a more subtle level with the whole group.
The magic lies in the unfolding of beauty and harmony in improvised movement sequences.
The spiritual aspect in Tango Argentino is rather subtle and not obvious.
Partners may look at each other, but often dance cheek to cheek.
The music is mostly recorded instrumental, often with a singer, can also be live at bigger events.
Shoes: well, slippery even floor is required for frequent pivoting; the followers wear special tied high heel shoes.
All regular T.A. events (3-4 x per week) in Cambridge are well attended (see T.A. Links above).

Ralph Nimmann, December 2005

- - - rainbow line - - -

[ this page is www.rainbow-cambridge.org.uk/dances/tango-argentino.htm ]

Any comments or feedback to this page? Contact Ralph & Vitalija

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