Ask Arlene…About my views on dancing to non-Tango music

What are your views on dancing tango to other than tango music (such as  swing, blues or zydeco)?
I enjoy dancing to most tango music (I have always felt a fraud with Piazzola and Pugliese!);  I find tango lends itself to improvisation and love dancing to more simple, regular rhythms.  I don’t understand most of the Spanish lyrics and love to interpret  Cole Porter and Van Morrison in tango.  Their songs  have a much stronger resonance for me.  I like taking a pause, which other dances don’t allow.
I need to persuade tango followers to come to Jitterbugs!


Dear Bob,

You must not have been reading my blog for very long, because if you had, and you knew me, you would know what a traditionalist I am and that I prefer a close embrace when it comes to dancing Tango.  Saying that, I have been known to dance large to ‘Tango inspired’ music, such as Gotan Project and the like.   I can’t for the life of me dance it in a close embrace.  However, I find those songs too long to enjoy dancing to and prefer to listen to that type of music.  I do not usually dance to Piazzolla or Pugliese for the same reasons and also because I cannot find a leader that can do the music justice (but mainly because the songs are too complicated and too long).  I have been known to dance large to Kevin Johansen, who has about three Tango inspired songs that I know of.  Other than that, I am not a big fan of dancing Argentine Tango to non-tango music and cannot remember ever having danced a Tango to any other contemporary music.

I also like to dance Salsa and Ceroc and really appreciate a Salsa break during a night of Tango dancing.  Sometimes at The Crypt they will do a  Salsa and Jive break.  Unfortunately, not many leaders that come to dance Tango do these other forms of dance and sometimes I am left on the sidelines for these breaks.  😦 When I went to Sevilla in 2008, they had a break of other Latin dances, which went down very well with the non-Tango dancers.

I can’t imagine dancing a Tango to a Salsa or a Jive to a Tango.  I think it all boils down to what came first, and that is usually the music and the dance evolved from that.  That is why we have different dance styles.  For me, I fell in love with Argentine Tango music and then the dance.  I have already had an issue at a Salsa venue where the DJ was playing mostly ‘Latin inspired’ music when there is a huge amount of authentic Salsa music available.  It turns out that the DJ has a Jive background.

I don’t think it really matters if you can understand Spanish in order to appreciate the music.  My Spanish is limited, but I have a feeling for the music, not the lyrics.  Listen to the music and let that guide your dance.  If you want to know the lyrics to certain songs, there are some websites on the internet that can give you translations. Planet Tango has translations of numerous Tango songs.  I have discovered that the music that moves me the most has very poignant lyrics.

I try to have a few different dance styles under my belt so I have something to do on my travels.  Also, there is no Tango in Eastbourne, so I am happy to Salsa and Ceroc just to keep my body moving.  It helps that I actually like Salsa music and Ceroc can be danced to pretty much anything, except Tango inspired music (I tried and it didn’t work for me).

There is an argument going on at the moment on one of the Tango group forums about playing non-Tango music at Milongas.  Personally, I really don’t like it when that happens.  It isn’t even ‘Tango-inspired’ music.  When I go to a Milonga, I want to dance to Tango music, preferably the older stuff.  When I go to dance salsa, I want to dance to salsa music.  When I go to Ceroc, I can expect to dance to anything, except I won’t dance to rap music.

I take it that Jitterbugs is a Jive evening.  I don’t know how you can persuade Tango dancers to go and dance to something else.  There is a group in Hove that has three rooms for dancing, one being dedicated to Tango music.  I haven’t gone to that yet so I can’t give an opinion.

So, that is what I think about dancing Tango to non-Tango music.  If anyone else has an opinion that isn’t rude or insulting, I welcome your comments.

Taking Classes – Back to Basics

Most of you know that I am not a great fan of taking classes.  Although I am not a big fan of them, it doesn’t mean that I am down on taking them.  Quite the contrary.  I have taken many classes offered by most of the London teachers.  In fact, if you have been following my Tango story, you will know that when I first started Tango, my obsession knew no boundaries and I went everywhere to learn and dance Tango.

Because of a lot of conflicting advice and various teaching methods and styles,  I ultimately gave up going to regular classes.  The milongas became my classes and my leaders became my teachers.  As with the classes that I had taken, some were good and some not so great, but I always learned something.

In the last couple of years I haven’t been dancing so much for various reasons.  I am ok with that.  However, I lost something with my dance that I hadn’t realised until this past weekend.  I came up to London to see my children and to do some dancing.  I wasn’t planning on taking a class, but I had some time on my hands and I managed to get to the class at Corrientes with Giraldo and Mina.

Taking a class with Giraldo and Mina is not a new thing for me.  I used to take regular classes with them before the milonga when they were at Tavistock Place.  It had been a long time since I had taken a class.  However, it was not that long ago, all being relative, that I was given advice by Giraldo.  Not only did he say what I should do, he also put his hands on me and showed me how to do it.  I can still remember how he did it.  I have had lessons with another teacher that does the same thing.  It is as if they have healing Tango hands.  They can position your body they way it should be and then the body remembers.

The class started with the walk.  How to walk, especially in heels, is difficult in slow motion.  I was tense.  Mina watched me and told me how to relax my feet.  Relax the feet!  Something that should have been so natural, without thinking, was something that I had to consciously focus on.  I put my attention to my feet and relaxed them.  Good, I could do that.  Then Giraldo put his hands on me again.  I wasn’t the only one he did that to. 🙂    God, how much I had forgotten.  After the walk, we worked on ochos.  Slow-motion ochos are difficult in heels.  I have done this exercise before.  It was coming back to me, but I was still out of practice.  That was just the beginning of the class.  The warm-up.  Then came the lesson.  I don’t remember what the sequence was, but I managed to follow, mas o menos.  I was better with my eyes closed.  There were more followers than leaders and I was fortunate to be led by the teachers, both of them.  I learned a lot.  There was nothing tricky, just the basics.  This was my kind of class.  If only all classes could be like this

During the milonga, I was conscious of my placement and relaxing my feet.  I really felt that my dance was better.  I was more relaxed.  I had a great time.  Thanks guys!

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