Thursday, February 25, 2010

Argentine vs Ballroom, an X-rated analogy

Disclaimer: I have never attempted to do any ballroom dancing nor have taken part in any pornographic films. The analogy is based merely on my own observations.

Unfortunately, the image that many people have with tango is that of 'ballroom tango'. A little less than a year ago, my tango mentor/teacher explained the 'feel good vs look good' dance paradigm. In that particular context, the paradigm was confined within Argentine tango, but in my view it also applies to the comparison of Argentine vs Ballroom (referred to as AT and BT from here onwards, respectively). From what I understand, BT originated by abandoning the Argentine roots to become a competition style dance, which necessarily made itself lean to the look good side of the spectrum. AT, on the other hand, is by nature a social dance, as opposed to competitive dance, so the focus is just having a good time.

In the X-rated context, BT is like a pornographic movie, because it is performed not for the pleasure itself but for viewing pleasure. Often, I suspect, performers have to fake it for the sake of looking good on the stage or on screen. Many things float different people's boats, so some women may prefer an uncomfortable embrace with little connection just to supposedly look graceful and elegant on stage, or may enjoy selling their dignity by appearing in pornographic films. On the other hand, AT is like the passion between a couple who truly love each other, and can give their partner great pleasure, whether on the dance floor or the bedroom, regardless of whether there's people watching or not (if sex in public is your thing, of course). There are AT performers, of course, but it's mostly for didactic purposes.

They say an image is worth a thousand words:

(Thanks to Alex for the awesome picture on the right of Julio Balmaceda and Corina de la Rosa, two incredible dancers. Check out Alex's blog: ... Original link to the picture )

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Nuevo/Neo/Alternative..... what is it?

Fellow blogger (and I hope future contributor) 'El Ingeniero' and I had a little discussion about the role of 'Nuevo/Neo' tandas in DJing. He remarked how difficult it was to smoothly incorporate these into the mix without breaking the flow and the mood, and said he would probably omit these altogether if it wasn't for the crowd asking for these. This got me to think, what in the world is this Nuevo that we talk about so often? The terms nuevo/neo/alternative are vaguely thrown around in discussions of tango music and dance without there being a specific definition for these (as far as I know, at least). Linguistically, Nuevo and Neo are the Spanish and Latin word, respectively, for 'new'. So 'New Tango'... Naturally, it makes little sense to talk about the new tango without first addressing what the 'original' is. What is 'traditional' tango? Is it strictly the one originated in brothels, or is it the one danced to in the golden age? Milonguero, Villa Urquiza, Salón...... Which is it? As with all art forms, tango is continually evolving. I am no historian of any kind, but I am guessing that each style in a way represents an era and/or location of the dancers (as with Villa Urquiza). Yet even within these categories, there are endless variations because we, dancers, are such individualistic, unique entities that it is virtually impossible for one dancer to perfectly fit into one of these (in my opinion) arbitrary labels. And in the rare instance that a dancer can be categorized into one of these styles, dancers also tend to change over time. In these multi-layered complexities lie the difficulty of defining nuevo. Sebastián Arce said previous to a performance in Dublin last year that in defining Nuevo "it doesn't matter which way you dance, whether you dance with your arm here or your butt there [...], whatever you do: that's Nuevo". (source: ) At the time, I wasn't quite sure what he meant, but now I think I understand what he means. Nuevo is not necessarily the new; it's the now. Whatever the phase our own dance is going through now is the nuevo, not an arbitrarily set criteria of different technique/embrace or moves/figures.

As with the music...... the so called nuevo tandas mostly are one of two things: either completely non-tango music or 'electrotango'. Unfortunately, my background in music is too limited to precisely define what makes a piece of music tango or not. But I'm confident we can unanimously agree that Mraz is definitely not tango. I understand that the non-Spanish speaking dancers may not relate as much to the Spanish speakers to the music, so they may prefer more familiar music that they understand and can relate to. And I cannot realistically expect every non-Spanish speaking tango enthusiast to learn the language just for the sake of connecting to the music better. But really, these 'non tango music' tandas should be limited to one per night, if at all. Why? For one thing, I cannot tell if a song is part of a tanda or a cortina (I always hope it's a cortina). As for the Electrotango, a lot of it sounds to me like just electronic/house/chill music with a little bandoneon playing here and there. Once I complained about the high frequency of these kinds of tandas at a milonga, and someone told me that I should quit living in the past. This is true; it would be hypocritical for me to advocate the evolution of the dance but not the music. Indeed, there are current orchestras that are very danceable and respect the basic foundation of the music, while providing a little break from the usual Golden Age orchestras. El Arranque, Sexteto Milonguero, Tangamente, Orquesta Color Tango, Contramarca, Los Reyes del Tango, Imperial, Unitango are all current orquestras, each with their unique flavor while maintaining the essence of tango. These would be my nuevo tandas.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Poll: Quejas de bandoneón

This is a great song, and the most famous rendition is probably the one by Troilo. But there are many other great orchestras who have performed this piece. What is your favorite?
I'm torn between Troilo and Biagi; Troilo's for its sheer dramatic mood (lives up to its fame), and Biagi because it demonstrates why his nickname is "Manos Brujas". There is this portion at the end of the song where the piano makes my heart race... beautiful, just beautiful.
Sorry, Di Sarli and Pugliese... I love most of your music, but your version of Quejas de Bandoneón just doesn't do it for me...

Funny performance to this song:

The beauty of simplicity

In my ever changing perspective of what tango is, I have come to appreciate the simplest things in the dance. Not long ago, I used to pursue intricate step patterns and liked seeing well performed ganchos, boleos, colgadas, etc. While these are nice, not only are they usually impractical on the social dance floor, they are also in my opinion just superficial parts of what the dance is. Using simple forward, back, and side steps, there is such a vast range of emotions to be expressed through the connection with the partner, the floor and the music, that the complex leg wrap and figure sequences I sometimes observe on the dance floor seem superfluous. Of course, the mood and the music might call for these fancy figures, and that's fine as long as it respects the other dancers' space. But the reason why I like the title of the blog - 'Milonga para tres' - other than the fact that it's three people blogging, is that for me it takes three to tango: the two partners, and the music, not the two partners and a bunch of memorized, choreographed sequences. As a guideline: keep it simple. Simple does not mean easy. Simple is beautiful.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Welcome to Milonga Para Tres, uncensored, unlimited

This came up as an idea between two tango friends (though 'tango friend', meaning friend from tango, is more and more becoming a redundant expression for me) and I a few months ago about the need of voicing our opinions about local, nationwide, and maybe international tango communities, as well as sharing thoughts about the dance and the music. As is normal with people, drama follows the community, and as seen in various prominent communities, maybe there's a need for an uncensored perspective that we intend to provide here, covered by our anonymity.

Right now I'm a little sleep deprived from the milonga last night (which, by the way, sucked! But more on that later), so I'll try to take a little nap and share some thoughts.


-Jaimito el Zorro Gris