Whores and Dockers

Every where we go to tango in this country I seem to be from some lower order. Don’t get me wrong I don’t have some sort of inferiority complex. I am a manual worker, working class, and never aspired to be more. I am happy with my lot in life and do not get intimidated by academics or high thinkers.

This is not my point, my point is; why does tango only seem to appeal to scientists and ballerinas? Are we making it too complicated?

I have many friends who are professionals and academics, they struggle boldly to keep tango alive here, and I would not knock them or try in any way to stop what they are doing. We need go getters; people with drive, there would be no tango here without them.

I wonder though, what about the workers? (Sorry just a bit of 1970s humour) We get all sorts of people in Salsa and the older crowd that we have for tempo dancing comes mainly from the working classes, but in tango it is almost all professionals, doctors, scientists, and university professors.

Tango is a dance for whores and Dockers not ballerinas and scientists, it is a folk dance, a means of socializing, and let us not forget, in the early part of the last century, it was the only way men could get close enough to a woman to touch (unless they paid of course).

Tango in The UK and Europe has, because of the isolation of Argentina, developed its own life. The one or two teachers who learned in Buenos Aires passed their knowledge on to others who went on to teach other teachers, and so on. What we have been getting is a watered down version of the truth.

This new truth then develops its own life and those of us who try to bring what we have learned back are told that what we do is not right. After all how can all these teachers, professionals, be wrong? It must be me who is wrong.

Fortunately in recent years things have been changing, but slowly. Long distance travel is more accessible, and as people travel they see the world as it really is, not some second-hand version.

There is no professional qualification for tango teachers, this is understandable when you consider what I said, “this is a folk dance” but people assume that because someone is taking a class then they must know more about tango. This is not necessarily true, it may or may not be, the only way you can be sure is to visit Buenos Aires yourself and make a judgement on what you have seen. Be careful though, there are many there as well, who will take the tourista dollar and teach you whatever you want, whether it be salon, Nuevo, or just show tango. The milonga is the only place to see tango as it should be, but be sure to get away from the tourist traps, because all you see there are more tourists.

When I first learned tango it was as a sequence of moves, we learnt this way for years no lead at all, and not until I went to Spain in 1997 did I learn different. Even then, what I had learnt did not totally change the way I danced, two weeks in Buenos Aires changed every thing, I forgot completely my old routines, and I learnt to walk for the first time (tango walk of course, I had not lived my life sitting down). That was six years ago, I have seen many changes in the way tango is taught since in the UK, but still there are many who just want to learn moves and routines.

All the high kicks look complicated and difficult, but as someone who learned that way first, I believe that there is far more skill in the more simple looking salon style than anything you see on the stage. (Tango Passion excepted).

There are those who say that you only need to walk to the music. Well I disagree (you’d not expect less from me now would you) you need more; you need some sense of the way we move as well as a sense of rhythm. Some basic moves like ochos and giros, because in a crowd you have to do something other than stand still. But in saying all that this is nearer to what tango is all about than many a teacher will try to show you. There are many men whose heads are so filled with moves and rules that they are barely able to move. They freeze to the floor unsure what they are to do next and when they “lead” something it does not work, so that they have to explain to the woman what they wanted. If there is space, and you can lead it, almost anything is ok, but if you cannot lead it, do not stand in the middle of the floor telling the woman she is doing it all wrong. This is not what women want, they want a flowing dance, to be comfortable in the mans embrace and to enjoy the music. Ladies tell me if I am wrong.

So what I am asking for is something less cerebral, I am asking for more feeling and less show. Dance for the woman, dance with the music and with the room, but NEVER EVER dance for the audience. I promise you one thing if you do this, the women will love dancing with you, you will enjoy dancing more, and surprisingly the audience, if there is one, will appreciate you more as well.  OK that was three things; you get three for the price of one here.

Again if you disagree with anything I have said here, please leave a comment, or even if you agree. What others think matters to me, I have spoken for the ladies here, am I right?


Filed under Tango

7 responses to “Whores and Dockers

  1. Oh thank you for this. Really, well yes I am a software engineer, and my way of looking at it was to explore it in depth (in your words, exploring whats not to be explored and missing the originality of this dance. Well what else do you expect from people who do masters or phds and are trained to research instead of keeping it simple :). True, this in turn destroys the fun and enjoyment associated with the dance)

    After reading the comments and your views.. it just opened my mind 🙂 thank you.

  2. Belatedly… you are 100% right, Bob.

    those of us who try to bring what we have learned back are told that what we do is not right. After all how can all these teachers, professionals, be wrong?

    They are teaching a tango-inspired show-based dance developed for a foriegn market and in particular for the UK commericiaised dance education model without which they would not be in business. Their dance has very little in common with the socially learned and socially danced tango originating in BA and growing in the UK… except unfortunately the name “tango”.

    So, you’re not wrong Bob, and they are not wrong either. Both are right with respect to their different dances.

    The distinct issue is why these teachers/professionals are so keen tell BA-style dancers here that thay are wrong. That unfortunately is wholly down to business interest. There’s little a professional class teacher hates more than real social dancers showing all his actual and potential students in the area that it is possible (not to mention easier, more fun and more affordable) to learn to dance by actually dancing than by struggling through hundreds of expensive classes.

  3. Pingback: Careful what you wish for | The life of a frustrated Milonguero

  4. tangobob

    It takes courage to refuse, but too many men think that the dance floor is a place to show off. I try to get the men to see that women do not enjoy that eperience, but more than this I have a constant battle to convince women it is not their fault. We loose more women because of the self proclaimed Great dancers than for any other reason. As for whispering instructions, I supose it is better than stopping mid floor to give a lesson, but not by very much.

  5. Yes, yes, yes!!! The first time I danced with one particular man it was wonderful, we danced so well together, he kept it simple and flowing, and I really looked forward to dancing with him again. The second time, he started on the fancy moves and a sort of tango quickstep that made me feel I was being manouvered through an obstacle course. The third time, I found I couldn’t follow him very well at all (despite the instructions whispered in my ear). The fourth time, last night, it fell apart altogether, I felt extremely uncomfortable and eventually made my excuses. If there’s a fifth time, I’m going to ask him to keep it simple and flowing like the first time. If that doesn’t work then I guess it will be the fifth and last time – not because I think I’m a better dancer than him or because I’m oozing with tango confidence, but because I’ve decided that that’s not the tango experience I want. Tango tranquility beats tango turmoil anyday.

  6. tangobob

    I remember you from Wilmslow, but I had to think for some time about Buenos Aires, are you sure it was not at Centro Region Leonesa that we danced, it is usually there or Canning where I meet people from home.

  7. I so totally, totally agree. Glad to see you are still involved in Tango. We danced together a few times in Wilmslow!! We also met in Buenos Aires at Ideal.
    Keep up the good work & keep in touch. Linda

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