Arguments 2

Well I asked for it and I got it. I want to thank John for his very comprehensive answers; obviously he has thought deeply about the subject and is not just answering at an emotional level. So I think that it deserves a good answer.

Tango, it is true is a dance that evolves with time and as I have also said, no two milongueros do the same dance.

Exploration has its value, without it the dance will just become fixed and in the end we will just have a boring set of steps. There must however be rules, ok we can stretch the limits; rules after all were made to be broken.

Where we seem to be disagreeing is on the definition of Nuevo Tango. Let me be quite clear, Nuevo has time and again been defined by teachers and aficionados as a style designed to be cinematic, it must by its very nature be danced open and large, because to be seen, is its raison de etre.

Talk of Fantasia as a different style I think is pointless, Fantasia is show tango, Nuevo is designed for the cinema, I think differences are largely academic.

Modern tango does not need to be either large or choreographed. If you talk of dancing the music, following the line of dance and connecting with your partner, then you are not talking of Nuevo tango as I mean it. This I think is where we differ in opinion, a good tango teacher will incorporate all these things in the dance, whatever he/ she calls himself, but if you learn to dance socially you are not learning Nuevo.

John spoke of teaching in Chester; I did not quite follow his meaning, so if I do not answer him fully perhaps he could comment again. (Please do any way). 

At one time (to my knowledge anyway) there were four teachers offering Argentine tango in Chester, and the range of their teaching shows the confusion that there is; We had one teaching from a ballroom syllabus, one teaching pure choreographed fantasia one teaching salon and one who did not know which side of the fence he sat on. There may well have been others who I was not aware of and I am sure there will be others to come.

Of the London scene I know little, except what I have read. I was last in that scene in 1997 so I suspect it, like everywhere has changed somewhat, hopefully for the better.

Tango in the UK is starting to come of age, of that I have no doubt. The quality of the teachers has improved a thousand fold since we first started in the ninety’s, there are still poor teachers out there and there are good ones, just how anyone new to this will know the difference I cannot tell you , I just hope it does not take them too long.

The problem of course is that for many in Buenos Aires, tango teaching is seen as a way out of poverty. There is no qualification or other way of telling if any of these “teachers” actually can teach or even dance tango at all. I have seen some very poor teachers who come from Argentina, and just because they are from Buenos Aires does not mean the know tango. In saying this, I truly believe that the reverse is not true; you cannot know tango without knowing Buenos Aires.

That is where I draw my knowledge from, I don’t claim to be the best tango dancer in the world, but the time I have spent there has at least equipped me to be able to tell when things are not right.

So while it is, I think, necessary to have at least been to milongas in Buenos Aires this alone should not be taken as a sign of good teaching. Likewise whatever the teacher, do not accept a whole sequence of moves as true tango. Tango is an improvised dance; it is basically a folk dance, a dance of the people, a social event. When it becomes performance orientated it is no longer tango.

You cannot say that Nuevo is bad dancing; anything that gets people out and away from their televisions has to be good, but Fantasia should not come into the milongas. There are places where this can be danced and places where they social dance, mixing them up only causes bad feelings.

So in summary, while I agree with everything John said about teaching, I cannot agree on the definition of Nuevo. What you consider Nuevo is tango with a modern twist, not what is defined as Nuevo by all the experts (or by me though I do not claim to be one of the experts). Of course we could get into a very similar argument about who are tango experts, on this I note the wikipedea definition of Nuevo Tango, which states it is anything from the eighties onward and not a style at all….. (A North.American article by the way not Argentine)

If you accept this definition then I suppose I must agree with John, this I of course is the dichotomy, as there is no written definition we will always argue about it. Perhaps I should replace the word Nuevo with fantasia in future.

Finally I have to say I like and enjoy the company of both John and Anna whenever we meet, I hope that no one thinks our on line arguments mean we are not friends.


Filed under milonga, Tango

4 responses to “Arguments 2

  1. tangobob

    So we are clear on what you meant with paterns, I tend to think in terms of forward and sideways steps, and pivots. The ocho is just a series of pivots, and the giro is just a combination of pivots and steps. So you can rotate with more back steps or forward, watever, if well led a giro does not have to be, forward side back side. Similarly an ocho does not need to be completed, every move should be led. When all is said and done, tango is just lead and follow, or as my teacher in BsAs says “Bob it is just walking”

    On your last point, there I have some argument: There is an arrogance in the so called first world, that we can rename everything and we are the only ones who do it right. What I do is called “Argentine Tango” it is called that because it comes from Argentina. Many years ago I did ballroom tango, that was from Britain and had no real relationship to Argentine Tango, I also do sequence tangos, again the same is true. I hear British, North American and European teachers say “that is all right but we do it better than the Argentines” well I am sorry , if you do it different, it may be better, it may be more comfortable, it may even look better, but then it is no longer Argentine Tango.

    I see all the time people trying to spoil Tango, make it something other than what it is, that is why I will always return to Buenos Aires to dance. There is the tourist scene there, that is true, but get away from this and you find: They respect the codigos, they respect each other on the dance floor (no ganchos and heels always down), they do not take classes, and most of all they enjoy the dance without the politic.

  2. Anna

    When I spoke of ‘traditional patterns’ I was thinking of the recognisable elements I expect to crop up, as a result of step by step leading decisions (e.g. cross, ocho or giro). Movement of the follower in less familiar ways I tend to associate with ‘tango nuevo’.
    You said “imagine if you will, [Buenos Aires tango] as a true accent”, our difference of opinion is that while I may see Buenos Aires tango as an ‘accent’ (or set of ‘accents’) I do not see it as truer than tango danced elsewhere.

  3. tangobob

    Hi Anna
    I would hate to think you found our debates stressful, I myself enjoy a bit of the cut and thrust. Still whatever you are comfortable with, I enjoy it when you join in. When you talk about traditional paterns, that to me makes no sense, good tango needs no paterns and experimentation is always to the good, providing of course you respect others on the floor.
    As you know my work patterns prevent me attending many festivals, but I have danced in Holland as well as other countries. The tango in Holland is good, but it has grown it’s own style. If you ever get to spend time in Buenos Aires, after a while you start to realise that tango has accents, you can almost tell the barrio a person is from by their dance. Imagine if you will, this as a true accent and then look at what crossing the Atlantic can do to it. Fit in with that, the experimentation that colours tango everywhere, and you can get a picture of what I mean when I say “to really know Tango you must go back to its roots”.

  4. Anna

    There’s no danger of us falling out, I have found this thread fascinating and love you all the more for it. I didn’t reply to ‘Arguments’ because I do not “enjoy the cut and thrust”, I like to read other people’s discussions but find it stressful to argue a corner. Thankfully John said much of what I was thinking, and more. I will join the discussion now as someone with only tentative opinions; I appreciate other viewpoints and reserve the right to change my mind.

    If we define “nuevo” as a cinematic dance to be seen rather than experienced then I largely agree with you. I see no place for exhibition dancing in the midst of a social milonga.

    However I think practicas benefit from some ‘experimental’ dancing, seeing what can be done with a good technique and strong connection (other than the traditional patterns). The great dancers of the ‘Golden Age’ experimented in their practica sessions and in that way social tango evolved. I have seen lots of experimental dancing in the practica sessions at Tango Mango. There was nothing choreographed about it, the musicality of it was tremendous, and the couples appeared to share a deep connection. Seeing that has done much to shape my definition of “nuevo”.

    The statement “you cannot know tango without knowing Buenos Aires” does not ring true to me. There are many global tango hotspots, where tango is danced to a very high level and fantastic teachers encourage strong technique, emotional engagement and subtlety of musical interpretation in their learners. Perhaps you should attend the International Week at El Corte (Nijmegen, Netherlands) and see if that affects your opinion.

Please comment, I love to hear your views.

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