Milena Plebs

Occasionally I find something that simply must be passed on. I read this article by Milena Plebs and thought I simply must pass it on to my readers.

So after seeking permission, here it is in its entirety.

Tango and embrace…

What women want: In most cases, an embrace that provides good support is much more important to them than many complex steps. The magnetism generated between the two torsos is all that is needed for dancing. Women are focused on being a foil for the man. They are thankful when he is careful, and does not lead steps that require movements larger than the room that the couple has available at any given moment. They do not need the man to show them all the steps that he knows. For many of them, just to travel through the dance floor in an embrace is enough.

What men want: They celebrate being trusted and allowed to lead. They expect that the position of the woman’s arms will not block their lead and that, in spite of giving themselves to the embrace, women will not lose their axis; that when they do embellishments they will continue to be aware, and not take too much time. Since men have to handle an infinity of situations at the same time, above all they have to calculate the movements of those around them so as to flow with them and continue to advance.
By Milena Plebs

Copyright © El Tangauta 2007
Read full article: http://www.eltangauta.com/nota.asp?id=674&idedicion=0

Milena Plebs is a world-renowned Tango teacher and choreographer. She set up the Tango x 2 Company together with Miguel Zotto. They are jointly responsible for the creation choreography and production, and both star in the shows.

As well as all her other talents she has written for El Tangauta La Revista del Tango since 2007.

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “Milena Plebs

  1. Thanks for sharing the article by Milena Plebs for Tangauta media. We hope it has helped you be a less frustrated milonguero 😀 (or, at least, let you know you’re not alone). Thanks, Bob.

  2. I agree with your list Paul. On the quantity of workshop dancers that’s acceptable (to sociable dancers), for me it depends on where they’re dancing. In the ronda around the edge, the maximum acceptable number is zero. In the middle, the number is higher, since there workshop dancers don’t harass anyone (except each other).

    It’s interesting that whereas in a BsAs milonga antisocial dancers get pushed to the middle, in the UK they gladly take themselves there, having got from their workshop teachers the idea the middle of the floor is the rightful and proper place for the people everyone else watches and copies. Just goes to show: some bad teaching can have a good effect! 🙂

  3. tangobob

    For me the absolute minimum is that they play Tango music, not pop, regea fusion, african bop, thematic waltz, or anything that the dj thinks he could dance to.
    If they play in Tandas, the cabeceo is practiced and the line of dance is maintained, have all become “like to haves”.
    I am afraid I have become less fussy as time goes on. There again I can go to Buenos Aires once a year and experience a true milong or two. I spend my life just waiting for those returns. Meanwhile I take whatever is going.

  4. Paul

    Bob:…anything within 50 miles…
    Chris:…I wish I was as easily satisfied…
    Bob :…in the desert, dirty water is like champagne…

    Bob & Chris, I sympathize with both perspectives and recognise that I spend a fair bit of time drinking dirty water from a nearby murky pond which still leaves me feeling less than completely satisfied.

    But short of packing up and moving to Buenos Aires, it is perhaps worth considering what the essential pre-requisites of a “real milonga” are for us Europe-based dancers. Granted, the list of ideal desiderata can be as long and extensive as those exhaustively set out here in Tango Voice.

    However, even where only some of these conditions are met, there still may be sufficient for us to experience a Wordsworthian transport of joy where some of our greatest longings are suddenly before our eyes.

    So, given what is on offer and reasonably accessible, the pragmatic question may be

    What is the minimum you would settle for?

    For me, the wishlist would include:

    1. socially danceable tandas drawing predominantly on music from the golden age of tango
    2. only a limited number of workshop dancers on the floor displaying their latest anti-social show elements

    There are many other things I would like to see. But I would be interested to know what it is that might make others want to leap and shout with joy:

    Oh my God, listen to that horn!

  5. and don’t get me started on nonn tango music.

    OK Bob, I won’t mention the totally Golden-Age-music-less so-called Argentine tango milionga hereabouts 🙂

    Meanwhile Paul, re your suggestion of a warning notice on videos:

    Viewers interested in learing social dancing should take note that 95% of what is shown in this video is entirely unsuitable for social dancing in a milonga.

    surely better to put it on the commercials a.k.a. shows in milongas, and to the classes they’re advertising.

  6. tangobob

    When you live in a desert, dirty water is like champagne. I am, however more fussy when I travel as you may gather from past posts, and don’t get me started on nonn tango music.

  7. Basically anything within fifty miles”

    Well, I wish I was as easily satisfied 🙂

    Take the “milongas” within fifty miles of here – please! 🙂

    An honorable exception being Tango Cats. Where you could almost imagine you were in BA…

  8. tangobob

    (Bob, I’d be interested to read the criteria by which you’d classify a milonga as real)
    Basically anything within fifty miles, and when I travel further I expect at least some Argentine tango music not pop, afro funk, or reggie fusion.

  9. It would be nice to have a few more real milongas here though.

    Bob, I’d be interested to read the criteria by which you’d classify a milonga as real.

  10. tangobob

    The trouble with travelling teachers is that they teach what the europeans want, not what they would do in Buenos Aires. And yes it is true that many so called tango tours never see the true social tango scene. That is why I teach so few people and the more commercial dances are packed.
    So those of us who keep tango true to its roots have to accept that only by travelling to Argentina will we get our fix.
    I will never get rich teaching tango, luckily that is not what I want. It would be nice to have a few more real milongas here though.

  11. By the way, Bob, your account of your experience with Roberto Canelo does make very interesting reading.

    Thanks for that and the current post.

  12. Bob: …it is time to sit up and listen.

    Forgive my scepticism, Bob, but my reaction is more to sit up and observe even more critically the persistent inconsistencies between what is preached and what is practised by touring professional show dancers.

    Here, it is worth reflecting on how people new to tango and confirmed class-goers acquire and increase their knowledge of tango. Most dancers I come across neither read nor contribute to blogs such as this; they know nothing of reliable sources such as Tango and Chaos or Tango Voice. Even if they do eventually make it to Buenos Aires, they are often directed (by prior commercial arrangements, one suspects) towards particular teachers who peddle a version of “tango for export” with which they are previously familiar. What knowledge they do have is mostly that derived from regular class lessons and workshops with touring professionals where the focus is ever and always on expanding the repertoire of complex choreographic elements ill-suited for social dancing. In commercial terms, this makes perfect sense: it successfully convinces people that in order to dance, they need to keep signing up for classes for years on end. Now, an important part of this commercial package is the role played by the touring professional who raises the profile of the school while apparently providing external (authentically Argentine!) validation of the approach taken there in terms of content and focus. Whatever their written pronouncements, it is in their demonstrations and accompanying workshops that they show where their true vocation lies: it is resolutely not in the promotion of social tango.

    As interest in tango grows, competition among both local and touring professionals increases; there is also an ever increasing need felt by professionals to self-publicize and to position themselves astutely on the market in that a way that appeals to as wide a range of potential customers as possible. So, we should expect professional show dancers and choreographers every now and then to intone their pious concerns for the future of social dancing; equally, we should note the presence of that wholesome-sounding, environmentally friendly variety of organic tango whose promoter struggles to articulate anything beyond the vacuous. Eventually, if we wait long enough, we may even one day see marketed a “kick-in-the-ass detox tango bootcamp.” In suggesting this, I dearly hope I am not putting ideas into the heads of some unscrupulous professionals lurking round these parts.

    So, here’s another idea that I put about before but somewhere else. Let show tango dancers and professional choreographers who upload their performances to YouTube append a suitable health-warning that reads something like this:
    Viewers interested in learing social dancing should take note that 95% of what is shown in this video is entirely unsuitable for social dancing in a milonga.

    To show some goodwill, we can negotiate on the accuracy of the percentage on a case by case basis. Now, if anyone knows of any professional who is willing to rise to this challenge, please let me know. I would be delighted to send both reporter and professional performer a very friendly postcard in recognition of their helpful gesture towards the promotion of social dancing.

    Now, that is something that might just make me sit up and take notice.

  13. Bob wrote: “when tango show dancers are saying the same things as the milongueros, it is time to sit up and listen.

    Sure – one wouldn’t want to miss so rare an event. 🙂

    Especially from Ms Plebs, I have to say, going on the articles from her I’ve read over the years, e.g. her theories of what goes on in the head of a milonguero. From the above:

    Since men have to handle an infinity of situations at the same time, above all they have to calculate the movements of those around them so as to flow with them and continue to advance.

    I believe typically the experienced guy doesn’t even try to handle an infinity of situations at the same time – quite the opposite: he focuses solely on the one he is in. The present moment, the present place. Calculations is furthest from his mind – it doesn’t have a place in the thoughts/feelings of the dance. And he doesn’t let the movements of all around distract him – he navigates simply by maintaining his relationship with the couple in front and behind.

    That calculating frame of mind does however exist – it’s the source of much difficulty in beginners. Particularly those trying to learn social dancing from show performers. No mere coincidence there.

    If, for example, you are tempted to sign up for private lessons or workshops with a professional tango dancer, inquire politely as to where they dance socially.

    Good advice. And if these lessons are to teach you to dance as a guy in the milongas, ask this professional how many years of experience she’s had of dancing as a guy in the milongas.

    I’m 100% with Paul on this one.

    Again Bob, thanks for your article.

  14. tangobob

    Paul
    Absolutely. But when tango show dancers are saying the same things as the milongueros, it is time to sit up and listen.

    I am not sure if I have written this before, but our first lessons in Argentina were with a “Show Dancer” called Rberto Canelo. His experience of the transfer of his skills from stage to milonga are also somewhere in El Tangauta.He was more or less evicted from the floor in the now defunct Club Almagro. Now, I think, he is one of the best. His experiences and others of his ilk should be an example to all of those who try to bring stage moves to the piso.

    Roberto Canelo (a show tango dancer) was the first person to put me on road to true social tango. So yes it is true that the unhelpful influence of professionals inspiring others with ever more flamboyant displays can have a negative effect. But do not discount all the profesionals, or tar them with the same brush, sometimes the very fact that they can differentiate between what they do on stage and what they do in the milonga can help we social dancers prove the point.

    (If I can find Roberto Canelo’s story in El Tangauta I will try to publish that as well).

  15. What men & women want…..

    I suspect that among the minority of tango enthusiasts who take the time to read blogs such as this, such sentiments will be warmly applauded: they are in many ways the tango equivalent of motherhood and apple pie. However, at the risk of sounding like a cranky old man, let me sound two slightly discordant notes and then add a suggestion.

    First, while recognising the need to distinguish the messenger from the message, I nonetheless find it just a little frustrating to listen to this kind of thing coming from a professional, touring performer and choreographer. For me, it has become abundantly clear that one of the contributory causes of dance floor chaos (obliquely alluded to in the original piece in eltangauta, though not quoted here) is the unhelpful influence of professionals inspiring others with ever more flamboyant displays and then compounding this with inappropriate content in their workshops and demonstrations. Now, it is not my intention to single out this particular individual for special criticism; moreover, in the interests of fairness, I should make it clear that I have never attended any of her workshops so cannot pass judgement on their quality or content. Nevertheless, I would like to see less of this purposeful, professional inconsistency where social tango is preached and show tango is routinely exhibited.

    Second, it is my belief that the current obsession with world-renowned touring professional performers-cum-workshop-givers is an unhealthy and unhelpful distraction for any aspiring social dancer. What is it that convinces people that an accomplished stage performer couple will have anything of worth to impart to those keen to learn social dancing? Are we so easily duped into thinking that those who can show us this will be our best guide to reaching the level of poise and social grace shown by El Chino on a crowded floor?

    My suggestion then would be to take the advice of touring or resident tango show dancers with a generous grain of salt. If, for example, you are tempted to sign up for private lessons or workshops with a professional tango dancer, inquire politely as to where they dance socially. If they say that they are much too busy with their professional schedule, then clear off and count your blessings for the many heartaches you will have avoided: they have nothing of any worth to share with you. If they do tell you where they dance, arrange to go and observe them on a busy crowded floor. Do they dance the “walking commercial” style in order to showcase their full repertoire of fancy moves and adornments while their students gasp in admiration? If so, clear off…quickly. They are a toxic influence on the social dance floor. If you lucky (very lucky) you may find a couple who seem quietly contained yet wholly aware of the space and comfort of those around them; they move with and are moved by the music and seem to respond to its rhythms and phrasing; they are at peace with themselves and with those around them. Feel slightly tempted. They just might have something to share with you. Better still, just try dancing with them.

  16. Alan Jones

    I have seen this article before,Bob, and I guess that’s why I have such regard for the older dancers,with the wealth of experience that they bring to us.Ah,the old ball between the chest,who can also remember the sheet of paper,too? We were often taught to lean slightly towards each other,leaving a few inches for your feet,so you can dance in an
    enclosed space.Apologies for the angry face,I really have no idea where it cam from! Kind regards from Alan Jones.

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