There are several wonderful connections between Tango and what many great thinkers, teachers, inventors, entrepreneurs and philosophers claim is the secret to living life in happiness – being completely present in each moment.

In Tango, this facilitates effortless perfection. How do you achieve such an impossibly high standard? It is both deceptively difficult and deceptively simple.

“Just be in this step”.

“Don’t think about the next one”.

“Or even the end of this one”.

Just be in this very moment.

 And in doing so, you and your dance partner will become one – and experience being completely trapped in one celebrated moment – the sublime present.

Ahhh, to be a celestial creature such as these two…

A good reason to pay $3.5k for an air ticket!

The Tango groove is born in the close embrace – a place where two dance partners meet and become “one heart and four legs”. That meeting place in the body is the diaphragm, which is held suspended so as to be a separate entity from the second space. The first space can be described as from the core to the head. Make a conscious effort to suspend it. The second space is from the core down to the toes. If you hold a lolly at the centre and then undo the wrapping at one end, the lolly doesn’t collapse. Neither should your core, regardless of what is happening beneath you! By pulling up from the core and remaining suspended throughout each individual movement you will (with practice) establish a beautiful connection with your partner.

Dear Readers,

This week marks the final week of Viva classes for 2010, so I’m expecting you to be there, so I can wish you a Merry Christmas in person!! For those of you who read this from remote parts of Africa, you’re off the hook this time. On that note, I wanted to thank you for coming with me on the Melbourne Tango Hotspot journey. starting this project was a daunting exercise – I believe tango is one of the most popular blog topics in the world. What else could I add? I hope that you have enjoyed the formula that I have devised, as much as I enjoyed putting it together.  

Writing here has helped to consolidate for me, all the precious lessons, all the epiphanies that occurred for me throughout the year. I’ve also truly enjoyed watching your progress – taking your baby steps in Beginner Level 1 to forging new territory in Level 2. And those brave souls who have challenged themselves by staying back for the Intermediate classes. Go you. Such achievements and dedication on your part are worthy of celebration, so make sure you stalk the fertile plains of the Tango Bar milonga, with you very best “extend, shift weight, delay” panther stride. You’ll bring a tear to Chris’ eye.

Another huge learning curve for me happened during training for our performance of Quejas de Bandoneon. First of all, unlike in social dancing, you cannot simply follow. The leader needs his energy to express the emotion of the dance, and project it to the entire audience. As the follower, you must maintain your connection to your partner, as well to the audience, being careful not to neglect one for the other. Finally, “it’s all about lines”, in Chris’ words. Beautiful silouhettes, sharp and snappy or soft and fluid movements, as the music dictates. When Christian discusses the “light and shade” of the dance in classes, he is referring to these aspects of the dance. I also enjoyed dancing those moves that don’t really belong in a milonga (like that lift)…secretly pretending I was Mariana Montes!! So if you’re ready for another leap in your learning, I suggest you sign up for next year’s performance class – immortalized on YouTube, you’ll proudly show the grandkids on their new “i-child”.
Speaking of YouTube, I want to extend a special thanks to the deities who share our living room and allow me to witness their skill and grandeur while the baby is napping: Sebastian Arce and Mariana Montes, Ozvaldo Zotto (God rest) and Lorena Ermocida, Adrian Veredice and Alejandra Hobert, Geraldine Rojas and Javier Rodriguez. You rock my tango planet.

From Christian and I, many thanks for your support throughout this year. I am still in awe of the shiny, happy feeling I get while teaching the classes – and it happens because of you!  From us, Merry Christmas and a joy-filled, exciting New Year. 

P.S. Don’t forget to pick up the Christmas Edition of the Newsletter. If you can truthfully tell Christian you have posted it to your fridge, he will die a happy man.

We are one day away from our Information Session for the Buenos Aires Trip, at 11:00am on Sat 20th November 2010, held at the Level 1, 241 Smith St Studio.

On a related note, I imagine those keen to go will start their gradual immersion in many things Tango and BsAs. I love that period of anticipation, research, discovery and illumination that comes before a big trip. On that note, I’d like to recommend some weekend reading I stumbled across while getting to know the tango blogging community.

 The first handsome mention is from Tango and Chaos.   I have an excerpt from the introduction to give you the story behind the birth of this extraordinary document:

In November 2001 I flew down to Argentina for a five-week vacation. The following stories were posted on several Internet groups during that trip. They describe my adventures and struggles while trying to learn tango in the old dance halls and clubs of Buenos Aires. Those of you who make the long scroll through these pages will see that, as often happens in life, I got much more than I bargained for when that beautiful city began to unravel. Those who want to jump directly to the dramatic events of December 19 that changed Argentina, click here. Everything that follows is true, except for the name “Malena”, which is made up to protect a friend’s privacy.

-Rick McGarrey, Dec. 30, 2001
 
 I know you want to keep reading more, so here’s the link:  http://tangoandchaos.org/index.htm
 
Here’s another beauty taking the tango blog world by storm. Bora’s Tango Journey is written by a young woman who started dancing Tango upon arriving in Australia (she lives in Sydney) and is becoming recognised for her unique ability to put such abstract emotions into beautiful prose. My favourite articles are “The man behind the dancer” which featurs an amazing interview, and another, searing with honesty, “Patience is a virtue”. You can read those and many more, here:
http://borastangojourney.com/2010/09/02/the-man-behind-the-dancer-2/
http://borastangojourney.com/2010/08/08/patience-is-a-virtue/

Finally, I’d love to hear about the treasures you’ve found, or what you really enjoy reading in terms of content. You can place links and your thoughts for me in the comment boxes… See you tomorrow!

In a very exciting development, Christian Drogo, Director of Viva Dance, will be offering weekly Milonga/Vals open Level workshops, every Thursday, 8pm at Hit the Floor Dance Studio. Level 1 – 245 Glenferrie Rd. Malvern (Enter via Stanhope St.) The studio itself is air-conditioned, huge, with polished wooden floors, and full length mirrors that stretch on forever. Workshops commence Thursday 4th November, 2010.

Christian is (as some of you already know!) highly respected for his stylish and unique floorcraft, in addition to his comprehensive knowledge of Tango and his skillful pedagogy, so you will be in the best hands.

Christian decided to run these classes because he found that students often feel that these two styles, Milonga and Vals, tend to get neglected and hence students feel least comfortable dancing them socially.  So we’d like to offer the perfect opportunity to develop correct technique from the outset, and obtain fabulous tips on styling and musicality. Classes are taught at open level so everyone is welcome and Christian is very happy to tailor exercises to meet your needs.

The best part is that by working consistently at mastering these styles, you will develop the confidence you are seeking, and the ability to look and feel so good – you’ll steal the spotlight on the dancefloor!

See you Thursday, 4th November at Hit the Floor!

For some of our beginners, the terms Milonga and Vals may be unfamiliar, so I’ve added three clips. The first is one of Christian’s  favourite Milonga performances, by the highly athletic Mariana and Sebastian. This is Milonga for the stage, admittedly, but I think you will find it entertaining nevertheless.

 

I have beautiful memories of practicing to this piece by Canaro, in the Buenos Aires mid-afternoon heat. Que lindo!  The clip has lots of fabulousness to aspire to. Sigh.

 

 I’ve also added a beautiful Vals from Osvaldo Zotto and Lorena Ermocida. I believe this is Christian’s favourite Vals piece and these two beautiful dancers, of course, do it justice.

You’ve probably heard it again and again.

“Delay the free leg”.

And you probably think, ” I know. I am”.

I’ve been conducting my lessons over the past two weeks, asking ladies to specifically focus on this aspect of their technique. But this time rather than incorporating it into every other point of focus – it was the sole focus. In other words, I asked them to not even consider the leg which initiates each step. It will happen naturally, so give it no thought. It cannot be that you will not take that step.

That leaves us in the delicious position of quite literally, and exclusively, relishing the caress of the following leg. Delighting in the delay. Feeling quite feline.

An amazing thing happens. A seismic shift in our perception of time. Christian is always saying in classes, “Time and space shifts” when you have the correct technique. He is talking about creating such elasticity in the step, that the time taken to take each step seems to stretch, and in his words, “The dance changes from a fast dance to a slow dance”.

If you try this exercise with the utmost of concentration, I guarantee it will change your understanding and experience of the dance forever. I know this because, as we finished practicing the basic I heard audible gasps, sighs and exclamations of wonder.

Prepare for a revelation.

For today’s exercise, try to observe simply the free leg, the delay, the caress that follows. After that, come to class. Epiphanies welcome.

I apologise for the long absence. Lately I’ve been having trouble …living? I hope that doesn’t sound too dramatic. Just a pile of little things and bigger things, but that pile has soaked up my creative juices and the writing hasn’t been flowing. Better not to force it I think. Instead I’m going to reach for a dose of  “happy feet”. Hope this puts a little joie de vivre into your heart too!

Oh, and sorry, that was me drooling on the keyboard… (for inexplicable reasons, the clip refuses to load and I must ask you to click on the link provided instead. Thank you.). Damn shame. I love the opening image.

http://youtu.be/sBfRMWlfjRQ

 

 

 

 

This post, I’d like to dedicate to the our Beginner 1 and 2 students. The clip I have chosen features, once again, the fantastici Sebastian Arce and Mariana Montes, personal favourites. What is notable is its remarkable simplicity, which makes it a great study tool for beginners. The pace of the music too, allows the more inexperienced eye to catch elements which are familiar from classes. Each time you watch it, you’ll probably find something new to marvel at, and more importantly, something to imitate during your next lesson.

Elements to look out for (and this may require seperate viewings):

  • the frame – notice how it never breaks. The dancers remain square on, both beautifully suspended from the core. I’m glad Mariana almost always wears a backless dress – you can feel yourself straighten up and pull up from the core just by looking at her!
  • Note the shoulders are held back and relaxed, elbows pointed down. In this sense the embrace is gentle and relaxed. While practicing, check in with yourself and question whether you sense any tension in your shoulders and neck.  Ask your shoulders to drop and relax, your elbows to come down. Affirm the new feeling of peace and gentleness. This is a nice place for your partner to be. 
  • I love the languid beginning. This is a nice thing to practice, during a slow piece of music played at a practica. Try a simple embellishment – the feeling of harmony will take your breath away. 
  • As the walk starts (0.33  sec mark), observe the drive from the diaphragm for the lead, and glorious extension of the legs for the follower. This is what we mortals must strive for.
  • For me the parada is a step which makes the woman feel so beautiful. The trick is perhaps not to get overexcited! Followers, hold back and allow your partner to lead you into the step. You can see one of the many wonderful ways to adorn this step. (from 0.55).   
  • Another element to observe would be the giro (the turn). For this one, you almost need to focus exclusively on, the top half of the body first- note the connection and how completely unrelated it is to the flurry of activity that happens below. Leaders, see if you can observe how the chest initiates the lead, the legs follow. Secondly, and importantly for the followers, see if you can identify the “back, side, front, side” elements to this step. Again, completely seperate to the top half of the body. And like a beautiful merry-go-round, they spin. (2:17)
  • Finally, the humble, yet super-stylish conclusion.

Okay, now that you’ve finished studying (quite intense, isn’t it?), you are allowed to watch whichever clips you please, and for however long you want.   ;)

Thought ‘tango en la boca’ was amazing? Check this out. I’m struck by the emotional intensity that these two youngsters are able to generate, on the street, with people just walking by, in and out of the shop. Incredible. This week during classes, go inside yourself. Listen to the music inside you. Stay behind for the Practica on Tuesday nights, from 10pm, Fitzroy Studio. Beginners welcome.

It’ s long been a concern of mine. The drinking culture in Australia. Or the lack of it perhaps. Maybe better described as the total obsession with “getting para” (drinking until you can’t stand up). It’s so sad to think that many young people know little other form of recreation than glorified inebriation and all the maladies that come with it. The drinking age seems to be constantly on the decrease, and it will cause serious social, economic, and medical problems for future generations.

I know I’m preaching to the converted. You dance. And that could be a wonderful culture that gradually supersedes the formerly described. So I want to ask you a favour. If you know a young person, and you have their trust, bring them along to a tango class. It might take some convincing on your part. But wouldn’t it be great if you could walk through downtown Melbourne, and see something like this (see clip), rather than girls sitting in the gutter and drinking? Or you opened the paper and heard about this (see clip) cultural revolution taking hold of young Melbourne, rather than another knifing incident?

I love everything about this clip. The young couple, the colours, the background noise. This is La Boca! I take inspiration.

  

Quite simply: Who wants to get on a plane, next year, just to dance where tango was born? I know that seems incredibly indulgent, but  I was 21, a wise young man told me, “Siwicki, live on the edge”. It changed my life. So you can stay here and dance with us in Melbourne. We love that!! Or you can give yourself something you really deserve.   

So, that’s you, Christian and a few others (minimun nine lucky companions), led on an exclusive tour (don’t worry, he won’t be carrying a little flag), that features; the best dance schools, the hottest milongas, the coolest underground tango scenes. Of course, these outings will be chased by gorgeous shopping excursions (I think Japan and Argentina rival any other global hotspot),  hearty feasts, and moments to contemple the timeless beauty of Buenos Aires. You will be in expert hands for the essentials, while of course having the freedom and luxury to enjoy every little thing about those wonderful days, and most certainly magical nights! 

Please leave a little comment below: i.e. if you have any questions, or would like to express your interest. Once we have at least 10 interested, we will organise a little information night (just like the ones about Year 9 camp). I’ll be checking this page regularly for updates.

Feel the core strength in the torso, and the connection of each limb in its socket.

And so it is too, for the perfect tango, a language exchanged between leader and follower. That’s why ladies, I’m asking you to be a “living doll”. More precisely a mannikin, like the wooden ones you see in art supply shops. Your partner in his lead will invest a certain amount of energy, direction and angle into your move – be it the boleo, ocho, or gancho. In fact, in every step. And your perfect execution is dependant on the fact that you can let go and let that amount of force be channeled through your body.

In other words – don’t invest extra energy of your own. The ocho looks too energetic. The boleo too extravagant, and he might lose you. The gancho would feel artificial.

Simply let his energy be transmitted through your body, and the dance will look as effortless as it feels.

I have attached the following clip because it demonstrates perfectly the effortless grace that we aspire to. Ladies, note too, Alejandra is impeccably NEAT in her footwork. Observe her center herself at the end of every move.  (Christian, in your comments, could you give the gentlemen a few pointers to take away from a leaders perspective? Thank you).

It’s a beautiful paradox; their energy so gentle and refined, our emotional attachment to them, during the dance, so intense.

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