If I cared less about tango, statements like these (in bold italic below.) wouldn't break my heart.
"Why dance tango if all you can do is walk?"
"the milonga is too crowded to do 'anything good' "
My heart sinks when I hear those sentences. I hear variations of them all the time.
I regret showing how much that first statement bothered me at the time. I was so shocked that someone who had read my blog (and had danced with me), could first of all believe that, and second, actually say that to me. I took it personally and it wasn't intended to be personal at all. It was just that suddenly this leader that I was standing only inches from, seemed miles away.
I tried to explain. Tango is a walking dance - not long sequences of steps, but simply walking and moving to the music. I put one hand on his chest, over his heart, and my other over my own heart. I said, tango is only this - between your heart and mine, in the music. That's all.
He came to tango to understand women . . .
I think he may now be more confused than ever. For every follower like me, that tells him about the elegance, connection, and bliss of a simple, musical dance, there are 5 followers who want dances filled with double ganchos, lightening fast, waist high linear boleos and triple volcadas. It's their prerogative to want what they want, and mine to want what I want. What's a leader to do? Can I blame him for, at the very least, playing the odds?
The Tango Path(s)
It got me thinking about how we all come to tango. What did we see? Who did we talk to? What moved each of us?
I wonder how many people would dance tango if they had never seen a stage performance - if they had only been exposed to, what is for me anyway, the heart of expressing tango music - the social dance. How many people would dance tango if they couldn't see what steps the other dancers were using - if no one could see their steps.
Of course if it weren't for stage/performance tango being so very popular - tango might have stayed a strictly Rio de la Plata phenomenon. Tango dancers outside of Argentina and Uruguay owe their tango experience to the stage performers that toured during the 1980's and 90's - and continue to tour and perform. But if they'd never seen "tango fantasia" - would the social dance hold the same appeal?
If they had seen only this, would they have still wanted to learn tango? (Milonga at Nino Bien):
With only a few exceptions, when a leader tells me I should learn more nuevo moves and dance more open embrace, it feels just a little bit like a potential lover that says, "let's just be friends". It's not meant to be but it feels like a little rejection.
As I said above, there are exceptions. There are a couple of open embrace/nuevo dancers who have such emotional connection to the music and to me that I think I could be across the room and still feel that connection roll off their bodies. It's a rare thing, and mesmerizing. They still take up twice as much (at least) room on the dance floor as everyone else, which creates its own problems - but that is a separate matter. I've seen milonguero dancers take up large quantities of room with poor technique, it's just a little more rare.
Still, I get offended, far more than I should, when nuevo dancers imply that "traditional" tango dancers just aren't as creative.
The New Tango
"To dance like what everyone did 50 years ago, would be like going to a museum everyday and copying the oil paintings of Picasso. I am not saying it is wrong. It is the way to learn an art, but it should not be the ultimate goal." (Monza's blog here.)
It is easy to take that statement as yet another Nuevotango vs. Traditional tango argument. On the surface, it can certainly seem so. But the problem lies deeper than that. The first problem is "what everyone did 50 years ago". There has never been a single, definitive, cohesive style to tango. Different neighborhoods had varying styles - different venues' characteristics encouraged different techniques. No two tango dancers dance the same way. The fact that this is not easily observable from the outside is a problem for the observer, not the dancers.
The next problem, for me anyway, is looking at Nuevo Tango as something creative and new in some way that traditional tango is not. The "New Tango" masters themselves, two quoted near the bottom, have said that what they developed were variations of what was already there.
In my lesson with Phyllis Williams and Darryl Gaston, to help ease my nervousness about performing in front of new teachers, Phyllis told me that tango comes down to only a few things - a side step, a back step, and a forward step. Everything is a variation of those things. You can do them bigger, with more momentum, or more speed, but ultimately, it is still only those three things. (If you differentiate pivots from that list, then you get four things - it's a matter of preference. But still, even that is only 4 things - and nearly infinite possibilities come from those few elements.)
[T]oday there is a new generation that learned to dance 2,3 or 5 years ago, who only know how to do the new styles, the ganchos, the colgadas, but who are not in contact with everything that came before, and I go to the milongas and I see people that know how to move but that don’t know how to dance, people don’t breathe tango like they did before.
–Mariano ‘Chicho’ Frumboli
"What did we invent? Nothing. Yes, we came up with line(ar) boleos or ganchos like this, but everything was already there. Even what in the beginning we called them "alterations" and then later we called them changes in direction. We didn't invent them, they were there. A change of direction is a simple ocho, really." -Fabian Salas
. . .
I've always believed that we each come to tango for different things, for different reasons, different goals. Some people learn simply because it's great exercise that gets them out, mingling with other people - it's just something fun to do. Other people like to "see and be seen". For some dancers, the milonga is relaxing and soothing. For others, it's exciting and energizing. And there's every experience and combination of experiences, in between. What matters is that we all come together at some point and share the music and the floor (hopefully).
Maybe I should just relax and paraphrase Dolly Parton, from Steel Magnolias:
"Oh honey, tango don't care what style you dance, long as you show up (to the milonga)."