Gavito: "It's tango y nada mas. Tango and nothing else. And that's the tango..."
"This is for those who use the Internet for a lot of hanky panky things, okay? If you use the Internet, use for the positive basis of tango, not negatives. Talk about the ones who dance well. Don't talk about the ones you don't like. Ignore them."
I know it has always been this way, and this is probably wasted breath, but there is just so much negativity in the discussion of tango when it comes to the issue of styles and embrace etc.. I've reached some kind of critical mass and can't bite my tongue anymore.
I am a fairly conservative tango dancer. I strongly prefer close embrace/milonguero/apilado embraces. (Or, as my teacher put it, I just like to be 'buttons to buttons'.) If you lead me a high boleo at a milonga, I'll follow it low and on the floor. It takes a pretty sparse pista to get my heel off the floor. So I'm definitely not one for advocating big or flashy moves on the dance floor - quite the opposite.
What I don't understand is why people post pictures and videos (on blogs, forums, news lists, Facebook etc.), of tango dancers, both famous and anonymous, and then ridicule them? When the idea is to illuminate problems of posture, or suggest more comfortable alternatives, as Tango Cherie does here, that's actually very helpful - and not the sort of post I'm talking about.
I'm talking about the posts that start out as thinly veiled advice and then just get mean. The idea should be to educate but sometimes it goes much further than that, to making character judgments about the dancers shown. Is that really necessary? This happens again and again, and then ironically, sometimes in the same post, the poster criticizes dancers for "dancing for spectators". Well, it might be because they've seen their video on your blog along with a list of the 40 things they did wrong in the 3 minutes they danced.
Some of the especially irksome posts are about the follower's embrace (note above, there are good posts about the embrace as well.) First, I am curious as to why so few of these posters bring up the man's side of the embrace? Isn't he just as likely to have his arm to high, or too low, or worse, digging his fingers into her spine? Where is the outcry (with pictures) over that? I'm not endorsing meanness over that either - I'm just curious as to why there are 5 posts about the woman's embrace, to every 1 post about the man's. Next, and most importantly to me anyway, there are so many assumptions made about the follower with her "poor embrace," without taking into account the most basic things.
Perhaps the leader simply prefers that embrace and she is doing precisely what she's supposed to do as a follower, she's adapting to him. Or perhaps his embrace leaves no other comfortable alternative. Instead of assuming she's "dancing for the tables", or "would rather be leading" or "doesn't care about connection" or she "wants to control the man" - maybe consider that there could be (and probably are) loads of other factors of which others would not be aware. And others are not aware of them because they're not really anyone's business. The embrace should be negotiated between leader and follower and what's needed for their comfortable connection. Isn't that what we're here for?
Cripes, now when I dance I'm worried that my fingers are too spread apart on my partner's back, or not relaxed enough, or my arm is too low, or too high, or my ankle might appear too flexed, and what about the angle of my head??? Like I don't have enough to think about trying to "keep my energy up", collecting my knees and ankles, not pulling down or putting my weight (unless invited) on my partner and the myriad things followers always work on. All that to worry about, plus my fingers, my hands, my butt, my ankles - and people wonder why a dancer may not "look relaxed"?
God forbid someone snaps a pic, slaps it up on their blog, and makes me poster child for bad tango. A beautiful dancer was photographed (with permission) by another blogger and dancer. That picture was then used by a different blogger to criticize her embrace - the most personal, intimate part of tango. If she's not embracing you, then why is it your concern? If her partner has a problem with it, he can let her know that he needs to adjust the embrace to be comfortable. No harm, no foul. Leaders have adjusted their embrace for my comfort and I've adjusted mine for theirs.
I care about what other dancers are doing if they're affecting my dancing. If they're not kicking folks, being rude, or disrupting the line of dance or the milonga, I don't really care what they're doing inside the embrace, how well they're connected to the music, their partner, or to the context and history of tango or anything else.
That is, until they're dancing with me. That's when it becomes my business.
Why not focus on posting the embraces, posture, ankle alignment, head alignment etc. etc. etc. that you like instead? Keep things positive. Wouldn't a beginner tango dancer especially get more from that? I know I did (and do).
And just to make sure I take my own advice, and keep it positive - here are some embraces I love:
Tina Ferrari and Pedro Sanchez
Cherie and Ruben: http://www.argentinaindependent.com/culture/balives/cherie-magnus-tango-instructor-and-writer-/
Murat and Michelle Erdemsel: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lukaszb/3633826113/
And for the record, here's me with one of my favorite dance partners . . . with my fingers spread, my head facing "the wrong" angle (or so I'm told) and goodness knows what else. I just remember that was an amazing dance. (I'd give credit for this one if I could remember who took it, sorry! Eduardo C. maybe?)
Another night, another leader, different music - and a different embrace. (Actually, I think I was in the middle of an ocho cortado.) (Thank you Neil Liveakos for this one.)
Anyway, the point is I have no idea from one dance to the next if I'm displaying the proper tango embrace, or the proper foot placement, or head alignment - or anything else. Right now in my dance experience, that's just too much for my brain to keep track of.
"You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between."
- "Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive"