Bob's Blog

This Blog will follow my adventures - well holidays really. Hopefully you will want to tell me what you enjoyed in the countries I have visited and maybe recommend places to go.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Tai Chi and Tango

Tai Chi and Tango
Tai Chi and Tango
by Bob Murray

Tai Chi and Argentine Tango are concerned with movement, balance, posture and control. Both are art forms. Tai Chi has a history going back more than a 1000 years; Tango is about 120 years old. Just on that basis Tango has a lot to learn from Tai Chi. Tai Chi is performed by an individual but, for me, is enhanced with accompanying students. Tango is performed in the embrace of another person and seeks to interpret the music. Both can be performed mindfully.
UNESCO (1) defined the Tango that developed in Buenos Aires and Montevideo, around 1900, as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Tango being defined as the dance, the music and the poetry. Despite Uruguay’s contribution, that definition is referring to Argentine Tango. 
There is naturally artistic development and Nuevo tango encompasses changes in the music (Astor Piazzolla (2) and many modern orchestras) and changes in the dance (Frumboli, Naveira, Salas (3)). To abandon the music and its artistic development and to use alternative music is, for me, to abandon tango completely.
For a non-Spanish speaker, the poetry (the lyrics of the songs) is not very accessible. However there are translations available (4) and on many occasions in the history of tango, the fascist government of the time banned many songs and the slang language (lunfardo) that was used (5). Tango was the music and dance of the poor and was their escape at the end of a week of hard work. The lyrics were an outlet for lost love and social and political repression. The history of tango is bound up with the politics of Argentina and is a fascinating study.
However this pamphlet will focus on how a study of the practice of Tai Chi can benefit the tango dancer.

Chapter One
Tai Chi - Looking for the Golden Needle(6)

The ten points of Yang Cheng-fu (1883-1936 AD)

1. Suspend your head from above and keep it up straight.
2. Depress your chest and raise your upper back.
3. Loosen your waist and drop the pelvis.
4. Drop your shoulders and sink your elbows.
5. Distinguish between being solid and empty.
6. Apply your will and not your force.
7. Co-ordinate your upper and lower body movements.
8. Unify your external and internal movements.
9. There must be absolute continuity in the movements.
10.Seek serenity in activity.

In my opinion points 1, 3 and 4 are just good posture. I despair of those men who have their left hand into their own neck so that the left elbow is projected horizontally! This is incredibly dangerous but ensures space not otherwise available to them. Any sensible lead keeps their partner well clear of such aggressive dancing. 
In the old days anybody showing the sole of the shoe, as in boleo or gancho, would be asked to leave the milonga! While that is no longer appropriate, I do wish somebody was in charge of floorcraft and dangerous embraces, although they would be very busy!

In tango the chest of the lead is crucial in communication to the follower and so breathing high into the chest can be an important factor and used to signify the end of a pause. Point 2 is not for tango.

Point 5 is useful since most of the time we are on our axis on one leg (solid) with the other leg free (empty). This is a difficult, but essential, part of following, allowing the non-standing leg to be empty (belonging to the lead).

I think Point 6 is beautiful. As a lead, I don’t want to be pushing and pulling my follower around the floor. I want to make suggestions as to what might come next, which might indeed be obvious to my follower if we are both feeling the music in the same way. There must be something physical in my lead, but not force! There is never need to contract muscles, unless embarking on a spectacular lift, taking the weight of the follower. More useful is the idea of extending the muscles which gives a relaxed control of the posture. Standing in a typical tango posture ready to embrace or in a yang position (more exactly Hun Yuan), arms forward at shoulder height and curved, explore the extension of the muscles of the back. This takes away the weight of the arms and gives strength to the posture. It is possible to stand in such a posture for considerable time. Try the yang pose for 5 minutes, then longer and soon you will be in place for an hour and meditating! As soon as you start to contract muscles you will tire quickly.

Point 7 deals with dissociation. We can only walk in the direction our hips point us, unless we are side-stepping. A leg moving out at an angle is not tango. Our chest will be controlling where our partner is moving.

Point 8 is about control, that we actually move where we want to move.

Point 9 is clearly what we want to achieve, as in tango it is the music that will direct us. In tai chi we have names for different positions and we can practice getting into those positions but when we are moving through the form (a learnt series of moves), those positions are just transient.

We can be serene (Point 10) in both tai chi and tango if we are not overly concerned with what comes next. We need to learn the form in tai chi so that it comes naturally. In tango we need to maintain improvisation by using only those steps that we have made our own, that come naturally (7). If we move mindfully we will be serene. One of the tenets of tai chi is achieving serenity through activity. To be serene is often taken as stillness as part of the tranquility necessary. By moving through the form one can achieve a state of mind, accurately described as serene. There is no thought as to what comes next in the form, just a confidence that what is next will just come.
In tango we have the benefits, or complications, of a partner, the music and the inherently spontaneous nature of the dance, so do we want to be serene in tango? I would suggest the music tells us (8). Certainly not in a milonga, which is fast, fun, grounded and dirty!

There is much lovely music which is certainly serene. As dancers we should always reflect the music and so, in the act of dancing with someone who feels the same about the music, that state of serenity can be achieved. Movements need not be planned but will happen in concert with the partner. As a leader I have to transcend thinking about what steps to use and dance as simply as possible and from the heart.

Chapter Two

Sung (9)

Sung is the concept of being totally relaxed while being alert. In tai chi and some other martial arts, practitioners strive for this state. An animal waiting for its prey to emerge from hiding, is in this state and can remain thus for hours!

 "the vital quality of sung is lost by students who egotistically strive to ‘look good’ during their performance to the detriment of their energy flow."

This could equally apply to dancing tango! What is important, is not what onlookers see, but what partners feel when they dance truly together. In the “old days” if a couple were dancing to clearly impress the onlookers, the Milongueros would toss some small coins onto the floor!
In the close embrace the follower should be striving for sung. The follower could be in the perfect physical position (maybe placed there by a teacher) and comfortable and confident that all is correct. However if the follower is not in the right mental state then a meaningful connection may not be achieved. Of course, if the lead is not cherishing the follower and giving protection, then sung will be impossible. Equally if the follower is thinking, "I don't like being close to this person" or " when are we going to dance fancy steps" the connection will not be there. Believe me, leaders can sense their followers mental state as well as their physical presence, and I am sure the reverse is also true. 
Sung is an enhanced state of mind and body, it is NOT the follower simply switching off. 
I think these thoughts can be useful in achieving connection.

 Chapter  Three


Mindfulness is the awareness that arises when we pay attention, on purpose, to the present moment, non-judgementally.
Mindfulness is a skill that can be developed and practiced and there are books to help (10).
In Tai Chi, being fully aware of one’s own movements and breathing, being in the zone, gives the performance of the form a different feeling.
In dancing tango, we have more factors imposed on us. We must give attention to our partner, the people dancing around us  and, of course, the music. 
If dancing with a new partner this may take up a lot of our attention. Sometimes everything feels right and the connection and movement to the music is as good as it gets. As a couple we have a good chance of dancing mindfully provided others on the floor are dancing to the codigos of good floorcraft. Counter intuitively in some very crowded milongas, mindfulness can be achieved. In such places as Salon Canning in Buenos Aires, there is very little space. To stretch out an arm and swing it around would contact about 6 people and draw angry comments! One has to dance in close embrace and maintain that throughout the tanda. There is possibly only 3 or 4 moves that you feel, as a newcomer to these conditions, that you can execute safely. As a connected couple you move with the flow of the group in which everybody is listening to, and interpreting, the music. You become part of the whole. It is like being in the audience and listening to your favourite orchestra playing. Your appreciation is so much enhanced above simply listening at home to a DVD of the same orchestra. Certainly if you watch such a group dancing and pick out a couple, you can expect to see them again in about 5 or 10 minutes when they have completed a circuit! They will be the same distance into the group as when you first saw them. Couples move in lanes around the floor.
If you dance with a favoured partner with whom you have a good connection and have a series of preferred moves, then the chance of moving mindfully to the music is much enhanced. Such occasions are to be cherished.

Chapter Four


Many of the movements in Tai Chi involve using the elastic properties of the limbs. Every pivot in tango uses the torsion that  can be built up by dissociating the top half of the body from the bottom half. This results in a smooth pivot rather than just throwing the body around! 
The use of the elastic embrace is a relatively new technique with the lead pushing the follower away and using the momentum of the follower returning towards the lead in a variety of subsequent moves.


As an ancient art form Tai Chi has much to offer in terms of body awareness, control and the dynamics of movement. The smooth control of weight moving from one leg to the other and the necessary posture enables the practitioner to look elegant while being strong in all positions. A study of Tai Chi can only be of benefit to students of Argentine Tango.


4 Tango Lyrics and Translations. Public Facebook Group.
7 Quote by Cacho Dante (Posted on Facebook by Tango Mentor)
“When they didn’t really know how to dance, they did 20 steps; when they knew a bit more, they did 10; and when they really knew what they were doing they danced five, but with real quality.”
8 Nietzsche: “The onlookers thought the dancers were crazy, until they heard the music.”
9 The amazing power of Sung in Taijiquan and Qigong 
Written by Tony Henrys and transcribed by John Gent. February 1992, in
Traditional Taijiquan and Qigong Society.
10 Mindfulness  a practical guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World
M Williams, D Penman Published by Piatkus (2011)


Debbie Spencer and Bob Fenner are inspirational Tai Chi teachers. There are many tango teachers, whose classes and workshops I have benefitted from and enjoyed. However the first continuous classes in Nottingham from Cidinha and Njall Bendixen (Luna y Molino) gave a foundation that has not needed changing.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Song of the month - Patience Paciencia

lyrics by Francisco Gorrindo
music by Juan D’Arienzo
Last night, my eyes fell on you again;
last night, I had you at my side again.
Why should I have seen you if, after everything,
we were two strangers looking into the past!
You’re not the same, nor am I the same…
Years! Life! Who knows what else…
Once and for all, better to be frank:
you and I cannot go back to the past.
life is like it is:
out of pure ego, we tried to get together
and now those same egos reveal how different we are–
why should we fake this?
life is like it is:
Neither of us is to blame, if there is any one to blame.
That’s why my hand that you clasped in silence
did not tremble when I left.
Let’s pretend that it was all a dream
that it was a lie that we searched for each other;
that way, happily, we’ve still got the consolation
of believing that we haven’t changed.
I have a picture of you at twenty
when you were the center of my little world
I want to see you always as lovely as then:
what happened last night was just a dream.
Translation by Derrick Del Pilar (Poesia de Gotan). Edited by Nancy
Anoche, de nuevo te vieron mis ojos;
anoche, de nuevo te tuve a mi lao.
¡Pa qué te habré visto si, después de todo,
fuimos dos extraños mirando el pasao!
Ni vos sos la misma, ni yo soy el mismo…
¡Los años! … ¡La vida!… ¡Quién sabe lo qué!…
De una vez por todas mejor la franqueza:
yo y vos no podemos volver al ayer.
La vida es así.
Quisimos juntarnos por puro egoísmo
y el mismo egoísmo nos muestra distintos.
¿Para qué fingir?
La vida es así.
Ninguno es culpable, si es que hay una culpa.
Por eso, la mano que te di en silencio
no tembló al partir.
Haremos de cuenta que todo fue un sueño,
que fue una mentira habernos buscao;
así, buenamente, nos queda el consuelo
de seguir creyendo que no hemos cambiao.
Yo tengo un retrato de aquellos veinte años
cuando eras del barrio el sol familiar.
Quiero verte siempre linda como entonces:
lo que pasó anoche fue un sueño no más.
I have four recordings of Paciencia which might be
D’Arienzo with Enrique Carbel (1937), with Alberto Echagüe (1951,1970)
Canaro with Roberto Maida (1938).

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

What do we really hear?

What do we really hear?
My inspiration for asking this, was watching a dog run around a field, sniffing at every opportunity. Probably recognising friends and enemies, male and female. The dog has a wide spectrum of smells. Then I think of my knowledge of smells. If I am looking for a new cologne, then after 3 different odours, it is all over for me. I won't recognise the fourth perfume as new or one of the original three. I could not go into a shop and pick out the perfume my lady friend uses, despite trying to spend a lot of time enjoying that smell. However, if I hear a tune, I would be able to whistle it, remember it and go into a record shop (if such existed these days) and have the assistant tell me what it was. Surely the way we appreciate sound and music must vary to the same extent as the dog's and my nose vary!
I have talked with friends who say they cannot pick up the beat of music, any music! Some who can, then fail when it comes to walking with a partner in their arms. Other friends cannot pick up a tune and have to learn the words of a song and the words drive the tune. I would have to know the tune and most of the time be la-la-ing until I remembered a few words.
At the top end of the acoustic appreciation spectrum will be true musicians. I used to play recorder and was part of a group of 20 or more with a professional conductor who could pick out somebody playing slightly out of tune. Most people will be in between those extremes. I listen most intensely to classic tango music. As most dancers, I can hear the layers of the music, pick out different instruments to dance to. When you feel your partner is responding to the music in the same way, it is bliss.
But what do some people hear? Is it just a cacophony of noise - how can you dance if you just hear white noise? How can musicality be taught?

Nietzsche "The onlookers thought the dancers were crazy, until they heard the music"

Tango and Tai Chi - 4

Tango and Tai Chi
A superficial view of tai chi is that it appears to be mostly waving arms about. In Debbie Spencer's class we emphasised that the whole body was involved in every position.
If we take "brushed left knee" as example. If it were just arms - the left hand, parallel to the ground, just above the left knee - the right hand, pushing forward, hand at right angles to the ground and about shoulder height - there would no strength in that pose. However the whole body supports the position with the muscles of the back linking the two arms in a secure semi-circle. The right leg is straight and directly supporting the right arm. It would take extreme force to distort the position.
Tai chi, like tango, is not arm lead but the whole body is involved.
I relate this tai chi experience to my tango embrace. I don't just casually offer my arms to my partner, for a loose embrace for a stroll around the dance floor. As in tai chi my back muscles link my arms so that I create a cylinder for my partner to dance within. My chest leads and my arms follow.

Yoga - Breathing - Tango

Yoga - Breathing - Tango
We have all struggled to master a routine, only to suddenly realise we are not breathing, and had to gasp for breath. Obviously we have to relax enough to breathe easily and smoothly to carry us through any physical activity. 
In Debbie Spencer's yoga class we practice different breathing techniques. Expelling air in different ways, breathing in high in the chest or low in the belly, using the diaphragm. In certain postures we can breathe predominately into one lung. All of this give us more control over our body and can ensure we make the best use of our lungs since it is breathing, after all, which keeps us alive!
In tango the breath give us a means to control dynamic expression by the body. A sustained intake of breath can herald a pause. Both partners may hold their breath to make the pause full of tension. An exhalation of breath means we move into the next step full of intention in the dance.
Sometimes the use of breath is more significant in the dance than what our feet do!

Song of the month - 2 - Loca

Tango song of the month - 2 - Loca
Loca is often just an instrumental but it does have lyrics. Loca translates as crazy woman. (Surely loco must be an oxymoron!) This is translated as prostitute or tramp, as the woman of the song is trapped in the sex trade.

Here is a link to a version with the lyrics.

Translation by Tango Decoder

Loca, me llaman mis amigos,
que sólo son testigos
de mi liviano amor.
¿Qué saben lo que siento,
ni qué remordimiento
se oculta en mi interior?
Yo tengo, con alegrías,
que disfrazar mi tristeza,
y que hacer de mi cabeza
las pesadillas huir.
Yo tengo que ahogar en copas
la pena que me devora...
Cuando mi corazón llora,
mis labios deben reír.
Yo, si a un hombre lo desprecio,
tengo que fingirle amores;
y admiración, cuando es necio;
y si es cobarde, temores.
Yo que no he pertenecido
al ambiente en que ahora estoy,
he de olvidar lo que he sido
y he de olvidar lo que soy.
Loca, me dicen mis amigos,
que sólo son testigos
de mi liviano amor.
¿Qué saben lo que siento,
ni qué remordimiento
se oculta en mi interior?
Allá muy lejos, muy lejos,
donde el sol cae cada día,
un tranquilo hogar había
y en el hogar unos viejos.
La vida y su encanto era
una muchacha que huyó
sin decirles dónde fuera...
y esa muchacha soy yo.
Ya no existe más la casa,
ya no existen más los viejos
y una muchacha muy lejos,
sufriendo la vida pasa.
Y al caer todos los días
en aquella tierra el sol,
caen con él mis alegrías
y muere mi corazón.

Tramp, they call me, my friends,
they who see only
my easy virtue.
What do they know of what I feel
Or what terrible remorse
Is hidden inside of me.
I have to disguise my sadness
with gaiety
and make my worries
flee from my mind.
I have to drown in drink
the sorrow that devours me....
When my heart weeps
My lips have to laugh
Though I despise a man,
I have to pretend to love him;
to admire him if he’s a fool;
and to fear him if he’s a coward.
I wasn’t always part
of this scene I’m in now,
so I have to forget what I have been
and forget what I am.
Tramp, they call me, my friends,
they who see only
my easy virtue.
How can they know who I am
Or what remorse
Is hidden inside of me?
There, far, far away
Where the sun sets each day,
There was a peaceful home
And in that home, some old folks.
Their life and their darling
was a girl who ran away
Without saying where she was going...
And that girl was me.
Today that house no longer exists.
Today those old folks no longer exist
Today the girl, far away,
Passes her life in suffering.
And as the sun sinks each day
In that land,
My happiness sinks with it
And my heart dies.


Orchestra of the month - 2 - D'Arienzo.

Orchestra of the month - 2 - D'Arienzo

D'Arienzo (1900-1976) gets a lot of criticism as his music is not sophisticated, indeed, described by some as hardly better than banging two saucepans together. However the Golden Age of tango music dates from 1935 and that is entirely due to D'Arrienzo and nobody else. He realised what the Porteños wanted and gave it to them and Buenos Aires danced. His music is intensely rhythmic and he justifies his title, El Rey de la Compas - the King of the Beat!
Rodolfo Biagi joined him on the piano and was loved for his brilliant playing. Some say Biagi left D'Arienzo amicably to further develop tango music and he did form his own band. There is a story that the crowd were appreciating Biagi's playing and directed their applause to him. He responded by taking a bow. That was not to D'Arrienzo's liking and  he is reported to have said "Señor Biagi, there is only one star in this orchestra, and it's me. You're fired!"
Michael Levocah has not written a book devoted to D'Arienzo (yet) but gives good coverage in "Tango Music Secrets".
There is a modern orchestra La Juan D'Arienzo, formed by the grandson of one who played in the original orchestra. Get to see them if you can and they give amazing musicality workshops.
We can compare the new and the old versions of a couple of classic tunes, Loca and Hotel Victoria.
There are wonderful YouTube videos of the original band. D'Arienzo loved the camera! Search in YouTube for Nada Mas or Loca and D'Arrienzo. You will not be disappointed to see the great man in action.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Orchestra - Troilo

Orchestra of the month - Troilo

The definitive work on Troilo (1914-1975) is Michael Lavocah's book
Tango Masters: Anibal Troilo.
The book describes Troilo the man "loved by everybody because he loved everybody" and Troilo the musician "el bandoneon mayor de Buenos Aires". The best bandoneon player in Buenos Aires, probably the best ever! He recorded from 1938 to 1969. "The hallmarks of this orchestra were its vibrant sound, its ability to deliver a lyric, and the colour and shading of its music"
Astor Piazzolla played in the orchestra from 1940-44.
All orchestras had speeded up following D'Arienzo's lead in 1935. The dancers wanted it! However come 1942, there was a slow down. Troilo incorporated a cello, resulting in a broadening and smoother sound to the strings. The pivotal piece of music is the 1942 recording of Malena. From that moment, Troilo can be regarded as the best orchestra for tango salon.

Tango Lyrics - Malena

Tango song of the month 
Malena (1942)

Malena canta el tango como ninguna
y en cada verso pone su corazon.
A yuyo del suburbio su voz perfuma,
Malena tiene pena de bandoneon.
Tal vez, alla en la infancia, su voz de alondra
tomo ese tono oscuro del callejon,
o acaso aquel romance que solo nombra
cuando se pone triste con el alcohol.
Malena canta el tango con voz de sombra;
Malena tiene pena de bandoneón.

Tu cancion
tiene el frio del ultimo encuentro,
tu cancion
se hace amarga en la sal del recuerdo.
Yo no se
si tu voz es la flor de una pena,
solo se que al rumor de tus tangos, Malena,
te siento mas buena,
mas buena que yo.

Tus ojos son oscuros como el olvido,
tus labios, apretados como el rencor,
tus manos, dos palomas que sienten frio,
tus venas tienen sangre de bandoneon.
Tus tangos son criaturas abandonadas
que cruzan sobre el barro del callejon,
cuando todas las puertas estan cerradas
y ladran los fantasmas de la cancion.
Malena canta el tango con voz quebrada;
Malena tiene pena de bandoneon.
Malena sings the tango like no one else
and in every single verse she pours her heart.
Like a slum weed her voice exude
Malena has the sadness of a bandoneon.
Perhaps, back in her childhood, her lark’s voice
acquired that dark intonation of a back alley,
or maybe it is the romance she only names
when she gets sad with the alcohol.
Malena sings the tango with a somber voice;
Malena has the sadness of a bandoneon.

Your song
has the cold of the last encounter,
your song
embitters itself with a salty remembrance.
I don’t know
if your voice is the bloom of a sadness;
all I know that in the muttering of your tangos, Malena,
I sense you are better,
much better than me.

Your eyes are dark like the oblivion,
your lips, pressed tight in a grimace of rancor
your hands, two doves that suffer the cold,
your veins have blood of bandoneon.
Your tangos are forsaken creatures
that walk across the mud of a back alley,
when all the doors are locked
and the spirits of the song howl.
Malena sings the tango with a choking voice,
Malena has the sadness of a bandoneon.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Posture - yoga - tango

Posture - yoga - tango
In Debbie Spencer's yoga class we were focussing on posture and how in different positions we could really improve our posture and root ourselves to the ground. Of course in tango it is just our feet that are in contact with the ground but our posture is critical. Our feet are on the ground all the time and we can use the foot that is moving to control the speed of the walk. Some teachers favouring curling the toes when moving backwards, clawing the ground for control. In the old days the sole of the shoe would never become visible. If it did, you would be asked to leave the milonga! How would we cope today with both men and women flicking their legs, some at every opportunity!
In yoga laying down on the floor is surprisingly informative. We can feel that all our vertebrae are in contact with the floor. Tilting of the pelvis will "melt" the back to the floor or leave a natural gap between lower back and the floor. If we turn palms uppermost, using all of the arm, then we will feel the shoulders engage more with the floor. This opens the chest and the heart chakra. All of this will make a contribution to the close embrace. The heart chakra is where we exchange emotions with another person and so a true connection can be achieved. We have to realise how the body feels, what muscles are working so that we can move from the horizontal to the vertical. In yoga terms we would then be in mountain pose. I would practice this at home rather than on the dance floor!
Now we can lean towards our partner, our weight moving to the balls of our feet, our bodies remaining straight. Our heart chakras engage. We raise our arms to the tango position. I then engage the muscles in my back so I can feel that I have created a frame  extending from one hand around my back to the other hand.
We dance.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Tete Rusconi

This article by Tete Rusconi was originally posted by Veronica Rue in the original Spanish. I found the Facebook translation impossible to understand. It has been translated by Nancy Segovia and edited by Bob Murray.

Tete Rusconi
With the respect that I have for the tango community, I would like to point out the many errors that are being made in the teaching of tango and the performances in tango shows. Each young person who dances tango should understand my motives. There is no need to mask or disguise tango in any way. Tango music is passionate, beautiful and gives us energy and pleasure so that we may feel better.

I always knew that the music is the principle base of tango. Also it is the basis to walk with the music, having balance and cadence. I could not tell you there is no technique in tango but more freedom could be taught. If you dance for yourself, it becomes fun. No one can jeopardise you for dancing for yourself.

Teachers and the community are disguising tango. You have to teach walking to the different musical beats, to be able to recognise different orchestras. Many teachers should learn to dance tango themselves, in order to teach, giving everything of themselves so as not to disappoint their students or damage their image as a teacher.

Tango is not a business even though many see it as such. Tango is part of our life, part of our grandparents, father, mother, brother and friends. We should not make so many changes but go back to conquer it, as we are losing it for a lack of respect.

Dear friends, dancers; in shows, dance more tango and not acrobatics, ballet etc.

I don't want to know that exhibitions are competitive. Every couple should create their own style and not use music that is not tango music. Don't lie to yourself nor to the people.

For the European community, my advice is that I would like you to open your eyes on how to learn to dance. When you organise something use the best dancers and maestros who can teach properly.

Without the music, the cadence, posture and balance, steps are not useful. We need maestros not athletic teachers.

Honestly from my heart but with some sadness, I would like you to think about changing the system. I am always available to discuss anything.

Translated by Nancy Segovia.

Tete Rusconi (1936 - 2010) was a much respected milonguero, particularly admired for the way he danced Tango Vals. He wrote this article in 2006 in Buenos Aires, clearly disappointed at the standard of teaching, the "show" steps being taught and the use of music which was not classic tango music. The music determines the dance.
He would not be pleased with the way things are right now and who am I to disagree!
Bob Murray

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Musicality is the key to dancing. To assume all tango dancers have musicality is over optimistic!
In the population at large, a significant percentage cannot find the beat in music, as is obvious from watching almost any group of dancers. However if they are engaging with music, preferably in a partner dance and enjoying themselves, there are benefits to be found from simple exercise to possible health benefits. 
Another problem is that some people cannot recognise a tune. So many people are told they cannot sing and do not venture in that direction. However now we have the "Tuneless Choir" (Nadine Cooper) people can meet, enjoy social interaction, and sing, a really important human expression. Again there are many benefits.
Even if we assume people who persevere with tango can recognise a tune and tap their feet to music, all is not simple. To be in an embrace and lead a follower presents problems. The intention from the chest must precede the beat by a fraction of a second in order that the followers weight is transferred on the beat. That does not always happen!
Most classes teach steps. When it comes to the weekend milonga, the weekly step can be seen, as that step is imposed on the dance regardless of the music. If boleos were taught, then even if the music is slow, sad, nostalgic, there will be boleos!
Everybody (barring physical problems) will hear music, even if it is "white noise", some will listen to music and others will feel the music. If we feel the music we can explore musicality and thus interpret the music.
I spent the weekend at the Newcastle Tango Festival where we learnt steps but in the context of the music, appreciating the phrasing of the music, realising how we can walk to the beat of the music expressively; on the beat, double time or every other beat.
Musicality must be taught, it gives individuality to a person's dance. First listen to and feel the music, then explore a movement that will allow a part of that music to be expressed. With steps and no musicality we become automatons, replicas of the teachers.

Thanks to Maria Maragaki, Guillermo Torrens, Alexandra Wood, Richard Manuel, Caroline Hanson, at Newcastle.
IMHO for the best display of musicality, see the videos on YouTube of Horacio Godoy and Chicho Frumboli.