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June 10, 2008

eyes, camera, acting

Tango ... El idioma del abrazo...

This is a nice photo. I keep looking at it wondering (1) how she did her eye makeup, and (2) whether she's really into it or just acting. The obligatory eye closing always makes me suspicious. I guess I suspect that she did her makeup just so it would look good when she closed her eyes to dance tango.

Posted by joegrohens at 06:11 PM | Comments (0)

June 09, 2008

Tango of the 70s and 80s

In Jackie Wong's interview with Gloria and Rodolfo Dinzel, she gets them to talk about when they met and what tango was like in the 1970s and 1980s.

I clipped two quotes that I have been mulling over.

With the politics at that time, the young people were very rebellious. In our era, when they killed Che, the men were rebellious against the politics. So they wore long hair.

I was the first ballerina at the Teatro Colon but I moved into Tango because I am Argentine and Tango is Argentina.
--Gloria Dinzel

The way she refers to Che by his first name, the idea that Che is the explanation for men wearing long hair, and counterculture and hippy rebellion. At first it shocked me, and then it moved me. When I meet Argentine people through tango who were touched by that period, it is unavoidable to consider that tango, though apolitical itself, becomes a medium of individual political expression. And I realize that the generation who nurtured the revival of tango in in Buenos Aires was the cognate of a generation in other countries who participated in protest movements, civil rights demonstrations, and an international crisis of conscience about political oppression and injustice.

[T]he Tango is a dance that fosters liberty and it encourages people to come together and do their own interpretation of the dance... and this is the definition of democracy. My liberty ends in the moment that your liberty starts.  So everyone on the dance floor can do their own thing until it interferes with someone else.  Therefore a milonga is a great school for democracy and liberty,  if you look at it this way, as we mentioned during class.  It is my opinion that the military felt the same way.  In the history of Argentina, when the military has control, Tango is repressed.  When there is democracy, Tango grows and prospers.  There is evidence of this in the numbers.

--Rodolfo Dinzel

That is one reason why rebellion is in the DNA of tango.

Posted by joegrohens at 05:27 PM | Comments (0)

The Three Pillars of Tango


Tango dancing has three pillars of personal development: taking lessons, practice, and dancing at the milonga. Each area of tango activity reinforces the other. Of the three, I personally think that practice is the most important.

Improvement in tango has a simple formula: for each hour of tango practice a person gains one hour of improvement. For each month of tango practice, a person gains one month of improvement. No practice, no improvement.

Many people use classes and milongas as their only time for practice. This approach will not take a person very far very fast. During a lesson one is always learning something new, and doesn't have time to absorb it and make part of his or her unconscious movement repertoire. By "something new" I mean anything - it could be a step, a skill, a concept, a correction from the teacher. The material from lessons has to be practiced calmly and repeatedly to build it into a (good) habit. Only once you stop thinking about the movement can it become part of spontaneous improvisation.

The milonga is a place where dancers can acquire some mileage on the dance floor, and it is fun, and people improve by going to the milonga. But, however, it is a very different thing from practicing. Practicing implies that you pick some specific topic of tango study and work on it. It might be just walking while maintaining good posture. Or it might be working on a new step sequence that you learned in class. Or it might be applying a particular technique while dancing various moves. Whatever it is, a practicing dancer applies herself or himself to "learning" and "refining" that area of movement. It means internalizing the movement skill so that the you can do it w/ o having to think about it consciously. It means adjusting your habits until the move is comfortable for both partners, and successful. It means finding the way to dance on the music.

Practicing in this way, one needs time to stop and regroup, to discuss how it's going with your partners and try again, to watch oneself in a mirror ideally, and to work repeatedly on the same small thing. These options are missing from the environment of the milonga. That is why it is so important to have a simply for practicing, such as a living room with a wood floor, or an organized practica.

The milonga, on the other hand, is where dancers discover what the tango is all about. It is only at the milonga, surrounded by other dancers, caught up in the collective spirit of the night, inspired by the music and the surroundings, where dancers can experience the high points of synchrony with the rhythms and their partners. With one's own body in motion together with others, suddenly everything clicks and a person discovers a new world, a new depth to the music, a new feeling of really dancing "together" with another person, two people becoming like one. That shared moment of musical feelings and feeling like the music is in you and you in the music is what sends people back to take more lessons and to do more practicing. One quickly learns that such moments don't come all the time. They do come more often the more you practice.

Lessons, practice, and then the milonga. I think we are lucky to have ready access to class, weekly dances, and also group practicas. Every week, they are ready to hand. And tango dancers need all three.

As a dancer progresses, the milonga becomes the reason for practice - the fulfillment of the learning. But the dancers who get the most out of their tango are the ones who practice the most.

Some people will say that for each one hour of instruction a person should give three hours of practice. Others might say one hour of practice for each hour of instruction. Nobody says zero hours of practice. And nobody says just do your practicing at the milonga.

Posted by joegrohens at 03:44 PM | Comments (0)

Research on high heels and flip flops

A new study suggests that walking down stairs while wearing heels raises the chance of foot and ankle injuries. But don't go too far the other way: A second study shows that flip-flops may lead to lower-leg pain.

High-heel researcher Lalitha Balasubramanian says several studies have shown that just walking down the street in heels can lead to everything from blisters and bunions to backaches and sprained ankles.

In what she believes is the first study of its kind, Balasubramanian and colleagues looked at the motion of the ankle joint in 11 college-aged women as they descended a flight of stairs. Balasubramanian is a graduate researcher in bioengineering at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston.

Posted by joegrohens at 03:34 PM | Comments (0)