Saturday, April 21, 2018

Tango Impressionists

If you would become a true tango artist in today's world, I believe one must become very much like the Impressionists in Paris, France.

The "Tango Impressionist" creates a color and a mood and not the perfect line and frame, or contrast as tango choreographers and their protégés do. Impressionists rejected the perfect line developed in the controls of a studio. The true impressionists look for the perfect moment and try to catch it before the light changes.  But the bad news is that much like the Impressionists in the late 1800's in France, the TI may be rejected by the clique of wanna-be stage dancers. Yet, if one eschews fame and the (imagined) adoration of dance voyeurs, you will not grow old, as they likely will, never being the stage dancer they so wanted to be. You will not be forced to perform out in the middle of the social dance floor, hoping for adoring eyes. I hope at some point that all modern dancers at least will try to experience the beauty of Tango Impressionism as do milongueras and milongueros. But, unfortunately, visual gratification and the desire to be seen is a big lure away from the desire to feel and intuit the feelings of your partner and the ambiance of the room.

I see the milonguero, close-embrace dance as the new (resurrected) avant guarde art of Argentine tango. When this art is done well it is truly revolutionary--even far more revolutionary than the Parisian Impressionists.  Why?

Tango Impressionists create an art not for display.

Tango impressionism is the secret art between two dancers, sometimes shared in semi-private events in which no one is there to be on stage but to dance social tango as a true, indescribable art form.  Human.  Imperfect. Sure, it can be pleasant to watch, better than browsing a smartphone, but the purpose of the art is not to be seen.

But beware
Living as an Impressionist may bring you in certain circles to be the rejected artist, the creative artist in tango.  It is not like any other avant-guard in the arts.  Usually, the avant-guard has a new expression to put on display to the world, but the world often does not value it until later or never at all.  Go out and find like-minded "impressionists" who know how to paint a mood, an emotion, a feeling rather than the photo-perfect line with their dance. Being rejected, although not a requirement to be a good artist, has been shown to have the positive effect of engendering creative artists.
Tango Impressionist Milonga? No one is watching the dancers!

What TI is not
Fine art is not just doing what you want and calling it art.  Tango Impressionism, as an art, contains the highest expression of what I call the three M's: Music, Movement and eMbrace:   Excellent musicality, movement with a warm embrace. These remain, in my opinion, the center of this resurrected avant guarde of tango.

Choreographic, step-focused, open embrace tango may be cool, but to me, sadly passé. The object of art, in this case, is to feel, not see. It is likely that no one is looking at your art anyway except voyeurs! Maybe Renoir sensed this in his painting, Moulin de la Galette, in which no one is watching the dancers?  I call this painting the "Tango Impressionist Milonga" because it embodies the object of this art:  Tango Impressionism is not a spectacular thing to watch; it's a spectacular thing to feel.

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Photo Credit:
Renoir's Dance at Bougival
Moulin de la Galette

Note: This blog post was inspired by the BBC TV series, The Impressionists. I highly recommend the DVD. Originally the post was going to be on creativity through being rejected, but the Impressionists' positive story must be said first, not the pain of being creative. Maybe in a future post, I can learn more about the paradoxical relationship creativity and rejection have. If I do, I promise to share what I learn. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Encuentro is another name for Heaven

Encuentro in Paris, France
In Europe, and now more and more in America, organizers have developed little tango festivals (festivalitos) which in all cases are close embrace weekends.  The term for these small events has settled on the Spanish word for "encounter" (encuentro).

Encuentros are amazing for things that happen and things that don't happen.

Things that don't happen:
  • Obligation dances.  No one asks you for a dance. Tango etiquette has long established the cabeceo/mirada (non-verbal) method of asking for a dance as the epicenter of that etiquette.  If you "don't believe in" non-verbal requests or don't know how to get a dance without asking, an encuentro is not a place where you will dance much.
  • Crashes. No one runs into you. "Tango stars" don't come nor are they invited. Floorcraft at an encuentro assumes that one can dance well in a very small space.  No one will kick you from out-of-control moves such as ganchos and boleos. An excellent dancer with poor floorcraft will be thrown out or at least never invited again to an encuentro and put on a black list. Personally speaking, the feeling of safety allows me to dance at a higher level. Sometimes I have to use all my survival skills to protect my partner at festivals and local milongas. When I am forced to go into a survival mode while dancing, my focus on dance skills will suffer. The encuentro allows me to focus on what really matters: The music, embrace and unique dance expression of my partner.  
  • Tango "stars" cannot fit in the encuentro ronda!
    Milonguero stars are created in the
    star-filled heavenly embrace of their partners.
    (Encuentro in Newport News, Virginia*)
  • Tango shows. Did you come to watch someone dance all by themselves or to dance with all your friends?  No shows or demos as a rule.
Things that DO happen:
  • Excellent dance music.  An encuentro is almost certain to invite well-known DJ's who understand Buenos Aires rules of tandas and cortinas.  (Four-song tango tandas x 2, a three-vals tanda, again two tango tandas, and finally, a three-milonga tanda.). The DJ also knows not to mix orchestras as a rule. The DJ's take time to find the best quality reproductions and play mostly traditional Golden Age tango. But what good is to have excellent dance music without a good quality of sound?  Encuentro DJ's generally have the highest level technical knowledge about sound reproduction and the best copies of songs. Enjoy their carefully equalized, distortion-free music that is carefully kept at volume levels that will not harm your hearing!
  • Excellent dancers with warm embraces.
  • Gender balance. Having gender balance relaxes everyone quite a bit. Some men and women may sit more than they want, but gender imbalance is usually not a factor. 
  • Social dancers. Many dancers often try to dance with everyone at the small event--not out of obligation but out of joy.
Note: The encuentro I am describing is from my experience. And yes, I am idealizing the encuentro here a bit. But in all cases, I have had a great time--heaven on earth.  Also, I write from my conversations with organizers who may add or subtract some minor elements. One organizer may add a "demo" show of milonguero dancing. Most but not all organizers will make the milongas not so long; so everyone will show up at the same time. This ensures that the balance will be right.  Most encuntors will have a dinner together.  Most will have lots of food and drink included in the price. Each organizer and country will bring a bit of spice to the encuentro and the concept will morph over time--for better or worse.  I am open to edit and change this post.  Write me at or message me on my Facebook Tango-Therapist page ( with your ideas.

-------More info----------
Register to find out when and where encuentros in the USA are happening at  Most European encuentros are through invitation as dancers notice the quality of your embrace and knowledge of tango etiquette.

*Photo credits:
  • Paris encentro with Sybille and me Dec 2014.  
  • The line of dancers in the ronda was taken by Ivy Garrenton
    at the Newport News, VA (USA) encuentro.  March 2018.  

Insights about what an encuentro looks like:

Paris encuentro:  Dans les Bras (in your arms).  Sybille and I were there. Heaven!

 Barcelona encuentro:  Abrázame.

La cita de los amingos 7

Tango Short Films by Roberto:

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Why men dance with men on Planet O

An allegory on a taboo subject
by Mark Word

My meditation teacher and tango partner was not kidding:  "Mind-Travel" she called it. "You're ready. Where would you like to go in the Universe?" she asked.  "Let's go dance somewhere new."

"How about going to a parallel universe?" I asked, sarcastically, incredulously.

"That's too far.  How about a parallel galaxy?" she offered.

To my amazement (and I am sure to your disbelief), we went to a parallel galaxy to a planet, called, "Ognat."