Saturday, June 4, 2011

Cathedral Organ Tanguera

Strike a key and then wait for the sound.

Dancing with some women is like playing a cathedral organ.

Let me explain: Lately I have figured out a way to dance with women who are chronically behind the beat. I have to have body language that is 1/2 beat ahead of the music, which is okay musically, but very complex for a tanguero.

However, if the woman is actively in her feminine role, my role is easy because she is following the true leader -- the music -- whom I too must follow.

If the woman is fully aware of the music, the tanguero does not have to pretend he is playing a church organ, which has to be one of the hardest instruments to play. First of all, by itself a cathedral organist is using all ten fingers and both feet.  That is hard, but the most challenging musical challenge is that what the organist hears is often delayed from what all the fingers and feet are doing!  In some cathedral the pipes are so far away that the delay can be a full second off!  It is unfathomable for me to think of the training and discipline to play in this way. Yet as a tanguero, I have insight to a degree of the task of the cathedral organist because of some women and their delay.  Click here on this mind-blowing video link that demonstrates the sound delay at St. John's Cathedral in NYC.
This is not God's Design:  Delayed Tangueras

A tanguero should not try to fix a woman who does this at a milonga. In a practica he can at least suggest that it feels as if she is listening way too much to the tanguero and not enough to the music. I have seen huge changes in women after saying this.  And they sometimes say, "Free at last!  Free at last!"  It's a holy cathedral moment.

I will fault no tanguera or tanguero for not being in the music because they have been taught to lead or follow each other.   This is a teacher problem not a student problem.  Once we begin on the leader/follower analogy we are already on the wrong path.  No wonder musicality is such a chore sometimes and in mostly in "advanced" classes because we have to go back to being new tangueros/tangueras and start listening with the "beginner's mind"!  Why not have the beginners mind even while you are a beginner and learn from the start that the music is the true leader?

Women who depend too much on the man will slow him down and make his musicality miserable or very difficult.  (Ladies, don't complain that men who do not follow the music if you are not following the music yourself!)  On the other hand, too often men who are not listening to her sense of the music and her abilities as a tangera end up "dancing" but not to the music.

El Rol Femenino y Masculino
The following tango training video is incredibly illustrative of this concept of delay. The teachers use the "military analogy" of leader/follower, but they really have caught the spirit of both people being active. I am in a job that has me surrounded by female colleagues. Much of my work is intuitive as a therapist and I regularly have men and women crying in my office. Not a typical "man-job." However, in tango I am fully in my male energy. On the other end of the spectrum I know tangueras who are surrounded by men in their work, and they love tango because they feel fully in their feminine energy. Lead and follow is really a very poor analogy, but it is here to stay. I like "yin and yang" or "male and female energies" to explain what is going on when the Leader (la música) takes us out onto the dance floor to follow "her voice."

So watch this video and notice the terrible delay of a woman who is far to passive, relying on the man too much and dancing behind the "compas" (pulse) of the leader's bidding (yes, that's the music).

Thanks to Modern Tanguera who introduced me to this video.  Visit her blog at:

Photo credits:
Organ console
Lady on organ:

Extra Credit:
Just for the fun of it and if you are interested, here is another video (secondary to the organist link above).  Watch this organist at Notre Dame in Paris. The delay on this central organ is not that bad, but he must play ahead of the beat because the choir is standing by the pipes.


  1. Thank you for the link--I am glad that my sharing this video inspired such a post! I completely agree that both partners need to be tuned in to the music. As a follower, I actively take what the leader gives me and fit it to the music I am hearing.

    The only thing that I think is debatable is the comment about how teachers handle lead/follow versus the music. I have a very strong sense of the music, and if my teachers and practice partners hadn't focused on getting me to understand and follow the lead, I probably would have turned into one of those uncontrollable followers who does whatever she feels inspired to do to the music, regardless of her partner. Not that teachers shouldn't talk about the music as the "third partner" or "true leader" in the dance, but I know that it is hard to strike a balance between teaching how to truly lead and follow and teaching how to dance with the music.

  2. Modern Tanguera: My point is the nomenclature of "following" is a poor starting point -- like calling men "pigs" may work will in certain situations and with certain men. But always? The lead/follow military analogy only goes so far. Of ALL analogies, is following really the best to describe your task at hand? Can we not talk about the issues of the tanguera’s role without using the world "follower"? Of course great teachers will help many students with this military philosophy of what tango is. The world will not come to an end if lead/follow language continues. I suppose I should give up on this philosophical distinction. I got chewed up on a Facebook by a group of experienced male teachers. First they claimed that they did not teach lead/follow. Two of them had been my teachers in group settings and I knew that indeed they use lead/follow language. They were challenging me as if "lead/follow" is the old fashion way. They said that what I was saying was “nothing new.” Yet, all I hear up to now is “lead and follow.” This is the blog from 21 Nov 2010 which they so generously critiqued: . I was so wrong. End of leading/following is nowhere in sight.

  3. It saddens me to see teacher instructional videos like this one from Sharna Fabiano and Issac Oboko. All the dancing I see there is completely out of time with the music.

    That's not dancing tango. That's just dancing alongside tango.

  4. Chris... perhaps I have mislead you to come to this conclusion. The video is NOT an instructional video on dance. The majority of what you see is actually a demonstration of what NOT TO DO as a follower in BUSINESS. Sharna and her partner are actually very musical. Obviously not only are they dancing OFF BEAT to demonstrate a point but the producers have put some of even there gracious dancing in slow-motion! Your criticism is unfair to excellent dancers and out of context. I say this not in protection of the dancers but to reestablish what the context of what the video was about -- an analogy of leading and following for business application.


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