Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Women, Cooperate!

[This is my final essey on the BerkeleyX : Principles of Written English]

On an ordinary night for Argentine tango the number of followers is clearly exceeding the number of leaders. To cope with this fact, women tend to look for solutions only at a personal level, competing with each other with result that the dances are unevenly distributed. If the followers were instead cooperating to manage the tango events the dances would be distributed in a more equitable manner.

Argentine tango tradition offers a large set of rules and praxises to organize a dance evening and to facilitate the process of finding a partner for the next dance set (Las Chinitas, 2009). The most important praxis in this context is cabeceo, an invitation, where followers and leaders are negotiating about the next tanda, dance set, by eye contacts and head nods. This gives both parties an equal possibility to accept or decline an invitation. Today the more competitive followers do not use cabeceo, but approach the leaders, and by chatting for some moments get an invitation or ask for the next set of dances. One of the rules urges the participants to clear the dance area between the tandas (Las Chinitas, 2009). This is not respected on the less traditional dance evenings, where many women are actively asking for the next dance without leaving the dance floor. Consequently, the followers already on the floor get a new tanda more easily and the dances are accumulated to these active individuals. The effect of these two techniques are strengthened by following online advices and preparations at home.

Some websites as Argentine Tango (Whipple, n.d.) or follower forums and discussions are filled with instructions about chatting, clothing and strategic seating for a successful dance evening. Within tango the most popular color is black, but if you choose a red dress you will be more visible on that evening (Anonymous, 2013). You will also strengthen your position by seating wisely. If you choose a table, which people are passing by or gathering around you can easily catch an eye or start a chat. as a preparation for an invitation to next dance (Anonymous, 2013). These strategies are helping a follower to get a more favorable position and more dances than a strategically less skillful dancer would get.

The gender unbalance within tango has not always had the same pattern, but instead in the early days men, leaders, were actually outnumbering the followers (Denniston, 2007). To study the strategies these men used to manage the shortage of available dances, offers a way to find new methods to address the opposite gender unbalance of today.

The immigrant flow to Argentina, starting towards the end of the 1900 century, had an unusual structure in the sense of consisting mainly of single men. As Denniston (2007) describes, "[…] overwhelmingly single young men who were looking for work, many who thought they would get rich and then go home" (Denniston, 2007, p. 12). She continues by saying that still in 1940s and early 1950s this unbalance was noticeable, "[…] in the formal dance halls, known as milongas, there were always far more men than women" (Denniston, 2007, p. 15). Men, who wanted to learn tango, were training four to five nights per week during several years developing their skill in both following and leading. The very first entry to a milonga was decided by the elder men on the training site. Even when the first attempt was successful, these men returned to the continuous training with other men (Denniston, 2007). In this community the skill was defined as the main vehicle to milongas and the skill level of a newcomer was monitored by the elder males who suggested the day and the place for introducing a new leader to the followers. This praxis regulated the flow of newcomers to the milongas, allowing only those who trained persistently and who were approved by an experienced dancer to enter the dance floor.

This kind of social control of newcomers would not be accepted in modern tango communities, but some of the old praxises are valid even today and by discussing and cooperating a modern set of guidelines for a milonga can be developed and agreed about. In the early days the outnumbering group, men, did find a structure to manage the situation. Today it is the followers' turn to take the lead.


Denniston, C. (2007). The Meaning of TANGO, The Story of the Argentinian Dance, 12, 15.

Las Chinitas, (2009). Welcome to Milonga Las Chinitas Retrieved from

Whipple, C. (n.d.). Follower's Guide to Festivals/Milongas, Retrieved from

Whipple, C. (n.d.). Follower's Guide to Festivals/Milongas, Retrieved from

Monday, February 17, 2014

Carlitos vs Pablo and Noelia

I have been watching a lot of Carlitos videos lately trying to understand his lead and his musicality! One day I clicked back to a video where Noelia is dancing with Pablo and I was astonished how my youtube experience had changed.

Pablo Rrodriques and Noelia

I have always appreciated Pablo and Noelia as masters of slower tangos. The loss of those calm performances was my main reason to be unhappy when they separated. The rest of it was boring; I thought so at that time.

When I came back to those old songs, I was changed and appreciated now how cleverly he chooses steps and movements. I understood also more about the musical elements he is using for his steps He makes stops, he slows down this milonga to let his feet follow the violin or some other variations in music. Their whole bodies are involved in dancing.

When watching this do it several times and at least once …without sound…! It is easier to concentrate to the movements, the interpretation of music. Anyhow for me it is very risky because I am easily absorbed to a fantastic performance if the music is on! My analysis is fading to plain enjoyment!

Carlitos Espinoza and Noelia

This partnering was a happy surprise and their rhythmical discoveries have a joyful precision. They nearly never stop but let the feet run even faster for a change following the piano or other istruments. The upper bodies are still  together and the dancing is focused on feet including some up/downward movemets for the linked torsos.

Here you have the same song to watch and compare. Please play this too … without sound… to have your full concentration on the movements. You have a fantastic possibility to enjoy the differences between these two performances danced on the same song.


The two videos above show also the broad talent Noeila has. Pablo and Carlitos have their significantly very own ways of picking the musical phenomenons for their steps, their expressions are different, abrazos are different but she can adapt to all that and still keep her own artistic expression at high level.

As audience my opinions seems to be quite haphazard, or my understanding and opinions are strongly limited by my level of understanding, sensitivity. To have other additional experiences seems to change my preferences.

Anyhow I feel deeper joy now after working on these issues! That's great and I recommend it for you too! Work on your favorites to get closer, to get deeper!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Carlitos Steps

It is not always easy to see the leader’s part in a performance. Carlitos looks most often calm, eyes fixed on the pista and he moves just as much as needed, never spectacularly. His impact on the dance is nearly invisible but there is a type of steps which have been part of his dance for a long time. You know those repeated, interrupted backochos or alteration steps in line but most often steps as part of a giro.

We do not know who invented them, if there was a misunderstanding of a lead or a playfull experimenting which created them, we don't know the start. Anyhow they were visible already on performances with Mamie – this video is from 2008. They were created eagerly in milonga but in smaller numbers also in tango.

The milonga performance with Pamela shows the full range of these steps. They are now technically fully developed and they match perfectly the music.

The audience around the pista appreciated the dance and the viewers have been watching this video again and again. But still there was something missing when the performance did not come completely to alive.

Then we got Noelia! She has her own strong musicality and with Carlitos her wild rhythmical side was fully released. Her charisma could lit these steps in a new way.

It seems to take a long time to develop steps to a vibrant, vivid dance and some new combinations, connections are maybe needed on the way.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Carlitos hand

My favorite pose for leader right hand is the relaxed one with fingers easily together and the thump slightly separated. Many variations are available but I can not recall a single other leader but Carlitos Espinoza, who is spreading out the fingers to maximum in the way so characteristic for Noelia Hurtado.

I got curious and wanted to check, if these specific moments of outspread  fingers during some performances with Noelia could be found earlier with his other partners or if it is a more detailed adaptation of the abrazo; adapting and synchronizing the abrazo down to the very tip of the fingers!

I am talking about this, his right hand!

Youtube is a very unprecise tool to work with, but it offers still some better features compared to my memory! I did choose four of his partners to take a closer look of the abrazo and hand poses: Mamie Stancy, Sofia Saborido, Pamela Aracena and Noelia Hurtado. For each of them I did a search filtered for video. The second level filter was for maximum view count and for latest posting. For Pamela it was the same video and for Sofia the second video had so soft light that the hands could not be seen clearly.

You can check the hands and if you like watch the whole video you find the links in the end of this posting.

Mamie and Carlitos

Pamela and Carlitos

Sofia and Carlitos

Noelia and Carlitos

I remember some quite heated discussions about Noelias hand but never a word about Carlitos in same position. How come? My guess would have been that the rules for the leader options are more rigid but it seems not so.  Or do I just have limited information?