Tango, Sunlight, and American Culture! And 3 myths about late-night Tango

Photo by Patricia Bijvoet

Photo by Patricia Bijvoet

I have danced many beautiful hours of Tango between midnight and 3am.

Actually, the local who gave me the address of La Viruta, where I went for my first-ever Tango experience in Buenos Aires, said conspiratorially as he passed the slip of paper, “Don’t go before midnight.”

On my second visit, and my third visit, I remember weeks of getting dressed at midnight, showing up to the evening’s first milonga at 1am, and then walking with everyone to the next milonga around 3:30am. It was a very special and unusual kind of experience!

Hm, but, I also remember freezing on my way home, and getting so sick that the rest of my trip was spent in bed. I remember a few creepy characters from those late nights at Tango. I remember being robbed.

I also remember the charming Estudio Dinzel, where there was daytime practice from 10am til 10pm. I think I felt the most connected there. There was a courtyard, a little garden, where people would sit and chat between bouts of dancing. One time a couple of dancers went out and bought a big jar of dulce de leche and warmed up some crepes, we all snacked and passed mate. I learned so much in those long, light, sensual days.

The Tango movement is taking flight in the U.S. and it will be interesting to see how its power becomes fully integrated into American culture - American culture with its daytime work ethic and bright early mornings. It would be natural if the early-evening and daytime dancing that are part of the Tango scene in Argentina become a bigger anchor of Tango socializing here in the States.

Dancing in daylight is beautiful and natural and relaxed and sexy. And as we as a culture transition to a healthier and more sustainable way of integrating Argentine Tango into our lives, we can be aware of the voices inside our heads that are holding on to a paradigm that may not fit our lives:

Tango dancers, do you find yourself believing any of these myths about late-night dancing?

Myth #1: “Being at milongas late at night is the only way to achieve coolness, status and influence.”

I guess I used to think this because of how mysterious and impenetrable the late-night milonga scene was to me. Over time it's just become like any other party scene, though. 

What I've learned is that in Tango, status is accrued over time, through sustained and committed practice, study and exploration; through caring devotion to the people in the community; through an unflagging impulse to connect and stay connected on many levels. All of this can be and has been achieved without being a night-owl.

Myth #2: “The good dancers are the ones who stay up all night."

Hmmmm. Sounds a bit black and white to me. Let's examine.  

Sometimes the most dedicated and experienced dancers do stay or arrive late - like, to La Viruta - because it can be more fun when the floor clears out a bit. But dancers who love Tango are generally pretty free and excited to dance, well, ALL the time, and that includes during the daytime, too.

Actually, probably they are practicing at home right NOW, and if they found out there was a rockin' milonga going on, they'd probably pick up and go out to it.  

I’ve definitely noticed that highly experienced and delightful dancers, whose dance is enchanting and has deepened over years of committed growth (combined with a set of stable life-practices that promote balance and creativity), also often really love to get a full night of sleep. 

Myth #3: "Dancing til 4 or 5am is the only way to be ‘authentically Argentine.’”

That’s not true. People dance at all hours of the day in Argentina.

Now, is there something romantic and mysterious about dancing deep into the night? Yeah! Is there something gorgeous about being awake when most other people aren’t, participating in something inexpressibly beautiful and enchanted? Totally! Does it need to be something you kill yourself to do several times a week to keep up and be part of things? I don’t think so.

There are some wonderful fun late-night events in Tango! Lovely to do them occasionally and really let it rip. But there’s no need to go around sleep deprived, drowsy as you speed alone down highways at 5am. No need to exhaust ourselves, get sick, get grumpy, end up doing worse quality work and stressing our relationships. Instead, we can find (or create!) beautiful daytime alternatives for weaving amazing tango experiences into our lives. (Ladies, check out Ariana Huffington’s wonderful Sleep Challenge, a worthy, transformative, and deeply sane idea!)

Let’s all be creative and unafraid, and seek to discover a truly healthy and even authentically American way of enjoying the gorgeousness of social Tango dancing that includes enough sleep, and more sunshine.  Dancers, let's demand/create/support/organize awesome daytime events! And let's all embrace the many different lifestyles that want to participate passionately in Tango, including those who sleep at night. 

What Yoga Does for Tango Dancers

In my own exploration of tango, I have found the practice of yoga to be a mindful form of “cross-training” that enhances and supports my dancing. A regular practice on the sticky mat might help fill in the gaps in your tango education when questions about posture, balance, and alignment come up. Below are three specific ways that yoga can make your dancing stronger. As always, these points are only suggestions. Always follow your own body's wisdom in choosing the form of conditioning that is right for you.

1. Better Balance – A large percentage of yoga instruction is intended to help you get grounded. The lunges and other standing poses that often serve as warm-ups emphasize deliberate foot placement, weight distribution, and connection to your core, all building blocks of strong balance in tango dancing as well. Yoga alignment cues throughout the class help line up your joints for safer and more fluid movement. With regular practice, you can carry this stability and fluidity off the mat and into your tango dancing.

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Yoga Tips for Tango Dancers

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3 Cues that Translate to the Dance Floor

By Sharna Fabiano

Increasingly, social dancers are looking to various forms of physical conditioning to refine their balance, posture, and flexibility on the dance floor. This article zooms in on yoga as one of those disciplines, and lists three details that can help you choose a yoga class that will most benefit your tango, or make whatever yoga class you’re already in benefit your tango more. These tips are meant as a guideline - every person is unique and only you know what is best for your body.

1. Slow Down for Better Balance - In contrast to the fast-paced Vinyasa Flow style yoga, slower classes that ask you to hold poses for several breaths at a time might appear to be less intense. In truth, it’s just a different kind of effort. When you hold poses longer and deepen your breathing, your body and mind have more of a chance to synchronize. This increased physical awareness helps to cultivate the sustained attention we need to give to our partner and to the music when dancing tango. Deep breathing and long holds also cue your stabilizing muscles to kick in. These are the ones we need for the precise weight shifts and improvised timing so characteristic of sophisticated tango.

2. Squeeze your Rear for an Elegant Walk - Sometimes the gluteal (rear) muscles get left out of the game in a yoga class. As tango dancers, especially in the following role, we desperately need these muscles for long, powerful back steps (forward and side steps, too). In addition to developing elegant legwork, strong glutes also support your lower back so that it doesn’t work so hard to hold you up. Because tango is a walking dance, the low back takes a lot of abuse, and engaging the rear muscles can make a big difference. Squeeze your rear in standing poses such as Warrior I, Warrior II, and Chair Pose. Standing balances such as Half moon and Warrior III will also get a boost with a little squeeze. Make sure you do not curve your lower spine when you contract your glutes - focus on the muscular action itself.

3. Engage your Abs for an Awesome Embrace - Draw your lower ribs downward toward your front hip points to engage your abdominal muscles. You can incorporate this action into almost any movement in a yoga class, but it’s especially useful in movements where your torso shifts away from vertical. (for example, lying on your back, lying on your belly, in a plank position facing the ground, or when side bending or back bending). Working your abdominal muscles is supportive for general posture, and can prevent lower back strain. As tango dancers, posture is the most influential factor in connecting with a partner. It determines both how balanced you feel to yourself, and how comfortable you feel to others in any style of embrace.

Want more? Ladies can check out Sharna's Women's Tango Circles, combining yoga and tango in one holistic evening!

Care for the Feet that Keep You Dancing - Part 3 of 3

Care for the Feet that Keep You Dancing - Part 3 of 3

Part 3: Fabulous Shoes for Fabulous Feet -- Fashion, Feel/Fit, Floor

by Diana Devi

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of the series! 

Shoes -Fabulous Shoes! Both men and women love shoes; they are one of the ways we can express ourselves with fashion. For dancing however, the choice of shoes must be more than skin deep.

I love tango shoes and have them for every occasion: for practice; for milongas; for slippery floors; for sticky floors; even for dancing outside. Some would say I am obsessed with shoes; I, on the other hand, consider myself prepared. It is important to have the right equipment, and when you think about it, shoes are the equipment of the tango dancer!

Having the right shoes is critical for the tango dancer. They can promote good balance or make it more difficult. Improperly fitting shoes can cause a host of problems from calluses, corns, bunions, chronic foot pain and many others. Unfortunately, problems with the dancer’s feet do not stop at the feet! These problems will “travel up the body” creating problems in the knees and hips which can then travel up to the shoulders and neck. So now you know why I think the appropriate shoe and the right fit are so important!

So what do you need to think about initially when considering a new pair of shoes?

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