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Beware of tango dogmatism!

posted Jun 11, 2014, 3:57 PM by Sophia de Lautour   [ updated Jun 2, 2017, 4:52 PM ]
Sharing Terpsichoral Tangoaddict 's thoughts on stylistic differences in tango, with a few thoughts of my own at the end and I've added some images and hyperlinks for references that may be unfamiliar to readers.

"The longer I've danced tango, the more I've grown to feel that stylistic differences are pretty unimportant to me. (Let's leave tango escenario1 out of this discussion, as that really is a very different animal.) There are familial resemblances between the preferences of certain groups of dancers. There are those who choose never to open the embrace, but is sustained close embrace really a style in itself, since the embrace is only one element of the dance? There's definitely a similarity between those who reach the finals of the Mundial and I've nicknamed this elegant but sometimes too uniform way of dancing "championship-style salon". 

          "championship style tango"

And, if you observe many, perhaps most, of dancers, much of the time, most weeks, you'll note a kind of tendency towards a distinct house style at Fruto Dulce, at The Sunderland practica, at El Yeite, at Cachirulo

And then, of course, every good dancer develops their own style, their own individual preferences and ways of dancing (something which is not incompatible with being part of a tradition, incorporating elements of a particular school, in the widest sense of that word, just as everyone's voice is unique but you might still speak with, say, an Australian accent, *your* accent, yes, but also recognisably Antipodean).


But the way some people talk about style makes it sound as if there were huge, unbridgeable gaps between us, rendering somatic communication impossible. Whereas, as I personally see it, our dance is based on a small number of fundamental principles and ways of moving which, with only minor variations, are the same in all styles. 

Sometimes, "he/she dances a different style" is used as a euphemism for "his/her dancing is bad". And sometimes "he/she dances a different style" is used as an excuse not to learn from a good teacher or to stay content with your own mediocrity. (A style is a choice; not being able to do something is not a style.) 

But how often are two excellent dancers really unable to enjoy dancing with each other because of stylistic incompatibilities? After observing many wonderfully unlikely couples dancing socially at the milongas, I'd venture to guess it's very rarely indeed.

Personally, I care about many things in a partner, but stylistic allegiances aren't one of them. And I try to make technical choices that don't impede my ability to potentially dance well with any good dancer. I find it very analogous to speaking English: so you say tomayto and I say tomahto. We can still understand each other just fine. Let's call the calling-off off.'


1 stage tango

My thoughts...

I particularly like Terpsi's reference to 'championship-style tango'. So true. Dancing at the Mundial (Salon category) is becoming increasingly uniform. I love the diversity of tango styles. Long live that diversity!

In Sydney a diversity of styles is taught and, to my mind, is a good thing.  The main differences (and it's a big list!) being:
  • At which part of the chest  torso / frame the couple connects; and the physically intensity of that connection. 
  • The alignment of the upper body in relation to the lower body when walking - i.e., slight 'A frame', strong 'A frame', or open embrace with no 'A frame'.
  • The left arm position of the leader and the follower.
  • Whether leg connection between steps is emphasised or discouraged.
  • Whether heel or toe connects with the floor first when walking forward.
  • The technique of leading and executing circular movements - i.e ochos and giros.
  • Whether moves not fitting the 'chanpionship-style tango'  repertoire - e.g., volcadas, colgadas, and ganchos - are frowned upon or reveled in.
  • Differing emphases in musicality / connection / posture / footwork / etiquette.
While these differences may cause some confusion to beginners traversing different schools, I much prefer variety  to uniformity and it's a good preparation for dancing in Buenos Aires which is nothing but diverse.

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