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Putting the cart before the noble potrillo. | A Passion For Tango

Putting the cart before the noble potrillo.

I was once taught that if I wanted to be something, it made sense to first say to myself that I was that thing. I suppose the idea was to attempt to come away from a vague aspiration without much hope of fulfilment to a harder driven state. Famously, Henry Ford was supposed to have said something along the lines of, ” Success or failure; whatever you think you are, you’re right!” Maybe it wasn’t Henry Ford, but, anyway, you get the idea?

Some people seem to be like this in Tango. As soon as they start to dance they begin to dress up like dancers they see on the stage. Some people buy the so-called correspondent shoes. You know, the black and white ones? Well, I do think we ought to dance in shoes we don’t wear in the street and at least a good dance shoe has no welt to cut across our partner’s calf if we clumsily intrude a leg. It hardly matters what the shoe looks like if it fits well and is a comfortable and stable platform and its sole permits a pivot,but there’s more.

Men who never generally wear hats outside, take to wearing a fedora indoors, even when dancing. Now, I was brought up always to remove any headgear when entering a house as a measure of politeness. The dancers on stage are acting imagined roles from a hundred years ago when almost all men wore hats. Even then, the gentlemen knew to remove them before dancing. In addition, the single woollen suit those chaps wore must have stunk to high heaven. I am told that a great deal of early dancing was done outside in work clothes, even blood stained from the abattoir. Why don’t we go to a dance wearing such a suit? Why just the hat? I’m sure my dancing would improve if only I wore the same outfit as an early 20th century milonguero. I could go further still. I could prepare for a Milonga by smoking a few cigars, not to mention throwing away my modern day deodorant and just imagine what my 1920 dental state ought to be!

No, let’s dance as ourselves, in the 21st century,smelling sweetly in clean clothes, use some Listerine and, let’s also adopt the modern approach to the male/female relationship state. Yes, I’m the leader, mostly because my eyes are looking in the direction of travel, not because I’m the only one who can hear the music. I’m happy for the woman in my arms to wear a very high heel, mainly because it allows her to feel the ground behind her all the more quickly but also because it looks very sexy. Do I need her to dress like the tart in the stage show? I think not. Oh, alright if it makes her happy!

Can we take anything from the old days? How about the culture of politeness, the cabeceo and the rest of the practical codigo that helped Tango become such a vital part of Argentinian social life? How about the simple skills of balance and relationship, the connection between man and woman in each others’ arms? How about becoming very familiar with a number of classic Tangos so that we can predict the musical cues that repeat and repeat? The dancing styles? We can only go on what we’re told, since so much fact has been lost between the 1950s and 1980s. I think we can be certain that there was no bounce in Tango and it was danced with elbows in. Tango is a social dance, not an antisocial one..

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