Jumping on the loaded bandwagon

4 nov. 2007: No tango tonight, the first free night in a while. Went to check out La Taza but they closed early due to low attendance. I caught them just before they all went home. We were trying to figure out what happened. Word of mouth has been good and people who have attended seemed to have been enthusiastic about the venue. It’s just as well, I guess my body could use the break. Like so many I know in the tango community, I haven’t been getting the kind of rest I should. Yesterday evening I was interviewed by a friend of mine who was working on a paper about tango, and he asked if I considered myself “obsessed.” My reply was that I didn’t really see it that way, even though I go to a milonga or práctica every night. Tango is just something I enjoy doing and being around. But it seems that I hear that a lot, about people who consider themselves “obsessed” or “addicted” or something along those lines. I wonder sometimes if it’s all just some sort of glorified self identification, as if calling oneself a “tango junkie” allows some of them to feel defined somehow as a part of some exclusive club, or that it supposedly speaks of their skill and/or potential. I wonder how long it will last for some of these people, how long before they burn out and to what degree they will recover. I’ve found that for me it goes in cycles. I have been through periods where I dropped it completely for months at a time. But of course I, like most people, always come back. And as long as I’ve been in tango I feel that now I am the most invested, the most driven I have ever been, by far. A big part of that is because at the moment I have the means to afford going out regularly. This is a definite luxury that I haven’t had for most of my time with the dance. Having been on that side of the fence I am well aware of how much of a privilege it is to be able to dance more than once a week. I guess it’s no surprise that many if not most of the people I usually see are well educated, well trained, and well employed. Sometimes I feel as if I’m mingling above my class (a Billy Joel in a room full of Christie Brinkleys). So many techies, doctors, architects, engineers, etc. Then there’s me, working class slacker without a title. No matter. I’ve never been in a situation where anyone has made an issue about it. And anyway tango doesn’t give a shit what your alma mater is or resume says.
So what else did I do today? Besides hauling a couple tons of concrete around (not tango related), I spent a lot of time constructing cortinas. Now here’s something it’s probably correct to say I get obsessed with. Once I start I want to turn just about everything in my iTunes library into a cortina. I was pretty diplomatic about it. Personally, I prefer long cortinas but for some functions people expect shorter ones, so I made both. Nothing less than 24 seconds, though. I’m just one of those folks who for whatever reason thinks the cortina should actually have a function more than just being a tiny interlude between tandas. I like it when they completely clear the floor. Call me old fashioned. Going back to the concrete, even though it wasn’t a tango thing, leave it to me to make it relate somehow. At the dump, as I was unloading the back of the truck I concentrated on using my core to generate a nice dissociation as I chucked the pieces into a big pile. I was winding up pretty good there, got some nice distance. Hopefully, that’ll help translate to some solid energy leading the ladies into the giros / molinetes (gently, of course).


tangobaby said...


I read your comment on colbay's blog, which led me to your first post here. I think you sound like a balanced and thoughtful individual.

You're right. Everything comes in cycles. Energy, desire, money. You just have to tango when you can, because you want to. But it sounds like you've got that figured out already.

Please don't sell yourself short. I can only speak for myself here, but as a follower I'd much rather dance with a guy that uses his hands for a living, who reads and has something interesting to say than someone who's got a bunch of degrees and can't talk to me during a break. I'm not looking to dance with a degree, but a human partner with a sense of musicality, sensuality, and humor.

And constructing a tanda, that takes a lot of knowledge as well as intuition. One of my teachers, Roberto, gave a class in how he does it, and it's intense. You have to know the music intimately, and be able to fine tune it on the spot as you watch the dancers react to it.

I hope to meet you on the dance floor someday, if I haven't already. And to read more of your blog entries. We need a nice balance of male bloggers here.

Malevito said...

Hi tangobaby. Wow, that was a quick response. I wasn't exactly sure about this whole blogging thing but I figured since everybody else is doing it...

Honestly, the income/class thing has never really been an issue for me, it was just a random thought that I had at the time of writing. Although I find it kind of curious how a dance from the slums of Argentina (or Uruguay, to be diplomatic) became largely white collar once it left the country. I suppose it's yet another of the contradictions inherent in the dance and the culture - which means it fits perfectly.

Regarding tanda construction, it takes me an inordinately long time to put together a night of music that I feel good about. Most other djs I know who are more experienced than me (as tango djs, that is - give me two decks and some hip hop records and I'd take them to school ;P) like to make them up on the fly, gauging the response from the floor and deciding what is appropriate. It takes me WEEKS of prep time. I like to have my tandas pre-constructed and then plug in the right one at the right time. It's kind of the safe way to go. I generally don't surprise anybody with my selections but I just trust the classic, familiar selections that every tanguero knows and loves.

Anyway, thanks again for the response and the encouragement. Nice to feel welcome :)

tangobaby said...

Hello again,

I don't think any of us knew much about the whole blogging thing when we got started, so you're not alone. You certainly will learn as you keep doing it, and I'm sure there are lots of rules and all of that.

To answer your question about how tango escaped the slums and became white collar, that happened in Europe right after WWI. Tango became a craze for the upper-middle society types and its popularity spread throughout the world. Even today, many Argentines do not dance tango. I was talking to a young man there about where he dances, and he bluntly (yet sweetly replied): "Oh tango is for old people and tourists!"

I'm glad to hear you're careful and traditional in your music choices. A well-constructed tanda and flawlessly executed milonga is one of those things we may not instantly recognize but appreciate when we feel its absence. I once went to a milonga down the peninsula (where I will never ever go again) where there were NO cortinas, and you never knew which kind of song was next. You could dance to a vals, then a milonga, then a tango, and the worst part was that there was no regular break in the music so you could escape to your seat gracefully. Incredible but true.

I was told that this was the DJs personal style and he liked it that way so no one could tell him otherwise.

Malevito said...

Well, if the organizer allows for a dj to play in that manner I guess there's not much you can say. I'm not necessarily one who thinks there is one set way of doing things, but it seems the usual manner of tandas separated by cortinas has a very clear and sensible logic to it. My good friend Rina, who is herself an excellent and experienced dj, once said that a good dj will pretty much make themselves invisible, which goes back to your comment about how you appreciate a good dj more when you're in the presence of a bad one. Funny thing, though, it seems that lately the dj is getting to be more appreciated in tango circles, and I'm finding people who one might regard as connoisseurs of djs. Suddenly, people are paying more attention to just how a night is programmed and evaluating the dj's skill tanda by tanda. I guess it's just human nature to be critical, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.