Tango

Masters of stagecraft: Carlos Gavito & Marcela Duran
Masters of stagecraft: Carlos Gavito & Marcela Duran

I teach Argentine tango privately to one or two people at a time, exclusively in Courtenay, BC. I fell in love with the traditional music of the Golden Age of Tango, the thirties and forties and the traditional social dance of the tango called the “milonga”. I teach about angles, close embrace and very precise movements – just like my hair styling.

I have taught differently-abled people, blind people and people with prosthetics. I welcome all those who are interested in learning how to dance social tango. My fees are $90 per hour.

I have been dancing and training for many years, which include 14 months in Buenos Aires where I developed my current teaching style. I also make an annual pilgrimage to Argentina to continue with my own development.

(View some videos: video 1, video 2, video 3)

In the mid-nineties, I was with my wife Diane in Barcelona during a Habanera music festival. Everybody was dancing! They were doing the rumba, the cha cha and so forth. And there I was, gazing with deep longing, on the outside but wanting to be on the inside. I decided in that instant. I turned to Diane and said, “I will learn to dance. I will not go to my grave without being a good dancer.” We tried various forms of ballroom but nothing really satisfied me. They were just not the dance I was looking for. Then a friend finally mentioned Argentine tango – and voila! I have never looked back.”

Argentine tango is danced in an embrace that can vary from very open, in which leader and follower connect at arm’s length, to very closed, in which the connection is chest-to-chest, or anywhere in between. Close embrace is often associated with the more traditional styles, while open embrace leaves room for many of the embellishments and figures that are associated with tango nuevo and show tango.

I am now teaching tango in my preferred style: close embrace tango. Tango is walking in an embrace. At the heart of my teaching are the principles of frame, walking, and musicality. Mastering these basics is essential to anyone who is thinking of dancing with local dancers in Buenos Aires. I gently guide beginners through the process of learning the fundamentals to prepare them for the social dance floor.

For me, savouring closeness and constantly reinterpreting musical variety is the essence of tango. Discover a dance that has no need of passionate and erotic cliches, but instead is an adventure that begins anew with every embrace, with every step.

Stylistically, I am at home in the traditional tango de salón, as it is danced in Buenos Aires, that I interpret in a very personal and modern way. I love tango because it captivates through its intimate embrace, playful musicality and an almost puristic elegance: a sensual interplay of man and woman without cliché or superficial effect. My tango is newly created in every single moment, and does not just express the music, but genuine feeling.

At the core of my lessons, which are always geared towards improvisational capability, is intensive body work and analysis of tango´s structures. Technical understanding is just a means to concentrate better on the essential: developing one´s own style and relishing the embrace in unison with the music.

Tango is essentially walking with a partner and the music. Musicality (i.e. dancing appropriately to the emotion and speed of a tango) is an extremely important element of dancing tango. A good dancer is one who makes you see the music. Also, dancers generally keep their feet close to the floor as they walk, the ankles and knees brushing as one leg passes the other.

Argentine tango relies heavily on improvisation; although certain patterns of movement have been codified by instructors over the years as a device to instruct dancers, there is no “basic step.” One of the few constants across all Argentine tango styles, is that the follower will usually be led to alternate feet. Another is that the follower rarely has her weight on both feet at the same time. Argentine tango is a new orientation of couple dancing. As most dances have a rational-pattern which can be predicted by the follower, the ballast of previous perceptions about strict rules has to be thrown overboard and replaced by a real communication contact, creating a direct non-verbal dialogue. A tango is a living act in the moment as it happens.

Argentine tango is danced counterclockwise around the outside of the dance floor (the “line of dance”) and dance “traffic” often segregates into a number of “lanes”; cutting across the middle of the floor is frowned upon. In general, the middle of the floor is where you find either beginners who lack floor navigation skills or people who are performing “showy” figures or patterns that take up more dance floor space. It is acceptable to stop briefly in the line of dance to perform stationary figures, as long as the other dancers are not unduly impeded. The school of thought about this is, if there is open space in front of you, there are likely people waiting behind you. Dancers are expected to respect the other couples on the floor; colliding or even crowding another couple, or stepping on others’ feet is to be avoided strenuously. It is considered rude; in addition to possible physical harm rendered, it can be disruptive to a couple’s musicality.

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