Monday, 3 January 2011

Magic tandas

Irene and Man Yung commented on height in dance, something we are all aware of, particularly with partners we've not danced with before. I'm always cautious about dancing with a partner who's taller than me: the embrace might not feel so comfortable, your partner's head completely blocks out your right-hand view, and height changes the centre of gravity. Shorter partners usually have problems trying to sort out how to use their left arm, but I danced once with a truly tiny Argentine woman who'd got that one sorted: she just reached straight up with her left arm and put it around my neck. I don't know if she found it comfortable, but we danced a fast vals tanda as if we were a single entity.

So when I face a partner I don't know and realise she's rather taller than me, I have an apprehensive moment, but the great thing is that without thinking I pull myself up and stand tall. It's too easy for me to start to lean over a shorter partner; uncomfortable for her, and my dance suffers. Not having good natural posture is a problem in tango; maybe not if you dance open embrace, but if you want to dance close you really need good posture. Leandro Palou remarked in class that a lot of the problems people have in tango result from poor posture.

Having a tanda of early Canaro to dance to, the music Martha and Manolo use for canyengue, is always going to help. That relaxed, earthy beat is calm, reassuring and buoyant. It's music that hardly suggests anything elaborate. If you have a fairly empty floor you have space to walk too, and if you happen to have found a partner who responds to all that, it's as if you can do no wrong. A really good dance can stay with you for a long time, and leaves you wondering what made it feel so good.

It's a pity tango dancers sometimes look as if they're trying to be teenagers again. Why? Nothing to be ashamed of in listening to that music and savouring it as you dance. & 'Dance like your partner is your first love, or don't dance at all' as Irene and Man Yung say, reflecting no doubt the views of their Argentine friends! The result can be magic.

Sadly, the main source of that early music, Francisco Canaro: Las Grandes Orquestas del Tango, is currently unavailable.


Anonymous said...

That's why men pay attention to every woman entering the milongas in BsAs -- you can judge height better while someone is standing, not sitting. I dance with men who are shorter than I am in heels as well as a few inches taller. There is a certain height that feels most comfortable, and when we find a partner who FITS us, the tanda can be magical.

If you are dancing tango as you learned from Pedro Sanchez, you can't see to the right unless you make a quarter turn. You have your partner to watch that side for you.

There are enough dancers in the BsAs milongas that a tall man doesn't have to dance with a very short woman. Both can find partners the same height. Holding an arm vertical for a dance isn't comfortable.

I saw a couple today at El Arranque who were both over 6 feet tall. They didn't have any choice of partners there; no one was close to their height. It's extremely rare to see a very tall man dancing with a short woman in BsAs because height difference matters to portenos.

Does height matter when we are giving someone a hug? No. We make whatever adjustment is necessary in order to wrap our arms around them. It's the same in tango. We don't worry about posture because we're dancing for our partners, not an audience. I see lots of men hunched over to embrace their partners, and still they manage to dance. They don't worry about standing up straight.

Anonymous said...

please make a correction in the last paragraph. I meant to write "does posture matter...

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Tangocommuter,

Thanks for mentioning us again! Man Yung told me that Elina Roldan talked about height differences and how a woman should deal with them on the Bridge to the Tango instruction video she made with Tommy O'Connell.

Unfortunately, I didn't watch that part of the video. That's why I look so funny on so many of the videos we posted of me dancing with the milongueros in Buenos Aires, and indeed, even in the videos of me dancing with Man Yung!

Just kidding, have a very happy 2011 with more amazing dances that you could ever imagine,

Irene and Man Yung

LeadingLady said...

During several years I had mainly two partners 4.92 and 6.07 feet in high heels. I am 5.41 feet tall.
Yes, there were problems but I have been dancing in close and open abrazo with both and we did find our ways to keep connected.

The most surpricing thing was the extra learning I got. Things did not work similarly with these two ladies. Just think of americana; You need to decide if the hips or feet should be in line and how we could get there!

Chris, UK said...

"Sadly, the main source of that early music, Francisco Canaro: Las Grandes Orquestas del Tango, is currently unavailable."

Lots of early Canaro can be found here: