Wednesday, May 19, 2010

On Eye Contact and other Tango Stunts

It is fascinating, riveting, almost super-human. Tango requires passion, rhythm, coordination, strength, spontaneity. I see mere mortals dancing the Tango, and I ask myself, “Could I?” In a careful first approach to the dance, I looked up some of the basic terminology.

Abrazo — The embrace; a hug; or dance position.

Adorno — Adornment; embellishment. [Not a literary theorist?]

Apilado Style — Piled on: As used in tango, the reference is to the way a jockey is "piled on" his horse, when racing—hugging the neck.

Arrepentida — Repentant; To change one’s mind: A family of steps which allow a couple to back away from a collision or traffic jam in a minimal amount of space and on short notice. [Repentant backtracking. Lots of practice here.]

Cabeceo — (from cabeza; head): Traditional technique for selecting dance partners from a distance at the milongas in Buenos Aires by using eye contact and head movements. [A challenge to the New York City upbringing. There, eye contact with strangers is, well, not recommended.]

Caricias — Caresses: A gentle stroking with the leg or shoe against some part of the partner's body. They can be subtle or extravagant. [Um, let’s stick with subtle.]

Castigada — (from castigar - to punish) a punishment: A lofting of the lady's working leg followed by flexing at the knee and caressing the working foot down the outside of the supporting leg. [Whew.]

Entregarme — Surrender: To give oneself up to the leader’s lead.

Freno — To stop and hold; brake. [Ah, emergency brake. Excellent. Is there an eject button, too?]

Milonga — May refer to the music, written in 2/4 time, or to the dance which preceded the tango, or to the dance salon where people go to dance tango, or to a tango dance and party.

Mordida — From morder: to bite; the little bite: One partner’s foot is sandwiched or trapped between the other partner’s feet. [In soccer, we call that a foul.]

Parejas — Couple: The two partners in a tango.

Planchadoras — The women who sit all night at the milongas without being asked to dance. The main reason for that, is because they don't know how to dance well enough. Yes, it may seem cruel but one of the many tango lyrics actually says something like, "let them learn as a consequence of sitting all night." [At least it sounds much sexier than “wallflowers”.]

Sentada — From sentar - to sit. A sitting action: A family of figures in which the lady creates the illusion of sitting in, or actually mounts, the man’s leg. Frequently used as a dramatic flourish at the end of a dance. [Whew.]

Suave — Smooth, steady and gentle, soft, stylish. A major objective in tango.

Tanguero — (feminine; Tanguera) Refers to anyone who is deeply and seriously passionate about any part of tango, such as its history, music, lyrics, etc. In Argentina most tangueros are scholars of lunfardo, music, orchestrations, Gardel, etc.

Vareador — From horse racing; a man who walks the horses but is never allowed to mount them: In tango, it refers to a man who dances and flirts with all the ladies but never gets involved with anyone. May also refer to a man who is a clumsy or inconsiderate lead who “might just as well be walking a horse.”

Right, well, I might need a few years of practice before hitting the dancefloor. Meanwhile, I'll settle for sitting on the sidelines, a hopeful planchadora. welcomes La Ventana, a fabulous Tango venue in the heart of San Telma, the beautifully preserved historical neighbourhood of Buenos Aires.

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