Last week I attended the Lady’s Tango Festival in Buenos Aires. “John, I have to leave earlier than we planned because I just found out about a fantastic opportunity! It happens the week before we are scheduled to go.” I could see that he needed more convincing. “I want to be the most delightful follower you can possibly imagine. I think these 6 ladies can teach me what you want me to know.” It worked! I left with his full support.
Organized by Johana Copes, the daughter of legendary tanguero Juan Carlos Copes, the festival featured renowned tangueras Milena Plebs, Guillermina Quiroga, Aurora Lubiz, Corina De La Rosa, Juana Sepulveda and Lorena Ermocida along with the male perspectives of Pablo Veron and Chicho Frumboli.
Stepping off the airplane and into the Ezieza airport, the pulse of Tango was under my feet. No other city I have visited even comes close to energizing me like Buenos Aires. The next afternoon I filled my backpack: water, snacks, notebook, pen, and my shoes. 3 pairs of shoes: flat jazz shoes, tango sneakers with a mid size heel and 3” NeoTango stilettos. I knew I faced a full schedule of daily classes and would have to carefully choose my footwear depending on the exercises and how much my feet hurt. Thirty hours of classes in 6 days and yes, my feet did hurt.
Class attendance ranged from 9 to 36 women. The maestras covered a full spectrum of themes such as posture, balance, axis, pivots, boleos, moving decorations, musicality, dissociation, turn technique and new dynamics. But it was “the art of walking” that I found most interesting. Each maestra was exquisitely clear in explaining “the art of walking”. They were so convincing. But – no two of them described it the same!
“The leg and hence the foot is neither turned out nor in, but in one line. Your axis is slightly forward from the ankles. You point your toe as you step but at the moment of transfer it is the heel that strikes first when walking forward.”
“You stand up straight and natural with your shoulders above your hips. Your heels are together but your toes are open. You walk in two tracks. When walking forward, your heel strikes first.”
“Your feet are parallel, not turned out. Your axis is slightly forward. You walk forward and back in the same way with the ball of the foot striking first, followed by the heel. You walk in two tracks.”
“You walk in 2 tracks when in front of your partner and in 1 track when walking outside your partner. Your axis is slightly forward and your feet are turned out.”
“Your axis is upright, your feet are turned out, you strike the ball of the foot first when walking forward and you walk in one track going forward or back.”
“Your axis is completely upright with the shoulders above the hips. It is okay to walk with parallel feet but I use a slight turn out for better balance. I try to point my foot and strike the ball of the foot first when walking forward but sometimes I strike the heel first.
Corina De La Rosa:
“When standing in bare feet your axis is perpendicular to the floor but when you put on high heels you need to make an adjustment so that your axis is perpendicular to your high heeled shoes. The heels are together but my toes slightly open. The hips remain over the arches of the foot and the shoulders are over the toes. When stepping try to step with either the heel or the entire foot at once and not the toe.”
I truly understand how women become frustrated by all of these discrepancies. After 17 years of dancing Argentine Tango, all I can do is smile. I have come to cherish this paradoxical aspect of the dance. How delightful that despite all these conflicting methods we can travel around the world and find on the dance floor a communication that is so universal. Tango is a common language danced together using shared vocabulary, but each of us has an individual style, and it works. Here is what Pablo Veron told us. He said that the great leaders of tango came together for a conference and could not even agree on what the “basic” was. Johana Copes saw it this way and advised “tango is like life, we will not get along with everyone. In the dance we need to search out those who we feel comfortable with and dance with them.”
This festival was a fabulous opportunity and I know that John will be more than pleased. From the variety of new ideas and exercises from this seminar my style will change but it will still be clearly my style. I will share it with my students. Tango evolves and learning never stops. I’m sure that as the years go by, my style will also continue to evolve.
Asi se baile el tango – This is how you dance the tango!