Debbie attends Lady’s Tango Festival in Buenos Aires

IMG_2215Last 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.IMG_2294

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!


Milena Plebs and Debbie Goodwin

Milena Plebs:
“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.”


Debbie Goodwin & Johana Copes

Johana Copes:
“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.”


Debbie Goodwin and Aurora Lubiz

Aurora Lubiz:

“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.”

Lorena Ermocida and Debbie Goodwin

Lorena Ermocida and Debbie Goodwin


Lorena Ermocida:
“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.”


Debbie Goodwin and Guillermina Quiroga

Guillermina Quiroga:
“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.”

Juana Sepulveda:
“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.


Debbie Goodwin & Corina De La Rosa

Debbie Goodwin & Corina De La Rosa

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!

7 Responses to Debbie attends Lady’s Tango Festival in Buenos Aires

  1. Sylvia Goodman March 11, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

    Ahh, Debbie,
    To have such confusion at the end of your fabulous performance is just what is needed by all of us. Where else can we start with beginner’s mind just when we think we know what we are doing? What a fantastic new beginning. Thank you for your enjoyable and informative article, I couldn’t help but smile all the way through. Now I can be on my toes in my sneakers, on my heals in my heals, walk like I mean business, and walk backwards on a balance beam!

    Looking forward to your return and more exciting reports!

    Besos, Sylvia

  2. Nancy Mendoza March 10, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

    Debbie, thanks so much for this article. It’s a very timely one for my students, who are confused by the new fashion of turning out the feet in a modified (ballet) third position.

    When I first started dancing Argentine Tango over 25 years ago, I had to work very hard to undo the turnout that my muscles had memorized after nearly two decades of classical ballet training. The reason? ALL of my teachers told me that Tango is a dance of the common people and turnout was an affectation not to be tolerated. Worse yet! Turned out feet could cause your partner to trip. As a result, I dance and teach all my students to keep their feet in parallel position, walking two tracks in open embrace and one track in close embrace, using toe leads to walk forward or backward, but utilizing the entire foot, not just the balls of the feet.

    Over the holiday season, my partner, David Mendoza, and I took a short break from teaching, so some of our students attendedclasses by other maestra’s around town. They returned totally confused. Should they walk parallel or turned out? Should they walk on their toes or use the whole foot? Should they cross with feet held tighly together or in the new triangle shape (toes close, heels open)?

    Well, as you’ve shown, there is NO CORRECT ANSWER. It’s all based on training and personal style.

    I personally think it’s folly for a beginning Tanguera to learn walk turned out, if she’s never had ballet training. Tango is hard enough in itself, and turnout, if not done correctly, can wreak havoc on the joints. Same with dancing on your toes all the time – a new fad that started a couple of years ago, when someone (most likely a man wearing flat shoes) decided that followers should not make noise by striking their heels on the floor. What new torture is that? Most Tangueras don’t have the upper back and leg strenth to carry it off. Heck, dancing in three-inch heels is torture enough.

    I thought dancing was supposed to be fun? Maybe we can all relax a bit now and find freedom from your article. Most of all, I hope our students realize that it is the Tanguera’s journey to discover the technique that looks and feels best for her. I hope you don’t mind if I share your article with my students.

  3. MaryBeth March 10, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

    Are you at Academia National Del Tango? After 5 hours a day of lessons was there any time left for a Milonga? Were the classes in Spanish? or a English? Were your classmates from Buenos Aires? or international? So many questions. Look forward to your return.


    • debbie March 10, 2013 at 11:16 pm #

      Hi Mary Beth,
      Yes, the classes were at Academia National Del Tango right next door to Tortoni Cafe. I did not have any energy for Milongas in the evening but John has now arrived and we just returned from a Milonga – It is 3am in the morning. Our classes were mostly in Spanish but they would translate some things in English when there were some students who did not speak Spanish. The students were from both Buenos Aires as well as international.
      We are now starting the CITA conference this week!
      Thanks for your interest.

  4. Karina Levin March 10, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    Debbie, I enjoyed reading your post, thank you!
    I find it the beauty of tango that there is no right or wrong if leader and follower are connected to the music and to each other.

  5. Lanny Udell March 10, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

    Debbie, this is fascinating and a bit confusing all at once. I guess the bottom line is there’s no one right way.Can’t wait til you’re back and can share this info with us!

  6. Cocco March 10, 2013 at 10:04 am #

    Wonderful Debbie!!!!!


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