Saturday, December 13, 2014

You Cannot Lie to Tango

People are natural-born liars. There are many reasons why we do this but that is not the point of my essay; what happens to those lies when we come to tango is. Dancing is like writing and the writer’s creed is “to thine own self be true.” If you bring your lies to tango, they will be exposed and this is not necessarily a bad thing; it is how tango makes you better.
Here is a good example: “I can’t dance because I am fat.”
This is the falsehood that prevents many people from getting out on the dance floor. Your physical appearance is not as important as balance and emotion. You can’t be a slob and good hygiene is extremely important but how much you weigh should not be a factor in your decision to dance.
Tango is for adventurous spirits, those persons who get great satisfaction from getting to know the true person inside the skin. I like to call them soul-seekers. They are tourists in other people’s psyches. It is not enough for them to engage another person in conversation, they need to touch you, feel your emotions and experience how you move to the music.
Our passion is something we often try to hide from others. Those of us who do this have learned that expressing our passion is unacceptable; maybe we were taught this in school, at work or at home during childhood. Whatever the source, it needs to be let out and tango gives us that outlet. We may not realize it when it first happens but eventually it becomes clear that it was necessary.
There are many other lies but the one I’d like most to expose is this one: “It’s her.”
It’s never her. The woman cannot make a mistake in tango. I’m sure you’ve all heard that this dance is all about the woman, well, it’s true. If you are the leader and the follower fails to respond in a way you had expected then you did not give her enough information.
Maybe you gave her too much information. Maybe she sensed that you were too demanding and this caused her to become nervous which then caused her to miss your cue.
This is not her fault, it is the leader’s. As the lead, it is your responsibility to keep your lady on her own balance, to figure out what moves she is comfortable with and not to lead anything that is beyond her ability......and yours!
This scenario often encompasses another lie and it is the one the woman tells to herself: “It’s me.”
I often tell women when they apologize during the dance that they cannot make a mistake. They usually laugh and deny it. That is because they think I am lying. They firmly believe they are at fault and I think it is a long journey for these ladies before they realize that it is not true.
There are no mistakes in tango. To dance tango is to attempt to choreograph a song spontaneously with a partner. It is an ATTEMPT! It is not a commandment written in stone. There is no grade or score. Success is measured by how you feel afterwards.
To err is human. It is not a sin to be human. When you come to tango, cut yourself a break and forgive yourself ahead of time. You are here to enjoy yourself so don’t be an obstacle to your own happiness.

For more on the Kayak Hombre, check out my two books available on Amazon and Kindle:

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Damian Lobato: Superb Tango Instructor

I just returned from a weekend in Pittsburgh where I attended a workshop taught by a superb tango instructor called Damian Lobato. I knew of him from Philadelphia where he has been teaching for awhile. I wasn’t aware until recently that he was available to give lessons outside of the area until I saw him perform at the Tucson Tango Festival last year.
Damian is from Argentina. No one had to tell me this, I can tell from the way he teaches. Real Argentines want people to learn how to dance tango and not fancy show-piece maneuvers.
Professors of this dance tend to focus on what they consider basic movements and always try to get their students to realize that tango is about much more than just movement; it is about the music and the expression of the participants as well.
His constant focus on the musicality of the performance and the importance of the leader/follower relationship are what makes Damian Lobato's workshops special.  
While he commands the attention and respect of his pupils with a quiet demeanor, he is not beyond adding a bit of levity to the conversation. He is a serious person who looks at tango seriously but he knows what it takes to get his students to learn.
The real mark of a great teacher is whether or not his students can replicate their knowledge beyond the classroom. I can’t say for certain if I will succeed but I feel incredibly confident that I will.
Another measure of an instructor’s impact is demand for repeat performances. I’ll just say that he has been to Pittsburgh four times and let that fact speak for itself.
Here is a rundown of how this weekend transpired:
We began on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and worked on tango for the next three hours. We started with simple displacements and worked those into reverse cruzadas by the end of the afternoon. 
Not once during the entire class did he inject his ego into the lesson by saying that he studied with Chicho or Gustavo(which he did) or impart any information other than what was necessary for us to easily grasp the concept at hand.
On Sunday we continued to study reverse cruzada until he sensed that we were all getting very tired. At this point he switched the subject matter to milonga: nothing complex but enough that we continued to learn in a way that was fun, adding more value to the lesson.
I paid $120 for classes on Saturday and Sunday and I definitely feel as if I got more than my money’s worth.
So many times have I been in classes where the instructor pontificates for thirty minutes before letting the students try a step themselves. This is not Damian. His technique was simple and very regimented. He elaborated on a topic for no more than ten minutes before asking the class to show their understanding through dance.
At this time, Damian and Sarah Chung, his most excellent assistant, would filter amongst us and offer insight into what we were doing and how we could do it better. All of their input was offered in a positive manner and I never once felt stupid or clumsy when they were talking to me.
Another attribute of great tango instructors is their handling of the music. So many times this is often fumbled for minutes at a time, leading to a lack of cohesiveness for the entire session. This was not the case here. The music was easy to dance to and the structure of the lesson easily incorporated the teacher’s three second walk back to his laptop to stop or start the music.
For my fellow classmates, the non-classical tango music was from Norah Jones’ album Come Away With Me.
By the end of the weekend I was leading reverse cruzadas like a pro as well as fine tuning my ability to lead a more interesting milonga!!!
Great job Damian and Sarah!!!
Here is another insight I’d like to offer about this workshop. Each day’s class was divided up into three segments with a short five minute break in between. Each session was comprised of movements that could be completed in eight beats or one phrase.
This is what I mean when I say that Damian focuses on musicality. If you can dance to a song in a series of phrases, I believe you will be enjoying the music more like a native of Buenos Aires. You will also be getting a whole lot more from the milongas you are attending as well as making yourself more pleasing to your partners.
For those of you responsible for bringing instructors to your own area, let me offer some information on how this community presented their teachers to its members.
The classes were offered as couples only events with a maximum of six couples per class. IMHO, the only restraint on the size of the class was the size of the room which was very small.
Damian and Sarah taught once in the morning and once in the afternoon on both Saturday and Sunday to two different groups so they could accommodate a total of 24 students. This would be a tremendous strain on more exuberant professors but I think Damian’s disciplined approach to teaching and his peaceful demeanor allowed him to give 100% to all of us.
Entrance to the building was restricted by a very annoying security system but I think this ended up being a positive attribute as there were absolutely no interruptions to the instruction.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe my entire impression of this experience is not due to the instructor but based entirely on the fact that all my partners where very skilled tangueras and Damian merely had to make a suggestion in order for these excellent people to take it to fruition. I find that extremely hard to believe but, just in case it is, keep the following links in your bookmarks for the next time Damian comes to Pittsburgh so you can see for yourself what is true and what is reality.

p.s. I absolutely LOVED Sarah’s handling of the role of assistant instructor during this workshop. This is a difficult task to accomplish in a way that enhances the experience for the pupil rather than detracts from it. Thank you, Sarah, for all your efforts. It was such a pleasure to meet you in such circumstances and I will be a better dancer for having been tutored by you.

For more on the Kayak Hombre and his writings, check out his books available on Amazon:

Saturday, December 6, 2014

What Is Tango?

               I am in a hotel room and it is raining. I remember a young lady with whom I had danced many times. She had dedicated herself to mastering tango before she was thirty and could execute molinete with perfection. Her boleos needed work but she acquired the skill in short time because she was a passionate student.
               I encountered her once after I had attended a workshop on musicality where we worked on dancing to the phrase. She asked what that was and I tried unsuccessfully to explain. She said she understood but I knew she didn’t; she just wanted to work on her molinete.
               I couldn’t explain it to her then but I think I could today after five more years under my belt.
               A phrase is eight beats. To dance to the phrase means executing a set of movements beginning on the first beat of the phrase and completing it on the eighth. Phrases can be strung together and a set of movements can finish at the end of the second phrase instead of the first.
               In this way, an entire song can be divided up into sets of phrases. This is one of the metrics judges use to rate a performance. It is, I believe, just one of the differences in how Argentines dance tango and how the rest of us do it.
               But dancing tango is more than just metrics and the perfect physical execution of a step. It is about machismo and femininity; it is about chemistry, attraction and heartache; it is about being human.
               A man needs to express himself in this dance. He needs to say, “I want you.”
               It is perfectly okay for his partner to respond, “Of course you do. Look at me.”
               This kind of exchange is frowned upon in our professional worlds and we repress our desire to express ourselves. Emotions buildup behind a dam of our own construction and we find ourselves looking for a release. Tango gives us that outlet.
               I’ve heard many Argentine instructors convey this facet of the dance but I think it gets lost in the translation and in our desire to acquire new moves and improve our molinete.
               Sometimes I get to the point where I feel like saying, “I can’t take it anymore; I must have you.”
               I am almost sure but not 100% certain that I’ve heard my partner reply more than a few times, “Yes, you can have me. I am all yours. I surrender.”
               The dialog never goes further than this and it is communicated entirely through the dance, never with words. The song ends and we part. At the end of the night I go back to my hotel and awake to a rainy day and the memory of a young lady working on the perfect molinete.
               That is what tango is.

For more Kayak Hombre check out my two books available on Amazon:


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Politics of Tango

               Politics is the practice of influencing people on a global, civic or individual level. As the new kid at work I must navigate the political passions of my coworkers diplomatically if my integration into the telecom tribe is to be a smooth process. My situation inspires me to comment on the political character of the milonguero community.
               The political appetite of tango dancers varies greatly but all embrace their particular passions with intensity. Fortunately the codigo de silencio keeps us from finding this out until we have become fast friends in spite of our differences.
               Discussion about what we keep near and dear to our hearts has a potent appeal and is marketed heavily in this day and age of talk radio, 24 hour news channels and an infinite number of websites. That is not where you will find the milonguero; he or she thinks talk is cheap.  

               To them a job is not merely a source of income, it is a means of personal expression. They became teachers, lawyers and doctors because they followed their heart into their profession. They are painters, musicians and yes, some are even dancers. Tangueras and tangueros don’t just pay lip service to the causes they support, nor do they argue much about changing the world: they just do it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Treasured Chest of Tango

                I wonder if there has been much online discussion on the subject of boobs in tango. There should be, it is a very obvious one. I can remember many animated conversations about this when I was carpooling to milongas. I have to guess that there are people out there who take up this endeavor alone and may be lacking the insight of these discussions. It is to these persons that I speak to today.
               Let me first say that I like breasts but this is not an essay on the gratification I get from them. I believe Playboy magazine has covered that topic quite extensively. I would like to talk about breasts from a practical perspective and how they affect the tango embrace, the leader’s concentration and their role in getting dance invitations.
               Please forgive any puns that may occur; they are not intentional.
               I will state categorically that it is infinitely easier to establish a tango connection with a woman with large breasts than it is with a woman who has not been so blessed. I know this is not fair but that is the way it is.
               Unless there is a great disparity in the heights of the partners, the protruding maguffies usually make contact with the leader’s torso in such a way as to create the perfect communication channel. In such a situation, the leader has no doubt that his message is being received properly.
               The well-rounded woman definitely enjoys a distinct advantage over her undernourished competition when it comes to tango. If any readers doubt this claim, try stuffing your shirt with two rolls of toilet paper and see for yourself.
               The buxom tanguera does not shy away from contact either. In fact, she seems to enjoy mashing herself into her partner, confident that he is pleased with the company.
               In this position, I am absolutely certain which leg is her standing leg. This makes my job a lot easier and compounds the satisfaction I take away from the experience.
               Cleavage, however, can be a major distraction that can severely disrupt the seamless execution of maneuvers.
               Guys, if you have not learned this by now, let me tell you that you cannot stare into the mammaries’ crevasse and still hear the music. It’s harder than chewing gum, rubbing your stomach, patting your head and walking all at the same time.
               I am certain that the girls all know that the un-tethered breast is the great equalizer to size. All a man needs to see is the slightest jiggle beneath the blouse and he’s compelled to make an offer for her join him on the dance floor. It’s not something that can be helped so I ask all the tangueras choosing to keep a lid on their wares to forgive the wandering tanguero for he knows not what he does.
               The draw of those unbound beauties is often so strong that I’ve found myself sitting down for a tanda so as not to miss a chance to catch her eye when the cortina plays. A man’s attraction to breasts is a force of nature equal to gravity and electricity.  
               So don’t be afraid, young padawan tanguero, the next time you are confronted with a magnificent pair of boobs. They are there to be enjoyed and utilized. They are beacons to light your way as well as an undeserved reward. Tango is not always a Herculean task of balance and choreography; it can also be a smooth delight and a veritable walk in the park in the arms of a lovely lady.

For more on the Kayak Hombre, check out his books available on Amazon and Kindle:

Friday, November 21, 2014

Tango and the Older Women

               In Pittsburgh there aren’t too many women my age here. I am fifty-four. I don’t get too many dances either because there are too many leaders. I am already missing the women of Madison.
               Let me try and explain what it is that I am feeling.
               I was on Facebook and I saw the headshot of a tanguera I knew back in Wisconsin. She is a busy mom with a full-time job trying her best to learn tango. When I first danced with her there was an explosion of relief. It was like a fireball shot of whiskey blowing through my soul. Just thinking about her reminds me of that feeling.
               It was a pleasant sensation even though it made me a little sad; kind of like remembering a loved one that had passed.
               I danced with a young lady last night. Very skilled but there was no spirit in our connection. It was like exercise, fifteen minutes on a treadmill, or a non-alcoholic beer or a virgin bloody Mary.
               It’s just me. I haven’t found the kind of women I like to dance with yet but I know they’re here. They are the heart and soul of tango. It is a dance that is all about the woman. There is a lot of tango in this town and it had to come from somewhere so I need to keep on looking.

kayak hombre

As always, check out my books available on Amazon and Kindle:

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Pittsburgh Tango Seen

Lucky for me I had a week to kill before I started my new job here near Wheeling, WV, and so I had a great opportunity to check out Pittsburgh’s multitude of tango offerings. Let me tell you that this is the youngest tango community I’ve ever come across and it is huge! There are lots of tango venues here in and all around the University of PIttsburgh.
Ladies, now hear this! Pittsburgh is LEADER heavy! That means there are too many leaders and too few followers. So please, get your butts up here and even out the numbers!
By far the best, as well as the most unique tango spot was the Milonga @ Rich’s located in the RJW Law Office on a Penn Avenue that is under heavy construction. There are two milongas here simultaneously on the first Friday of the month.
Upstairs there’s classic tango broadcast in a tiny office space. It is strewn with posters of Obama and relics of the Virgin Mary. I think it really is a working legal factory for the masses of Pittsburgh’s proletariat class. Vehicle titles and yellow carbon copies litter a desk at the far end of the room where a laptop executes the night’s music playlist.
It is a very casual scene.
Downstairs are the restrooms, an anteroom where finger foods and empanadas are offered on a small tray before you enter the main ballroom called the Dance Emporium. This place has ambiance that rivals that of the milonga at De Las Puertas in Albuquerque, NM. It does not have the size but it definitely has steel beams of character.
The walls are covered with posters of our President as Comrade Obama and the ceiling is strung with ancient bike parts welded onto plumbing fixtures.
Did I say restrooms? That might not be an accurate description but relief can be found and they are clean(at least the boys room was).
A man who introduced himself as Rob greeted me as soon as I walked in. He was in the middle of a dance with a young lady but that didn’t stop him from fulfilling his duties as a host. He’s a BIG guy: tall and heavy; yet he is a surprisingly talented leader, especially with the colgadas.
I would like to lead colgadas like him before I leave here, if I ever do leave.
It was early and there were five extra leaders. A man came over to play twenty questions and he informed me that Pittsburgh was leader heavy. He promised the odds would even out later and they did around 11 p.m.
I attended several more events over the next seven days and had quite a few conversations with members of the local tango tribe. I feel confident now that I can offer a reasonable account of the state of tango in the Steel City.
Apparently the population surge of young tangueros is a recent occurrence. Tango has been around here in the home of the Steelers since 1995 and there is a solid core of experienced dancers here. I did not notice a dominant style, in fact, I experienced almost all of them, from Milonguero-style or close embrace, to tango salon and nuevo tango.
For a complete and extremely accurate listing of all of P-burg’s tango check out their webpage:
Almost all of the events I attended were within two miles of the university. Most of the dance floors were small but there are a few genuine dance ballrooms here. 
This town is big on its tango offerings. Just last night I attended a workshop taught by Javier Antar and Kara Wenham. I’ve been here less than a week and already I’ve attended three milongas and two practicas. Sweet!

It looks like the Kayak Hombre got lucky on this job assignment. Great tango only 70 miles away and did I say that I’ve always been a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers? I think I might even get a chance to attend one of their games. Now where is my Terrible Towel?

For more on the Kayak Hombre, check out his books available on Amazon: