Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tango tip for men: Lose the Gringo Triangle!

Here’s another quick tip about your embrace, tangueros.

I’m always picking on North American and European men, who are the people I most often help with their tango. (Tangueros from Asia, Australia and Africa, you listen up too!)

Gentlemen, you usually have a little geometric detail in your tango that I want you to eliminate!  

I call it “the Gringo Triangle”.  It’s a little triangle of space between the inside of your right elbow and the woman’s torso.  

Close this gap!  

When you raise your right arm to enter a close embrace, seek contact first with the crook of your elbow, and keep that contact as long as you are in close embrace.  If you’re not doing this already (I’ll bet you’re not), this little detail will transform your embrace. It will feel wonderful to the woman you’re dancing with.  

I did some research over my last few months in Buenos Aires. Every time I danced with a Porteño who felt like a dream, I observed that the ribs on my left side felt nice and warm, in full contact with my partner’s arm.  

In this video are lots of examples you can study for a great right arm:

[You may have noticed one man in the video who seems to have the Gringo Triangle.  It’s the tall man in a white shirt (1:38-2:11). He’s a regular at Lujos, and he’s from France.]    

Tangueras, please notice this when you’re dancing in close embrace with someone wonderful.  Do you feel that spot on your ribs, near his right elbow, nice and warm and cozy - connected to him?

Then, tangueros, once you’ve made good contact with the inside of your elbow, let your right hand be full of energy and taking responsibility on the opposite side of her torso.  (See Gustavo's right hand example in yesterday's post, as well as almost every example in the video from Lujos above.) Your forearm will feel to your partner like it’s flexible and curving around her, because the important, purposeful contacts are your right hand and inside your elbow.

Close this little gap if you want to increase connection, and make your embrace feel magical.  Or if you want to be mistaken for a Porteño on the dance floor!

Let me hear from you. What do you think about the "Gringo Triangle"?  Please comment below this post!

Friday, July 18, 2014

A tango tip for men: Your hands in the embrace

Last week I posted about a problem many tangueras have with their right arm and hand, and how to easily fix it.

Now let’s look at the tanguero’s left hand . . . and his right hand, too! 

A picture is worth 1,000 words.  I recently found this image on a Facebook page for an event with Gustavo Naveira and Giselle Anne

What an embrace!!  

It's an almost perfect example for you of what I described on the recent podcast, and have been teaching for years.

Aside from Gustavo’s being in love with the woman he's embracing, and the father of her children . . . Gustavo is literally a master of masters.  

Notice his right hand on Giselle Ann's body, just below her shoulder blade.  In our recent podcast on “Embrace, Intention, and Decisiveness in Your Lead”, I had said that Porteños tend to have a rather “possessive” quality in their right hands on their partners‘ upper bodies for the 10 minutes of a tanda.

When you look at Gustavo’s photo, do you see what I meant by "possessive"?  He is not afraid to let his masculinity "intrude" or presume. There is absolute confidence - and authority - in that hand.  

There’s authority in his left hand too.  Gustavo uses his left hand slightly differently from what I recommend to you, but it’s close!  His palm faces the center of the embrace (my preferred position is palm facing your cheek).  He positions his left hand close to the midpoint between their bodies, slightly back toward his shoulder, and outstretched just enough to let Giselle’s arm fall gracefully into a comfortable, relaxed position.

Notice the "kiss my hand" energy of her beautiful right arm.  It is relaxed, but not limp! It’s energetic, because there’s life in her hand!

Gustavo's other variation from the classic left-hand Tango Salon position I always describe to you is that he grasps Giselle’s fingers, so their palms don’t connect.  I recommend to all of you that you make great contact palm-to-palm. Remember, your hands are on a 3-mintue date, just like the rest of you!

Tangueros, I recommend that you go ahead and copy Gustavo's embrace!  (Just turn your left palm a tad more toward your cheek, and let your partner fully connect her palm with yours.)

Have a great weekend, and let me know your thoughts about what I'm saying about the embrace!  Just write in the comments area below.

A tango tip for women: your right hand!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

On the July Q&A coaching call for members of our "Tango Improvisation Mastery" online home study system, one tanguero asked, "What do I tell a woman whose right arm is limp?" 

Our tanguero was talking about his not enjoying a tanguera's embrace in a practica situation, where it's often appropriate to give feedback, unlike in a milonga.

The answer to the woman's limp right arm problem is so simple, I can explain it in one minute:

In the tango embrace . . .

Man/woman handshake.

. . . the energy in the woman's right hand should be just like the energy in a good handshake, with a solid, palm-to-palm connection.

"You may kiss my hand" gesture.

But her arm should relax, as if she were offering her hand with the unspoken comment:  "You may kiss my hand".
Tangueras, this combination gives your arm just the right degree of resistance and responsiveness to your partner's lead, without your doing anyting artificial.  And it beautifully engages your right side in the "circle of energy" that constitutes the tango embrace.  (Remember, I am always talking about Tango Salon.)

Whenever I have taught embrace to beginner or experienced tangueras, I have always said, "The energy in your right hand is like . . . " and I offer my right hand, saying, "I'm Helaine.  Pleased to meet you."  And the woman shakes my hand, as if we were two businesswomen meeting for the first time.  "And the energy in your arm is like . . .", (and I demonstrate the gesture) "You may kiss my hand." 

It is so natural, and everyone "gets it" immediately!  My Tango Ladies have always had beautiful right arms with good energy.

Why don't you try this at your next class, practica or milonga?

There are other factors to consider on the woman's right side of the embrace, but I'll save them for future tips!  

I'd love to hear from you. Please write your questions or thoughts in the comment area below!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Tango Mojo Weekend Video: It ain't "Rose Vine Tango", but it's great! (Capussi/Flores)

I found this video on Facebook today.  It's a brilliant comic performance, two outstanding pieces, by Eduardo Capussi and Mariana Flores (the by-now-legendary tango vampire and bride).  IT MAY TAKE A FEW MOMENTS TO LOAD.  Be patient - it's worth it!  Then hit the "enlarge" icon on the bottom, far right of the video, and watch it enlarged from the beginning.  Have fun and have a great weekend!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Ask Helaine AND Videos of the Week: Who were the tango legends?

Today's question comes from a tanguera in Switzerland.

"Do you have any suggestions of videos I could watch of “older” tango dancers? 

I want to learn more about how tango started. Any legends you would recommend?" 

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Thanks for your question, tanguera!

For an overview of the origins of tango, you might start with Christine Denniston’s website:  "The History of Tango"

But today, to answer your question directly and show you some special videos, we can get started by looking at a few of the early legends who helped shape tango history.  

One can hardly talk about the history of tango dance without mentioning “El Cachafaz” ( Ovidio José  Bianquet, nickname Benito, 1885 - 1942) and his last and longtime partner Carmencita Calderon (1905 - 2005).  

“El Cachafaz” - talk about a legend!  I don’t know of any other “bailarin” from the first few decades of the 20th century who made history as Cachafaz did. 

El Cachafaz and Carmencita have been captured in very few films, but they star briefly in one scene in the 1933 film “Tango!” 

(The clip has a great cabeceo in it, but it's not about dancing. The frustrated lady "getting cabaceo'd" is the great singer, Tita Merello.)

You might be surprised by the "kick in the butt" that seems to occur at 0:19, coming from this calm and elegant man, while Carmencita doesn't batt an eye.  Carmencita spoke in interviews about how respectful Cachafaz had always been to her, referring to her as "usted" (the formal "you") rather than "vos" (informal), even though they danced together in close embrace for a decade. The kick seemed out of  place to me, until a friend referred to that move as a "gancho" by Cachafaz!  Very different from the ganchos of the last 50 years, isn't it?

According to one resource, the film “Tango!”, available in its entirety on Youtube, was Argentina’s first motion picture with sound.  It has an all-star cast of tango singers and orchestras

Back to Carmencita Calderon, notice the dates of her life.  She lived to be 100!   In fact, on her 100th birthday in 2005 there was a big party for her at the milonga “La Baldoza” in Buenos Aires.  My friend and teacher Jorge Dispari had the honor of dancing with her. 


At 100 years old, Carmencita had not lost her rhythm, nor her footwork!  Jorge told me that she felt so fragile, he was afraid to hurt her!  In this birthday tango, this master leader improvises very simply.  But if you watch carefully, you may notice that there were a few glitches between them.  Who cares, really?  However, I mention this just to underscore that tango has evolved over the decades; some of the elements Jorge leads and that we commonly use today surely go back to the time of Carmencita’s prime, but some seemed to be unknown to her.  (And perhaps vice versa! Carmencita does some deliberate movements that I don't recognize from our current tango language.)

To be fair to Carmencita as a legendary dancer, here is a video from 5 years earlier, where at 95, she performs a milonga.  Her partner is Juan Averna.  The piece is “Milonga Vieja Milonga” played by Juan D’Arienzo’s orchestra. 

Her timing is impeccable!

And here she is again, much younger with her partner of that time wearing a white "compadrito" neck scarf, as she points out, in a segment from a 1970 documentary.  

They're dancing to a tango from "La Guardia Vieja" (the Old Guard), called "El Apache Argentino".  Can anyone identify the orchestra?  It sounds to me like Juan Maglio Pacho, who first recorded it in 1912, but this is clearly a later version!

How do you like those legs, tangueras? She's decisive, and she's creating this tango with her partner!

If you look for Carmencita Calderon on Youtube, you’ll find other performances, and some very informative and eloquent interviews and speeches.

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Today, by the way, May 31, is the 83rd birthday of legendary tango artist Juan Carlos Copes, whom I’ll feature in an upcoming article, together with his longtime partner Maria Nieves and two other important couples who played a big role in bringing tango to rest of the world!

I encourage everyone to leave your comments in the space below the article!

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Do you have a question or a challenge in your tango that I can answer for you in our no-cost program "Ask Helaine?" 

I invite you to submit your question on any tango topic today!  Just copy and paste the form below into an email to  Please use "Ask Helaine" in the subject line.

The fields with an asterisk (*) are required to be completed if you want your question to be chosen.

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Your Burning Question: *

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I really look forward to being of service to you all through our "Ask Helaine" program!  

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Tango Mojo Video of the Week: Adrian and Amanda walk their tango

May 11, 2014

It's a busy day for Tango Mojo in Buenos Aires!  A full day of private classes with a tanguero from Canada doing an intensive Private Coaching Retreat, and in a few minutes we're meeting another Tango Mojo tanguero, a member of Tango Improvisation Mastery - from Finland, plus 3 members of the Vancouver tango community, who are joining us at two milongas tonight!

I just want to quickly pass on to you a link sent to me a while back by Pierre in Belgium.  It's Adrian and Amanda Costa, walking almost their whole tango to music by Ricardo Tanturi with singing.

See what you can learn from Adrian and Amanda about:

1) interpreting the music with almost all walks and pauses, 
2) different ways of walking!

Certainly, when we're in crowded milongas we won't have the luxury of walking so much.  I'll handle that with another video very soon.  But when you can walk, look at what poetry you can make with so little!

Happy Mother's Day to all our tanguera mamas!

Ask Helaine: How can I conquer the wobble in my foot?

Today’s question comes from a tanguera in Massachussetts.  She started our Advanced Tango Fundamentals program a few weeks ago. 

She writes:

"I have been practicing your balance and walking exercises. I am definitely feeling more relaxed and natural with it, and the balance is a lot better. 

"There are a few moments here and there--less than before--when I'm wobbling. I'm not sure why that is. It is a side to side wobble with me rolling to the outsides of my feet. I think it might be a shoe issue."

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This is such a great question, tanguera!  A foot-wobble is a common challenge to both women and men.

I have a tip for you about how to use your foot to eliminate the wobble.  

But first, some comments about your shoes:  

If the sole of the shoe is even a little narrower than your foot itself, a wobble's almost guaranteed.  You can tell if that's so, if the uppers of the shoe (leather surrounding your upper foot) bulge a little beyond the sole.  

It can be the shoe's fault if it's is old and broken-in too much and has started losing it's structure, especially if it's wearing down/breaking down on the outside of your foot, where you tend to pronate.

It can be the shoes' fault if they're simply shoes that are not well constructed for stability when dancing, such as when the (high) heel is located too far forward under your heel or too far back. 

If you feel it's the shoe, make it a priority to get tango shoes in which you can feel really stable.  See two of my earlier blog posts for women about shoes and feet:

Other than that, to elimate foot-wobble, which messes up our balance, I always tell MEN to use their big toe as an anchor with every step - to really press their big toe into the floor, as they transfer their weight to the new standing foot.  

For women in high heels, I advise something slightly different:
Imagine a beautiful wood peg or dowel that penetrates your "pivot point" - the spot between the joint of your big toe and the joint of your second toe.  When we pivot on one foot, as in an ocho, this spot feels like where our weight is concentrated, or where our Infinite Axis passes through.  I hope you can understand or even feel where this spot on each foot is. (Go ahead and do a few pivots, in balance, and see if you can feel your "pivot point".)

Next, as you transfer your weight and arrive on your new weight-bearing foot, imagine your "pivot point" getting anchored to the floor by the peg or little dowel that penetrates that spot in your foot and goes down into the floor.  Instead of anchoring yourself with your big toe, as I advise the men, anchor yourself with your pivot point.  It will help you keep your weight in the center of your body, and help reinforce your Infinite Axis with every step.

Doing this will feel better, eliminate the wobble, and make all your walks more stable and beautiful. 

Don't think about this all the time you're dancing - just when you're practicing or doing walking drills.   It will become a habit, and be more comfortable to you when you dance.

I invite everyone to let me know how this works for you, as well as any observations or feedback, by posting in the "comments" area below this post!

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Do you have a question or a challenge in your tango that I can answer for you in our no-cost weekly program "Ask Helaine?" 

I invite you to submit your question on any tango topic today!  Just copy and paste the form below into an email to  Please use "Ask Helaine" in the subject line.

The fields with an asterisk (*) are required to be completed if you want your question to be chosen.

* * * * * *

First Name *
Last Name *
Email *
Phone *
Website (optional)

Do you prefer to remain anonymous? *  (yes/no)

Your Burning Question: *