Sunday, April 20, 2014

Tango Mojo Video of the Week [playlist]

I decided to make today's video(s) relevant to this week's first "Ask Helaine" question!

Normally I post videos to watch, often with my commentary, that are exemplary of Tango Salon style, and in particular in the style of "Rose Vine Tango" - that is, coming from the Villa Urquiza tradition.

Today, since Michael asks in "Ask Helaine" about whether five figures he lists are part of Milonguero Style, which is very different from Tango Salon, I've made a short playlist of two non-professional but excellent milongueros whom I admire very much and with whom I have danced and "gone to heaven".  

In the first two videos in the playlist below, we'll see Osvaldo Centeno "El Oso" (The Bear), performing in 2008 at his favorite milonga in Buenos Aires, "El Beso".   He's dancing in both with the well-known teacher of milonguero style, Ana Maria Schapira.  Osvaldo is not famous outside of Buenos Aires, but he's been dancing tango for 50 years and is highly esteemed by his peers.  Perhaps you can see why!  

My friend Janis Kenyon ("Jantango"), has been living in Buenos Aires many years and her blog "Tango Chamuyo" is dedicated to honoring the city's great milongueros who are not international celebrities.  On the Youtube page of Osvaldo and Ana Maria's first tango, Janis wrote 5 years ago:  "This was Osvaldo's first time dancing for an audience. At least the world can see this incredible milonguero at 71 on video."

The third and final video in the playlist is with my dear friend Juan Topalian, about whom I have written before, and even posted this video.  (I actually discovered this lovely video on Youtube last year thanks to Jantango's blog!)

Please note in all 3 videos which of the figures that Michael asks about yesterday's first Ask Helaine" are present in the improvisations.  To refresh your memory, the figures he lists are:  Colgada, Gancho, Enganche (leg wrap), Boleo, and Calesita. 

After you've watched the videos, I would love to hear what you discovered, and what you like about these two men's interpretations, how they're different from each other, how Milonguero Style, as you observe it here, differs from Tango Salon . . . in short, please share your thoughts in the comments section below the videos!

Note: Usually I choose higher quality videos, but I thought this was worth asking your patience with the darkness of the first two videos.  With Osvaldo's light trousers and Ana Maria's bare arms and legs, it is not difficult to watch them, especially if you click on the icon on the lower right to enlarge the video to full screen!

Have fun and let us know below what you think!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Ask Helaine Part 2: Which figures do you like to teach?

This is my response to Part 2 of Michael Daniels' question.  You can see my response to the first part of his question here

Michael adds:

"I'd also like to know which figures you like to teach."

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I wonder why you want to know this, Michael! 

My response will not be what you might expect.  Here’s why:

In 2012, after about 12 years of teaching regular classes and private lessons full-time, first all over the region of Umbria, Italy, and then in SW Florida, I changed my teaching model and closed my studio. 

It’s not necessary for me to teach figures anymore. This makes me so happy because I believe that the concepts and skills that I teach are much more important to you than figures.  

I used teach a program of about 30 figures in my beginner through intermediate classes. But in time I realized that nobody needs me to teach figures, because you can get figures from thousands of other teachers around the world! 

My entire purpose for being a tango educator is to empower tangueros, and also tangueras.  I want more than anything that they become confident and relaxed on the dance floor, can fluidly express themselves to the music that they love, share a beautiful connection with their partners, and leave every milonga happy.  My 20 years of tango experience taught me that teaching figures does not accomplish that.

The people who come to me are not looking for figures. I discovered that they are aching for another kind of information and support!  

Regarding figures they want to know:
  • how to execute figures without losing their balance, 
  • how to put figures together in a meaningful way,
  • how to lead figures better (or follow better), 
  • how to choose and combine figures using good musicality, 
  • how within the figure to increase their connection with their partners. 
And almost all tangueros and tangueras who ask my help want to know:
  • regardless of figures, how to increase their self-confidence on the dance floor!

People tell me that they learn lots of figures in classes, workshops and private lessons, and they also may learn some technique, but most still have their struggles on the dance floor.

So I gave up teaching figures and instead created a SYSTEM to help tangueros use figures and walks to improvise their tango.  “The Rose Vine Strategy of Tango Improvisation” gives you a structured template that puts you in total control of what you’re doing on the dance floor, even when you have limited space.  Ironically, working with such a well-defined template gives you more freedom in your personal expression!

My “Rose Vine Strategy” uses: 
  • 7 walks (3 in parallel and 4 in crossed system), 
  • 4 traveling figures, 
  • and 6 stationary/circular figures and some variations.  
But they are figures I rarely have to teach (except for some of the circular versions), because most of them you all learned  when you were advanced beginners!

Once you’ve learned the System, which takes just a few weeks, you can dance like an artist for the rest of your life, using just these 20 simple structures:  the walks, traveling figures, circular/stationary figures and a few variations.

The System helps tangueros to better utilize every figure they've ever learned, and every figure they will learn in the future.  

And to solve one more problem that keeps coming up over and over in conversations with tangueros, I’ve just introduced a new training component that especially empowers tangueros to dance freely and happily in crowded milongas. That’s where tangueros often experience anxiety and frustration.  It’s about “avoiding the TRAFFIC PANIC”.

When you have the right strategy, you only need a few simple figures and walks to dance beautiful, heartfelt, elegant tango, like what you observe in some of the top milongas in Buenos Aires.  Musicality can transform the most limited vocabulary of figures into a work of art!  “The Rose Vine Strategy of Tango Improvisation” works hand in hand with my “Tango Musicality Mojo” program.  

So thanks for asking these two stimulating questions, Michael!  Now I'd like to offer a gift of my time to you and 9 other tangueros:

For the rest of April, I’m offering no-cost, 30-minute consultations to the first 10 people to respond, to help you get clarity about how you can better use figures when you improvise in the milonga.  Visit my scheduling page at and book your best time from my available time slots. If our times available don’t work for you because of your time zone or other reasons, email to request a different time.

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Have any observations or feedback?  Please share it with us 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: *

Ask Helaine Part 1: Are these figures part of Milonguero Style?

Today’s question comes from Michael Daniels, whose website is  Actually, Michael asks two questions, so I’ll respond in a Part 1 and a Part 2!

"Hello Helaine,

"I am wondering if you consider Colgada, Enganche, Boleo, Calesita, Gancho as part of Milonguero Style.

"I'd also like to know which figures you like to teach."

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Thank you for your questions, Michael!

It’s interesting that you’re asking me about Milonguero Style, when I’m known as a specialist in Tango Salon!  But I’ve danced with many Milonguero Style dancers over the last two decades, and watched many more, so I’ll do my best to answer your first question.   

Readers, if you don’t recognize these figures by their names, you’ll find both video demonstrations on Youtube and text descriptions of them in articles online.

Let’s look at each figure you mention, Michael:

1) A Colgada in tango is an off-axis movement, in which both partners “hang” (colgar) slightly away from each other, with the energy “away” happening at the hip rather than shoulder level.  Like the Volcada (meaning “tipped over” or “dumped”), in which the woman is brought off axis toward her partner, Colgadas are often used in Tango Nuevo.  It is absolutely not a figure used in traditional Milonguero Style.  The partners’ act of pulling away from each other in the Colgada is antithetical to Milonguero Style.

I’ll add however, that there are many people whose tango is a hybrid of styles, and they mix elements in their tango from forms as disparate as Milonguero Style and Tango Nuevo. But you are asking about Milonguero Style.

I'll talk about Enganches and Ganchos together, since they are both about hooking legs. 

2) First Ganchos:  I suspect that Ganchos, meaning “hooks”, originated with the bold and sometimes bawdy Orillero Style, a form of tango in the early 1900's that developed in the outskirts of Buenos Aires where there was plenty of room on the dance floor.  It was a vigorous, athletic form, danced mostly in open embrace. I think that many elements of show tango, starting with the early “Tango Fantasia” were adopted from the old Tango Orillero.  (Note:  That Ganchos originated in the early 1900’s is my as-yet-unverified estimation!)

Ganchos are sharp movements, often intrusive, sometimes even violent. They usually require turning one partner’s body away from the other, breaking the frontality of the embrace.  For these reasons, they too are antithetical to Milonguero Style. 

Milonguero Style evolved in the very late 1900's as a form of dancing that made very crowded milongas manageable, and with its very close embrace it became more about sharing emotion and feeling for the music than about “moves”.  

Additionally, outward Ganchos can be very dangerous in a tightly packed milonga, because of the sharp upward motion of the dancer’s foot - unless the man leading knows how to position the Gancho precisely under his or his partner’s elbow, so that it’s strictly within their space.  In my earlier days of learning tango, I received many bruises from expressive intermediate level dancers using Ganchos in milongas. Then people where I lived started making pilgrimages to Buenos Aires and they abandoned Ganchos in milongas.  Ganchos are more suited to exhibitions or dancing for fun in open embrace.

When used in social tango, I find Ganchos vulgar and inappropriate, because they force intrusive contact between partners’ thighs, usually a place where only lovers have physical contact. If there is already a playful relationship between partners, in an informal environment, Ganchos can be lots of fun. In a performance, they make a sharp statement and when combined with speed, can show the dancers‘ virtuosity.  

Bottom line: Ganchos are not part of Milonguero Style.

3)  Next, Enganches:  Cousins of Ganchos, Enganches are “leg wraps”, which also involve hooking the partner’s leg, but usually more softly, at various heights and from various directions.  I learned about Enganches in my early Tango Nuevo classes when I was a student. (There’s a clue.) Sometimes traditional Tango Salon social dancers lead below-the-knee Enganches.  I have “stolen” a few subtle ones very close to the floor, flirting with a partner’s ankle. In Milonguero Style, it’s rare that I have that opportunity, probably because of the infrequency of pauses and distance between the partners' feet.  

Enganches of the upper leg would belong to Tango Nuevo or other contemporary forms.

Enganches are not part of traditional Milonguero Style.  

4) Boleos:  Small, subtle Boleos with the woman’s foot on the ground, close to her axis can be led in Milonguero Style, because they only require a reversal of her pivot.  But they are not part of traditional Milonguero Style, and are rarely led by those dancers in Buenos Aires.  High Boleos, never.  Those are show-moves.

5) A Calesita, in which the woman is held in her axis and pivoted, as the man walks around her, can probably easily used in Milonguero Style.  The Calesita allows you to change direction in an elegant way and also see what’s going on around you. I can’t recall with precision, but I would expect partial, if any Calesitas, to be used more in traditional Milonguero Style, rather than 360 degrees.  

Bottom line:  the Calesita can be used in Milonguero Style, though it is not specifically a Milonguero Style movement.

In tomorrow’s Video of the Week I’ll show you a classic example (or two) of Milonguero Style tango, and you’ll see that these figures are completely absent!

In the next post, you'll find my response to Part 2 of Michael's question:  "I'd also like to know which figures you like to teach."

*  *  *  *  *

Have any observations or feedback?  Please share it with us in the comments area below this post!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

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: *

The Cachirulo Chronicles: Episode 1: Fun in “El Beso” and courted by a semi-legend

This episode in my Buenos Aires tango adventures is officially the first in my series called ‘The Cachirulo Chronicles’ that I introduced in a recent post. To refresh your memory or to bring you up to date if you’re new to the Tango Mojo community, you may wish to review that post here.

In Episode 5 of my “Adventures in BA Tangoland” entitled “Tougher milongas:how I cracked the code!”  you’ll get a more complete picture of why, with all my years of tango experience and quick success in almost all the traditional milongas I attended in Buenos Aires, I was struggling to get accepted into the inner circles of two challenging milongas, with the same nucleus of “high-powered” milongueros.  I would say that in this generation of men, they are among the best dancers in the city.  I knew from watching them that most of them would love dancing with me, if I only had the chance!  I was extremely perplexed and frustrated that in these two high-level milongas it just hadn’t been working for me.

In Episode 5, I also wrote about how discovering a new-to-me tactic for enjoying oneself in the B.A. tango world was my missing link for breaking the ice in tough milongas. 

The tactic was "Stay late and go back".  I had been delighted to have broken the ice and danced for hours with the cream of the crop at Lujos on Sunday night in Plaza Bohemia.

So let’s continue with my Cachirulo journey.

The following Thursday, I tried the same milonga, Lujos, this time in the favorite venue of most of the Cachirulo crowd, “El Beso”.  I expected it to be tough on my stamina, getting there for my 7 p.m. reservation and staying till closing at 2 a.m.  That’s a long time for me to go without food!  (I eat mostly organic food - no empanadas or pizza - and also I don't like eating at milongas.)  When I got settled in early at a pretty good table, I saw two men with whom I often danced in other milongas.  One helped me get the ball rolling.  Before long, a few of my new "conquests' from Lujos the previous Sunday night arrived.  So I had 4 strong tandas in the first hour or so. 

Also present that night was a PorteƱo tango professional who lives in Italy, whom I've known for 15 years.  Let’s call him “Roberto”.  Roberto had once taught a workshop with me in my tango school in Umbria.  But we hadn't danced in over 5 years, and he didn't invite me the last two times we saw each other at El Beso.  Aside from a quick “hello”, I had given up on even looking at him.  But this Thursday night at Lujos he surprised me with an invitation. 

It was funny how he invited me:  the dance floor was already pretty packed when I returned from the ladies‘ room at the beginning of a tanda. It was almost impossible to see the men’s tables behind the crowd of dancers.  I bent down to put my purse inside my larger bag on the floor.  When I did so, Roberto also bent over to catch my eye at the level of the tabletop, below the dancers’ elbows, as I was coming back up! 

Fabulous tanda. Roberto expressed enthusiasm between tangos, and so did I.  He said "I'll see you again later", but it soon got very crowded, he didn't dance again. He left the milonga around midnight.  [Note to tangueros:  even many professionals prefer not to dance when the floor is extremely crowded, choosing to dance before and after peak hours. You have that option too, and you won’t be “wimping out”.] 

Roberto had been sitting, as usual, with a few other expert Cachirulo milongueros who also rarely danced that night.  I figured that after observing my tanda with their friend Roberto and hearing his positive comments, they’d invite me.  Occasionally I looked in their direction, but nothing.  I stayed through the crowded peak hours of the milonga, rarely dancing, being patient.  I felt the usual irritation, but reminded myself that this is part of the “Stay late and go back” process, and my time would come in a couple of hours.  Around 11pm, I ordered an espresso to give me some artificial fuel till the end of the night. 

It felt like time dragged on.  Yet I enjoyed listening to the music and watching the dancers. Finally, the crowd started thinning out.  I got more invitations, and enjoyed more good or great tandas. Lots of pleasure and lots of emotion. 

But then came the most surprising part of the evening:  I got up to leave during the final tanda.  As I was leaving the milonga, the eldest milonguero from Roberto’s table was also departing, accompanied by a younger bailarin who had sat with them all night.  We walked down the stairs simultaneously, keeping our distance.  Out on the sidewalk, the tall, distinguished older man who had hardly danced asked me where I lived.  There were car keys in his hand.  He was offering me a ride home.  I politely told him the general location, and said, “It’s okay; I’ll take a cab.” He looked displeased.  But when the young man with him said he knew the owner of my building, and introduced himself as the owner of a tango guest house, I relaxed and I accepted the ride. 

In the milonguero’s car, the men invited me to join them to get something to eat.  I thought I’d enjoy that.  We relaxed with a bite to eat and a pitcher of clericot. Clericot is Argentine sangria.  I knew it was loaded with sugar, so I ordered a glass of red wine.  As we chatted, the young bailarin gave his elder friend a proper introduction, with his full name.  I learned that he’s a highly regarded milonguero who's been dancing for 50 years.  “He’s the real thing”, said the young man in Castellano. The milonguero told me stories from his 50 years of tango life, and I was very engaged!  He had a rather mumbling way of speaking, with lots of slang expressions (probably Lunfardo), so I often turned to the young bailarin to translate into regular Castellano. 

Finally the milonguero revealed that he had watched me dancing and followed me out to speak with me.  He said next time he'll invite me to dance and hopes I'll accept.  And do I like to eat fish and beer at Puerto Madero?  (A now-chic waterfront district.)  Oh, boy . . . the plot thickens. Anyway, I understood that I had a tanda date with this semi-legend. 

The gentlemen split the bill between them and drove me home. The elder milonguero courteously walked me to my door.  He was very tall and still looked elegant at 4 a.m. I
shook his hand and reached up to give him a kiss on the cheek.  Once inside, I felt happy about my whole evening.  It was another successful night with a tough crowd! 

But the milonguero’s promised tanda, to which I so looked forward, would only be a success if he actually kept his word.  As a New York tanguera with a few years on me once warned when one of my recent regulars pretended not to see me, “Tango men can be strange.”

Yes, this was a successful night with the Cachirulo crowd in El Beso.  But the milonga was still not Cachirulo.

Stay tuned for Episode 2 of The Cachirulo Chronicles!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Tango Mojo Video of the Week: "En Tus Brazos"

Here's a simple, single tango video.. . a very special animation that some of you may have seen before, while for some of you it will be new. Credits are at the end of the video.

 As always, I welcome your comments below!

Sunday, April 06, 2014

A Sunday Rose Vine Tango playlist: Sebastian and Maria Ines, London 2010

Here for your weekend pleasure is a video playlist with two tangos, a vals and a milonga by Sebastian Jimenez and Maria Ines Bogado in a London performance in 2010. That was the year they won international recognition for Tango Salon in the World Champeonship in Buenos Aires.  Sebastian was only 18 years old!

There are two things I want to point out this week:

1) Their first tango here is "Esta Noche de Luna", a tango we've been looking at and listening to a lot lately, in Tango Mojo.  But this version is by Carlos di Sarli, with Roberto Rufino singing.  I invite you to compare Sebastian and Maria Ines' interpretation to this tango, to their "Esta Noche de Luna" by Osvaldo Pugliese with Jorge Maciel, which I showed you and discussed in this earlier blog post.

2)  Once again, I'm asking you to observe how both artists interpret the music in all four pieces.  According to a brief biography of Sebastian, he had been dancing Argentine Folkloric dance since he was 4 years old, and started dancing tango when he was 10.  At 14 he began studying with Villa Urquiza masters Carlos Perez and Rosa Forte, and in that school started dancing with Maria Ines. I would say the musicality of each of them is brilliant, and as interpreters of tango they make a powerful team!

Enjoy the playlist!  Orchestra and singer for each piece is  written on their respective Youtube pages.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, so please share in the comments section below.  If you have any particular observations about the difference between this couple's interpretation of the Pugliese and DiSarli versions of "Esta Noche de Luna", let us know what you discovered!