Delhi Milonga

Delhi Milonga 

Dance Argentine Tango in New Delhi


Tango and Milonga in Delhi

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Why they love tango

Posted by kiran.sawhney on June 4, 2015 at 9:05 AM

I sometimes wonder why Taliban banned dancing? Why are they so anti dancing and see dancing as a threat? In many religions, cultures and traditions dancing is prohibited. Why is a curb on dancing similar to curbing your freedom and cutting your wings. Why do people fear dancing? Why did Nazis prohibit dancing? Dancing represents freedom of human spirit, emancipation of soul, achieving new highs. They say in Tango there is no wrong movement, every time there is something new. I encourage my students to explore, express, discover and get amazed. Recently, I asked them give me reasons why they love/like/dislike/not like Tango. I got very interesting answers and interpretations. Here are few.

I like Tango because of the embellishments specially of the followers and the great end poses. I dislike tango because of sadness in music- Manish Gupta

I do not see Tango as separate from my teacher and her teachings. I respect the Tango- Bhawna

I have barely started with Tango but all I can say is that it is a stress buster for me when I am doing Tango I am not thinking about anything else. It is being completely there in that moment that is what I like the best.- Parul

I like Tango because it speaks about the unspoken connection- Naveen Manchanda.

Tango is like meditation. It is danced more inside than outside. The outside is only a reflection of within.- Gaurav

Because I can feel with body and soul.- Hitomi.

I feel to be in heaven, dancing tango under the rainbow.
Eres tu mi tango
Taking my pen after a long time. Just because of you my love.
You are my inspiration I used to imagine.
My lord “Shiva” dancing “Tandav” dance with His dancers.
Its only you. Only you- “My Tango” You have changed my world, my imagination.
Now I can see my Shiva dancing Tango with me.
I can hear only your breathing.
Now Lord Shiva is more calm.
I can see His beautiful Tango eyes.
It is just because of you my Tango.
Your end pose. It is like my painting. I am painting in my big canvas-SKY.
You are like an ocean that always sings without any words.
You are my Sree Sree Tango.
I can only see your melancholic face when I am sad.
I could see you as “Reindeers dancing on the grass while raining”.
You are my heavenly power.
Eres tu, mi Tango-. Lopa.

I like Tango because it is one of the finest experiences the world has to offer to us and besides it is a great way to express and enjoy intimate romance. - Krishnan

I like the girls.
On a serious note, Tango has a meditative and reflective quality. Heightens ones awareness and sensitivity.- Akshat

Imageries, that are helpful to teach tango.

Posted by kiran.sawhney on September 29, 2014 at 7:15 AM

 Embrace, Connection, Disassociation, Axis, Contra body movement, Musicality- all these terms refer to Argentine connection. I would draw one more parallel to Argentine Tango. That is the movement of the swans.

Just as swans waddle their feet and keep their upper bodies calm, so is tango. Yes, you lead from your chest. You do not maneuver with your hands. The chest can be compared to the beautiful neck of the swan, which it does move. The hands are the wings. It seldom flutters its wings- as seldom as we open and close the embrace. The feet below do move gracefully and it makes the swan swim across. But the upper bodies are so still and connected.

The beats of tango music closely resemble the heartbeat. Which is the reason the music touches the heart so much. Just like two swans make a beautiful shape of heart. They do move in sync, with deep connection and with rhythm and beat.

Every dance form has some norms. As an example, in Indian classical dance, kathak, we pivot on the heel. Whereas, in Tango, weight in under the first metatarsal (ball of the foot) and we pivot there. Whenever, a tanguero starts moving on their heels, I have to remind them that what they are doing is kathak and not Tango.

In Tango the leader does not move his shoulder up and down at all. Whereas, in Indian folk dance, Bhangra, there is a major usage of shoulder moving up and down. When a tanguero, in India, starts lifting his shoulders up and down, I have to remind him that what he is doing is bhangra and not Tango.

Especially in milonga, where they start, not just bouncing but also moving their shoulders. It looks an eyesore. Here an example and imagery of swan comes very handy. 

Some of my participants cannot keep their free leg completely free. One can produce graceful movement only when one is grounded on one leg. Then you are balanced and your axis is right above your weight bearing leg. If you do not have a free leg, you cannot produce any of boleos, ganchos, etc. Some of my followers bend their weight bearing leg while doing a gancho. In effect, the hip of the weight bearing leg, is swayed out. Here they look like Indian apsara.

There is one more imagery which has always helped me teach rock step in milonga to my Indian leaders. My Indian leaders never seem to get it in one go but then I give them an example of Indian Super star Amitabh Bachchan. Sometimes I even play this famous Bollywood song of this actor. See the way he is moving in this song. The moment, they are told about it, without fail, they start doing perfect rock step.

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I teach tango in India, where close proximity with the opposite gender is a taboo. The men also get uncomfortable to embrace a woman. Sometimes, students in my class start shivering when they have to embrace me- their teacher. So I tell them- I am your guy friend, whom you are meeting after ten years. How would you come and hug me? Immediately comes a proper embrace.

Tango teachers need to innovate and come up with indigenous ways to connect with their participants and make them understand the concepts, help them develop connection, musicality and of course, also the embrace.

My interview with So Delhi

Posted by kiran.sawhney on August 8, 2014 at 10:45 PM

My interview in So Delhi. Read it online here.

Tango/milonga rock step- How to teach it the Indian way

Posted by kiran.sawhney on August 3, 2014 at 3:25 PM

Whenever I taught rock step (la cadencia) to Indian men, they would never get it easily. NEVER. They would find it difficult to not commit the weight and rock.

Then I formulated the technique and it is 100% successful. I would tell them, lets do signature moves of Amitabh Bachchan and then they would get rock step instantly.

Try it. I do not know whether Amitabh Bachchan got rock step from tango or tango got rock step from Amitabh, the legendary Indian actor.

Watch the video below for Amitabh Bachchan move.

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Styles of tango Music Orchestras

Posted by kiran.sawhney on August 3, 2014 at 2:30 PM

Some of you get confused with the terminology-

The Old Guard

The Golden Age.

To make things simple, here is how the orchestras are classified.

The Old Guard—Firpo, Lomuto, Orquesta Tipica Victor, Carabelli, and Fresedo

The Early Golden Age—Canaro, De Caro, and Donato

Great Orchestras of the Golden Age—D' Arienzo, Di Sarli, Troilo, Pugliese, Biagi, Caló, Canaro,D' Agostino, De Angelis, Fresedo, Laurenz, and Tanturi.

At the end of the 1940s, tango orchestras began to shift from dance music toward a concert sound. The Pugliese, Troilo and D' Arienzo orchestras led the way. This was transition to New Tango.

Then came new Tango. Astor Piazzolla led a revolution in tango by integrating jazz and classical influences to create a concert form of tango. In Buenos Aires milongas, people do not dance to it.

Modern Tango Orquestra is Color Tango. Its beat is noticeably similar to Golden age tango music.

Neo-tango consists of two genres of music: tango-fusion and "alternative" tango music. 

Quantity vs Quality

Posted by kiran.sawhney on July 30, 2014 at 2:25 PM

Today I was leading a follower, who had not learnt Tango from me. She has been learning tango for some time, with some teacher. I was quite dissapointed. She could not even do basic ochos. She could not go into a cross. It has not happened for the first time. I am in no way, criticicising or comparing any other school or teacher. I am also not trying to promote my school or my method of teaching. But here I am interpreting few common flaws that teachers make. 

The teachers make the followers beginner's horse, who needs a beginner rider. She just cannot interpret the lead. She wants/expects to be pulled and pushed. The students are not taught the concepts but the figures and steps. It is important that both the leader and follower do 100 and 100 to make it 100. If they rely on 50 and 50 to make it hundred, they are playing checkers not chess. The students should be made confident and be empowered. They should learn to relax on the floor. The emphasis should be on musicality, embrace, fluidity, interpretation, connection. I can lead the followers who have learnt from me smoothly. I have sworn not to touch the followers (in Delhi only), who have not learnt from me. Some basic concepts are certainly missing. I wish they knew them. I wish they knew how to flow.

They should be taught more about axis. How not to lose balance. How to lead like a MAN. It is a pain to lead a heavy follower who does not interpret the lead. Similarly it is a pain to be led by the leader who does not have an idea.

I organize a milonga in Delhi. In India, Tango is less than 10 year old. My milonga is just a year old. It is the first paid milonga. Naturally, I faced a lot of flak for introducing paid milonga in a community which was used to free milongas. But I stuck to what I felt was right. I had super low attendance in my milongas. I thought it must have been because people do not want to pay. Till one day a visitor ( tanguero) enlightened me. This person said, " you know why your milonga is not so well attended? Because yours is pure milonga. To come to your milonga, people must take classes and dance well. If they do not, they will not be asked for dances. In Delhi, how many women dance Tango well? They do not feel important in your milonga. They are not given pick and drop service or roses at the gate. Why would women come to your milonga and feel miserable about their dancing skills? They go to a free milonga and get a rose at the gate. They dance salsa and bachata. It is more socializing event. That is what they want. Expect only that crowd in your milonga who enjoys pure tango, who is in love with tango. Who can dance tango well" It did make sense. I analyzed- Quantity vs Quality. I would rather have quality and not quantity.

Understanding musicality in Tango- 2

Posted by kiran.sawhney on July 29, 2014 at 12:50 AM

Porteño milongueros have grown up listening to tango music. Just as we have grown up listening to Bollywood music. They know the beats, the pauses, syncopation, accent, etc.

If you pay attention and listen to the same music again and again, you can also get familiar with it. Understanding the lyrics and its meaning also helps. Spanish is not my mother tongue. But ever since, I started understanding the lyrics and its meaning, it helped. Do remember that tango songs use lunfrado a lot.

It is easy if you understand and divide the music in regular and irregular groups of music. Just as in Spanish we have regular verbs and irregular verbs which have different conjugations. 

The regular music, which is mostly from 1940's, the golden age of tango, is easy to understand. First pick up these and memorise them. Their beats are the same. They have 8 count, in phrases of 4 and 5 groups. 

In aerobics also we have 1 block of 32 beats. 8 x 4 beats. But this BPM (beats per minute) are much faster and hence we need to count them very quickly. Human resting heart beat, on an average, is 72 bpm. But of course, it varies with fitness levels.

If you pick a tango song and you are able to count first 32 beats (8 x4) in first 30 seconds, most probably it is a regular song. Tango songs are the closest to heart beat.

Irregular songs, on the other hand, would require more practice and discerning ear. You will have to listen to them over and over again.

Pick up your songs every week. Regular and irregular and see how your musicality improves dramatically. Regular songs will appear like a breeze.

The State of Embrace

Posted by kiran.sawhney on July 28, 2014 at 10:30 AM

 Article written by Mark Word, for Delhi milonga blog. Written for the New Dehli community by a man who has a high esteem of Indian spirituality.

 Mata Amritanandamayi, known as Amma has hugged more people than anyone in human history. She knows something about the embrace that even tango dancers need to learn.


The embracing saint from India says, "If you can touch people, you can touch the world."


Look carefully at your community. What is the "embrace"? Is there one? Some say close embrace tango is disappearing in Germany, where I presently live. If it does, then it will return. The embrace closes naturally between kind people.


One of the problems of close embrace tango is that it has been billed as "social" tango, and that can feel like hypocrisy when antisocial people are teaching or practicing it. When "social" means "rules" it is a turn-off. But that's okay. The embrace is a powerful thing. If a person's way of dancing is non-embrace, eventually it will close.


Embracing people for me is sometime intimidating: At times I am aware of things I don't even want to know. The embrace tell our souls about each other. At times I have found out later that the mental pictures that came to mind were true. I consider the embrace a sacred thing and what I feel is "confidential" since that person has allowed the embrace. I am "coming out of the closet" with this experience because it is too weird for some people. But I hope only to say that the embrace is not the intimate thing that some believe it to be--as in some sort of sexual intimacy. It is far deeper than that. Through the embrace the soul shares the unspeakable.


In my little local tango community in Germany it was where I learned close embrace, but more by the time I returned after many years of trying to return to Germany with my work, the scene had transformed to an open "embrace" (is there such a thing?) and stage tango moves. In spite of this, it is a warm-snuggly-embrace community. We are friendly, caring people and loyal to our local milonga. My experience started in El Paso, Texas with tango. We had Texas-sized rooms to dance in. There was no need for worries of sharing space. But the best dancers got closer and closer in their physical embrace, the opposite of what has happened in Kaiserslautern.


I love the beauty of close embrace tango with truly social people. When I speak of tango, I think of it as the Three M's (Music/Movement/eMbrace), but the Three M's are rare in tango, actually. I wish not to say anything bad about this community. It is really wonderful, but to be honest, the embrace is as diversified as there are people on the planet.


Having said that, it is sort of embracing to now suggest and simplify three types of people (and communities) who embrace or attempt to embrace at a milonga. But here is my attempt anyway:


1. One-hug-fits all tangueros/-as. Nearly everyone deserves a good hug, and we see the embrace as the first "step" in tango. That is who I am. Perhaps, the universal hugger is not who you are, but tango may take you to this place in a safe and warm tango community. The physical and psychological embrace is truly social tango. Social tango is not a style or certain rules alone -- the style comes out of the social, warm embrace. Most who call themselves social dancers would categorize themselves as loving a warm, snuggly embrace. But actually, there are people who do not know how or haven't been exposed to teachers or communities who dance socially and in close embrace. Their open embrace is stopping them from enjoying what tango is all about, but they are social people and have the spirit of this first group.


2. A-hug-is-for-the-chosen tangeras/-os. I started in this group. I just did not know how to dance in close embrace with anyone but my coach and friend. When I came to Europe to visit my children, I met my first group of close embrace dancers in Germany. It felt right. But on the other hand, the majority of dancers in this world-wide group of the Chosen Huggers will start here and stay in their little group. This group of dancers are in a meritocracy: A hug is a privilege to give only those who deserve it. The priviledge often is dance skill, but good looks might be just as important in the Scales of Merit. If this group is large, in part this may be a reflection of your community, not you or others as people. A tango community that is mostly a "meritocracy," may keep you in this elitist group forever. I personally feel that this is not what social tango is all about, but I am being "prescriptive" rather than descriptive here--what should be is often not was is. Many tango communities are meritocracies. Rank and position is not all bad, but it is the world's expression of "social order," much harm is possible in this sort of social polity. Poverty, thrives is a meritocracy as is slowly turns to an oligarchy (such as in the US)--a social order that started with "work hard" and you will do well, to multi-generational wealth of children and children's children who are managing the money that was gained from merit.


This form of meritocracy requires endless classes, sold as a "style of social tango" with an emphasis on the rules of social tango. An example of this outside of the tango world would be a spiritually bankrupt place of worship: A beautiful litergy, impressive edifice, stately form of worship: " Oh our rules and ritual! Wow!" Okay, I like that too--but only once a year on Christmas Eve. I do not want to be a part of superficial religion or a superficial social tango community, filled with antisocial behaviors and at the same time snooty close embrace dancers.


My tango community in Kaiserslautern, Germany is one of my favorite places to dance in the world, even though the style has evolved more towards stage tango. The style of dance doesn't matter as much as the social environment and that the tangueras are willing to switch to a warm embrace. It is true that the style and the rules are not social tango, but it is far more social than many other milongas that are sold as social tango.


3. A-hug-is-for-one-or-none tangueras/-os. Because of genetic wiring, cultural education and human experience, some people do not feel good about an embrace. Autism spectrum (a very wide spectrum) is an example of such "genetic wiring." Some cultures, including some Latin cultures, may save the dance embrace for only one person, and perhaps one's family. Even certain couples make a deal that they can dance with others, but the close embrace is reserved only for each other. Many other reasons exists for repulsion of a close embrace, but an important and often unrecognized reason is because of psychological trauma related to sexual aggression, which make some feel extremely uncomfortable with an embrace.


I try to be open to others who have different ways of expressing an embrace. But if a woman does not allow a warm embrace, that may be the last time I dance with her. I very much feel that tango's warm embrace can be a way for people who have been traumatized to get over their fear of the opposite sex. For those who have an aversion to an embrace, through experience or Pervasive Developmental Delay (genetic wiring), tango is a type of safe-environment exposure therapy, and it will transform and heal these trauma-based or typical PDD reactions. I can also be open to a woman who tells me she is working on the embrace. More often, I have known her struggle, and then take special care to create that safe place. Tangueros and tangueras alike may have their known or hidden reasons for embrace aversion.


My life-work is to eventually spend my time teaching therapists how to use a tango dancer or work with a couple to get over psychological traumas that are dissolved by the embrace (and the two other healing elements in tango, Music and Movement). But I do not come to the milonga to find patients! If "healing" comes out of tango for you, that is great, but if the warm embrace is just too weird for you, consider another dance, at least for now.


If a woman insists on a space between us, I feel that life is too short to waste another tanda, or another moment, on this exercise of feet watching. Sure, if the music calls for it, I can open the embrace and enjoy myself, but even then, we will return to a warm embrace from time to time, as if magnetized back to the State of Embrace.


At the milonga, please tell your partner that you don't like to embrace others or strangers. Please tell me ahead of time, so I don't waste your time and my time. I only have so many more warm embraces until I die, and you just robbed me of that treasure. Please, take up ballroom dancing! Maybe you took a wrong turn and ended up at a milonga, and that's why it feels so weird to you. Yes, two doors down: Ballroom on the right, karate on the left or zumba is tomorrow night, but this is tango!


I pray that you will be back. Other dances will be easier for you and prepare you. But ultimately, I hope to see you at the milonga again. And then your Yin will embrace Yang. This is what your arms were made for and you cannot escape it. Heaven doesn't have harps but bandoniones.


Sometime sooner or later you will come back to the beginning of all things the warm, snuggly embrace you received at birth.

Carmencita Calderon

Posted by kiran.sawhney on July 27, 2014 at 10:55 PM

Some of you saw the image of Carmencita Calderon with Daniel Trenner and asked me who she is. Some of you googled.
Carmencita Calderon (1905 - 2005) was partner of “El Cachafaz” ( Ovidio José Bianquet, nickname Benito, 1885 - 1942).
El Cachafaz and Carmencita have been captured in very few films, but they star briefly in one scene in the 1933 film “Tango!”

This film will be showcased in Institute Cervantes, Delhi on 3rd August.

In video clip "El Cachafaz" & Carmencita Calderón (1933)

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“Tango!”, was Argentina’s first motion picture with sound. It has an all-star cast of tango singers and orchestras!

Carmencita Calderon,  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.

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At 100 years old, Carmencita had not lost her rhythm, nor her footwork!

Understanding musicality in Tango

Posted by kiran.sawhney on July 27, 2014 at 1:10 AM

I have a background of fitness and Indian classical dance. Both in aerobics and kathak, we count the beats to the T. Counting beats and phrases of 8 came naturally to me. In fact, I used to wonder, when people struggled with musicality in Tango. But when I taught Tango, I had to make my students aware of the beats- the up beat and the downbeat, the pauses, the instruments.

These pointers really help.

  • Teach your students to count the beats.
  • Most of the tango music is in phrases of 8.
  • Initially, it is good to listen to the music, again and again. Count the beats, till you get them clear.
  • Mostly these beats resemble your heart beat- beat pause, beat pause, beat pause. This beat pause is counted as- one and two and three and four…..
  • "And" is the upbeat. It is usually played by contrabajo- the double bass or by the low keys of piano.
  • The downbeat is- one, two, three, four.
  • We step on the downbeats and pause on the upbeat. We do not step on upbeats. (There are exceptions like Biagi, where we step on upbeats).
  • When the bassist gives a full beat, which is longer, there is a longer pause.
  • Now here is the tricky part In most of the regular music of the golden era, the bassist plays till four and five and six and seven. What is missing is “and eight”.
  • The bassist plays till the beat- "and seven" and then he takes his hand off the strings. In "and eight" also a pause before the next phrase of eight count begins from One, there is 1 pause. So you may count it as- and eight and One. 
  • This total pause is for 1.5 seconds. In this the bassist is not playing. The dancer and the orchestra is expected to pause.
  • There is something very interesting happening melodiously in these 1.5 seconds. 
  • This confuses many of you. You do not realize when the next phrase exactly starts. In the process you start rushing. That causes chaos. You want to and tend to move. Specially so because something new is happening in the music. 
  • But you are expected to delay for 1.5 seconds. 
  • This happens specially so because after seven, there is not total pause or complete silence. In fact, there is lot much going on after that seven.
  • Only with good practice, you can learn the right pauses even when so much is going on in the music after seven.
  • The beginners feel, am I looking like a fool, to pause when so much is going on? It seems like bringing a speeding car to a halt. How to bring this speeding car to a halt, without screeching brakes, gracefully and with musicality?
  • First and foremost, learn to relax. Be sure of your music. Do not be too anxious that you will miss a beat.
  • I always tell my students that they have to relax. No matter what. They cannot be running ever- not in tango, not even in milonga, not even in quick quick of vals. Because running is clear indication of "not being sure".
  • When you are not sure, you give the same feeling to your partner. The follower starts anticipating and the leader starts rushing.
  • This kills the joy of dancing calmly and gracefully. This is where you lose your musicality. Do each move slowly and mindfully. Rushing gives your partner the same feeling as if you are talking too quickly, without being coherent, without making sense. Tango is an adult and mature conversation. Convey your message clearly- slowly, meaningfully and with pauses.

 Do not be anxious about your pauses, about not moving. Do not think that

  • I will look like a fool if I do not move.
  • What will my partner think?
  • Maybe I will miss the beat.
  • Others will judge me standing still.

 Sometimes less is more. Remember- a leader does nothing but does it well. These pauses are not dead pauses without any meaning. You are still dancing in these pauses with each other in the embrace. These pauses are soulful and meaningful. Learn to relax and enjoy them. See how your quality of dance improves then. This is really what differentiates an average dancer from a good dancer.

Whenever I have danced with a leader who knows his pauses, I know that he knows his musicality. Compared with the one, who is just not listening to the music and creating no pauses. It becomes a pain to dance with that leader. Let me tell you 99% leaders (at least in India) are not aware of these pauses.

I will give you some clues as to identify what happens when the bassist has taken his hand off his strings after- and seven. At that point, new musical instruments are being introduced. There is a pause of bassist. The violinist or the pianist does a little flourish or the pianist might add an accent.

At this point, you as a dancer should stay on your axis, be connected to your partner and keep your free leg relaxed. I am still not saying that it is a dead silence where you are still like a stone and have completely stopped dancing. In fact, on the contrary, these pauses are the most beautiful moments when you are connected and are conversing (not literally) and flirting with each other.