Delhi Milonga

Delhi Milonga 

Dance Argentine Tango in New Delhi


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

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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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.

How do you collect your feet?

Posted by kiran.sawhney on July 23, 2014 at 10:20 AM

When a beginner starts leading, I have always observed that because he does not want to step on the follower's feet, he starts walking wide. It is a very odd walk. He does not walk straight and parallel, till he is corrected. 

Similarly beginners- followers and leaders are told to collect their feet so that their walk looks neat. What happens is that they focus mainly on collection. Collect, collect, collect.  True milongueros focus on shifting the body. The free leg gets displaced and placed under the body. The focus is on shifting the body and not just collection. If you stand with weight, equally placed on both feet, you cannot move. You will fall forward, backward but would not walk. If you want to walk, you have to shift your weight on either leg, make the other leg free. As you change your axis, your body weight, you move. Follower's free leg belongs to the leaders. If the follower collects or pivots on her own, she is a heavy follower, difficult to be led.

If the follower is concentrating on collection, her energy is shifted on the free leg, which is coming towards collection. The energy should be in the weight bearing leg. If the energy is in the free leg, this leg does not belong to the leader. He cannot place it where he wants to place it. But if this leg is really free, she is a light follower. 

Collection is important. But are you collecting like marching soldiers, who bring their free leg to collect with energy in the leg? The right way to collect is collect automatically. The free leg comes under the moving body. It comes towards the weight bearing leg which has the energy. This differentiates an average tanguera from a good tanguera. Or heavy and light follower.

A Tanguera from India describes her tango journey

Posted by kiran.sawhney on July 4, 2014 at 7:40 AM

 My article published on Tango Folly. Check

It says

Passionate Tango in the mystic land of India



A Tanguera from India describes her tango journey

 When the dance becomes a spiritual practice, it transcends every barrier of this earth. It escalates to become something heavenly.

 Inspired by Indian yogic teachings, where deep-rooted practice of dance is referred as “sadhna”, my traditional roots have intermingled with my practice of Argentine tango. Indian classical dances, consider “sadhna” as a spiritual practice. They require the practitioner to surrender and have one point of focus that brings mind, body and soul together.


In India, we give a lot of importance to “Guru” - The Teacher. An Indian classical dance teacher, does not only teach you dance, but gives you a philosophy of life. He shows you the right path and leads you from darkness to light through training and knowledge. There is a very strong relationship between Guru and his student. The place of Guru is above parents. In the old days, small children were sent away to stay with Guru in “Gurukul” and study with him, to become knowledgeable. The Guru would teach many things - books, arts and dance, archery, etc.


I hail from this traditional background. My “karma” led me to a teacher, with whom I was fortunate to stay and study Tango with. Daniel Trenner is a very well known teacher of Argentine Tango. He has made a small and cute abode where his students go and stay with him and he gives them not just Tango but a philosophy of life. I was a meek and timid follower. Daniel said,


“What are you waiting for - A lead from the leader? Don’t you know that he is an idiot? One look at him should have been enough to tell you, not to trust him. If you trust him, he will fail you. Dance your own dance. Play chess with me and not checkers. That timid girl might be cute but that confident woman is very attractive. And if your man says, ‘you are wrong’, say ‘yes dear’ and then do exactly what you want to do. But shhh! He cannot know that he is an idiot. Because if he knows, then he will be very upset.”


And then I danced as a leader and he said,


“Be a man. You are the man of the universe. You are the king, who says to his troupe - Charge! Take hold and lead her like you are the man. But shh! She cannot know.”


That is when I realised the truth of not just tango but also of life. My teacher or Guru drilled in me a philosophy of, life through tango or tango through life. I have solved many riddles of life by incorporating tango.


Tango surpasses just being a dance. Tango is a way to live your life.


Here 100 + 100 = 100.


Wasted time: Musicality Classes for Followers

Posted by kiran.sawhney on July 4, 2014 at 12:00 AM

Article written by Mark Word for Delhi Milonga.

Mark word has a wonderful blog that can be seen here. It is called Tango Therapist. 

"Don't listen to me; listen to the music!"

If you are a "follower" you may be wasting your money on musicality classes. However, if you are a dual-listener (listening to the leading of La Música's voice and your partner's body), then musicality classes make sense!

I have had women say that it doesn't make sense to take musicality classes because they have to listen to what the man hears in the music. Yes, I can understand why a "follower" would say that because that is what she hears in the word "leader" and what is specifically said by some teachers! However, if the English-speaking community will start paying attention to how great couples dance, we all could easily dispense with "lead-and-follow" and start paying attention to what is truly making tango so magical.

Both in the traditional roles--el rol masculino and rol feminino, both are listeners--but still very much different. The person with their left hand up; however, is the listener-GUIDE, and the person with the right hand up, is the dual-LISTENER because of needing to especially follow the leader (the music) and her partner's interpretation of the leader. The Yang energy (male) as I understand it as a musician is the tone, and the Yin energy (female) is the silence between tones. Without both of these energies staying in their own lane music and dancing is not possible. So listening is different in each role, but nonetheless, listening. I step forward with clear intention (a tone), she hears why I stepped forward because the music said so! She creates a silence in her body posture, a pause, a rest that allows yet another intention from me as we both listen to the music. 90% of the possibilities will come from listening to the music. No matter if we are so-called "leaders" or "followers" not to know musicality is to be ignorant of the 90% of what is going to happen next! Musicality is the key to better dancing equally for both roles.

In dialogues with tango dancers of both roles talking about their desire to listen more to the music. Musicality classes are helping them, they say. Also, more and more people want to listen to their partner no matter what their role is. So it is time that English-speaking community comes together to consider other terms than "lead/follow" for the magic of movement of tandem dance in tango. Each community has voices, speaking out loud, wondering if the terminology of "leading" and "following" do more harm than help to students of the dance. Let's just say we will never abandon English-speaking tradition, and "lead/follow" is here to stay. Just let's humor ourselves and talk about this subject as if we were from another planet, and we were observing this wonderful thing called tango. Maybe the aliens would notice a few things.

The might notice, for example, a three part process as we begin to form up to dance at the behest of the true leader, La Música. The inhabitants of earth who dance tango:


  •  Earthlings follow the music's voice and form up on the dance floor, and both listen and follow the music.
  • Earthlings follow each their partners. Each time a new partner changes, often extremely different dancing ensues not matter if a male or female.
  •  Earthlings follow the rules of respective roles one as a listening-GUIDE and the other as a dual-LISTENER, including respect for tango's "vocabulary" of movement, and floorcraft rules.


Avoid being "Weak and Broken Link" in tango's chain of listeners!

Musical elements of Europe, South America and Africa listened to each other and tango was born and grew up in Argentina. The community of dancers throughout time and even presently listen and create rules of movement, which are called "tango." Some dancers dedicate themselves to follow the music, and they begin teaching and codifying what the community has created together. The students follow the teacher as best they can, but also create interesting (and sometimes not so interesting) interpretations of what started by listening to the music. Now it is my turn as a dancer: Am I now going to lead someone now and break all the golden-chain-of-listening that has gone before me? :-) Why would I want to be the weak and broken link in such a magical chain of listeners by proclaiming myself a "leader"? Dear God in heaven!

I will leave leading up to la Música. I am a listener-guide. Nothing more or less than that.