Tuesday, November 13

Maxi y Karina

It's been a fair while since I've taken any lessons, and not even foundational, lets break it to its lowest denominator type lessons. As a lead.

Just watching the ease of execution, the degree and quality of movement was astounding and this, ladies & gentlemen is what we work for. Also getting to dance with the teacher on my own merit *faints*

Plenty of notes!

Lesson 1 - Walking
- Start by feeling the weight transfer from left to right - transfer should be 100% of the weight
- The lead stands more vertically with the intention forward, while the follow has a slight angle to reach
- As a lead, watch the neck forward and shoulders up, intention is an internal action and not an actual lean, watch the shoulder sway and move linearly instead
- Lift the toes so that you are aware that the weight is further back and on the heels
- Stretch and separate the two half of the torso from the legs; ground downward to push the floor, but lift upward to transfer momentum & direction
- Send the intention forward and delay movement as a lead
- As a follow, watch the hip angles and stretch beyond your partner as a follow
- Paramount above all, adapt to your partner, be comfortable
- As a lead - chest up, head up, pelvis back on hells, project and delay

Lesson 2 - Disassociation
- Move in opposite manners - right foot forward, left shoulder inward (like a crunch); right foot to the side, left shoulder outward (to open and expand to the edges of the body)
- Side walk exercise - start with right shoulder facing direction you want to move in, transfer weight to right foot while twisting to the right, pivot and collect; repeat on the left
- Ocho forward as a lead; let the follow collect half a second ahead before rotating yourself
- The follow over-rotates on a forward ocho, creating an obtuse triangle, while the lead does forward ochos as sacadas (to the foot that has just left)
- Feel the back and spine to counter the centrifugal force and movement

Lesson 3 - Preparing for giros
- Start with the follow close to you on the right (same line)
- Follow moves in a 3 sided square (back side front) - moment the follow steps on the 3rd step (front), lead transfers weight to left foot, using torsion (twisted to the left by this point); and taking energy from the 4th step of the follow (unravel from back to side) follows the energy to rotate 360
- Follow starts perpendicular to the lead (forward, side, back step); lead mirrors, keeping hips forward (moving from 12 to 9); chest is twisted toward follow who has moved from 12 to 6

Lesson 5 - Milonguero turn
- Practice momentum of rocking (forward, back, back step, back, forward, together) - send the energy outward, but then pull back immediately so follow doesn't land heavily (energy is on a plane, rather than on an arc); follow crosses on the outside of the leads right side for the back step
- Small angles at the shoulder lead to large angles at the hand - same concept for the ocho cortado, lead just needs to open very slightly for the follow to move to the right and back; as a lead, keep the back foot stuck out rather than moving weight with the follow - lead from the chest only
- Rebound front and ocho cortado, follow for a follower cross, send her to the left while starting a sacada with your right foot to her left foot leaving the side step (follow has transferred weight from left foot to right foot)
- Take the space with your right foot and pivot around so left foot is in a parada situation, follow will have moved to a back step and now leads left foot inner is against the follows right foot outer
- Follow then does a weight transfer to left foot and moves to side step with right foot while lead anchors on the left foot (weight on left!) and sticks out the right foot (like an outward twist furthest left shoulder from right foot); lead then pivots the follow to end on a parada (360 rotation)outside his left foot while tucking in the right knee behind left 

Lesson 6
- Follow does a forward ocho to leaders right
- Leader steps forward with right leg to sacada follows left leg (takes the space), then continues to sacada her right leg with his left (in the side step of the molinete for the follow); change of front in the first steps is crucial
- Leader then steps right across the follows left foot as the follow does a back side movement; lead then sacadas follows left foot as she does a forward step - overturning her and Americana out (lead on right and follow on left)
- Always take the space and keep the movement going on top so the follow knows where to go

Saturday, October 6


It's been eons since I've written anything about Tango, even though it has now become so ingrained in my life and travels.

Tango at this point to me is being used as an outlet. It's my yoga, it's my meditation. It's me traversing the world in 12 minutes, in receiving and transmitting, of letting my body become the channel through which the music flows through, of expression.

Tango to me is at this stage, everything that I want it to be. Of course there's plenty of things to work on, but there comes a point where you are balanced in yourself and your awareness of this dance that allows you to express your truest "self". It opens different facets of yourself to you and I continue to hone how I communicate. It is true that only certain people "get it", or "stick with it" and more or less these are the people that end up being people I get along with. It's a bit of a screener for me too in terms of figuring out who I actually want to be friends with, and who I want to know.

I'm happy with the state of the dance that I'm in right now.

Recently I went back to dance with someone I somewhat "started" this dance with. It was the embrace tied to the person that I had forgotten for quite awhile, not to say that he's ever left my thoughts but I've definitely created some boundaries in my own self around this person.

I was pleasantly surprised. I've embraced plenty of people in this world and moved plenty of steps. It was weird, because, fundamentally I have not found such a neutrality in balance, both with me as the lead and follow around the simple walk. The meeting of equals was profoundly different for me. I've had embraces where I can feel dissonance, or embrace and strong envelopment. Always a bit more or a bit less. But this. This one felt like a"together", meeting with equal balance and pressure with no extra pushing or pulling. Not too much and not too little.

I haven't had an embrace like this ever. Maybe it reflects us as the state of the relationship, meeting at boundaries and crossroads, and realising that this is your equal.

On other notes, getting complimented on my dancing by a Japanese Tanguera after the milonga today. Sometimes you do just want to show off..just a little =P.

Friday, May 5


Tango often gives conflicting messages – go left but lean right, be strong and yet soft, be present and yet follow, give and yet yield. No wonder half the time it’s such a mess to sort out when you first start.

And yet, what draws you to the dance is the first steps you take, hands stretched out in front of you with the other clueless beginner. Just, moving and trying not to step on the others feet. That is the Tango you first encounter and it is neither technically, nor visually appealing. But what draws you to it is the mode of communication. The ability to say everything without words, the ability to deliver an idea with the body rather than talking or thinking of something. That is what drops us into the whirlpool of time, effort, frustrations and elations that is yet to come…if you stick with Tango.

See, Tango picks its characters, its lovers, its haters, its obsessives and its preachers. It’s entirely a love hate relationship, whether you never want to dance it because it’s “boring”, “slow”, “for geriatrics”, “sad”, “depressing”, or whether you find yourself years into the dance wondering if you ever knew how to even walk properly. Every part is up for dissection, and let’s not get started on the days where your butt sees more action than your legs.

I was watching a beautiful stage Tango performance recently and just marveling at the amount of moves I’ll never be able to do. Also wondering why we get shown one thing but taught another. Tango at its most developed and advanced rivals any other art form and literally knocks it out of the park IMHO. The need for synchronization and flow, the communication that is so tangible and expressed, the music that tugs and plays with your heartstrings. But it is at its core not about how exact the placement of your leg is, or where the line of your frame is, or whether you managed to embellish 10 things within the phrase of the music, it is what it feels like. The things you take away on the dance floor are the feel and elation of being able to understand and play, with the music, with your partner.

What is my current goal? To unleash the best potential of whomever I’m dancing with, to give justice to the music and to be able to express myself. This trinity is what I believe will shape my dance far into the future. It demands personality this dance, it demands a soul, and it demands you to bare it all. 

Sunday, January 22

The Amorphous

Tango has meant different things to me at different stages of my life.

Stage 0 - September 2009
"Tango as a differentiator"

Expectation: It started out as a notion of difference - "I do the Tangooo" I'd drawl - red lipstick, long flamenco looking swishy dresses with ruffles and leave everything else to the imagination of my listener. Passion, fire, attitude, dominance.

Reality: Tango is subtle, a conversation not manifested beyond the surface. Yes, red lipstick, no, not long dresses unless you want to rip it and trip yourself up. Yes, passion and attitude but quiet confidence prized above all. A meeting of equals, an intellectual conversation at its most developed state.

Stage 1 - September - December 2009
"Tango as a dance"

Expectation: Quick footwork, steps, technicality, sequences, stomping across the floor

Reality: I am walking backwards in flipflops - wtf am I doing. Of course I can walk, ok I can't walk with someone blocking my way...now I've forgotten how I walk. Help.

Also, heels, backward, how? Ochos? Wtf, how do you keep your top half balanced with your bottom?

Embrace? He's 60! This is so awkward, what a bloody invasion of personal space, oh hello hottie, yeah ok I'll embrace you...

Wow, this dance was so easy, omg how am I ever going to dance like that? How long does it take? Forever?!

Stage 2 - Jan - June 2010
"Tango as a drug"

Expectation: Continued progress, lessons galore, abandoning all other college activities and friends for all consuming Tango.

Reality: Matched expectation at this stage, and the added bonus of a significant other - experienced all the firsts of jealousy in Tango - how could you prefer dancing with her to me? Ego and personality, love and loss channeled through this dance.

Stage 3 - June 2010-2011
"Tango as heartbreak"

Expectation: Tango in Malaysia will never be the same as Ann Arbor - never!

Reality: It was different, small community, but unique in its DNA - met new friends, new dance partners, developed in the dance through them and with them

Stage 4 - 2011-2013
"Tango as a journey"

By this time there wasn't much expectation - lessons came and went, friendships in the community deepened - mamak gossips til 3am. People came and went, but the core group remains. The DNA of KL needs to be preserved.

Stage 5 - 2013-2016
"Tango as an exploration and awareness of self in the ecosystem"

Festivals, marathons, Tango as part of holiday, Tango AS a holiday. Connections across borders, friendships forged in the second of the embrace. Memories and histories of the Tangasm and the few that manage to elicit it. Milestones. Building and being core to drive the community. DJ-ing.

Older and wiser - in age and in maturity. In real life and in this alter ego.

What next but to progress to the next level 2017.

Wednesday, November 2


2nd marathon for the year at HK - decent year of dancing so far with Dubai, Singapore and HK this year.

Marathon was pretty good, still felt there were moments of real annoyance from myself in not getting certain dancers, however the ones I did end up getting were definitely memorable ones. Very unique leads in each of their own ways.

Still searching for the elusive ingredient, the hows and whats of transforming my own dance so it becomes magical, grounded, reactive, enveloping and above all musical.

I do feel there are certain partners that unleash that, and everyone's potion is of course varying. But paramount above all the need to have a conversation, to develop a certainty in the movement with assurance and an amount of elegance yet playfulness sprinkled in.

What makes a dancer so beautiful to watch? What makes a dancer so beautiful to create movement with? These are the questions I'm seeking answers to at this point. 

Monday, September 19

Strangers in the night

"Strangers in the night
Two lonely people, we were strangers in the night
Up to the moment when we said our first hello little did we know
Love was just a glance away, a warm embracing dance away"

The longer you end up in Tango, the more the elusive reason of why you stay in it begins to fade. After encountering the negative side of the dance - not getting dances, bitchy people, negative emotions - you tend to forget that the positives more than outweigh the bad really. But if there was really anything at the core of it, it is this, it is the moment of locking eyes with a stranger and suddenly becoming the most intimate acquaintances. Sensual, playful, being able to communicate without words, being able to give and take, yin and yang, feminine to the masculine energies, a real blend.

Having fun with the music, having fun with the moves, throwing and catching, releasing and absorbing energies. This is why you train, this is why you take lessons, this is why you spend so much $ on travels, on shoes, on clothing, to create a moment so perfect it lingers with you for the longest time.

Focusing on the minute sessions, focus on the internal and whats within and with-out. To move and commit with every step, to not make fun of it, but to respect the whole way. Respect the music, respect the moves and respect the etiquette of this surviving art form.

It's like finding the perfect partner in a tennis match, where you win some, you lose some and the score is 7-6,6-7,7-6 by the end of it. Equals. Partners.

Do not dance me. Dance with me. 

Tuesday, June 14


What is it to be mature in this dance? Everytime I review the journey I wonder over and over again how I could have possibly danced last year, how anyone could have enjoyed dancing with me, with that funny embrace, that un-disassociated upper body, that off balance ocho.

Yet the breakthrough seems to be sustained over the last year. After getting a full ass-kicking going to to the Istanbul Tango Marathon, a revelation of sorts with TC's teaching, a continued involvement in shaping and crafting the scene for KL tango, I have settled into a relatively peaceful place with this dance. I also attribute this highly to Yoga having helped me stretch out some previously un-stretchable parts and helping the balance tremendously.

Deep diving in the bio-mechanics of this dance, into the music and the history, just bringing myself out of the fog of unawareness and bliss. This is where the true complexity of Tango unfolds itself. Much like a baby becomes a toddler who transforms into a teenager and then an adult, we are only as mature as the stage and experiences we expose ourselves to. Unfortunately Tango is also like wine, it is impossible to rush the maturation progress without having put in the miles and encountering the experiences that change your perception of what this dance is to you and to the people you interact with.

What do you want to show them about yourself? What do you want to take from them? The only way to do so is to work on yourself, your dance, awareness, appreciation and interpretation of what is being shown to you by the range of teachers, friends and partners. It's tiring to sustain this dance in a community that is small, but it is this passion that drives us to want to continue to bring people in, to maintain a sense of non-judgement. For the seniors, to inspire, enlighten and bring the new ones on the journey and to be an influence. For ourselves, to recognise that we are toddlers too, barely matured and to always keep the sense of being humble, being open to learning, and being open to criticism and judgement of ourselves. 

Friday, June 10


I don't think anyone likes rejection. Apparently rejection creates the same level of pain akin to being physical. Lord knows we face PLENTY of rejection on the floor, whether it be manifested in the shirking of a glance, or in the outright, no to the face for the poor soul who decided to verbalise their intent and invite.

There's a bit of learning curve or trial by fire that everyone needs to go through when facing Tango, especially in the baby years. It's the moment where you're left literally collecting dust in the corner, being overlooked and craving the invites of those dancers, oh so much more advanced than you. Especially as a follow who's role is to accept and not to initiate anyway.

I still remember one occasion in A2 where it was an open practica in Mason Hall. We literally sat there for 3 hours not getting any dances until I had the gall to walk over to the instructor to ask for a dance. One measly dance.

In hindsight super embarassing and super against etiquette but really, how's a beginner supposed to improve without some help? Yes you have your fellow beginners in class where you're mutually willing to help each other with the dancing, but to really know how a move is being done properly and being done in a way that serves to highlight that it is actually your weaknesses being manifested, you need a more experienced partner.

This is where the big debate happens. How much does rejection really mean rejection in a way that is irreparable? I've had leads tell me that rejection to them once means rejection forever. I tend to also err on the side of, if I don't want to dance with you, I likely won't go through the niceties of greeting you with air kisses and small talk. Perhaps, more reflective of my own personality more than anything else. Not one to deal with non-genuine interactions. I am also of the school of thought that rejection isn't nice and to spare you the pain of rejection, I will therefore avoid you first.

Also, how many rejections means, no, I don't ever want to dance with you. I guess this is why the cabaceo works, because it allows an unspoken silence to hang in the air and also the hope that tomorrow, that person will dance with me.

There are a few things that would make me never want to dance with someone again though - arrogance, lack of awareness and a complete lack of respect for the music. Stop moving when the music stops, I implore you!

Maybe sometimes you get tired trying to improve the world and rather the world sort itself out before it involves you again...