Thursday, June 6

Malaysia Prelims & Tango Festival - Musings

Off the back of a weekend that required me to leave work early and sleep cray hours to finally get back into a semi-human mode of work and sleep. Thoughts?

When I first started tango, I jumped straight into a Fire & Ice festival in Ann Arbor January of 2010. That was my first taste of a tango festival which was relatively social and a good scene in hindsight.

Coming back to Malaysia I've participated in the KL Festival every single year, Singapore festival twice, Taiwan festival once (24 hour on a whim - fuck it all flight), Shanghai festival once. Other than that the flavour of the day nowadays is definitely geared more toward marathons/encuentros, and for a good reason. Festivals in this part of the world are seriously so tipped toward a certain "type" that it is far more worth my money and sanity to go for the social dancing rather than the festival format.

Granted, lessons were good, always learning, picking up new things. Competition was, so-so for me, was kind of nervous stepping on stage but to some degree you know who are sureshots almost from the start. Good to see the judges had certain standards and morals which they upheld. Winners were well deserved but you can't help to feel tired at this old scene again.

Milongas. Nothing to say la, felt like TXP all over again.

Private Class - Maxi

Tons of things to fix, as always.

1) Embrace & Elevation
- Sucking in or closing the ribs is a wrong way to think about it, rather action it by lifting from the core and the abs, once you do that the upper torso naturally elevates upward (watch the shoulders raising)
- Think about zipping a tight pair of jeans, that is the same action that causes the energy to be sent upward
- 3 points of contact, the right hand, the center of the torso and the left elbow connected to the guy, not a weight slumping on top of him, but rather an active energy and pressure on those points, boobs on a platform (the guys), right elbow in front of you, not behind - don't think of pushing the guys hand, rather think of just grasping his hand with energy (not squeezing to death either)
- When you prepare the embrace, keep the heels together, try and get the feet close to the guy, pelvis away, elevate the torso, create a circular energy from both hands to the center
- Tip - look inward first as the embrace starts rather than past his shoulder, otherwise there is a tendency for the right shoulder to collapse too far inward and the setup is compromised from the start - if the embrace is too parallel, the lead has nothing to hold on to (where he would normally hold onto the right upper shoulder area)

2) Setting up for the walk
- Think about moving the pelvis/hip away to create space, at the same time - send the energy forward to match the guy, and absorb the intention that he is sending
- Don't absorb the energy, instead, take it and use it to create dynamism
- Also think in the standing leg, the standing leg powers the movement to its conclusion before the next cycle starts
- Send the leg to infinity
- The butt area should be elevated, rather than having the energy downward
- Watch the collapsing in the in-between steps (weight changes/shifts); keep the energy always elevated

3) Ochos
- Stretch! Use the same theory as the walk forward to disassociate and create the stretch
- When you use the wall, your opposite butt should be visible, creating a line that is all the way stretched around the torso
- Don't kick out the leg in an arc (don't swing), rather swing the hips then the leg is an extension
- The right hand can push against the guy to turn - DEMAND THE ENERGY

4) Other pointers
- To activate the back muscle, act as though you are crunching a pilates ball (does not need to be too hard, putting a bit of pressure downward; think of also activating the pecs in front as this is also connected
- This can be used to lock into the guys right arm and so he can feel the torso even more - this creates an energy all the way around
- Connection is fluid, you can move across different connection points, and you have to for different movements

Thursday, April 18


Goals for this Tango year:

- Continue to improve leading
- Get deeper into the movements and music
- Starting again with foundations (feet placement, weight, balance, transfers)

Always and forever a noob. Training for the first ASEAN Tango Championships, more about process than outcome really but have always been a competitive spirit so part of me really wants to make an impact. We definitely are not at the stage of winning but if improvement continues then it'll at least make a dent in the social dancing.


Why is it that Tango doesn't inspire the same practice spirit that a lot of other activities require (tennis, swimming, basketball, piano..heck anything I've ever picked up, or been dragged into, in my life so far)?

Maybe it's the fact and core of what makes it so appealing, that we rest on our laurels because we depend so much on what the partner is giving (50-50) hence...we think that if we give 50 and the other person gives 25 then we might as well not continue, or care anyway. Perhaps? Given these odds, its easy to just see it as "the leads fault", rather than seeing what he really wants you to do.

Or falling into the trap of complacency, of knowing a little thus thinking you know "everything". Such in life, such in work.

And then sometimes, having the most marvelous, perfect, ON POINT dancing, where you BECAME the music. God. That hit, is really why we are tangodrug addicts.

Who likes working hard, really, we do so to get the outcomes, but more so is the recognition in the process. If you grew, if you learnt, if you changed, that's really the goal innit? Forget whether or not you win the gold medal, the whole growth process that improves yourself is already a win.

Breaking these mental barriers. That's really the goal for 2019.

Wednesday, February 13


How do you take feedback?
Do you immediately raise your hackles and act defensive?
Do you throw back insults that are a bit more heavy handed than necessary?

Positive feedback of course is what we are aiming for. Pleasant surprise having multiple experienced visitors at last nights milonga which I was DJ-ing - great dancing overall and even I was surprised at how well the tandas were flowing after a quick construct his week. <3 .="" blessed.="" p="">
Good feedback too on the music choices, cortinas (emo chinese songs from the 80's/90's). As close to a perfect reception a DJ could wish for.

This is why I dance. This is why I DJ. 

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 heels, 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 start perpendicular to the lead (forward, side, back step); lead mirrors, but stays in position and just rotate upper body, keeping hips forward (moving from 12 to 9); chest is twisted toward the follow who has moved 180 degrees from 12 to 6

Lesson 5 - Milonguero turn
- Practice momentum of rocking (Forward - L, Back - R, Backstep - L, Back - R, Forward - L, Together)
- Send the energy outward, but then pullback immediate (energy is on a plane rather than an arc); follow crosses ont he outside of the leads right
- Small angles at the shoulder lead to large angles at the hand - same concept for the ocho cortado, lead 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 shifting 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 which is leaving the side stel (follow transfers weight from left 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 aback step and now leads left foot inner is against the follows right foot outer
- Follow then does a weight transfer to the left foot and moves to side step with right foot while lead anchors on the left foot (weight on left!), 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 the right knee behind left.

Lesson 6
- Follow does a forward ocho to the leaders right
- Leader steps forward with right leg to sacada follows left leg (taking 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-site 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 the 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 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.