Archive for the ‘Valorie Hart’ Tag

The lung hold with the banana bunch   4 comments

The lung hold with the banana bunch
The tango is the envy of every other couple’s dance because of the important role that the embrace plays in the integrity of the dance. Beyond the absolute need to embrace properly in order to establish connection between the dancers, the embrace can transmit many sensations between the couple and the environment surrounding the couple.Foreign cultures that frown upon public display of affection clash with the profuse use of the embrace by the porteño culture. Argentines embrace a lot. They do it constantly, with friends of both sexes, with family members, and even with acquaintances with whom they get along. It is a wonderful culture, and the tango is a reflection of the trust and confidence that  the embrace inspires. The woman dances around the man, in the safety provided by the man’s embrace, as he dances around the floor. The embrace is what establishes the points of contact for the man to be able to mark the movements of the couple, and for the woman to be able to maintain her axis, and allow herself to be carried in the envelope of the embrace.We have covered in detail the structure of the embrace and its importance in establishing points of contact between the couple, both in our early series Tango Our Dance, and Chapter 4, page 75 of our book Gotta Tango. We need to make it clear that when we talk about tango dancing, structure, and embrace, we are talking about tango improvisation, that is dancing on the spur of the moment, with the man marking and the woman allowing herself being carried dancing at unison with the music.The tango has always allowed for evolution and changes that reflect the passing of the torch to newer generations, but the look and feel of the embrace has remained instantly recognizable and respected by generation after generation of tango dancers in Argentina. Now, in the first decade of the new millennium the embrace is being changed by a visually unpleasant placement of the women’s left arm.

The woman’s left hand presses against the man’s lung and her open fingers resemble the shape of a banana bunch. Her left elbow points up and out increasing the footprint of the couple, and creating a safety hazard for other dancers. The arm position requires that she lift her shoulder instead of keeping it down and relaxed. Notice that the man’s right shoulder is also up with his elbow protruding occupying more space than necessary and creating a hazard for other dancers.

Looking from the back of the woman, the man lower arm points down tilting her shoulder line. Most important of all are the elbows sticking out and the look of hands grabbing hard rather than embracing to force a connection. Of course the way dancers choose to hold each other is their business, but there are two things they should be aware of. First, the visually unpleasant contribution they make to the dynamics of the room, and the potential danger of hurting somebody with their elbows sticking out.

Blogger Cherie Magnus describes the bad arm placement this way, “... the best way to describe it is her holding down the man’s arm and preventing him from using his upper arm to lead.

… this grip with spread fingers makes this tanguera look like she wishes she were leading–and maybe she is! See how she is forcing her partner’s right arm down? He can’t have his arm up high enough around her back to lead her properly, and God forbid she’s leaning on him. I’ve seen worse, though, with the lady’s left arm almost in the man’s back pocket.

For any of this to make any sense, a man must know the importance of using his right arm to guide the woman around the floor in the confines of the embrace. He must know how to embrace. A woman must care about the way she looks and have a sense of aesthetics. She needs to understand the difference between loving tango and loving herself at the expense making a mockery out of the embrace. Of course, both dancers must care about dancing tango and everything that means.

The way couples embrace to dance the tango is what gives the dance that unique look of passion, connection and intimacy that appeals to the eyes and to the senses.

Beyond the subjective nature of those adjectives, there is a substantive purpose for one of them. Connection. Without connection there is no passion, there is no intimacy, there is no tango.

The tango is a dance of embrace. The arms have to say, “I’m embracing you.”

Classical vals cruzado   2 comments

Classical vals cruzado

As the new year got underway, two devastating pieces of news shook the very foundation of the tango world. Within hours of each other, in the early hours of January 7, Tete Rusconi and Osvaldo Zotto passed away. Tete, two days short of his 74th birthday was an icon of the milongas porteñas where his lively dancing style was the favorite of many local and foreigners. Osvaldo was barely 46 and still at the top of his form.There are many things that can be said and remembered about these two great dancers, but their particular way to dance the vals cruzado made them special among those who venture beyond the safe confines of the steady beat of the tango, into the exhilarating gliding of the vals criollo.

As a humble way to honor their memory, we scheduled two consecutive workshops reviewing elements favored by both Tete and Osvaldo. Here are the video notes of the first workshop held in New Orleans on January 13.


This is the second workshop held in New Orleans on January 20.


Tools for improvisation, Session 1   Leave a comment

On Thursday nights we teach a group lesson in New Orleans. Our approach is to provide our students with an understanding of the concept of tango improvisation to enable them to own the material they learn. We run the lessons in a four week cycle. In the first class of the cycle we introduce a set up combination, then we proceed to develop a different continuation every week.Here is the set up for the first week ending with a calesita, salida and resolution.


Here is the second week where after the set up, we use a circular cross feet salida to resolve and end the sequence.

Here is the third week where after the set up, we use a corkscrew and a circular cross feet salida to resolve and end the sequence.

Here is the fourth week where after the set up, we use a lapiz, a circular salida, an a planeo to create another mirror position.

Posted September 30, 2009 by Alberto & Valorie in Gotta Tango

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Book launch/signing party in New Orleans   Leave a comment


After a long and anxious wait, the first shipment of the special edition of GOTTA TANGO has arrived in New Orleans! What a pleasure it is to see our photos on the cover. They are are beautiful! The publisher reluctantly agreed to print the special edition after going ahead against our objections to using young models to appeal to young college students. An unfortunate case of corporate arrogance.

But we are so excited! After nearly 4 years, we finally have the fruits of our labor in our hands! So now it was time for the book signing/book launch party…

We picked a Sunday afternoon (5 PM-8 PM), when there wouldn’t be a conflict with other tango activities, and folks from out of town might be able to come from Baton Rouge, Florida, and Mississippi.

Gracious hosts and tango dancers Edwin and Barbara Beckman offered their beautiful home in the Garden District for the occasion and we got the word fairly quickly. The house has just undergone major renovations and it was a pleasure to be part of one of the very first social gatherings in it.

The one thing we had not planned, was the torrential rain that poured since early in the morning. Sunday, November 25 witnessed the worst, wettest weather we have seen in New Orleans in a long time.

The hardy souls who braved the worst, wettest weather we have seen in New Orleans in quite a while were rewarded with readings by the authors, live tango music, played in piano rendition by Amassa Miller, the well known New Orleans musician, and a warm and friendly gathering of tango dancers and supporters from New Orleans and beyond.

Alberto read first from the foreword of the book, written by Acho Manzi, describing the historical circumstances that contributed to the establishment of tango in the 20th century.

Notably, he writes, “Credit for this (e.g. global explosion) is often given to the most glamorous catalysts in the form of tango shows and tango movies. But a more grassroots influence exists in the form of a handful of protagonists who preserve and foster the tango for the love and respect of it. Two such persons come in the names of Alberto Paz..and Valorie Hart… Through their exploration, Alberto and Valorie have made the dance form something teachable by expanding on old ideas and codes that permeated the world of tango when they and others found it languishing for lack of interest and understanding.

Valorie then read from the acknowledgments…”What Katrina did to New Orleans and our four months in exile played a fundamental role in the way this book went through an epiphany of sorts…

What a difference the year after Katrina made in our lives. We like to think that it happened to us for a reason – that after our four month tour, teaching with a passion and inspiration that we had not experienced before, we wrote a better book….” and from the introduction, “There is something so human about the Argentine tango that grabs a primal instinct for human connection, to hold and to be held. All over the world, people are dancing this dance of the people of Buenos Aires with a passion that has been compared to a healthy addiction.

In the blackened, wind swept evening, last night’s attendees were held, and connected in a circle of light, with the love, and lovers of tango at its center.