Discovering Tango

a few notes on this wonderful dance

Has it really been five years since I last posted here?

That’s because for me dancing since has become infinitely more interesting than writing about it, for example:





Learning the Basic Step

max240 I don’t have a recording of the scene Friday evening when we learned of Georg’s death. We were all struck silent. The band then played something extraordinarily sad. I have only a photo from the memorial service two days later, Sunday, at Max und Moritz, in the room where he offered a workshop and milonga and which I remember for the smell of pork wafting in from the restaurant while one dances, the warmth of his welcome and instruction, the excellent mostly traditional tango music he played there, and the regular dancers, many his friends, who shared his warmth and style.

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Fantasia and the Intimate Embrace


Mostly I want to be dancing and not writing about it, and usually the conversation is likely of little interest outside of those taking part in it, but when explaining to a partner how completely wonderful, but from a very different time, was the dancing I saw of Gloria and Eduardo Arquimbau in New York City last year I learned that my explanations made little headway until I could dig up some youtube videos and offer a demonstration. So now I have something to say.

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Remembering The Figures

pabloymoira260Yesterday I fired up my tiny digital camera and showed a non-dancing colleague a short video from my dance lesson, and she was astonished, asking: “how do you remember all that complex stuff?” I laughed, of course, because mostly I don’t remember, much of the time feel like a complete klutz, and I certainly try the patience of my teachers. But her question stayed with me, and the more I thought about it the more wonderful and wonderfully complex the question of remembering became. I’ve come up with a list of the different ways I remember, there’s …
Muscle memory. When you learn a new figure, movement, or way of holding yourself and practice it a lot, your muscles and nervous system grow to support it: all these efforts, this will to do a thing a certain way, actually builds and trains muscles and nerves and brain. For example, it now seems natural for me to …

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The Embrace

weiske260The embrace, the moment when the partners meet each other on the dance floor, the music begins, and they take each other up in their arms, is a wonderful thing: like the parting of a theater curtain, the workaday world and all its troubles falls away, and they enter into the dance as at the beginning of an adventure.

The dancers here are dancing close, in the salon style, and more intimate than the show dances seen from afar and often with highly-stylized routines presented for others. Some of these show dances are simply breath-taking, and my favorite these days, one of the most fabulous I’ve ever seen, is a performance by Pablo and Dana viewable on Youtube.

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History of the Dance

gardel260Stepping into tango, so I have learned, is also to step into a tradition and since I love history I quickly found Robert Farris Thompson’s “Tango: The Art History of Love.” The book is also a history of culture: of how music, figures, costume, and all the rest have been passed down through demonstration, teaching, and imitation from generation to generation and across cultures. It is quite a remarkable story, and living in Berlin I get to be part of it: with milongas open every night, the “scene” includes thousands of dancers, dozens of instructors and musicians, and everyone, it seems, is practicing: picking things up from their partners, teachers, other dancers, and themselves. Maybe it is because, as a teacher, I might have a special awareness of learning and so am quick to notice it going on, but like most everyone else, my attraction also has to do with being able to be a part of it. This is rather new for me, I think: until now, “culture” was something I studied, read in books, photographed. and so mostly knew from a distance. But with the dance, I am being invited, literally, to step into the footsteps of others.

My First Steps


I’ve started this blog to share what I am learning in the tango with my friends. My name is Bruce Spear. I live in Berlin, Germany, and started learning the tango in March 2005. As luck would have it, I can start this blog with a photo of my very first tango lesson, as you see here, where my dance teacher at Taktlos, Christiane Goerner, dressed up in her Dutch whore costume, is showing me and my dance partner Angela, standing behind me, the basic step.

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