by Jackie Ling Wong
Horacio was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His teachers in Buenos Aires were Norma Gomez Tomassi and Ernesto Carmona, who owned a school called Bohemia. Currently, he resides in Miami Florida where he has taught Argentine Tango since 1995.
I met Horacio through my friend, Geri Israelson, who raved about his teaching style. Intrigued, I took a couple of privates with him and discovered several technique problems with close embrace that, once corrected, made me a better follower. Thank you Horacio.
Q: Horacio, you have a different approach to teaching tango. It appears that you don't focus on steps.
Much of the advice you offer is about technique, posture, the embrace..
and you focus on the followers as much as you do on the leaders.
Horacio: Yes. I try to teach my students to dance.
If the man knows how to lead and the woman knows how to follow the lead
AND both share the feelings then they are dancing tango. I don't teach steps or choreography.
I teach technique. If you know technique and follow your feelings, you will create your own combinations.
You must follow your instincts.
Q: What do you teach men?
Horacio: I teach the same for men and women. Basically, a dancer needs to keep their balance,
be relaxed, and try to step in a way that makes it easy to walk. You need to be comfortable in your dance.
Tango is about holding each other and sharing the moment.
People start because they are attracted to this passion in Tango.
Then they forget why they came to tango and they focus too much on running and fancy steps.
Geri: It's not about learning steps. It's about how your body feels.
Horacio knows when you're too tense, your toes are curled, your shoulder isn't right.
He teaches men how to hold a woman the right way so it feels good.
Q: What are common problems that you see when you teach?
Horacio: Usually the student doesn't know anything about technique.
For me, it's easier to start from scratch. It's more difficult to change old habits.
When I teach, I start from zero.just moving together. Generally, men and women are used to dancing alone.
They need to learn how to move together but first without music.
Afterwards, you add music because tango is more than just the physical aspect of moving together.
I believe that when the music starts, the music has a mood, has silence.
You need to dance the music and you have to respect the silence.
Usually people are more focused at the beginning on looking nice than to feel nice.
Dancers need to feel good BEFORE they think about how they look. It's easier to look good AFTER you have a nice feeling.
So her partner may be thinking.she's a feather, she's connected, she's warm,
she's dancing for me, she smells nice.but she might not look perfect.
Q: So the emotional connection comes from where?
Horacio: The atmosphere is presented by the man. It is difficult for the woman to create the atmosphere if the man is not there.
So the man creates the mood by how he holds the woman and how he takes the first step.
Afterwards the couple talks. If the man shows you what he feels and you respond
and then he continues the communication, that is 3 minutes of adventure.
You also must listen. Sometimes, leaders do not listen to the women.
They just talk so it becomes a monologue. That's not a dance. That's a show.
The man should lead with his whole body. Not just the chest and arms.
I tell my students if they can not handle the touching involved in tango,
then they must dance something else.swing perhaps.
When you first start, you may not know how close to dance. Just remember to be respectful.
Some people can get confused and try to continue the adventure after the dance is over.
Others may use Tango as an excuse for poor behavior. Tango is very sexual and the line is very small before you step over into sex.
The difference is respect. A hand touching the back of the neck is respectful if the person receiving it wants it.
There is not excuse because YOU can tell if they do or don't.
Q: Do you feel it's important to know how to lead and follow?
Horacio: I teach by myself so it would be difficult for me to teach tango and milonga if I did not know how to follow.
Of course, I could teach steps. I could just show it and the leader could try to copy it
...but to teach HOW to dance.that's different. So, I try to imagine how women will feel by putting myself in their place.
When I teach, I can feel exactly what is going on in the body. I can tell what they are doing which is against their dance.
Q: I went to a milonga once, and a leader demanded that I change which direction my face was turned.
Do you have a preference for where the follower's face is when dancing close embrace?
Horacio: I don't have any complaints about where the face is. I just am concerned about hair and having a good view of the dance floor.
When faces are turned in the same direction, it cuts the man's view but it's really up to the woman.
Just a little history, when Tango first started men and women looked in the same direction
so that they both knew what or who each other was looking at.another woman ..another man?
Q: Unfortunately, We have to end now because your next student is here. Do you have any final words?
Horacio: Yes. I would like to share that my joy in teaching is watching my students dance at milongas.
It's a wonderful feeling.