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The Organic Tango School
The Organic Tango Schoolwith Homer & Cristina
 
 
 
 

Homer's Road

Dear Reader,

Welcome to my simple tango blog.  Here I will, from time to time, offer a subject for review and comment.  It is usually something that I feel strongly about and can't hold back from expressing my opinion.  However, I am always growing and learning and appreciate feedback - whether it's in direct opposition to my thoughts or in some parallel path. 

Please read, enjoy, and give me your feedback.

Hugs, Homer ;)
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  • 12 Apr 2013 12:46 PM | Homer G Ladas (Administrator)
    In response to a friend's inquiry (thanks Trista), I briefly put together this 'stereotypical' list of 'levels of tango community'...most of it is paraphrased from Clay Nelson's ideas (levels 1-4). 

    Also, I've added two more (levels 5 & 6) and  I've added example cities which are highly subjective and always changing.  Feel free to express your own opinion (especially if I'm way off in my judgment and current knowledge)?

    Tango Community Level:
    1. One person is running/teaching tango, no conflicts, everyone joins in - like a big family (Kauai is here, Anchorage was/is like this for many years now and is bordering 1.5)

    2. More than one person is teaching/hosting tango events but there still is a family attitude, no conflicts (Asheville, NC was here but recently started moving into 3, they're like 2.5)

    3. Free/open market competition starts and it can be very aggressive & unfriendly in some cases...(Chicago continually boarders this level and the next, they're like 3.5)

    4. The community is large and mature enough where folks co-exist even if they have multiple events on the same day/night and there usually remains some negativity floating around or erupting from time to time (Portland is here, SF is here and trying to get to 5, & perhaps NYC too).

    5. There is a governing board or organization, or several schools trying to work together (Berlin is arriving here, Cincinnati was here and may still be?)

    6. There are national and international societies/organizations (like with professional engineering societies) that set standards, govern ethics, resolve conflict, provide health insurance, etc, and otherwise dictate what professional responsibilities are (this may take some time to arrive here but there are signs and interest!).
  • 01 Apr 2013 11:29 AM | Homer G Ladas (Administrator)
    Cristina and I had one of our best performances to date at USF's second tango festival (March 2013).  Here's the link to the demo:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_6Lmipbjl4

    Unfortunately, there was one very negative comment thread (on Facebook) that I felt inspired to post here.  It is one example of the bad side of tango.  Fortunately there are only a few really 'bad seeds' in the tango world.  Most of whom are easy to ignore or minimize...

    Jeffrey Myers · 4 mutual friends
    nice dancing. christina is well dressed and looks great. hmer........no sense of pride.........dresses like he is going to the flea market........
    Yesterday at 10:30am · Like

    Homer G Ladas ...Jeffrey, one day you should look up the definition of 'hubris' and contemplate...and when you're done, we can visit the local flea together. Many hugs, Homer
    9 hours ago · Like · 2

    Jeffrey Myers · 4 mutual friends
    homer.. maybe you have no respect for others .......kisses.........
    5 hours ago · Like

    Cristina N Ladas Hello Mr. Myers,
    I hope that this message finds you well. I am deeply saddened by your recent comments to Homer on one of our performance videos. To say something positive such as "good dancing" and then negate that with a remark on how poorly my partner dresses is simply disheartening. Also, to imply that my husband has no respect for others because in your opinion, he dresses "like going to the fleas market" is simply offensive to me.

    Homer and I take a lot of pride on how we present ourselves as social tango dancers and teachers. More importantly, we take pride on how we conduct ourselves as people, and how we treat other people. We have been in the scene long enough to have seen how the dance has evolved in all of its aspects: movement, quality of instruction, ways of learning, music, and its globalization. We have seen changes, some good and some not so good, on how people perceive this dance and it's dancers. It has been quite a long journey for Homer and I, but I am very grateful for being a part of it. I am grateful because I have seen and experienced much of the growth of this dance and a part of that growth has something to do with the lesson of finding one's own tango.

    I am very, very proud of my dance partner and life partner, Mr. Myers. I have deep respect for the man who has done so much to add to the positive growth of this dance through his skills as a dancer, musician and as a teacher. Most important of all, I have the deepest respect and love for this man who through all this time and for all time, has conducted himself with integrity and honor and has never once "sold himself off" because of what "others" may think of him. A man who is surrounded with honorable family and friends as well. To measure his integrity(not having respect for others), by your judgement of how "poorly" he dresses, is extremely offensive to me. Your remark was made with no other information other than what you have seen in the video.

    Lastly, that "flea market" clothing you saw was put together by him and ME. That is an Italian designer shirt he's wearing bought by me, a custom-made pair of trousers by a dear friend, a fine pair of tango shoes and a designer belt with his signature hat. That outfit was put together with my outfit, the music we danced to, and the event we were at in mind. It is too bad that you think that that outfit is only fitting for the flea market, but I will be damned if I let that remark go unanswered. That remark should have been directed at me also.

    Sincerely,

    Cristina N Ladas-Proud Wife of Homer G. Ladas
    59 minutes ago via mobile · Unlike · 4

    Homer G Ladas Jeffrey, there are many people worth talking to and only a few that are better to just ignore (who deserve no respect)...can you guess which category you belong in?
    41 minutes ago · Like

  • 01 Apr 2013 11:12 AM | Homer G Ladas (Administrator)
    Here's a reply message to a student interested in taking a private during one of our weekend visits.  I hope it clearly answers the question "Why I don't teach a lot of privates while traveling?"  (although I offered a possible solution in the final paragraph):

    Note - The student in-question (who will remain anonymous) was very interested in studying with me and had many valid reasons to show why private lessons are the best way for her to learn.  Here's my reply:

    I feel your pain and get your message. Unfortunately, when I commit to teaching even one private lesson I put a lot of extra energy into it (give it my deepest concentration). When coupled with a large teaching weekend I have realized that it is too much. My main focus is the group class engagement/teaching (and also social dancing - which I actually like to do - performing - which I don't like to do - DJing, playing music, etc).

    I have set up these boundaries when teaching at large weekend gigs to protect my overall energy levels, physical health, and also allow me to focus on other things (practicing bandoneon for one). Please don't take this personally - it is the process of 11 years of full-time tango employment (which has included excess travel and other wear and tear) that has lead me to this decision. I would like to remain healthy for the next 30 years or more...

    Having said that, I'd love to give you more personal input during the workshop and perhaps we can dance socially at the milonga? If you've studied with us before you'd know that we give as much attention (or even more) to the followers (not just leaders).

    Also, I teach privates when not traveling (at home) and have started to be at home more often (traveling only 2 to 3 times each month vs 3 to 4 times each month). If you visit us in SF I (for a weekend or so) can offer you one to three privates (up to 2-hours each spread through 2 or 3 days). I have a long precedent of offering these sessions to visiting students. It allows me to focus my teaching and keep my life balanced...perhaps you'd be interesting in setting something up like this?

    Many hugs and see you soon, Homer
  • 21 Jan 2013 12:34 PM | Homer G Ladas (Administrator)
    This was an email reply to our USF college student club friends (Trista and Josh) who inquired about how to start up an alternative milonga in their community.

    Hi guys, I suggest two paths to try:

    1. Have an event that has traditional music the first half (i.e. 8pm to 11pm) and then switches to alternative music the second half (i.e. 11pm to 1am). It is like two milongas in one. This has worked well in a couple of communities (based on reports from DJ friends).

    2. Have a mixed music event like CELLspace which has 1 traditional set followed by 1 alternative set. This has a track record of several years of success (since 2003). There are also example playlists on my DJ Resource page.

    In either case, you must clearly label what your event is and how the music will flow/change. If people understand the boundaries they are apt to enjoy the evening better. Find the best DJs you can...even if you have to hire two DJs (one that is good a traditional music and one that is good at alternative music). Lastly, there will always be resistance. People will love it and people will hate it, no matter what you do. Don't give us and make adjustments as necessary (slowly over time) to tweak your event based on what your main audience is telling you...

    Hope this helps?

    Hugs, Homer ;)
  • 17 Dec 2012 9:51 PM | Homer G Ladas (Administrator)
    Here's an email interview conducted by Italian based Tango DJ/Journalist "Super Sabino"
    https://www.facebook.com/supersabino?fref=ts
    There are some language barrier issues but the answers are as concise and clear as possible...

    From the beginning : I suppose that your first approach with tango, like for other dj, was with the dance. What inspired you to get into console and play music? A conscious decision or was the result of chance?

    I started DJing in 1999 in Tucson, Arizona, for a group of students who would stay after class for the practica/milonga. Back then, it involved putting 50 CDs in a CD player and pressing the random button. We all had a lot of fun. Nobody knew any better.

    What were your early taste of tango? There are significant differences with the current scene?

    My early tango tastes included Osvaldo Pugliese, late 50's Di Sarli Instrumentals, Francisco Canaro and Juan D'Arienzo compilation CDs. It also included a fair amount of alternative music including Apocalytica, Last of the Mohicans soundtrack, etc. Things have changed a lot over the past dozen or so years that I've been a DJ but I still enjoy a mix of traditional and alternative music.

    Do you remember your first like tango dj?

    The DJ that inspired me the most when I was first developing was Alex Krebs, from Portland, Oregon, who used to travel to and DJ first North American all-nighter in Berkeley, California once per month. Dancers would come from all over to dance until 6 or 7 in the morning. He played a special flow of TTTVM. Back then it worked really well.

    The difficulty of the search for songs on cd often burned, the explosion of the Web and the consequent relatively easy to find in the music. Do you think this paradigm shift has changed the way of working of the DJ?

    Yes and no. It is easier to get good music but it is still hard to DJ well.

    When you build your performance? Long ago, during the journey to the milonga, or sudden moment by moment?

    Normally I DJ on the fly (moment by moment). However, I have many prepared tandas that I can access from pervious playlists if necessary. Sometimes I spend time at home creating new playlists or re-tagging my music. Even when I have fully prepared a play list I still have to pay attention at the milonga and make changes if necessary. I do not like to pre-listen (cue & preview) the music at the milonga before I play it. I believe too many DJs spend too much time doing this and it takes away from really watching the dancers. You can download a few of my recent playlists via my DJ Resource page here: http://theorganictangoschool.org/DJ_Resource

    Have you ever played in a boring night? Have you you understand too late that perhaps the milonga could not give you the right motivation and you could not wait to finish? Do you accept whatever you offer or try to make a selection preferring location and fascinating evening with friends?

    I have made almost every mistake that is possible and continue to make additional mistakes from time to time. This includes playing a relatively boring set-list that may have been popular in Berlin but not popular in North Carolina. I'm always humbled by the first rule of Djing which is to make the dancers happy. As DJs we sometimes try to overeducate the dancers and I believe this is wrong.

    How would you define your style? It has evolved over time? And in which direction? What can influence you in an evening, the audience, the dancers, the acoustics of the location, the duration of your performance ...

    I define my style as a mixed music DJ. I try to find the right balance of traditional and alternative selections throughout the night. Sometimes this means that it's a mostly traditional night and sometimes it's a 50/50 proposition or entirely alternative. Transitions between alternative and traditional sets are also something that I'm still working on mastering.

    Do you prefer playing alone or sharing the night with a / colleague. Generally prefer to work alone, or with friends who you feeling? Or, you love the thrill of experimenting with a colleague ever heard until then?

    I prefer to solo. However, we have an established event in San Francisco, the CELLspace alternative Milonga, which often has two DJs working together in tandem. In reality this is hard work, yet it is especially important in mentoring new DJs. After almost 10 years of experimentation at CELLspace we've discovered a few ways that work well when you DJ with a partner. This includes laying out a flow plan before you start the night and really listening to what your partner is playing to add balance to their efforts or help strengthen any weaknesses.

    If someone asks you the name of a track you say it to him, perhaps suggesting where the CD is included, or invite him to venture into the trouble of searching?

    I try to encourage folks to buy the music that I DJ. To that extent I let them know as much as possible about the song in question.

    the public bother you with absurd requests: what do you do? Are you a jukebox?

    I like absurd questions and often times it's because a dancer really has another question or lack of understanding that you help them satisfy. It brings me great pleasure to gently educate the dancers, and encourage potential future DJs, as long as their having fun and ultimately making a positive contribution to their community.

    Do you like to dance and listen to your colleagues enjoy the selections and styles of others from your performances?

    I enjoy listening and dancing to many styles of DJing from completely traditional to completely alternative. The only time I have difficulty is when a DJ is not creating a nice flow or plays music that is too challenging to connect to.

    Do you believe that the art of “musicalizador” is different for geographic areas? Argentina, USA, Northern Europe, Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean ... or is it similar in every countries?

    As mentioned earlier, the art of DJing is very specific to each community not just continent. Every tango city has it's specific needs and is in it's special place of development. As DJs we have to respect that and try to cater to those needs while gently allowing them to evolve in the direction they feel most comfortable.

    Would you like to have a milonga just for you, furnish it with the appropriate facility to your desires, try to create a wave that satisfies you over to play when you want and create a calendar of events to measure your tastes?

    For me, the aforementioned San Francisco situated CELLspace alternative Milonga, founded July 9th, 2003, is that special place. It a volunteer run, community based event, hosted by the non-profit organization Project Tango with a weekly attendance of 100 to 200 dancers. Sometimes we have fun 'theme nights' that really pull everyone together, creating a relaxed and festive atmosphere. After many years of experimentation, we have settled into a flow of one traditional set followed by one alternative set the entire night (unless we have special live music constraints, then we adjust accordingly).

    The classic point-blank questions you have to answer, you cannot refuse:
    Three orchestras that can not miss in one evening.
    lyrical Carlos Di Sarli (con Alberto Podesta or Roberto Rufino)
    Edgardo Donato con Horacio Lagos, Lita Morales, etc
    Enrique Rodriguez con Armando Moreno

    Your three favourite orchestras, which may also be different from the previous ones.
    Francisco (and Rafael) Canaro
    Rodolfo Biagi
    Adolfo Carabelli (and OTV)

    Suggest a tanda of tango instrumental, a tanda of tango singer, one of vals and milonga.
    Instrumental:
    Argañaraz 2:22 Ricardo Tanturi Coleccion 78 RPM 1940/50
    Gallo Ciego 2:59 Ricardo Tanturi Coleccion 78 RPM 1940/50
    Comparsa Criolla 2:49 Ricardo Tanturi Coleccion 78 RPM 1940/50
    Recuerdo 3:03 Ricardo Tanturi 1940-1950 1942
    Lyrical:
    Canto De Amor 3:26 Osvaldo Fresedo Tangos De Salon Roberto Ray
    Adiós Para Siempre 3:03 Osvaldo Fresedo O.Fresedo - Canta Roberto Ray
    Telón (Tango) 2:48 Osvaldo Fresedo 1938/1948 - Colección 78 RPM Roberto Ray
    Colibriyo 3:11 Osvaldo Fresedo 33-38 25 Tango Roberto Ray
    Vals:
    Un Placer
    2:31 Orq. Los Provincianos (dir. Ciriaco Ortiz)
    Lo Mismo Que Ayer 2:41 Juan D'Arienzo RCA - Colección 78 RPM - 1944-1949 A. Echague, A. Laborde
    Penumbras 2:25 Orq. Juan D'Arienzo
    Milonga:
    De Contrapunto 2:40 Julio De Caro
    Saca Chispas (slower) 2:39 Julio De Caro Hector Farrel
    La Colegiala 2:40 Enrique Rodriguez El "Chato" Flores En El Recuerdo voc. Roberto Flores (Fox Trot)

    What are the three bands or singers you can not stand?
    Miguel Villasboas (most but not all)
    Hector Varela (most but not all)
    Anibal Troilo con Jorge Casal y Raul Beron (most but not all - wish we had more recordings to choose from)

    What is the band most underrated by the general public and which is the most overrated?
    underrated - Juan 'Pacho' Maglio
    overrated - Anibal Troilo

    Your top three nights (in your opinion of course …)
    1. Tucson Tango Festival - alternative milonga - 2012
    2. Portland Tango Festival - mixed music milonga - 2011
    3. Berlin Nou Tango Lounge - mixed music milonga - 2010

    We are less serious: Last night a dj saved my life. The DJ rule is sexy? have you ever had a relationship with some fans and some flirt with your colleagues?

    Just my wife Cristina Ladas ;)

    Many hugs, Homer ;)

    ps. You can download a few example playlists via my DJ Resource page here: http://theorganictangoschool.org/DJ_Resource
  • 17 Jul 2012 7:49 AM | Homer G Ladas (Administrator)
    This was an email response to a young friend & tango dancer/student who is confused about their current life path (their name will remain anonymous).  They are in college and have thought of a degree change or other life change (pursing tango more deeply, etc).  Here's my unfiltered reply...based mostly on my own life experience:

    Option #1: Unless you absolutely know what you want to do in your life right now - my advice is to follow two paths concurrently. Get a college degree and in the meantime (with what ever free time you have left, hours, minutes, seconds) investigate other things you'd like to do with your life (tango, music, writing, art, science, yoga, philosophy, travel, etc). There are many examples of folks (like Cristina and me) who change careers after getting a degree and working for a while. Think of your college degree and subsequent work as your own self financed scholarship fund which will allow you to pursue other hobbies and eventually careers.

    Option #2: If you are in a special group of folks who are free of financial constraints then I'd disregard the above statement and just do what you love to do (or do many things that you like to do until you find those several things that you really want to do).

    In either option, you will be following the process of elimination until something remains that you become. In my case it's a professional self-employed well travelled tango teacher (and budding non-professional hobbyist musician). The worst thing you can do is give up your free time to having to work to pay the bills. At least in college you can squeeze some extra time to do some developing hobbies. Also, with a decent job (even if you will not stay with it) you will make a salary that is beyond average. As mentioned above (Option #1) this will enable you to develop your true passion in life.

    Hope this helps. It's based on my story. So it's more a direct life sharing experience than advice. You, in the end, have to figure out what works best for you...

    Hugs from Holland,

    Homer ;)
  • 01 Feb 2012 10:41 AM | Homer G Ladas (Administrator)
    Sometimes Cristina and I are asked how we've become full-time tango teachers by folks interested in doing the same.  Here's our advice:

    Initial Comments:  Our advice is geared towards folks who wish to become social dance teachers not performers.  There is nothing wrong with pursuing the performance track (from our observations - it's very difficult in it's own way but can also be very rewarding).  In many cases there's a little of each tied into the other (teaching vs. performing).  Some of the most successful full-time tango professionals are good at both.  However, it's important to make an honest assessment of you what you want to do in your tango life so you can guide your developing down the road you wish to take (maybe it's a combination of both?).  Note that being a tango teacher also usually involves helping your tango community grow.  It requires a little more 'reaching out' and 'community efforts' that you may or may not be interesting in exploring.  Are you still interested in teaching tango full-time?  If so, you can start preparing a plan that will allow you to transition into a situation where you can support yourself financially and still keep your tango ideals in-tack.

    In essence:  The act of teaching will help you decide if you want to keep teaching or not.  If you don't start teaching you'll never learn how to teach (tango).  Also, teach with an open heart, open mind, and open door.  When you don't know the answer, refer your students in the right direction so that they can find their "highest level of tango intelligence".  Do not try to "keep" students under your guidance.  By letting them go free to explore the tango world around them they will be stronger members of the tango scene at-large (better social dancers) and often times refer other students back to you.

    Main Advice:  Start teaching (or assisting other teachers) as soon as possible but hold onto your day job as long as possible.  Do it for free for as long as you can.  Travel as much as possible to other tango events, take as many classes as you can, including privates, study with as many different teachers as you can, and practice with as many different partners as is practical.  This process will allow you to network in an organic way while developing your skills for the future.  People you meet will be your future employers, partners, students, or at least be able to give you a great reference.  Above all, dance, dance, dance...

    The more you put into this initial time frame the more solid you will be at the end.  Try not to skip any steps in the learning process.  At some point you may start getting paid but not enough to do it full-time.  During this semi-professional time-period ask yourself again and again:

    What do you want out of life?  What your current reasons are for dancing tango (your balance of social vs. performance interests, etc).  What are your tango ideals (on dancing, performing, teaching, community, the future of tango, family, friends, children, lifestyle, etc)?  Have they solidified yet?  Will they be compromised if you become a full-time tango professional?  When you can answer most of these questions then you will most likely be on the right road for yourself.  

    Hugs, and many happy tangos, Homer & Cristina ;)
    ---



  • 22 Jan 2012 12:13 PM | Homer G Ladas (Administrator)
    Here's another comment made on the blog Tango Voice wrt Cristina and my definition of Didactic...  You'll notice that this discussion includes strong remarks that often times are filled with negativity.  Such is the current state of the tango world we live in.  It's not always easy to stay on the positive side but we're trying our best, hugs, Homer & Cristina ;)

    Homer Ladas says:

    Hi Chris, here’s the definition I use for Didactic (beside it being a familiar Greek word used by both my parents – who are or were teachers). This one is taken from Merriam-Webster (item #1):

    a : designed or intended to teach
    b : intended to convey instruction and information as well as pleasure and entertainment

    Hugs, Homer ;)

    ps. Would like to see a blog with critical comments but without negative remarks…do you think it’s possible?

  • 22 Jan 2012 12:08 PM | Homer G Ladas (Administrator)
        • Hi Folks, here's a condensed thread taken from the blog Tango Voice wrt Cristina and my definition of Organic Tango.  It also includes a few additional thoughts of ours.  To read the full post, please check out this link.

          Homer Ladas says:

          Hi Eric, thanks for your comments. I’ll do my best to distill & clarify what the definition of Organic Tango is to me…as well as a couple of other concepts. Here I go:

          Organic Tango: It is a philosophy that embodies Cristina and my tango experiences to date (which has evolved many times throughout the years). It is not a style but a way of approaching one’s dance and perhaps finding your own style. If it helps prospective students understand Cristina and I as teachers better then it can also be said to be a marketing tool for that purpose. In my experience there are those who get it and those who don’t. So, this philosophy, in a way, is a natural filter for those who wish to study with us and those who don’t. I don’t think I can be more clear, however, I would be willing to sit down and discuss (Skype, etc) the subject in detail…maybe even a web seminar?

          On the subject of Nuevo: I’ve remained purposefully quiet since I have strong feelings about its use as a categorical style (same goes for Villa Urquiza, etc). You may remember that Tete was initially against calling his style “Milonguero” because it had a negative connotation? Gustavo Naveira in the same light initially did not want to call his structural analysis of the dance ‘Nuevo’ style.

          As a general rule, I don’t subscribe to categorical styles but personal ones instead. Having said that, I try to respect the human need to divide things into categorical boxes for better understanding. Also, in final analysis, there are those who dance well in a connected, musical, socially aware manner, and those who don’t. It doesn’t matter what style they represent.

          On the subject of buzzwords: In our personal style of teaching, Cristina and I have assimilated many analogies and colorful expressions. The ones that appear to be most helpful in the memory retention/learning process are the ones that we’ve kept using and building on. We are always very clear that this is our way of describing ideas and that each teacher has their own.

          I hope this gives you a little more insight into (Cristina and) my thought process? Perhaps what we need is an all-weekend event designed to discuss this and many more tango ideas (perhaps following certain rules of civility/reserve)? I believe such a function is long overdue.

          Hugs to all, Homer ;)

  • 15 Dec 2011 1:03 PM | Homer G Ladas (Administrator)
    My good friend and fellow tango teacher Mitra Martin asked me to define what excellence in tango means to me.  

    Here was my reply:

    Mitra,

    ...Excellence in tango to me means the evolutionary (changing over time) pursuit of the mastery and balance of the 4 levels of awareness: Self, Partner, Music, and Surroundings. 

    Also, I feel that there is no ultimate goal but only the process of deeper understanding and knowledge through steadily acquired experience.

    Hugs, 

    Homer ;)
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