Antonio Goncalves, Java Developer on Tango Dancing & Music

What I love the most about Tango Dancing is the particular connection between the two dancers: the way you need to improvise, the rhythm that constantly changes, and the entire aesthetic of the dance itself. To achieve that connection, you need to listen to your partner and adapt to her dancing level, her body, and her movements. This magic relationship between the two dancers is what’s most important in Tango.

My name is Antonio Goncalves and I am a senior Java developer. This means that I spend most of my time coding in front of a computer for my customers. But because I like to share my passion with the community, I am the creator of the Paris Java User Group, Devoxx France, and Voxxed Microservices conferences. I am also part of a French technical podcast called Les CastCodeurs. I’ve written a few Java books and used to teach programming at university. I’m doing all that while loving and taking care of my two girls. I come from a Portuguese background, but I was born in Paris – today, I still live in this beautiful city.

My job is my passion. But outside of my job, I play the guitar and dance Tango. For many years, I played guitar in a Jazz Quartet. Jazz is a complex music. You need to practice and rehearse a lot – when you play, you are concentrated and tense (you barely smile, to be honest). After playing so many years with the same band members, an alchemy started to appear. You don’t know why, you don’t know when, but sometimes during a short moment, the band is in total osmosis. It is a feeling that words can’t express; you need to feel it. And most importantly, Jazz is all about improvising and taking risks; sometimes your improvisation is good, sometimes it’s terrible. That’s because you give so much of yourself that you need to be fully available to play the right notes … and the right silences. As Keith Jarrett says, “Silence is the potential from which music can arise”. I am passionate about music in general, but there is a form of universal beauty that I only find in Jazz.

Looking at my other hobby, I’ve always been interested in dancing. A long time ago, I spent a year doing general dancing classes where I discovered rock, valse, chacha, paso doble, and swing. But I gave up. Years later, my Latin roots took me to Flamenco. I loved dancing Flamenco, but I was a bit frustrated; Flamenco is a very difficult and lonely dance. I wanted to go back to a style where you could dance with a partner. That’s when I decided to try Tango: a demanding and beautiful couple dance.

My main inspiration for Tango Dancing comes from my Portuguese heritage. In Portugal, we listen to Fado. It’s such a dramatic style of music that we don’t even dance it, we cry it. Tango is the best of both: it’s tragic and melancholic, but you can dance it. Don’t think that I am a dramatic person (I’m not), but I grew up listening to Fado where the singer, usually dressed in black, cries for his lost country, his lost family, his lost love. When I started to listen to the lyrics of Tango, I understood that the main themes where alike.

Playing Jazz and dancing Tango have similarities. Tango is a very complex dance where you tend to concentrate more than you smile. Depending on the partner you dance with, you can have this osmosis where the connection between both is very strong. Tango is a dance where you walk. But if you just walk, the dance ends-up being boring and ugly. That’s when you stop walking. Tango is a dance based on improvisation where you play with the rhythm until you stay still. To paraphrase Keith Jarrett, I would say that “stillness is the potential from which Tango can arise“. Of all the dances, Tango is the one I find the most aesthetic: not just the dresses and costumes, but also the movements that are sober as well as sensual.

I like to dance Milonguero. It is a style of close-embrace where the two dancers are chest to chest and where the leg and arm movements are kept small. In such a position, you can drive your partner with your body more than with your arms.

I take Tango lessons at a Latin-dance school with a fantastic teacher (Sylvain). His technique is very subtle. Basically, he teaches us to take it easy: don’t impose your partner any movement but instead suggest it with your body. “Stop. Just stop and breathe.” Stillness is part of the dance which brings slowness and beauty.

I love taking classes and learning new movements, but my favorite part of Tango is being on the dance floor. Imagine going on stage with your instrument and improvising. Well, that’s exactly the same feeling: it all starts with doubts, with fear, with you not being comfortable and scared. And then, you have your partner in your arms, stuck to your chest, you listen to the music, you close your eyes … and then you move making sure your partner feels the information you are suggesting to her. You aim for beauty. This moment is as scary as it is inspiring.

While I don’t see many similarities between dancing and tech, I could see some similarities between playing Jazz music and computing: you follow patterns and you transpose scales from one tune to another. Music is very mathematical. With Tango, you improvise, and computers don’t like improvisation (except for Quantum computers, but that’s another story!). One thing I can use at work, and that I learn while playing Jazz and dancing Tango, is the importance of silence and stillness. Our industry and our technology move very fast. Sometimes you need to stop coding and think of the impact your software is making on yourself, your surroundings, and on our society. Stop, feel and think.

My advice to anyone looking to take up Tango Dancing is to persevere. It takes time to learn how to walk, how to drive your partner, how to stay still, how to improvise. As my teacher says: “Tango is just about walking, but it takes 10 years to walk properly”. But it’s worth it. This moment when you connect with your partner forming a symbiosis and feel a sense of beauty is priceless.

I know the IT community quite well and most developers are passionate and curious: passionate about their job, passionate about science, and curious about anything. Otia Magazine clearly shows that technologists are open-minded people, living in a multi-cultural world and sharing with others. Coding is a creative job. And, when you play music, when you take photos, when you sculpt, when you paint, when you dance … you create. Therefore, a passionate technologist spends most of his/her life creating – that’s the beauty of having creative passions on top of our creative job.

To see Antonio’s blog and Amazon page, be sure to check the following links:

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