Saturday, 25 November 2017

Gavito

I commented briefly on Gavito dancing Pugliese above, and found several links to statements he made about tango. I also found a link to a book, also available as a download and translated into English a few years ago, based on his recollections and on taped conversations in his final years. He died in 2005.

Of course the book is his recollections, his version, but it gave me something of a new perspective. I always thought he grew up with tango, but it seems clear that this was only partly true. Tango was something he grew into. Most of the ‘older generation’ were born around 1935, turning 13 in 1948 when the predominant dance was still tango, but Gavito was born in 1942, which means that he was 13 in 1955. Although tango was still everywhere, the predominant new culture was rock ‘n' roll, and jive was his first passion: his teenage dance was to Bill Haley and Chubby Checker, and to jazz. ‘Gavito was an impressive dancer: quick, agile, likeable, elegant.’ He grew up as a jazz dancer with a bit of tango and the tango slowly came to predominate after that.

But above all Gavito was a dancer. He danced everything he could, jive, tango, cumbia, folk, latin, flamenco, swing, tap, cumbia, zamba, all forms of social dance. Later he formed companies that travelled the world giving stage performances of a wide range of South American dance, but tango became the highlight. He could dance fast, but claims he never hurried. But as he got older he found himself drawn back to the social tango culture of Buenos Aires, the culture of his parents’ generation, and he slowed down until he became known as ‘the motionless dancer’. ‘Tango is what happens between steps’ he said. His dance and his views on tango expressed that older culture.

He claims to have had teachers of tango – Miguel Caló the musician and Julián Centeya the poet – rather than dance teachers, but he tells a great story about advice given him by ‘Old Márquez’ from Pompeya. ‘I never forgot it... At one point when he was sitting down and I danced past him, he pulled on my jacket and said, ‘Kid, with tango, you have to wait.’ I didn’t know what he meant or why he said it to me. Three years later, I met him when I went dancing in Almagro. I saw him and went up to him and said, ‘Maestro...’ He interrupted me and said, ‘Have you come to ask me what to wait for?’ I was taken aback. What was I supposed to wait for? ‘For the music to reach you and not for you to chase after the music.’

He had a lifetime experience of dance in general, spoke a number of languages from his travels, and was very articulate. As a result he became something of an ambassador for tango, and his teaching was greatly valued. A recollection of his classes in Toronto between 1995 and 2000 gives a good flavour of this. He says: ‘When I am on stage, I play the buffoon. Do not mimic me on the dance floor’ and adds: ‘In Argentina you won’t see people doing a lot of steps. In a dance, three steps is too much.’

There’s also an excellent interview with him from the same period, with a lot of insight into the dance, and an outline of his life.

‘Gavito: A good tango dancer is one who listens to the music. R: Is that the only criteria? Gavito: Yes. We dance the music, not the steps.’

He was a teacher who taught dancing, rather than dance steps. He spent some time in London (he was married to a ballerina from Scotland) and organised a milonga in the 1990s and taught regularly here. It amazes me to think there was a time when you could go to a milonga in London and be greeted by Gavito, while the ladies could expect a dance with him. The current worldwide popularity and spread of tango owes much to him. & he also raised the profile of the older generation of dancers - 'El Flaco' Dany, Osvaldo and Coca, 'El Nene' Masci, Tete, Puppy Castello - by inviting them to dance at his Buenos Aires milongas.

It’s unwise to try to summarise a whole life, particularly one as varied as that of Gavito, in a few paragraphs based on partial evidence. I hope I haven’t misrepresented him.

Many of the available videos are of Gavito 'playing the buffoon', but some of the more recent videos of classes, particularly with Maria Plazaola, are excellent, such as this one. Probably the best is the famous 'Nobody can teach you the feeling' video, a good flavour of the dancer and the teaching.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

One-metre Pugliese 2

I’ve edited the earlier post on Alberto Dassieu, changing the embedded video for another I preferred. And soon after I wrote it I discovered that several of the videos I linked to were unavailable in France. I hope some clips Alberto and Paulina are available there: it’s most likely a copyright issue with Pugliese’s music. Fortunately that’s not a problem here.

In any case, that post was incomplete. I started writing about dancing to Pugliese and found myself writing about Alberto. But Alberto didn’t only dance Pugliese, and of course he wasn’t the only person of his generation to dance Pugliese. The orquesta continued to play as much as possible, despite government persecution of Pugliese himself through much of the lifetime of Alberto’s generation. Pugliese was a hero for many, he stood for freedom at a dark time, and was imprisoned for his political views. You couldn’t expect a quiet life, perhaps you couldn’t even expect a life if you were openly communist in South America in the 1970s – 80s. He was brave and he survived.

It was a great pleasure to find a few clips of Pugliese danced by Alberto’s contemporaries. I hope there are more, as dancing to Pugliese is an important topic! I’d really like to find more, but I think the few I’ve linked here give a good idea of how Pugliese is danced by the generation that once danced live to the orquesta.

First, Beba Pugliese with Jorge Firpo. Beba was Pugliese’s daughter, growing up with his music, with the orquesta rehearsing in the house. She still directs her own orquesta from the piano, like her father, and she also dances. Here are Beba Pugliese and Jorge Firpo. & here she is directing the Orquesta Beba Pugliese from the piano in La Yumba.

The late Enriqueta Kleinman with Nestor La Vitola dance to Pugliese's Don Augustin Bardi. There are several other good clips of Nestor La Vitola dancing Pugliese with other partners, all well worth checking out.

Gavito danced Pugliese a lot, but sadly most clips are of his show dance, although he came from much the same background as Ricardo Vidort and other tangueros of that generation. I think I once found a very indistinct clip of Gavito dancing in a milonga in Club Gricel, but mostly you’ll see Gavito and partner on stage in a near-horizontal line. This clip shows him dancing with a very young-looking Maria Plazaola, perhaps around 2002 when she started to dance with him and before he fell ill. It’s a class demo to Pugliese, showing class material, and probably the nearest to how they might have danced in a milonga.

But my favourite Pugliese clip is of Ismael Heljalil dancing in Lo de Celia. It’s particularly valuable as it shows Pugliese danced in a crowded milonga, Pugliese in the real world, if you regard the milonga as the real world of tango. It’s marvellous how they move in a limited space as a single unit, inseparable from the music, echoing in dance its sinuous line and energy, rising and falling back. There’s no ‘style’, no decoration, to get in the way of dance, there’s just music, a couple, and fluent, calm, energetic movement. It’s minimal, intense and beautiful. Dancing the music, not the steps! & certainly the closest I’ve found to one-metre Pugliese.



Isa Negra also uploaded a track of the same couple dancing Di Sarli. I was also delighted to find a clip of Ismael Heljalil dancing a whole tanda of great vals tracks in the much-missed Maipu 444 more than a decade ago. Jantango uploaded a 15-minute talk in Spanish by Ismael, introduced by a short section of dance. A pity there aren’t more clips like this, but we’re lucky to have these and a few more. A real inspiration.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Monica Paz in Europe

Monica Paz is one of a few Buenos Aires-based tango teachers whose aim is to teach people to dance tango - rather than to teach a lot of tango steps. It's not necessarily the same thing. In fact it's probably a whole lot easier to teach steps since that's mechanical learning, learning by rote.

Monica has spent much time in the milongas for many years, and has learned by dancing with a great many older-generation dancers, many of whom she's interviewed on her website. She also speaks good English! Not to be missed.

SEPTEMBER 2017: London, Bristol, Saarbrücken, Antwerp, Hamburg.

United Kingdom from September 4th to 13th:

Date Location Venue Event Time

SEPT. 6 BRISTOL Tango West Technique Class 5:00 to 6:00 pm

SEPT. 6 BRISTOL Tango West Tango Workshop 6:30 to 8:00 pm

SEPT. 6 BRISTOL Tango West Milonga Workshop 8:15 to 9:45 pm

SEPT. 7 LONDON Embrace Tango Guided practica 9:00 to 10:00 pm

SEPT. 8 LONDON Technique Class 7:30 to 9:00 pm

SEPT. 9 LONDON Light Temple 5:30 to 7:00 pm

SEPT. 9 LONDON Light Temple Intermediate Class 7:30 to 8:30 pm

SEPT. 10 LONDON Pavadita Intermediate Class 7:30 to 8:30 pm

SEPT. 11 LONDON Technique Class 7:30 to 9:00 pm

Technique Classes: Pre-registration required, first come, first served.

Private Lessons in London: Contact to Brigitte: brigitte@paris-tango.co.uk – 07818 808 711

Saarbrücken, Germany, Sept. 13th through 20th

Date Location Venue Event Time

SEPT. 14 SAARBRÜCKEN Tanzstudio Fortuna PractiMilonguero 18:00 to 19:00 SEPT. 14 SAARBRÜCKEN Tanzstudio Fortuna Tango is an Embrace Workshop 19:00 to 20:15

SEPT. 15 SAARBRÜCKEN Tanzstudio Fortuna Performance

SEPT. 16 SAARBRÜCKEN Tanzstudio Fortuna Technique of the Movement WS. 18:00 to 19:15

SEPT. 17 SAARBRÜCKEN Tanzstudio Fortuna Interpreting the Music I WS. 13:00 to 14:15

SEPT. 17 SAARBRÜCKEN Tanzstudio Fortuna Interpreting the Music II WS. 14:30 to 15:45

Tanzstudio Fortuna: Ludwigstraße 58. Saarbrücken

To book private lessons, please email at akzentrum1@gmail.com

Antwerp, Belgium, Sept. 20th through 26th

Date Location Venue Event Time

SEPT. 22 ANTWERP Tango Workshop 20:00 to 21:15

SEPT. 22 ANTWERP Tango Workshop 21:30 to 22:45

SEPT. 23 ANTWERP Tango Workshop 20:00 to 21:15

SEPT. 23 ANTWERP Tango Workshop 21:30 to 22:45

SEPT. 24 ANTWERP Tango Workshop 14:00 to 15:15

SEPT. 24 ANTWERP Tango Workshop 15:30 to 16:45

Pre-registration required, first come, first served.

To register to Workshops: buenaires@yahoo.com

Hamburg, Germany, Sept. 26th through 30th

Private lessons available: to book private lessons contact Monica tangopaz@yahoo.com.ar

Monday, 26 June 2017

Good news

It's so rare that something sounds too good to be true and is neverthless true.

From February 2018 the Norwegian budget airline is starting scheduled non-stop flights by Dreamliner from London to Buenos Aires. It will take about 13 hours, which is amazing. Even more amazing - outside peak holiday times the cost is under £600...  Just be aware it'll cost another £25 to put a bag in the hold, and you still won't get anything to eat, but it's still much faster and cheaper than anything else that flies.

Booking is already open.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

One-metre Pugliese

Pugliese isn’t easy. It's often more complex than other tango, and we don't hear it so much. One tanda a night if you’re lucky. Late Pugliese was composed and played more for listening than for dancing. He had a long career: he was just 19 when he had a hit with Recuerdo in 1925, and he was invited to perform at the Colon Opera House after the fall of the military in December 1985.

I was dancing Pugliese with a friend recently, and we started talking. ‘I remember a visit to one of the milongas in Buenos Aires’ she said, ‘and I danced to Pugliese with a local guy. It was incredible. We hardly seemed to move more than a metre or so, but it seemed that all the complexity and emotion of the music was in that one metre. At that time Pugliese was the opportunity for the wildest dancing in London, so this experience really stayed with me.’

I looked at YouTube for examples of one-metre Pugliese. There are plenty of teachers’ demos, exaggerated performances on empty dance floors. I also came across Pugliese’s milonga for Fidel Castro, which I’d never heard before, politically a dangerous composition given the time and place. And I came across some amazing dancing too. It was wonderful to remember again just how marvellous the late Alberto Dassieu was, and it’s so great to remember him with his partner, his wife Paulina, enjoying evenings in an over-crowded El Beso dancing one-metre Pugliese, lost in the music on a packed-out floor. Perhaps there wouldn't have been much point in filming it as there was nothing much to watch, it was a very crowded floor and the dances were quite minimal and private. In fact I don't think there are any clips of them dancing on the floor in milongas except for Marina2x4's clips of them dancing in Lujos, but sadly these are from Alberto's last years, and I don't find them easy to watch.

There are quite a few clips of them giving demos in milongas. Here they are performing at Centro Leonesa in 2008.



Watching him in this clip you could almost sense invisible couples around him, denying and then opening spaces as he dances among them.

Incidentally, I see Marina2x4 uploaded a 30-minute interview with Pedro Sanchez a while ago, and more recently posted interviews with Miguel Angel Balbi and 'Chiche' Ruberto, but all in Spanish.

According to Tango and Chaos Alberto was the teenage protege of the Villa Urquiza maestro Luis Lemos in the late 1940s. More than any other dancer of his generation I find his dance looks taught, even ‘drilled’, unlike the more casual-looking dance of his peer group. I get a sense of an entire system, a social code that includes posture, movement and sensibility, feeling for the music as well as attitude to a partner and to everyone else in the milonga, to society. His dance itself is mannered and still instinctive, intuitive and absolutely precise, full of deep respect, and equally full of enjoyment. Granted he’d danced to Pugliese all his life, which helps! But the movements he and his partners, whether his wife or a student, make, whether on a crowded floor or an otherwise empty studio, are precise, relaxed and at the same time quite formal, and always inextricably part of the music. There's a brief biography of Alberto in Todotango.

From watching Alberto’s dances I get the sense of how significant and how wide, culturally, the tango tradition was. He was a great teacher too, and I think there’s everything to be learned from watching and enjoying these few clips we’re so lucky to have. & perhaps the most hospitable, open-hearted and encouraging person I’ve had the good fortune to meet.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Dancing in small spaces

’It’s so crowded tonight’ said my partner. I glanced around. At a guess there was room for twice as many couples. ‘Not really crowded’ I replied. ‘It’s just that many people use a lot of space.’ I remembered dancing – trying to dance – on a heaving floor at Cachirulo in El Beso, when it was underground-like and really hard to move at all. Likewise at Salon Canning, a larger floor that could be very densely packed with dancers. Then I remembered the garage photo, a milonga in someone’s garage in Buenos Aires! I don’t know how many couples, shoulder to shoulder, happily moving to the music. But where did I see it?

Miraculously it turned up a few days later in the Practicaelbeso blog. I think 15 couples are visible, but that’s only part of the floor. In a garage. It’s hard to tell just how big or small the garage is, but in any case the couples are very close together, and they all look happy!















In turn, this reminded me of a wonderful London milonga, Tango al Fresco, ‘tango in the park’, and how, very sadly, it’s ceased to be run. To cut a long story short it relied on a wooden floor that could be packed away when not in use, and a group of volunteers who worked to set it up in Regent’s Park in June and July. It was very popular, an al fresco tango picnic twice yearly, and non-profit-making as the money taken went to planting trees in the park. The floor was a bit bigger than most garage floors (it had to be stored in a garage when not in use) but it could get tightly packed. & because there was often so little room, dancing had to be close and tidy. It was a pleasure to dance alfresco under the trees with such a crowd, and many of us miss it a lot. I briefly checked out photos of bandstands in the London parks to see if they could serve as milongas , but they don't look big enough. Dancing in small spaces isn’t entirely unknown to London tango.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Good ordinary tango

It’s taken me a while to write about this video. It was filmed late in the evening in a well-lit milonga and lasts between 15 and 20 minutes. There aren’t many couples left on the floor, so it’s easy to watch the people and see how they dance. There are two tandas, the second a lively vals, starts around 10:10.

It’s a typical evening in a typical milonga, perhaps not one frequented by visiting dancers. The feeling is calm, relaxed, unhurried, but still slightly formal. They’ve been there all evening, eaten (many milongas serve meals), enjoyed a glass or two of wine, chatted with each other and friends, danced whenever they felt like it. It’s great to get such a clear view of ordinary people at the end of a regular night out dancing in Buenos Aires. I think none of the better-known tangueros are among them. The casual ordinariness of this milonga makes me nostalgic! It's a wonderful great room to spend an evening in.



Each dancer is different, but it’s what they have in common that I notice. It’s a pleasure to notice how they embrace, often with attention, carefully, tenderly. It’s never casual: it’s an important part of the dance. I remember classes with the late Tete Rusconi and Silvia: even when they demonstrated a step, even a simple side step, they took a moment to settle comfortably into the embrace.

It’s a pleasure to notice how the women step. With many there’s what looks like an almost obsessive ‘collecting’. Why is this practised so emphatically? The energy in the dance often doesn’t come from dancing fast, it comes from the way of dancing and it’s there even in slow tango. When you collect you add a complication, an extra distance for your feet to travel, which means you have to move your feet a little faster and with more determination, and that creates more energy. And, truth to tell, if women don’t collect, they might waddle! & guys too! Collecting brings the feet together at the mid-point of balance. Without it, your partner starts to lose sense of where your feet are. & of course, collecting makes a dance look good, which is important. Tango, whether fast or slow, shouldn’t look inelegant. Taking too many short cuts won’t make you look better. Collecting is the most basic, essential 'ornament'. We learn collecting early on, and it tends to get forgotten early too. If your teachers don’t insist on it, you might need to look for different teachers! It's basic tango technique.

I immediately notice how, almost without exception the men step onto a straight leg. The leg you step from is flexed, pushing the weight onto a straight leg. Watch the clip and try to find anyone who doesn’t step onto a straight leg! Again, this is practical – and it looks good. It’s practical because it makes for a firm and clear lead: a bent knee absorbs the impact of the foot coming down, so the lead is less distinct and energetic. Stepping onto a straight leg also keeps the body upright. If you step onto a bent knee, to some extent you’ll slouch around the floor. That means your upper body contact with your partner isn’t so effective, and your lead isn’t firm. & slouching doesn’t look good! I remember Cacho Dante insisting on remedying the bent knee in his classes, but it can take a long time to change bad habits.

Women are taught to reach back with a straight leg and it looks great when they do, but it’s problematic, especially if they have lower back issues. The main thing is to avoid an ordinary stepping back because it’s often not far enough for your feet to be out of the way of your partner stepping forwards. Also, if you simply step back your torso jerks backwards and down, pulling the lead forwards. The mechanics of dancing in close embrace!

& I notice how the guys stand upright, even when dancing with much shorter women. As Tete used to say, keep your head upright or you’ll get dizzy when turning. More basic technique.

We can learn and practise the basics of how these people stand, embrace and walk, and with care we can dance with the same calm, simple elegance that leaves room for intimacy. By and large it’s a calm, assured and graceful dance. Even when they dance fast in the vals tanda they never look hurried. Of course you can dance some kind of tango without getting these basics completely right, but it’ll look better, work better and feel better if you do.

The general feel of the floor is relaxed but slightly formal. Maybe Buenos Aires milongas are no longer as formal as they used to be, but there’s still a degree of formality, a kind of basic courtesy, which visitors need to take stock of. We’ve forgotten social dance as a formal occasion, and the kind of courtesy that went with it, even though in the UK it died out as recently as the 1960s. Dance to us now tends to be celebration, jumping up and down, release. Compared to Buenos Aires we have plenty to celebrate. But if the music resonates with us and if we listen to it and want to dance to it, we should make an effort to be aware of the feel of it. You don’t get tired of of the music, however many times you dance to it, do you? It’s a great expression of love, joy and sorrow, of feelings of togetherness and loss which are common to us all. It’s worth making an effort to hold on to and practise the basics of, standing, embracing and walking, as whatever your tango is it will work better, look better and feel better if you do. Getting used to a social dance that has room for a level of intimacy and a depth of shared feeling can only be a good thing.

The video is from the latitudobuenosaires channel. There are a lot of videos there, but most of the recent ones are of teachers giving demos. Helpfully there’s a playlist called Milongas de Buenos Aires. Most of the 184 videos you’ll find on that playlist are over 15 minutes long. It’s a huge archive. I spent time on this one clip because it’s so clear, but there’s a similar one from the Circulo Apollo. There’s more to be discovered, maybe even with better dancing. But what can ‘better dancing’ be? The tango in this clip is full of feeling, attention to the music, and graceful movement. Can we ever ask for more than that?

Monday, 5 December 2016

Dancing in ballrooms

Thinking over Carablanca’s 25-years of providing opportunities for tango reminded me to look again at a Guardian article I read at the beginning of the year, based on a book called Going to the Palais by James Nott. It studies the history of dancing in large ballrooms (‘Palais’ as they were often called) in the UK. I’ve not read the book, so I quote the numbers from the article. In 1953 about four million people went dancing every week. It was suggested that up to 70% of couples first met on the dance floor. It was huge. It was the main way men and women met, the main social hub, attracting many more than cinema or football. Not that the dancing was necessarily elaborate. For the most part this wasn’t really ‘ballroom dancing’ even if it was dancing in ballrooms. A witness recalled, ‘The masses are content to shuffle. All they want is to get round [the floor] tolerably comfortably.’ Chatting as they went, of course. The enchanted silence of the tanda wasn’t the norm, but then the simplicity of the dance didn’t require that kind of attention.

In 1960 the business was booming, up 10%. Between 1958 and 1962, shares in the industry trebled in value. 50,000 musicians were employed in dance bands. Astonishingly, by the end of the decade, eight years later, the business had crashed. By the end of the 1960s few dance halls even survived. Most were demolished, a few became discotheques, nightclubs, or bingo halls. It was an incredibly radical change. It’s pointed out that women had become more approachable. Couples met at work, in pubs, in normal meeting places. But the main change must have been the change in musical tastes. Most of those 50,000 musicians lost their apparently secure jobs in a short period of time as the new music developed so fast, and became so popular. & of course the dance changed with the music. Jive, or the entirely ‘hands-off’ Twist require venues, but unlike the ballroom shuffle they were practicable in smaller venues, even in parties at home. Record players became ubiquitous and you could throw a dance party in your bedsit if you had a Dansette. Big formal events were no longer what people wanted. The ballrooms were an affirmation of an all-embracing society, parties an affirmation of small groups.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Carablanca Milonga

Many congratulations to Carablanca on its 25th birthday, celebrated at its Christmas party last night. Carablanca as such hasn't been running for that length of time but it is the current form of a succession of milongas run very successfully by Diane and Danny in London since 1991 at various venues. It's a remarkable record, and we owe them many thanks for their effort to make Carablanca such an enduring success. Many of us took our first tango steps in classes run by the milonga, which has hosted every major visiting Argentine teacher. Ricardo Vidort and Gavito were there, as were many, many others. It's brought to London a vision of a place where people meet, socialise and dance tango, modelled on Club Gricel in Buenos Aires. The quiet formality of the Argentine original has never quite translated to our post-rock'n roll social dance sensibility, but Diane and Danny have worked very successfully to make Carablanca as close as possible to the Argentine original. All of us who have danced there, made friends and enjoyed the pleasure of great music and dance, owe them much gratitude. Thanks, and happy birthday, Carablanca!

Monday, 21 November 2016

Ricardo Viqueira in Cambridge

I recently got this link from a friend, Gideon in Zurich, with info about Ricardo Viqueira's visit to the UK this month. Thanks Gideon! Ricardo will give a series of workshops and classes in Cambridge, starting on Thursday November 24. The details are in the link.

Ricardo is a milonga dancer who teaches in Buenos Aires, and has taught regularly in Europe. I can't say much about his teaching as I've never taken classes with him, but he has a good reputation as a teacher. It's claimed he's developed simple and practical methods for teaching leaders to mark the step, and and for followers to understand the lead. He emphasises listening to the music, and development of a personal way of dancing.

Apart from the excitement created by dancing fast on a small coffee table (will they fall off?) this video seems to show a dance that looks rather monotonous, a relentlessly fast dance to music that has gentle and lyrical phrasing, as if the dancers are being forced to mark every beat mechanically and without fail, while ignoring the lyrical phrasing. This lack of expresion isn't generally characteristic of what I've seen of the Buenos Aires dance. At the same time, he obviously leads with great clarity and confidence, and successfully in a very confined space. If you can learn to lead and follow with that level of clarity, you can obviously adapt to a much more expressive and lyrical dance on a crowded milonga floor.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Today's tango is...

A while ago I heard about this source of tango on YouTube. I’ve only just checked it out, and I find I’ve been missing out on a good source of music and lyrics.

Paul Bottomer is a dance teacher with a background in ballroom, who went to Buenos Aires in the 1980s and studied with Maria Nievas and Juan Carlos Copes. (Separate classes, I assume, since they had their differences.) His website says he won the ‘Grand Slam of Tango competitions’ (he doesn’t say what they were) between 1990 and 1994. He still teaches in London.

He currently seems on a mission through his YouTube channel to ensure that as much tango as possible is available online, in some form of HD, with translations of lyrics and all the readily available information on each track, such as performers and recording dates. Since he studied with Copes and Nievas he must be a Spanish speaker and I assume his translations are at least serviceable. I can’t check them, but I expect they are useful to listeners in general, even if lunfardo experts and historians of tango lyrics might not always agree on the details. His channel is called ‘Today’s tango is...,’ but he often uploads many tangos a day, and not always the well-known tangos you hear in milongas. Yesterday there were five tangos, including two versions of Yo quiero cantar un tango (Laurenz and D’Arienzo). Only one so far today, D'Arienzo's 1966 Virgen de la Serranía, but it’s only 4pm. This channel is clearly a labour of love, and it’s a very welcome, ongoing effort to make the songs more accessible. It’s been going for a while, so there’s a substantial archive of songs and music. There’s also a Facebook page.

(PS: On YouTube you need to click on SHOW MORE to access the translations.)

Friday, 28 October 2016

Juntos

A couple of years ago I wrote about something that got called the ‘secret milonga’. (There were a couple of subsequent posts too.) In effect it was a monthly private tango club in London to which entrance was by invitation. Consequently there was no publicity, and I never mentioned its name because I didn’t want uninvited people turning up there as the organiser would have had to turn them away, which would be unpleasant to all concerned. I wrote about it simply to point out that there is another way people can consider organising tango dancing, another template. It was a private event because that was a way to ensure that the ronda was observed with the same courtesy as in Buenos Aires. You could dance comfortably there all afternoon, no couples would block the line of dance with wild gyrations, or barge onto the dance floor without first looking to see if another couple was approaching in the line of dance. Simple courtesy! Yet at other London events that can still happen, although it is improving. The quality of dance was always excellent, as was the music, it was in a beautiful old hall and the organisers always welcomed you personally as one of their friends – which you were. In effect it was a small monthly encuentro in London. I’ve written all this in the past tense because it recently had to close down. It was called Juntos.

It’s very sad it couldn’t make enough money to continue. Of course it wasn’t intended to make anyone a fortune, but there’s only so much money an individual can lose. A beautiful hall in London doesn’t come cheap, and the booking (midday to 5.30 on Sunday) perhaps wasn't ideal. We are very grateful to the organisers whose ideals were set so high, and thank them for keeping it afloat for so long, and giving us many magical afternoons of dance and music. It’s left a mark on London tango, as has the whole encuentro movement, and people are increasingly aware how essential courtesy is on the dance floor. If anyone thinks of emulating this, I can only wish them the best of luck. It's not easy.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Cristal

The music started, emotional, intense, melancholic. I wanted to dance long before I wondered which orquesta it was, as usual. Slowly, it came into focus: Troilo. Not the familiar 1941 recordings, the emphatic Troilo of tracks like Cachirulo or Guapeando that you know immediately, but later, slower, sadder music. We were surrounded by couples who appeared to be listening to a D'Arienzo milonga: slowed by the floor and absorbed by the music, especially the final track, as if I'd never heard it before, music of great intensity and yearning, I felt we hardly needed to move much. I recognised one phrase: ‘La tarde de mi ausencia’. You have to credit the DJ for playing it. It’s really not party music, 1944 recordings that get played rather less frequently than the earlier, brighter Troilo. I remembered the title on the way home. Cristal.

Of course I looked it up later, and found a translation together with a link to both the Troilo/Marino and the Canaro recordings. ‘More fragile than crystal was my love...’ A bit ordinary perhaps, but the poet really makes it work with the following line: ‘Crystal your heart, your gaze, your laugh…’ Fragility, hardness and brilliance, all in a single word. & as usual the translation doesn’t do much justice to the original: ‘And now all I know/is that all was lost/the evening when I was absent.’ Even with my limited Spanish it’s hard not to think that ‘La tarde de mi ausencia’ has a kind of intensity that just isn’t there in ‘...the evening when I was absent’! The song is by José María Contursi who wrote words for several great tangos we know from Troilo recordings, including Gricel and En esta tarde gris, similar poems of loss that actually remind me a bit of Thomas Hardy’s late poems. ‘Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me...’ Hardy’s poems are much more concise, but he didn't have to fit them to a piece of piano music.

& that extraordinary music? The intensity grabs you from the first chord, and it just doesn’t let up. It’s amazing music of great variety that keeps surprising you, a masterpiece of arrangement and a great performance. There seem to be so many musical ideas in the track that the ending, a few final chords, is abrupt: after all that music you feel it should go on much longer. Tango songs often started as piano scores and I wondered how much of this variety was there in the original. I searched online for the piano version and came across this site which has keyboard versions of a number of familiar tangos, but unfortunately not Cristal. & of course I looked to find who wrote the original composition and found it was Mariano Mores, who briefly recounts his life in music here (an English translation). But what really jolted me were his dates: 18 February 1918 – 13 April 2016. It’s always astonishing when the tango past becomes so immediately present. The composer whose music I was dancing to so recently died just a five months ago, aged 98. He was 26 when Troilo recorded Cristal.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

​Mónica Paz in London, Bristol and Saarbrücken

UPDATE

Mónica's classes at Negracha have been moved elsewhere. Please check with Brigitte, brigitte@paris-tango.co.uk – 07818 808 711.

After a single group class with Ricardo Vidort, the last he gave in London, I was fascinated by the tango of the milongas, and as it wasn’t really taught in London at that time I went to Buenos Aires. After Ricardo, I was looking for teachers whose hearts were in the dance and music, and the Argentine teachers who came over here were usually young ex-gymnasts, ballet and folk dancers who had learned and could teach and perform tango routines but weren’t dancers who had spent much time dancing socially. It seemed best to try and learn from dancers who had danced in the milongas for at least 20 years, which I thought would cover social dancers of the old generation who had started in the late 1940s and 50s as well as the younger generation who learned from them when tango re-emerged after 1984. I took a few classes from ​Mónica Paz, among others.

It’s really good news that she’s back in the UK next month. She took up tango over 20 years ago, and learned mostly by dancing nightly with the older guys, the generation that started dancing in the middle of the 20th century and have a lifetime of experience. Those who are still on the floor are unlikely to visit Europe now, and in any case speak little if any English. ​Mónica Paz is fluent, and a practised dancer and teacher who still dances regularly in the milongas. The tango of the milongas remains the touch-stone of tango, and you’re unlikely to get closer to it in London than in ​Mónica’s classes. Go to every one you can, whether you lead or follow! Dance practice can always be improved! People with a background in the milongas have an eye for details, they notice movement that doesn't look quite right and can suggest little adjustments that improve posture, embrace and walk.

​Mónica Paz is in the UK for the second time from September 6th to 15th:

SEPT. 7 Light Temple, Intermediate Class, 8:00 to 9:30 pm

SEPT. 9 Negracha, Intermediate Class, 7:30 to 9:00 pm

SEPT. 10 Corrientes, Intermediate Class, 9:00 to 10:30 pm

SEPT. 12 and 14 Negracha Workshops.

SEPT. 14 BRISTOL Tango West Tango Workshop 5:00 to 6:00 pm

SEPT. 14 BRISTOL Tango West Tango Workshop 6:30 to 8:00 pm

SEPT. 14 BRISTOL Tango West Milonga Workshop 8:30 to 10:00 pm

Workshops: Pre-registration required, first come, first served.

For private lessons in London: contact Brigitte, brigitte@paris-tango.co.uk – 07818 808 711.

From September 16 to 18 she will be in Saarbrücken.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Betroffenheit, Tarabband... and tango

Betroffenheit is the German word for a condition now recognised as PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, the suffering human beings go through after a disaster, combatants, civilians in war, but anyone at any time. Any of us. It’s the name of a recent piece of dance theatre, which I saw a while back in London. Canadian actor/playwright Jonathon Young wrote compulsively after the death of his daughter in a fire at the family home, recording the voices in his head, the flashbacks, the symptoms we now recognise. At some point he discussed the possibility of a theatre performance with Crystal Pite, who runs the Canadian contemporary dance company called Kidd Pivot. Formerly a remarkable dancer she’s now a choreographer with a very wide interest in what dance theatre can do. & with her choreography, with her group of very extraordinary performers, it seems there’s little it can’t do.

She says that dance is great at expressing emotion but poor at conveying a complex story. The disaster in Betroffenheit isn’t spelled out: an explosion in a building is mimed. It doesn’t matter: the point is that someone, in this case Jonathon Young himself, experiences it, perhaps is accidentally responsible for it or perhaps just feels he's responsible, and we hear his voice in recorded sound as he re-experiences it, re-imagines it. He looks for solace in addiction, suggested on-stage by the bright lights and colour of variety performance, the sequined dancers, the comics. But the voices are still there, and the first half ends with confusion and near-death. This part uses mime, the second part is pure dance, the bodies of her amazing dancers conveying emotion, states, it seemed, in which even gestures intended to be comforting could seem aggressive. At the end there were only six dancers on-stage for the curtain call. I was momentarily bewildered: where were the others? I’ve seen standing ovations at that theatre before: a dozen people stand up, then a few more, maybe half the audience on their feet applauding. I’ve never before seen an entire audience, as one, immediately on their feet, applauding. An extraordinary evening.

I thought again about this while reading the Guardian piece on Iraq-born musician Nadin Al Khalidi this morning. Born in Baghdad at the start of the Iran-Iraq war, suffering then the Gulf War, the invasion and the rise of fundamentalism, she managed to flee to Sweden. Having grown up on the music of Joan Baez and her generation she began to write songs and perform. If you’re in Manchester tonight, or Liverpool tomorrow, look out for Nadin Al Khalidi and Tarabband. Tarab is Arabic for ecstasy through music. Here they are:



What links these two stories is the power of the arts to give a form to human experiences that can be overwhelming by nature. I don’t think it’s catharsis in the classic sense, much more a persistent effort at coming to terms with something. The pain cannot be removed, it can’t ever be dismissed, but with work and effort it may be possible to give some form to the problems, which makes life possible.

& tango? I’m always grateful to a friend who initially visited Buenos Aires as part of a study on how societies recover from trauma, which is how she discovered tango...

(There a quite a few clips of Betroffenheit on YouTube but unfortunately they are fragmentary, and fragmentary clips of a piece that's fragmented by nature don't really convey it, but some of the discussions are interesting.)

Friday, 17 June 2016

Far from Buenos Aires

I left a recent London milonga evening feeling a bit unsettled. There’s often a couple or two who dance competitively rather than socially, for show rather than for pleasure, but it’s rare these days to have four, five, six, perhaps even more such couples. These days most of us at that milonga go out to enjoy a relaxed evening of dance and music with friends. In the ‘nuevo’ days the floor was largely occupied by extravagant movers and would-be movers, but the performance of a similar dance in close embrace, or something that resembles it, doesn’t make it social dance, and it can feel aggressive and egotistic. A milonga is open to all, of course, and accepts all kinds of dancers, but one can be forgiven for wishing that they’d choose somewhere else.

So it was very reassuring a few days later to chance on one of Normarin1’s videos of the Alo Lola & La Yumba de Dorita milonga in Buenos Aires. It’s probably no more or less crowded than a London milonga, but magically there’s room for everyone. Normarin1 focuses on an accomplished couple, who dance entirely for each other and with effortless respect for the other dancers around them. They enjoy an intimate tanda, without the slightest effort to show off how accomplished they are. Courtesy, tango from it’s city of origin. & the track, fittingly, is Lejos de Buenos Aires (Calo-Beron).



Perhaps the real highlight for me is early on. An older guy dancing with a young woman in red appears in the background from behind the woman who sticks out her tongue at the camera, and they cover a metre or two of floor, fast and gliding effortlessly, fitting totally with a phrase in the music. You can’t see the feet, as often happens at milongas there, and your perception is of torsos floating smoothly and energetically, anchored out-of-sight at floor-level.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Ricardo Vidort: list of links

Ricardo Vidort passed away in May 2006. I’m still hoping the website will appear this year, but since Jantango told me that much of the material is already online I thought it might be a good idea to put together links to all the available online material. I hope this will make it more accessible.

I’ve divided the links into three sections. First (of course) links to dance, dances in milongas first. My problem is finding the original link, which I’ve used wherever possible, but I simply don’t have time to go through all the repostings to find which is the first. & I’ve tried to put them in chronological order, but there’s not always adequate information. If any of these links are to your material and you’d like me to use your original link, tell me. & if I’ve missed anything, or got something wrong, please let me know.

After the dances, films of Ricardo talking, and finally links to transcripts of interviews. For these two sections we owe Jantango a lot of thanks, as she's given us a great opportunity to ‘meet’ Ricardo and hear him talking.

This isn’t all the material that exists. McGarry filmed frequently in the milongas, so it’s likely he has more than the six clips in Tango and Chaos, and his recordings are good quality for 2001-4 video in dark places. (In fact he says it was hard to start writing about Ricardo because ‘...there’s so much video’.) I know of two private sources which haven’t been made public for various reasons, and there’s certainly more from his teaching tours of the USA. However, I think these links to material that’s already available give us an excellent picture of Ricardo and his dance and I hope this collection will be useful. I used to think there wasn’t much material and I was surprised how long this list became! There are seven clips of Ricardo dancing in milongas, in addition to the demos and some wonderful videos of him talking, so it is an extensive and valuable archive.

1) As an introduction, here’s Muma talking about Ricardo (with subtitles). Muma danced and taught with Ricardo for a number of years. This is a four-minute extract with subtitles from Jantango's 24-minute interview with Muma for those who can follow castellano, as it's without subtitles. A lot of thanks both to Muma and to Jantango for making this available.

(Updated 30/05/2016.)

MILONGAS

The earliest and best (I think!) are from milongas in 2001. These are all rather fragmentary and the video quality isn’t great, but the dancing is.

2 Ricardo and Muma dancing Cuatro Palabras in 2001. Sadly incomplete, but wonderful.

3 Milonga Bien Jaileife, Buenos Aires, July 2001 1

4 Milonga Bien Jaileife, Buenos Aires, July 2001 2

5 Just for completeness: Ricardo at Club Latino. This video is from Jantango’s private videos, and this is a copy. However, it’s only a very general view of the milonga floor and Ricardo hardly appears.

6 Rick McGarry’s chapter on Ricardo from Tango and Chaos. This contains six of his videos of Ricardo in Lo de Celia between 2001 and 2004. The text is McGarry’s recollections.

7 Hector Brea, Ricardo Vidort, Oscar Casas, Mary Ann Casas, and others at a rather empty milonga in Confiteria Ideal. Filmed by Ney Melo & Jennifer Bratt in 2003. Part 1

8 Confiteria Ideal part 2.

DEMOS

9 These two videos are from an event at Centro Leonesa to celebrate Ricardo’s 64th year of tango, so perhaps around 2003. Ricardo Vidort and Miriam Pincen: this is the well-known dance to Canaro’s Chique in Centro Leonesa. Undated.

10 This follows on from the previous video at Consagrados. Ricardo and Myriam are joined by Oscar & Mary Ann Casas, Osvaldo & Coca Cartery, Ricardo Viqueira & Mariana Hernandez.

11 Ricardo and Myriam Pincen dancing in Centro Leonesa (fast forward to 4:19.)These two tangos are cut into a short film on the history of tango.

12 Ricardo and Vilma Martinez in Centro Leonesa.

13 It’s said that Ricardo Vidort and Osvaldo Cartery were friends at the time they were developing their tango, and used to practice together. It’s wonderful someone was around with a camera when they reprised that practice.

14 Copied from Tango and Chaos: Ricardo with Alexandra Todaro. Worth including here because it loads faster than on the site. YouTube wasn’t available pre-2005 when McGarry was developing his site.

15 Part of this is from Tango and Chaos, but this particular version is longer. Ricardo dancing with Alejandra Todaro, and teaching (presumably) Rick McGarry.

16 Ricardo and Anna Maria Ferrarra dancing in Rome. An extended video, with two tangos and two milongas. Probably 2004-5.

17 Ricardo and Liz Haight: Poema

18 Ricardo and Liz Haight(?): Tigre Viejo

19 Ricardo and Liz Haight: Denver 2005 This seems to be the same dance as in the previous video but from a different camera. Poor quality film, with bleached-out colour.

20 Ricardo with Jessica Grumberg. Orquesta Tipica Victor, 'Negro'. A class or practice rather than a demo.

21 Ricardo and Jill Barrett August 2004 in Southampton I think.

22 Ricardo and Jill Barrett August 2005.

23 Finally, a compilation Myriam Pincem posted two years ago. It starts out with a demo in Centro Leonesa that I hadn’t seen before. It’s a new video to me, but unfortunately it’s quite badly filmed, very dark, and the dancing is obscured by captions telling us that it’s Ricardo dancing with Myriam.

This is followed at 1:50 by what might be another version of the marvellous Chique, Ricardo with Myriam in Centro Leonesa. I’m not sure. It includes Ricardo and Myriam entering the floor, so it’s a more complete version than the version posted by chrissjj which I linked to above (no. 9). Otherwise, it’s generally poorer quality, so it could be from another camera. Oscar Casas posted the video of the group demo which followed Ricardo and Myriam dancing Chique that evening (no. 10), so it’s possible that the version Myriam posts here is different and comes from him. Chique is followed at 5:39 by the demo I’ve posted as no. 10 above.

VIDEO CONVERSATIONS

24 Jantango’s marvellous 17-minute recording from 2001 of Ricardo talking about tango… and life.

TRANSCRIPTIONS

25 Jantango’s 2003 transcript of Ricardo talking about his life in tango. Previously published December 2003 in El Once Tango News.

26 Jantango’s transcript of Ricardo talking about tango as therapy. Previously published in September 2004 (Issue 44) in El Once Tango News (London) by Paul Lange and Michiko Okazaki.

27 An entry in Jantango’s blog: Ricardo talking about dancing in a milonga.

28 Another entry in Jantango’s blog, Ricardo again talking about dancing in a milonga. Previously published December 2004 (Issue 45) in El Once Tango News (London) by Paul Lange and Michiko Okazaki.

29 Jantango’s transcript of Ricardo talking about tango a month or so before he passed away.

30 The last conversation: Ricardo talking at the end of his life. This was made at the hospice in New Mexico where he died, by Camille Adaire RN who was putting together a documentary called Solace: the Wisdom of the Dying. This is a link to the full documentary.

31 Finally, as a summary, the video tribute to Ricardo, put together by Oscar Casas and others.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Carablanca and the Guardian

Some good sense about social tango has appeared in a national newspaper. An article in the Guardian about social dancing features Carablanca (the milonga, not the horse). It isn’t without errors (the milonga isn’t called La Carablanca, it offers good beginners classes rather than ‘tasters’, and it’s as laid-back as anywhere else about same-sex couples even if there may be fewer of them) but it’s great that a visitor notices that social tango is more about inner experience than outward appearance, and in reported conversations dancers say the experience of connection is what really matters to them. It’s great because people usually think of tango as outward show: nothing wrong with that, but a crowded social dance floor just isn’t the place for it.

A few days later the same paper published an article on actor Don Cheadle and his forthcoming film about Miles Davis, Miles Ahead. Don Cheadle is also a musician, and he comments on the experience of playing with a group of musicians: ‘I just love the experience of sitting in a room with people who can play... The fun of all these disparate voices coming together, all different walks of life, all different socioeconomic whatever, then you start playing music and all of that goes away... Everybody’s following, but nobody’s following. Everybody’s leading, but nobody’s leading. It’s an experience that’s unlike anything outside it. That’s the most fun I’ve ever had doing anything.’ All of which sounds familiar, but perhaps it’s not really surprising that the words of a musician describing improvising jazz echo the experience of dancers improvising tango.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Tango and copyright

Many thanks to Anon for the following comment:

'The linked pirate site indeed has a huge archive, but the legality of the stored material is strongly questionable to say the least.

I'd rather support folks who put in serious effort to transfer, preserve and (legally) sell tango music, such as those at Tango Tunes.

Or, if you'd want to recommend free (but still legal) way of spreading of Argentine tango music, how about linking tango radios, such as Argentine Tango Radio?'

You allege this is a pirate site: can you show that? I only know it has been online for some years. When I revisited it recently I assumed it would have been taken down long ago if the content is illegal.

I'm not sure how copyright works. I think in British copyright law copyright on music expires 50 years after recording. I seem to remember the Beatles 'Love me Do' came out of copyright a few years ago, and some aging rockers moaning about losing an income. However, it seems that if a record company has re-released the music, they (but presumably not the recording artist?) retain the copyright for another 50 years. I believe Argentine law used the same 50-year copyright period, and a few years ago this was extended to 70 years. I heard there's been opposition to this change, and a legal challenge on the grounds that the music (presumably tango) was already in the public domain, and had been taken back by private owners – presumably meaning the record companies.

& what is the position of people like Ignacio Varchausky in Buenos Aires, who is digitising tango, and putting high-quality tango on sale? Can he do that legally, if the tracks are already claimed by a company?

I'll add a few more links below. I'm glad to have a good collection of CDs, mostly from stores in Buenos Aires but some bought online here, and I enjoy the excellent quality. At the same time, I'd resent it if the music has become a corporate asset, to be exploited for the benefit of shareholders who most likely know and care nothing for it. People talk about protecting the performers in their old age, but I'm not sure if tango performers have ever been entitled to royalties from record sales, although one would certainly hope so. Performers now have contracts which include royalties, but I'm not sure if that would have been the case in Argentina 60 or 70 years ago.

Personally, I think the principle of 'public domain' is a great one and Project Gutenberg, a massive archive of free downloads of out-of-copyright books, is a wonderful affirmation of it. Scanned and proof-read by volunteers, it's maintained on donations. You can go into a bookstore today, and buy a brand new, legal copy of, say, a Dickens novel. I'm sure you can buy a legal download online too. But the same material is there in the archive, free, and also legally.

http://www.milonga.co.uk/ (great catalogue and excellent advice)

http://www.freshsoundrecords.com (El Bandoneón series)

http://www.buenosaires.gob.ar/la2x4 (Buenos Aires tango radio)

http://www.tangovia.org/ingles/coleccion.htm (Tango Digital Archive: Ignacio Varchausky's great project to digitise and make available tango recordings.)

(& of course there's plenty more...)

Monday, 18 January 2016

Endre's comment

Thanks to Endre for this recent comment on my previous post on tango in London: 'Our community in Budapest somehow has the same symptoms you've just described. Related to the beginner leader drop out I use a simple but effective approach. It helped me and it helped some of my friends being desperate.' Thanks, and welcome, Endre! Good to hear from you. I'll try and add your blog to my Tango blog list, but I've had problems with that recently.

He links his comment to a post on a tango blog, Endretango, I hadn't noticed before. Endretango's native language may be Hungarian, but the blog is available in English, French and Spanish, and the English version is excellent. He advocates making a dance with an unknown partner a necessary part of every milonga evening. I already do this as much as I can, and I think many of us do it, but I've never thought of writing about it here, so thanks for putting it into words! I don't make it a rule, but I like to do it, of course. & why not, when you see the ladies standing waiting hopefully for a dance? I've had great dances and made new friends like that. After all, one of the great things about tango is that you can have an amazing dance with someone you've not met before.

(I should have made it clear in my post on London tango that I don't go to all the milongas, so when I said I didn't notice less experienced guys turning up, I was referring to a limited number of milongas. I hope those guys are are out there and busy on other floors.)

Endretango has a link to El Tango y sus Invitados, Tango and Guests, a site I'd visited before but never explored. It's difficult to navigate and I can find it only in Spanish, but it has links to a huge resource of music, including the collected recordings of Pedro Laurenz (it seems there are more early recordings than those available on the two usual CDs), Miguel Caló, Fresedo, Di Sarli, D'Agostino, Tanturi and D'Arienzo (a massive 998 tracks apparently) and many others. Working out how to use it isn't easy, and the downloads are in a compressed .RAR format, which might need another software download to decompress, but there's a lot of music at the end of it all, in .mp3 format at between three and four Mbs per track, which is reasonable. Having said that, we may well already have and know the tracks we really want to listen and dance to. The late tracks of Caló with a bouncy electric bass, and of Fresedo in stereo, are more like curiosities, but I've found excellent tracks from the earlier period that I wasn't aware of. (There again, that's probably an indication of my limits!) But when you hear one of those tandas that sound familiar but you can't place, you might find it easier to identify it as, say, Fresedo, but slightly earlier or later than the usual tracks.

The downloads include a discography for some of the artists, so it is a really useful archive. But I'm not sure I'll know what to do with 998 tracks of D'Arienzo! That's about two days non-stop listening...

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Thinking back

The year-end is a time for thinking back, and I've been talking with friends about their impressions of this last year in London tango. A major mid-week milonga, the Dome, closed this year, and I suspect others aren't doing well. Is tango here beginning to decline?

People often say there are too many events, and looking at the excellent London Tango Calendar, which covers mainly central London milongas, it's obvious there's plenty to keep us busy. On Wednesdays and Thursdays there are normally three events, and on Sundays five. On some Sundays there are as many as seven.

The Dome had been operating for 16 years, and was part of tango memory for many of us, but it hadn't been doing well recently, made worse by unhelpful moves by the landlord, the pub downstairs. Tango events don't sell beer like other dance events, and the management eventually decided to promote the beer. It's hard to say why it hadn't been doing well recently, but with three other events that evening, there were alternatives. It was a spacious but run-down venue, and when I first stumbled round the floor there, 'floorcraft' meant making sure your partners heels never went near any of the dozen-or-so holes in the floor. The floor was repaired, and it was a friendly place, but never particularly attractive.

One friend pointed out that there are now more milongas outside central London (we're beginning to see our own barrio milongas!) and also outside London itself. These aren't covered in the above listings. A few years ago you probably had to come into central London to dance, and you probably still do if you want the best music and dance, but you might well find local alternatives now. The scene is less centralised.

A very noticeable change is that a few years ago there was a highly organised conveyor belt bringing young, athletic teaching couples from Buenos Aires on teaching tours of the UK. This has disappeared. To judge by the Tango UK listings, most of the teaching here is now by local residents, some of course from Argentina. It costs a lot to bring teachers over and money has been tight recently, and perhaps people feel more confident about their dancing: these days we're more likely to feel we can manage on the floor without regular classes, and that we can get through an evening without a pre-milonga class and the additional help of meeting everyone beforehand. &, of course, the visitors tended to teach some form of 'tango fantasia', which was far removed from the reality of how people actually dance when they go out now.

A further good sign: one friend pointed to a number of excellent young women dancing now. This is certainly true, and it's a great sign. On a few occasions this year I've danced with young women I hadn't seen before, and I've enjoyed some great dances; thank you! Their musicality is assured, their posture and embrace are good, and they've learned to move well. However, I haven't really noticed the excellent new younger men who they'd no doubt like to dance with, but that's tango. It's always likely to take men longer than women to get to a level where they can feel confident on the floor, even if they are interested in the first place. As ever, many start out but there are many drop outs, too. But at least a lot of teaching is more geared to social dancing now, and newcomers are less likely to be misled into trying to master stuff that's not much use to them on the floor.

London tango has improved a lot, and at its best it's become much more recognisably social tango. It's no less popular, although it's still a niche in the general dance scene. Evenings of good music are appreciated more than ever, and the dance seems to be settling down here. But milongas will die away if they don't entirely satisfy their customers and if there are alternatives: it's just a natural part of growth. The music has to be good, the venue has to be adequate and accessible, the time of day has to be right (particularly at weekends), the day of the week needs to allow space in the schedule, the particular type of milonga needs to find enough supporters. Given central London rents on top of that, it's tough going for organisers of regular events. Good luck to them!

& best wishes to the entire tango community for many wonderful tandas in 2016!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Podestá Godoy, cantores



This is the trailer for a recent 50-minute documentary with English subtitles, featuring conversations with two great singers of the golden age, Alberto Podestá and Juan Carlos Godoy. I saw it recently in London. Of course, sadly Podestá died just a few weeks ago, so a film in which he recalls his life, the music he made and how it was made is timely, and a great tribute to a very remarkable voice. He's extraordinary in this film, with a clear memory for the details of his recordings. & one moment he's a warm, friendly 91 year-old man and then suddenly, apparently without even drawing a breath, this voice emerges from him, as if it doesn't physically come from his lungs and larynx but directly from his heart. In the film it's recognisably the voice of Podestá, and the strain of singing complete tangos for recent public performances may not have been easy on his voice.

Godoy's conversations focus less on his music and singing, and more on some of his escapades, including an invitation to the ranch of Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar. But these two interviews give a great insight from the heart of tango at its greatest time.

It's a beautifully made film, well directed and well edited, and it's great that films like this are made while these people are still with us. It came from the Buenos Aires company laisladigital, a prolific producer of short films and commercials, including a number of tango films. One of the first Laisladigital films was the film on Tete Rusconi, A volar señores, un vals para Tete, a shortened version of which they've uploaded to YouTube.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Muma teaching Ricardo Vidort's legacy in California this October

Jantango very kindly passed on a link to some videos of Muma's visit to the US in October. There's a long radio interview, and several tracks of performances with Rafael Galante from LA. It's such a pleasure to watch Muma dance. There's nothing rushed or over-eager about her dance: it's as if she tries to step at the last possible moment. It adds a particular energy to her movements, and to me this langorous, unhurried way of stepping makes her dance more sensual. Sadly, there's been nothing at all from Ojai or Seattle, where she gave workshops. She also taught in LA, so we can only hope that videos of some of her 2015 teaching in the US will emerge.

There's just one video I can find of Muma teaching: it's during her visit to Vancouver in 2009. There's a short account of her teaching on posture (with a very helpful exercise) from her visit to Seattle in the same year.

The radio interview is nearly two hours, although the first ten and the last 20 minutes are 'filler', and it's split up with music tracks. It's also long because translation is sequential, but it's fascinating and brilliant to listen to. Muma's family background was 'golden age' tango, and it's wonderful to listen to her recollections of the musicians and the dance she grew up with.

This is a general summary. The interview begins with general family background.

00:35 She talks about Tanturi's Asi se baile el Tango and says it describes exactly how tango was danced when she was growing up. (There's a translation of the song here.) Then she talks about d'Arienzo, then Di Sarli. (A real insight into tango as it's heard in Buenos Aires. Essential.)

01:01 She talks about the importance of codigos in Buenos Aires, but implying that courtesy and respect should be followed generally. Cabaceo as a 'seductive game'. Respecting the dance floor, not barging into the line of dance, etc.

01:11 Talking about Ricardo Vidort, a great description of how he danced. Importance of perfecting the walk. As to the 'eight classes', '...in all the years I spent working with Vidort I never heard him mention to me that he had eight classes'. How his classes actually were. 'It's a lifetime of practice.'

01.24 Other people she danced with.

Of course, there's more. Ojai's advance advertising highlighted the '8 lessons' as the topic of Muma's workshops, but Muma herself says in the interview that they didn't exist in a precise form, and their later publicity toned it down to the teaching of 'La esencia of Ricardo Vidort'. She explains that he believed in teaching walking and some basic material, which could be taught in six, eight, ten classes. After that it was up to those who learned from him to go out and create their own tango from these fundamentals. She also says that he wasn't the kind of teacher who wanted to claim students and get them coming back to him again and again. You need to be pointed in the right direction, but after that it's up to you to work on it.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Alberto Podestá

Sad news that the great singer died a couple of days ago. Aged over 90, he sang with Caló at age 16, then for Di Sarli, Fancini-Pontier and Laurenz among others, and he was still singing until recently. I heard him in Porteño y Bailarin a few years ago. He performed with two guitars, a format going back to the early tangos of Gardel. Of course his voice had changed, but his emotional directness was intact. It was an astonishing evening. I have a rather poor video of the event, but it does give a flavour.













I'll have his Percal with Caló on a loop all day.



P.S. There's short clip of Podestá talking about singing and his life here.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

On your axis?

I remember this as one of the rules taught when tango was danced open or partly open. But does it apply to tango danced close? I'm not sure that it does. I see couples on the floor who start their close-embrace dances standing completely upright, toe-to-toe. It looks awkward and stiff. Dancing on your axis, upright, makes perfect sense in open tango, but it looks uncomfortable when you dance close. I think it's a hangover from a different kind of tango, like the 'open V' embrace of the same era.

There's a teaching film by the late Tete Rusconi and Silvia Ceriani in which they say that '...the two bodies have one axis'. In other words it's a shared, rather than an individual axis. They illustrate it with that familiar gesture, the hands in prayer with the palms separated. Ricardo Vidort uses the same gesture (at 2:40) – it's the 'apilado mudra' – to illustrate the tango embrace. This shared axis, rather than two separate, individual axes, is much more practical in close embrace. Both films give clear and useful advice on the embrace.



(With thanks to Tangocaffe.)

I really like this photo. The colours are natural, good natural daylight, no obvious flash. It's a dynamic moment, Tete just stepping forward and Rosanna Remón about to shift to her left foot, their toes well behind a shared axis, which is almost visible: you could draw a line down the middle. It looks as if there's an exact symmetry of dynamic and energy, and nothing exaggerated or pretentious about it. Both are very upright in the torso. The curve in Rosanna Remon's lower back is beautiful, although it's not something many can achieve readily after the age of 11 or thereabouts. Sitting badly a lot changes that inward curve, and many of us end up slouched: the front of the body shortens, and the muscles of the back elongate, and the body wonders why it struggles a bit sometimes. But there are strategies to help re-align the body.

There's no slack in the connection between Tete and Rosanna, they've become a single unit and communicate precisely as one. To some extent they support each other with this position. & my impression is that a lot of the energy in the dance starts from this shared axis. Supporting, to some extent, your partner's weight means you need to step more firmly and clearly: the impression of energy comes from this slight resistance, rather than from just performing steps energetically. Of course, a shared axis can go beyond the point at which either partner alone is in balance. Gavito and his partners must be the extreme example of this kind of total trust, but that's unusual on the dance floor.

I remember chatting with one of the first porteñas I danced with. It was on the crowded floor of El Beso and we were standing close. Then the music started, we embraced – and then she literally fell into me, so I took a slight step back to hold her energy and weight. We ended up exactly in the shared axis and in the closest possible embrace, our feet somewhat behind an individual line of balance. It's a memory of a moment of surprise and pleasure I hope I share with other visitors who've danced in the milongas. Physical pleasure, yes, but also the pleasure of feeling so directly the trust of someone I'd known just a few minutes.



(Thanks to Florencia Bellozo.)

I hesitated a bit before including this video. I think it shows a partner 'falling into' a lead, and the lead taking a slight step backwards, but it's nothing like as dramatic as my description suggests. It's only a moment, and you have to look very hard to see it at all, but I think it's there. His step back clinches it for me, but the camera isn't close and the video quality is poor. What it shows without any doubt is how this distance at belt level is maintained throughout the dance. (Incidentally, the clip seems to have had a section edited out.) Personally I find it easy to start well, but without a lot of attention it all starts to sag as the dance goes on. I have to keep reminding myself to keep the lower back in, and the chest up.

Another big reason for including this is that the lead, Abel Peralta, is another of the older dancers who sadly passed away this year. It's good to remember I've enjoyed watching him dance with Florencia Bellozo, and I'm very glad of the videos that remind me of a way of standing and walking that is so effective in close embrace, and of that energy and enthusiasm for the music. Perhaps the best video of this couple is a long clip, starting with a very tender dance, also to the Di Sarli/Florio 'Derrotado', and showing parts of a vals tanda in Lo de Celia. (The floor is almost empty: I can't work out if it's late and everyone has left, or early and people are still arriving.) There's also a charming clip of this couple dancing a jive tanda at Lo de Celia, an improvised dance that's half tango and half jive.



(Thanks to Marina 2x4.)

Friday, 23 October 2015

Susana Ferrante and Osvaldo Roldan

Good news! Marina2x4 is uploading videos from Buenos Aires again after seven months. She's uploaded some of the best clips of real tango I've watched. ('Real' – that is, social dancing from the milongas.)

Her two clips of Susana Ferrante and Osvaldo Roldan attracted me. Osvaldo seems to have spent a lot of the past few years teaching in Europe although not as far as I know in the UK. Apart from these two clips his YouTube presence is just demos, which are slick and quick, but I get a better idea of him as a dancer from these two clips. It's neither a milonga nor a real practica, it's a dance in someone's large kitchen with a bunch of other like-minded tangueros. It's late afternoon, after an asado I'd assume, dishes and empty bottles stacked on the worktop. Alicia Pons is in the background – maybe it's her kitchen. People are drifting in to pick up their winter coats and kiss goodbye: maybe this was a month ago in Buenos Aires when it was cold and wet. Meanwhile, the tangueros have settled in for a few warm hours of dance. Que placer!



Milongas are more formal, and filming in milongas usually isn't this close up. Here you are among the dancers, and you can see that tango really matters! There's a real commitment and concentration, and it's a pleasure too of course, it's what they love doing. They put into it an intensity, an attentiveness, an energy that we'll probably never match. That goes for all the dancers in these clips; it's Osvaldo's profession, of course, but he's working at it even in a dance in someone's kitchen. I thought of that quote from Ricardo Vidort, "When you dance tango you must give everything. If you can't do that, don't dance." Posture is uniformly good. One thing I can't help noticing is the distance at belt level between dancers, which happens when posture is the classic good tango posture. In the European dancing I see I never notice that much distance at belt level. People tend to dance more upright here.

There's a great sense of the warmth and physicality of the dance. The embraces are full on, uninhibited, seriously close. (A London friend says: 'London close embrace is usually fake: it's a few centimetres short of a real close embrace'.) The camera is close up, so you can see how much upper-body movement there is, particularly in the D'Arienzo, as you'd expect. There's a range of ages, and of footwear too!

& the collision: in the D'Arienzo, the tall guy in the baseball cap takes a long backstep straight into Osvaldo's space. Unbelievable. It doesn't look as if he belongs here at all.

There's a second video of Susana and Osvaldo here. As for the dancing in the milongas, check out this video of a milonga at Lujos, also from Marina. The older generation might be departing one by one, but it looks as if they leave tango in its home city in excellent health.

Many thanks, Marina2x4!

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Silvia Ceriani in London

Silvia, who was partner of the late 'Tete' Rusconi, is in London for the week. She'll DJ at Juntos milonga this afternoon, and at Carablanca, Conway Hall in Red Lion Square, on Friday 16 October, 8pm to midnight. A good opportunity to experience an evening of music from a regular DJ at Salon Canning and at La Catedral in Buenos Aires!

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Muma in Ojai, and online links to Ricardo Vidort








I'll put this page here, at the risk of overwhelming a 'private home' in Ojai, because
 it's a cause for celebration that Muma has been invited to put this teaching together,
 and with hopes that she'll be invited to Europe (and to the UK in particular!) to
teach it here as well. Moreover, the article has a number of links to YouTube, but
nothing new. Incidentally, I wish there were 'hundreds of examples of Ricardo's
dancing on the internet'! Many thanks to Jantango for the link.








Quantum Tango Home

Tango Lab in Ojai:  October 2015

Celebrated Milonguera + Teacher

Muma Valino


— from Buenos Aires —


The "8 Lessons"  

— of Ricardo Vidort —


Monday - October 12, 2015

— at a private home in Ojai —





More Information:

  Tango Lab Overview           Muma's Bio + Background

More Links to Muma + Ricardo           Past Quantum Tango Workshops



Tango Lab with Muma Valino:  Ricardo's "8 Lessons"


Muma & Ricardo Vidort, dancing in 2001
— at the opening of "Bien Jaileife,"
her milonga in Buenos Aires
A classic milonguera and celebrated teacher, Muma Valino visits Southern California + Ojai for the first time ... on what may be her last ever tour to North America.
Muma is master of dancing tango in the intimate "close embrace" of the milongas and dance floors of Buenos Aires, where she grew up and still lives today. The daughter of a well-established tango family, the likes of Alberto Castillo and Ricardo Tanturi were frequent visitors to her childhood home, and her mother was a singer with the orchestra of Francisco Lomuto.
In her own time, Muma has been a cherished dance partner of several of the most renowned + influential social dancers of her generation — among them, Osvaldo Natucci, Fernando Hector Iturrieta, and Dani "El Flaco" García — and with these and others, Muma has helped create a vital "living bridge" between the Golden Age of tango's storied past, and the dance we continue to explore, create and enjoy together today.
In this regard, , Muma is perhaps most widely known for her many years of dancing and teaching with the legendary milonguero Ricardo Vidort, who began as a teenager in Buenos Aires in the 1940s, and passed away in 2006, after more than 60 years in tango.
Like Muma, Ricardo was a consummate social dancer whose philosophy and approach centered on the nuanced interactions and subtle pleasures of the milonga, where we gather not to "perform" tango for the benefit of any onlooker, but to share and celebrate the pleasure of being with each other, moving together in the company of friends and the music that we love.


As a key figure in the "Tango Renaissance" that began in the 1980s, Ricardo was also famous for his views on teaching and tango pedagogy — especially for his push back against those who sought to make tbe dance seem much more complex, rarefied and esoteric than he felt it needed to be in order for us to enjoy it on the social dance floor.
Rather than taking an endless series classes in the vain pursuit of an elusive and hypothetical "perfection," Ricardo suggested that dancers could find more value and pleasure in focusing on just a few key concepts, ideas, principles and techniques — a solid foundation that would enable them to enjoy and expand on a lifetime of tango — dancing, learning and improvising on the social dance floor.

One well-known expression of Ricardo's philosophy was his claim that he could convey all that one needed to know — all the essentials of tango — in just "8 Lessons," after which he would send the newly minted dancer out into the world of the milongas, to apply and refine these insights over time as they discovered and created their own unique and personal "style" — one of the milongueros' highest values.
... Alas, Ricardo never took time out to document and record the many details of his famous "8 Lessons" approach to learning tango.

But to our great good fortune, Muma was there — dancing and teaching right alongside Ricardo during the height of his influence and activity in the 1990s and early 2000s ...
And she has generously offered to share and pass on some of her unique insight into the ideas, concepts and material that she and Ricardo developed and explored together.



Most of Muma's recent visits to North America have focused on Tango communities in the Pacific Northwest — Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, Eugene — where she is a cherished presence.
Muma has a reputation as a warm and easy-going teacher, able to convey tango's nuances with clarity and grace, and who embodies the pleasure and confidence that she brings to the dance floor.
Muma's teaching has been described as "hands on" rather than analytical — less about the mechanics of any given movement or situation, and more about how we can each find and express the deeper, richer and more resonant "emotional core" of our own personal tango.

Please join us in Ojai for this rare opportunity to spend a little time with Muma Valino
and her "8 Lessons" of Ricado Vidort — an invaluable window onto Tango's
rich history, and a welcome inspiration for our ongoing evolution
+ the unfolding future that lies ahead ...




Muma's visit to Ojai is being made possible by the generosity of our fellow dancers and organizers, DJ Ronaldo + Melinda Bread, who are hosting Muma on her first ever visit to Southern California, and who will present another invitational workshop with Muma over the weekend, focusing on Milonga Tráspie and her dancing + teaching with Dani "El Flaco" García.

Overview:  Ricardo's "8 Lessons" with Muma Valino

When: 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Where: 

in a private home in Ojai

Tango Lab:


7:00 - 10:00 p.m. - a Two-Hour Seminar on  Ricardo's "8 Lessons"
          — plus supervised práctica time with Muma

Cost:

 $30 / Dancer * ... (= $60 / couple)




   *   For this edition of "Tango Lab" ...

•    Active Social Dancers
This edition of Tango Lab is aimed at active social dancers in our local and neighboring communities.
To join us with confidence on Monday evening, you should be familiar and comfortable with dancing in a closer embrace — improvising tango in varying floor conditions, to a range of music, with a variety of partners ...
•    Role Balanced
In order to maximize everyone's experience and insure that we have an equal number of leaders and followers, you are encouraged to register and attend Tango Lab with a partner.
For single dancers interested in Tango Lab, please let us know your role, and we will do our best to match you with an appropriate single partner, if available ...
And while "traditional" gender roles are not a limitation — women who lead and men who follow are both welcome — we will plan on keeping to an even number of dancers so that everyone will have a partner throughout this seminar ...
•    Limited Enrollment
Thank you for your understanding that, because of the size of the room, we will only be able to accommodate a limited number of dancers for this intimate seminar in a private home with Muma Valino.

Questions + Registration — please contact:   Stephen Bauer ...


More About Muma Valino

A lifelong milonguera, Muma Valino lives and breathes the most prominent social form of Argentine Tango — as danced in a "close embrace" in the crowded clubs and salons of her native Buenos Aires.
The daughter of a well-connected tango family, Muma grew up steeped in the music, movements and traditions of the dance.
As tango reemerged in the "Renaissance" of the late 1980s and 1990s, Muma became one of the most prefered partners for a generation of older milongueros who began dancing back in tango's "Golden Age." Not only was Muma a welcome presence on the everyday social dance floors of the milongas, she was also a highly valued colleague in countless demonstrations and lessons.
Over the years of teaching with her fellow milongueros, Muma has emerged as a gifted and celebrated teacher in her own right — widely acknowledged as a master of milonga tráspie, the lively "tango picado," and the philosophy + approach of her long-time collaborator, the renowned Ricardo Vidort.
Some of Muma's PartnersClockwise from top left:
Ricardo Vidort, Dani "El Flaco" García, Osvaldo Natucci,
and Fernando Hector Iturrieta.

Above:  Muma teaching, dancing and demoing in the Pacific Northwest, 2009 - 2012 ...
this will be her first visit to Southern California



More Links for Muma Valino + Ricardo Vidort

Muma on Ricardo Vidort
Muma reminiscing about dancing + teaching with her friend, the late Ricardo Vidort.

Muma's Dancing in Buenos Aires
•  With Ricardo Vidort, at the opening of her milonga, "Bien Jaileife" (2001) ...
•  Demo with Dani "El Flaco" García, milonga tráspie at "Sunderland" (2001) ...
•  On the social dance floor, dancing vals with Osvaldo Natucci at "El Beso" (2000) ...
•  On the social dance floor, with Fernando Hector Iturrieta at "Lo de Celia" ...

Muma's Teaching
A video collage of Muma teaching in Vancouver, BC, (2009) ... and an overview of her upcoming workshops, later this month in Eugene, Oregon.


Interviews with Ricardo Vidort
Speaking on video with dancer + writer Janis Kenyon in 2001, Ricardo profiles his philosophy + approach to tango as a social art form.
Transcripts of later interviews — on his life in tango ... on learning + feeling ... and his last interview, looking back when he was in hospice.

Ricardo's Dancing
There are hundreds of examples of Ricardo's dancing on the internet, but this series is from Rome, probably filmed in the early 2000s, before he fell ill ...

More Reflections on Ricardo's Impact on Tango
From a longer article, "The Last Compadrito," by friend, tanguero + blogger Rick McGarry, from his website Tango and Chaos. Earlier in the article, Rick also shares his views on Ricardo's dancing as profiled several imbedded video clips ...
More writings on the idea of "Simplicity" in tango and Ricardo's famous "8 Lessons" approach to the dance ...
And, beginning at 00:34, a video collage of Ricardo — dancing, teaching, chatting, and having fun in the homes, cafes, studios and milongas of Buenos Aires ...



Muma's translator during her visit to Ojai will be her friend Ronaldo. A dancer + DJ in Los Angeles, Ronaldo also hosts the radio program, Tango Angeles on UBN.