Wednesday, 25 November 2009

The smoothness of tango

Back to the roots of Geraldin and Ezequiel, salon tango. It should be our 'default' dance, what we do on busy floors, but we hardly know what it looks like. It's OK to film performances in Buenos Aires, but filming the dancing in milongas, especially if you are a visitor, really isn't acceptable. So there's a lack of video of ordinary social tango, which is a pity because I think we can all learn a lot from it. There are good videos on Tango and Chaos, and I've just noticed that Jantango, who has lived there a long while, has recently been filming, and has uploaded several videos of two milongas. This one is at Maipu 444, one of the heavenly realms of tango, in effect no more than a large, well-lit room, with a parquet floor which appears to have experienced no treatment apart from a nightly rubbing by leather-soled shoes, leaving it smooth and soft like velvet. Don't your feet twitch in anticipation when you look at it?

But watch the dancing. How gentle, relaxed and effortless it appears, and with all the energy of the music. Couples dancing for the best reason in the world – each other. Nothing to prove to the world, just enjoyment of the music and of moving in the moment. It's fascinating to watch how they use available space, and how they give each other room: of course, the floor isn't crowded, and the music is slow. It's hard to think of anything else that looks this civilised: little can compare with the smooth, unhurried precision of social tango this good. 'Asi se baila el tango' as the song says: this is how you dance tango.

Of course people who learn 'steps' will say, oh, that's all easy stuff! We know all that! But learning 'steps' isn't hard; learning to dance with the music, your partner and the rest of the floor takes just a little bit longer. Thank you, Jantango.


Mari said...

Thank you for linking to that video and pointing out Jantango's efforts. Your post and her videos brightened my whole week.

Anonymous said...

Ditto. It makes me realise what I can look forward to when I eventually get to BA!

Anonymous said...

Only in the past several years has filming exhibitions in the milongas become common practice. Foreigners arrive with camcorder in hand for that purpose and don't bother to ask permission. Dancers are unaware they are being filmed. Many have never seen themselves dancing.

I want to fill in the gap in social tango videos. Most of Youtube is performance or exhibition tango. Many have never seen good examples of tango in the milongas on a crowded floor.

I know who dances well because I have danced with the men I film. I ask their permission to film them in advance for the purpose of showing the world what good social dancing is in BsAs. These men will never be dancing on an empty floor because they only dance among others. That's the only way to see how they use the space. Performers can't dance the way these men do on a crowded floor.

As you point out, these men dance for themselves and their partners. They are in the moment and have nothing to prove to anyone. Each has his own personal style and an embrace in which women can melt. I know from personal experience.

Stay tuned for more videos from the milongas!

Tangocommuter said...

@ Mari: glad if anything I said brightened your week!

@ londontango: don't leave it too long...

@ jantango: thanks again. & please thank Ismael from us for giving us the chance to watch his tango. There's so much of a language you can learn in any class: in the end you have to listen to native speakers and talk to them. In dance, you have to watch, and get onto the floor.

Incidentally, concerning use of space: there's a kind of 'milonguero orthodoxy' developing in London that says you should never leave the line of dance. Ismael quite obviously leaves the line of dance in both videos, looping off into the centre of the floor, and finding his way back. Perhaps he was aware that he needed to stay close to the camera, but perhaps making good use of the space available is perfectly acceptable. That, and dancing considerately, of course.

Anonymous said...

You can see how the milongueros use the space first-hand when you come to BsAs. Do they occasionally change lanes? Yes. Ismael was using the space as he found it during the brief filming.