Monday, 21 December 2009

Cacho Dante

Cacho teaches 'milonguero' tango. He's easily accessible at his group classes, which are normally three nights a week, shrinking to a single class every week in December, because of the holidays. He has a website. Under 'Recently' there are several interviews/pieces of writing, most with an English translation.

Cacho's classes feel more like supervised practicas, but they are still serous hard work. They start with a good period of social dancing, then various kinds of walking. He watches carefully, suggests corrections. He immediately came over to me and said: 'No, when you step forwards you must step with a straight leg. & don't turn your foot out when you walk straight. It will turn your balance out as if you are leading a turn.' He came back a few moments later and repeated: no, you must step with a straight leg.

It was news to me that I wasn't stepping forwards with a straight leg, but I found it awkward to do, so there was an obvious change. Watching myself over the next few days I realised that what he said was absolutely true, that I habitually walk with slightly bent knees, that this is in effect a slouching walk that throws forwards my shoulders. In tango, that means I lead not from the heart, the centre of the chest, but more from the shoulders, whereas hitting the ground with a straight leg pushes you upright. There's something really useful there: if people keep telling you your posture isn't right, simply straightening your back might not do the trick. You might need to look at how you are walking. Teachers often say: 'Walk as you walk in the street'. But some of us walk badly, so that advice isn't much use. Dancing since that class, I've found that the straight leg makes the dance feel a lot more confident. Of course, knees need to be soft a lot of the time, particularly in turns, but walking needs to be firm.

After the walking, more social dancing, then he teaches a few steps, and there's dancing concentrated on these. To end with, the last two or three tandas are free dance. It's as low key as it sounds, relaxed and useful. & he keeps a careful eye on it all, and makes suggestions when required. Interestingly, his classes seem to attract younger local dancers, much younger than at other tango classes, and it's a friendly group. Of course the classes are in castellano. & be prepared for the embrace: it's instant, trusting and whole-hearted. There's nothing hesitant or uncertain about it, and it feels really comfortable. If you want to know how it looks, try 0:00 to 0:02 of this video. Go for it!

So how does Cacho walk? It's a pity there's only one video of him on the whole of YouTube, thanks to altangobonn. I hope I can post two brief extracts. I wanted to slow down the first one, but don't have my usual editing software. Anyway, it's just a slow walk. &, yes, his legs and his back are straight.

The second extract shows Cacho in movement. His footwork seems astonishingly precise and clear.

I've watched him in milongas, and there's a kind of pared-down neatness about his lead. I keep wanting to use the word 'honest' about the tango I like: there's no pretense about it, no superfluous gesture. It feels like that in his class. It feels as if anything over-elaborate, showy, would be out of place. The dance in his classes is precise and simple, and very musical. From these classes, there must be a stream of wonderful new dancers in the milongas.

I was hoping to have a chance to film him, but time is short. I hope someone else will add to that single video.

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