Sunday, 31 May 2009

Insularity

The UK has a reputation for insularity, which I thought was simply an old platitude. Then I discovered tango... or rather, English tango!

Here's 'El Flaco' Dany, the greatest traditional milonga dancer in Buenos Aires teaching a workshop in Darmstadt two weeks ago. Look how good he is! & nobody in the UK except you and me has even heard of him! Let alone got him here to teach. Jantango tells me he's 73, which is only just believable.

So are we insular or not? Don't we need to broaden our horizons a bit? If this clip is anything to go by, we might have a lot more fun.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Grand endings

Reading some interesting ideas about grand endings... yes! that makes sense, and it's nice to have a good ending. But if you watch BsAs tango – check out some of the videos around – grand endings don't always feature. Essential in stage tango, of course, which is danced to be watched. I think what's essential in BsAs tango is connection*: you might have a great connection for a few moments of a tango, for a whole tango if you're lucky, or in some mythic, wonderful world, for a whole tanda.

One neat video somewhere (tangoandchaos probably, but I can't remember where) the couple fit some lovely moves to the music early on, then finish dancing before the end of the music. Whatever feels right: they'd had their moment. You've had a lovely intimate conversation: no need to ruin it by going out of your way to shout a platitude. & grand endings aren't inevitable in the music either: the music often ends in a bit of a throwaway fashion.

'It’s a song with a sentimental voice…
its beat is the rhythm of my city.
It's not vulgar,
and it's not pretentious.
It’s tango... and nothing more'

(From Rick McGarrey's translation of Una Emoción, tangoandchaos.)

* Connection with a partner AND with the music.

PS. Found it, the tango where the couple finish dancing before the end of the music. It's here. And that whole page on 'entrega' - getting lost - is very interesting.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Picasso in London and Paris

I kicked myself last year for missing the Picasso show in the Prado and swore I'd go to the Picasso show in the Grand Palais, but when I got back from BsAs this January it was sold out except for a few tickets at 2.30am. By all accounts it was an extraordinary feast of painting, Titians from Florence, Goyas from Madrid... and a few Picassos too. Not something I could digest at 2am.

The Picasso show in the pit at the National Gallery is a bit disappointing. The pit (the basement gallery for changing shows) never seems well-lit. For Velazquez they used the upstairs (daylit) galleries: they could have done a stunning show upstairs with these same Picassos alongside gallery paintings. Nevertheless there's some lovely work there. The first room takes off: clockwise some early self portraits, middle aged self portraits, the man with the ice cream, the painter's family, then the aging lovers, tongues entwined -- and finally the minotaur's skull. (There are quite a few skulls in the show.) But somehow it feels strangely half-hearted, disconnected, which it shouldn't.

I had a couple of hours last Monday afternoon so I visited the Musee Picasso in Paris (the website is a disaster, very little material and many broken links). It's a wonderful, spacious old building with great windows, and the space and light make the paintings look good. But, more interesting, they display sculpture alongside, and even in front of, paintings, and I realised that I've found Picasso shows with 3D work far more satisfying than shows of just paintings: even better if there are prints and drawings too. I've always thought of a dialogue with 3D in the paintings: in cubist paintings space is deliberately flattened, then in the 1920s the volumes are equally deliberately rounded. Later, perhaps, they settle down (if anything in Picasso ever settled down) into constructions of marks and colour with less emphasis on volumes.

The Musee Picasso shows his own collection of paintings, including a marvellous Matisse, the one of the oranges. It hardly has the vivacity of a Picasso but it manages, with an effortlessness born of huge effort, to be flat and three-dimensional, with colour precisely in place to create space on a flat surface. Magical.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Links, and a tree of stories

Links within links. Pugliese is a name I've always associated with Puglia, the deep south of Italy, the coast looking towards Greece, where Greek continued to be spoken in villages despite the rise and fall of the Roman empire. It seems to be a strange, mixed part of the Mediterranean, where east and west met, where different worlds, Byzantium, Egypt, Africa, Greece, the East, and their images, co-existed. & this came to mind while watching Tempo di Viaggio, a film about and by Andrey Tarkovsky.

Tarkovsky came to Italy in 1983, a few years after completing Stalker, to meet up with Tonino Guerra. Tonino Guerra has written the scripts for over 100 films, including most of Antonioni's films, films by Fellini, Theodoros Angelopoulos (including Ulysses' Gaze) and Tarkovsky's Nostalgia. Tempo di Viaggio follows Guerra and Tarkovsky, two authors looking for a character and that character's environment for the film that was to be Nostalgia. Tarkovsky talks about film, looks at Italy for scenes.

They visit Otranto. (The name might be familiar: The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole was the first gothic novel.) Otranto is in Puglia and has a modest-looking cathedral, the entire floor of which is taken up by a single enormous mosaic, a most extraordinary mosaic of a tree whose branches seem to hold all the stories the artists could remember. Adam and Eve, of course, Abel and Cain, the 12 signs of the zodiac, Solomon and Sheba, Alexander Rex... even Rex Arturus – King Arthur.

There are a few short images of it in the film, but I found photos here on Paradoxplace, a site which claims to have over 6,000 photos of strange and interesting places, but particularly cathedrals and the sculptures and images in them, and a wealth of written detail too. & a lot of links. A real maze of a site.

Bari is just up the coast from Otranto, and that's where Tete and Silvia are currently teaching in the latest part of their Europe tour. Too bad I can't be there to dance to Pugliese in Puglia, but it's comforting to know that when I get to see the magical mosaic in Otranto, I'll also be able to spend an evening or two dancing tango.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Tarbes

Continuing the theme of France and tango, and if you happen to be on holiday in France this summer, the Tarbes tango festival, 17 to 23 August, might be worth a visit, about 100km from Toulouse and 50km from the Spanish border. (The website has an English link, but there's no English translation yet.) A number of free outdoor events, as well as indoor milongas, workshops, concerts. But hotel accommodation is booking up fast.

Luisito Ferraris and Mirta Tiseyra



Thanks to Jantango for drawing my attention to Luisito Ferraris and Mirta Tiseyra. Argentines, they've lived and taught in Italy for nine years. I'd like to know what anyone thinks about their dance. I love it, especially the last 30 seconds, when their torsos follow the swirl of Fresedo's violins, while their feet keep the beat. It looks like the best social tango: it's a display but it could also be in a milonga.

The significance of living and teaching in Italy is that they might well have automatic entitlement to visit and teach in the UK too. I wonder if it's worth trying to get them to visit London from time to time.

PS: He might normally be named Luis Ferrari. & I'm not sure they teach regularly together. Will try to find out.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Kuniyoshi at the Academy

Kuniyoshi, Japanese artist, died 1861. I can't say 'printmaker': he didn't make prints. He made brush paintings which were meticulously translated onto woodblock by highly skilled woodblock cutters and printers. The idea that an artist should make prints is by and large 20th century. Rembrandt made his own prints, only a few artists did. Munakata is the 20th century Japanese artist printmaker who drew and cut his own woodblocks, near-blind, with his nose to the wood.

There's just one of Kuniyoshi's drawings: a quick brush sketch establishing a composition. The brushed line has the energy of time and movement: however skillfully it is cut in wood, that energy is flattened out, lost. The printed line doesn't move like the brushed line. But the prints make up for this in colour and pattern.

Kuniyoshi loved pattern and colour. The prints are a riot of graphic imagination, brilliant colour and finely detailed pattern, not only of clothing and architecture but also of tatoos on the bodies of his samurai. Patterned as a whole, patterned in detail. I've the feeling it switches something on in the brain: you come out tuned into pattern. Wonderful, and quite different from our minimalist preference.

Wonderful, omnivorous drawing. My companion delighted to point out a renaissance figure: Kuniyoshi devoured books of engravings and recycled them. But chiefly I remember how imaginative his ideas are: this skeleton is about to pull the backdrop away from the two noblemen, pulling at their world and all it contains as if it were no more than a painted cloth.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Tango in Paris 4

So it was a really excellent weekend, a lot more dance than I'd get in London, and generally I think the quality was a lot higher. I'd recommend a visit to Paris to anyone who wants to spend a few days in tango. & I found the atmosphere very friendly and supportive.

When I first saw video of Tete and Silvia three-and-a-half years ago I was really impressed. I'd been going to classes with an ex-ballroom dancer who'd learned from a few Pablo Veron workshops. I was told that the music didn't matter, but from my very first beginners class it was clear to me that the music led the dance. Tete's musicality and energy were much closer to how I wanted to respond to the music. Since then I've seen dancing in the old style that I thought much finer, both on video and in the Buenos Aires milongas, and occasionally in London too. But I found them very committed teachers who work hard and give a lot: their commitment and attention is inspiring. & I've been grateful to them for watching my dancing and for comments that have led me to change how I stand and walk in general, without any attempt to get me to dance like them. This is the huge benefit of the teacher's presence: it's what you miss out on when you watch video. I've found video very useful, although it must be worst possible practice to copy a style you see in a video. It just takes time to learn how to lead and follow what you've watched and memorised from video or in a class, to make it your own. But in the end, what changes everything are the observations, whether of a partner or of an experienced dancer who is watching.

A few numbers: I'm trying to get an idea of the attendance and costs involved in bringing a couple to the UK. Tete and Silvia gave eight workshops and a practica. There were around nine couples at each of the workshops and 12 at the practica. At £13.25 a head for the workshops that's a total of £1,908. The practica was £7 per head, £168. There was also another milonga, so in all the total 'take' might have been around £2,400. Obviously there were additional expenses for travel, accomodation, space hire, possibly legal costs too.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Tango in Paris 3

Anyone who assumes that, outside of Buenos Aires, London is the centre of the tango world, should take a look at the Paris tango listings. There are 11 (eleven!) milongas every Saturday night, and most of them go on to two or three in the morning. There are 15 milongas listed for Sunday afternoon/evening... and five or six every weekday night. If Buenos Aires seems a long way away, think about a trip to Paris!

First, videos of two of the three dances in Tete and Silvia's demonstration, the first with an intro by Nathalie of unriendetango. The hall is excellent; probably an old industrial workshop with pine pillars and rafters, and an excellent new floor. Spacious, but small enough to feel intimate.





Now a few short video clips. First something you won't find anywhere on YouTube: only on Tangocommuter, Tete and Silvia dancing... a milonga! A very short clip, but look how smoothly they dance. Milonga often looks a jumpy dance, but not when danced by milongueros. This was on the boat, La Demoiselle, moored in the basin of a canal, during the Saturday practica.

video

The next clip: Tete showing the four moves he taught on Monday night. Note that he shows them, counts them in sequence and fits them perfectly to the music. A Frenchman wandered over to me after the class and said how astonished he was that Tete can always fit whatever he does to the music, but Tete simply knows his music backwards. If you watch his videos closely you sometimes see him fit in a few odd steps so he can get his big move in time to the music, because he knows when the big chords are coming. I've added a slo-mo version.

video

A couple more things they taught. I didn't video at the time, so I've cut clips from the demo. The first, a very Tete-esque double saccada involving a 90 degree turn on one leg. It's a hard one, but at his best Tete can make it look totally casual. (Try this at home first.)

video

Next, a very simple move from an ocho into a cruzada: the 'danseur' makes one fewer steps than the 'danseuse'. Two versions.

video

I can't find the 'passing move' sequence exactly: it's a 90-degree change of direction followed by a saccada leading into a turn. In this clip Tete starts from a turn, which adds another change of direction, but the basis of what he taught is here.

video

This isn't a 'style' to be copied: only bad artists copy. Steal these moves, make them your own, work on them so they are right for you and any partner you dance with in a milonga. (There was an amazing old violinist who played with the Tarifa Haiduks, the gypsy band from Romania. Someone asked him where he learned to play violin: 'You don't learn this job,' he said, 'you steal it.')

Vals at at the Monday night milonga: looks familiar. Tete and Silvia danced the Pugliese version of Desde el Alma for their demo: this is a D'Arienzo version.

video

A rather disorganised spontaneous Chacarera at the milonga. A number of the dancers are Argentine or S. American. A fun evening!
video

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

London-Paris




Tango in Paris 2

My final night, Monday night. Another vals workshop. We dance a vals or two to warm up, and then get a lecture on keeping to the line of dance. Tete and Syliva then teach two turning and advancing moves they often use. I'm very familiar with these moves from video but I've never tried to use them in dance, so it's a useful class. Two turning moves: then a saccada is added to one of the turns, and we are then shown the walk, in single and double time, to the left of the follower. Four useful sequences. As ever, musicality is emphasised, and there's a lot of personal attention to detail. In my experience few teachers work so hard with individual couples, give so much individual attention. As with their other workshops it is demanding, intense, and very rewarding. Silvia has a very positive, even a forceful personality, is very encouraging, leads as easily as she follows, seems to be everywhere at the same time, helping everyone, and has a big laugh to go with it. They both work hard, give the impression they feel they owe it to us.

I've been immensely impressed that at any of the three workshops or the practica, it has been immediately possible to make a good connection with any partner I get to dance with. Coming from London, where I find few partners with whom I can easily make a good connection, this seems extraordinary. I've no idea if this applies to Paris tango generally or just to Nathalie's students. The only partner I had any problem with was very much a beginner who made a good connection but had problems interpreting the lead, and even she managed a lot easier second time round. & some of the partners were unusually good to dance with. My impression is of a very good level of dance in Nathalie's group.

After the Monday evening workshop was a milonga, a great ending to the visit. It wasn't organised by Nathalie, and like any milonga was open to anyone who paid admission. I would like to say that the floorcraft was immaculate, that everyone followed the line of dance perfectly and that there were no backward steps or high kicks, but... Actually the floor was quite crowded with enthusiastic dancers, and quite difficult to navigate early on, although there must have been a higher percentage of good close dancing than you'd usually see in London. It was a crowded evening, very cheerful and friendly. Considerably more women than men, perhaps one reason why I found all the partners I danced with extremely pleasant and friendly, but I think that's just the way it is in Paris tango. It was incredible to be able to make such immediate and friendly contact with people from another city. If any of them happens to read this, thanks for everything, and do keep in touch.

One thing I really liked: in France you don't have 'leaders' and 'followers': you have 'danseurs' and 'danseuses'.

Tete and Silvia gave a demonstration, which I filmed part of. The floor thinned out quite a bit after that, and I had a dance first with Silvia, and then with a partner I'd danced with earlier in the evening. A great half-hour of tango to end up with. Tete was also on the floor, ignoring his own lecture about the line of dance... & so I rushed out into the cool night for a late Metro and an early-morning Eurostar. Tangocommuting could hardly be better, except that I didn't really want to come back...

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Tango in Paris

In a delighted haze after two afternoons of workshops with Tete and Sylvia it's good to sit back in an internet cafe in front of a familiar screen, and an unfamiliar keyboard, and recall a few things. I've already extended my stay by a day in order to take one more workshop and go to the milonga. I couldn't leqve without going to a Pqris milonga.

First, Tete and Silvia. I've mentioned them to three people who took their classes 12 years ago on their last visit to London: Tete, they say, not that guy. It was their first teaching tour, and you might say that Tete had, and still has, a few rough edges, apart from not knowing how to teach -- but that was then. You could also say that what I'm told was a difficult character has become simply 'a character', one who teaches tango well and tirelessly, with great active support from Silvia. The practica and the two workshops were fun and hard work: they are attentive, observant and enthusiastic teachers, and everyone got a lot out of the classes. The two classes today both began with a bit of jazz dance, some walking steps, a fun warm up. Tete pointed out some basic similarities in the movements. The first class centred around change of direction, several easy enough moves, and simple and more difficult ways to lead out of them. The second class was centred around dancing to the music of Di Sarli, D'Arienzo, Fresedo and Pugliese, the differences in cadences and how to dance to them. Dance with your head empty and your heart full, Tete advised us. The classes all over-ran, and they actively taught the whole time.

Yesterday I arrived in time for a supervised practica on a boat moored in a canal basin. Interesting that when everyone stepped in time the boat gently vibrated underfoot.

There must be a number of tango groups in Paris, but I've really enjoyed meeting this group, unriendetango. It's been a very gentle and enjoyable experience: lots of good dances, many good-natured partners, never any competitive feeling, and seriously attentive and helpful teaching. Tete and Silvia are among the most popular of traditional Argentine teachers. Year after year they fill workshops across Europe and the USA: dancers everywhere enjoy and value their teaching and look forwards to meeting them again.

As I look forward to another nonstop workshop tomorrow, and to a milonga in Paris.

Friday, 15 May 2009

La ronda

If that video of Ricardo Vidort and Myriam Pincen looks rather formal (the music is slow), there's another one I like: I can't embed it because it's not on YouTube, but it's here (the second clip on the page), poor sound but a wonderful dance in a small space. The music and a translation of the poem are here.

I can't help noticing, in both these videos of Vidort and in the video of Harymbat, the way they 'throw' their feet onto the floor, hardly stamping but a kind of emphatic stepping. It's very obvious, perhaps even exaggerated with Harymbat. I gather that this is a characteristic of true 'milonguero' style. I've heard it described as 'adoquin', cobblestones, the way you walk on cobblestones. Whether it matters, whether it makes any difference to the lead or musicality I've no idea, but I'd imagine it emphasises the beat.

Another thing: Vidort uses the entire length of the small space he dances in. We live in a place and time where the ronda is becoming optional. Tango, for more than 50% of the dancers on any floor in London, could well be static, and often is. Tango is said to be a walking dance, but walking movements, or movements that take a couple down the line of dance, aren't taught so often. & tango now takes more space: movements are bigger and less predictable.

Change came from within tango. Here are Todaro and his daughter dancing in the early 50s: they perform all the steps of 'nuevo', but for me the really scary thing is that, like jive or salsa, it all takes place almost entirely on the spot, although the space is about the same as Vidort and Alejandra dance in. Your worst nightmare in a milonga! Change also came from the exchange between tango and contemporary dance: trained dancers like the challenge of a more complex dance and, like many dancers, are fascinated by the possibilities in the synergies between partners, how the movement of one person can suggest a movement to another. So many rich possibilities in the dialogue of tango! It's only really regrettable when dancers ignore the health and safety of those around them: it's usually in the attempt to impress, but the impression of a steel heel can be life-threatening.

The tango of the ronda still predominates in Buenos Aires. Sometimes non-traditional tango is tolerated (until someone gets kicked a lot), sometimes traditional dancers amuse themselves by bunching together to restrict the space available to a non-traditional couple. But in general the two species don't share the same floors, which seems the best solution.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Ewa Kielczewska

As I walked into the Dome at the end of the class last night I could see something different. The dancers were neatly organised round the periphery and many were in some approximation to close hold: Eric Jeurissen was teaching. With over 20 years teaching experience he knows the answers. Sadly the organisation didn't last into the milonga but several good dancers came with him to brighten the evening.

But the real star (for me) was Ewa Kielczewska, partner of the late Ricardo Vidort, who looked after him up to his death in 2006. She sat at the edge of the floor in the company of Jill Barrett, sitting very upright and enjoying what she saw, and she danced too, a great pleasure to watch. Thanks for visiting us, Ewa.

It was a good opportunity to remember him. I took just one lesson from him, in the Dome in 2005, and it reassured me that the tango I wanted to dance wasn't an acrobatic display at arms' length: I learned a whole style of dance that evening. His warmth and energy filled the Dome: it's hard to believe he was terminally ill at the time.

Here he is in Buenos Aires.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Just in case...

...'the older generation of Buenos Aires dancers' suggests elderly couples supporting each other around the ronda, take a look at Ruben Harymbat and Enriqueta Kleinman giving a demonstration at a workshop in Portland, Oregon, in February. I love the wit, inventiveness, musicality. It doesn't get much better.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Tango on-line 2

More thoughts on setting up videoconference links with some of the older generation of Buenos Aires dancers. Thanks to Jantango in Buenos Aires for the idea and support.

This technology could offer wonderful possibilities, even perhaps a programme of weekly sessions at which we can meet and interact with older milongueros and milongueras and share their long experience of the dance. It will require camera, PC and projector at both ends, and a translator. The sessions, with demonstrations, dances, questions, answers, can be available on DVD afterwards.

A quick guess at costs: private classes with a couple in Buenos Aires often cost around £60 an hour, so a two-hour session, plus equipment rental and technical support might cost in the region of £220. Technical costs at this end might be minimal as the equipment is probably easier to come by, and room hire would be around £25. So a two-hour session could cost as little as £250, around £30 each for four couples.

Obviously there will be shortcomings, and if you are serious you will take a flight to Buenos Aires to get the real thing! Videoconferencing is limited, and might be a bit confusing to begin with, but one thing I'm sure of: these people are genial and very happy to share their experience, and many are experienced teachers and great communicators. To spend a few hours in their company will be very enjoyable, and the best possible guide to tango as a social dance. I hope we can set up a trial session this summer to get an idea of what can be done, how effective it can be, and plan a series of sessions, perhaps four sessions with different couples, in the autumn.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Zatoichi

Kitano 'Beat' Takashi is a phenomenon of contemporary Japanese film. A university drop-out who drifted into stand-up comedy and thence into making 'yakuza' films, he won the Golden Lion for Hana-bi at the Venice Film Festival in 1997. Films that he writes, directs, stars in and edits himself. He's also a writer, painter and talk show host.

Zatoichi
won best director at the 2003 Venice Film Festival. Zatoichi is a blind itinerant masseur whose cane conceals a sword: he is also a master swordsman whose speed and intuition has no equal. Of course he fights evil: like a comic book hero he is ordinary, almost completely helpless, one moment, and invincible the next. The film is about corruption and retribution, corruption of civil society and of innocent children too. The retribution is sudden and thorough.

There is sudden violence, but in context it isn't excessive. It isn't the violence of an Arnie film (not that I've ever been able to watch more than a scene or two) or of a Clint Eastwood film, which can seem humourless and downright creepy by comparison. Zatoichi is humorous throughout: a humorous and human background to sudden and very brief action scenes.

The extraordinary fight in the rain, for instance, lasts hardly 90 seconds and consists of 20 or so shots, either of sudden movement or pauses as we watch simulations of injury. Takashi chose to film it in bright sunshine, the rain provided by hoses, hence the vivid 'rain' streaking down, as in 19th century samurai prints. Directed, acted and edited by Takashi. (The theatrical gushes of blood were pumped through pipes in the actors' costumes and digitally enhanced: I'm a great fan of the 'Extras' on DVDs.) The effect is stunning, underlined by slow sad music. & in every fight, despite the carnage, there is no 'blood' on Zatoichi's clothing afterwards. In real life he'd be drenched in it. Too much reality would distract rather than enhance the scene.

Timing is crucial throughout, impeccable cutting and inventive camerawork. Takashi's sense of humour is particularly evident in the ending, where a Shinto ritual segues effortlessly into a modern tap dance routine, with all the main characters and many, many more, continuing rhythms that have been building up throughout the film. It's ridiculously good entertainment, and thoughtful too. & of course it looks fabulous throughout. Thanks for the recommendation, MsH.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Tango on-line

Jantango recently emailed me from Buenos Aires:

“A tango friend in the USA is trying to promote tango as it is danced by milongueros from the 50s. He wants to organize a conference for November. He can't afford to bring milongueros, so I suggested seeing how to incorporate the attendance of milongueros via webcam.

As you know, they are free transmissions. I have yet to use a webcam myself, but it could be one way of having the presence of a milonguero with someone on your end doing the translation.

It's not the same as being there, but it could be interesting and worthwhile.

What do you think?”

My first thought was that it's a wonderful idea and it might be an inexpensive way of holding a 'London Tango Festival', since it would save the cost and problems associated with travel. By definition the teachers are now in their 70s, so they'd probably find it preferable to 14-hour flights.

My problem is my lack of experience in both the technology, and in the teaching, so I thought I should open it out to anyone who happens to read this, because other people might have experience or good ideas.

Technically, it seems obvious that a projector would be required at both ends to give life-sized images, as it's hardly possible to work from a monitor, but that's not really a problem these days. I think the actual format of sessions to make the best use of the slightly disembodied experience might require more thought. & I don't know how dancers like Facundo and Kely, Dany 'El Flaco' Garcia and Silvina Vals, Myriam Pincen, Rubén de Pompeya, Miguel Balbi, Muma, Osvaldo Buglione, Ricardo Saurez, Pedro Sanchez, Ruben Harymbat, Elba Biscay, like to teach, what they think is important. Possibly we may well know as many 'steps' as we need, and need help rather with things like posture, musicality and finding new ways to combine steps.

My feeling is that what would be useful in any case would be a substantial amount of well-recorded video on YouTube. Of many of these fine older dancers there's a pathetically small amount of video publicly available and most of it poorly filmed in bad light and on what might well be mobile phones. Given that their experience might not be available for much longer I feel this is a potential tragedy. It is technically no problem to download YouTube video and work through it at leisure and in slow motion, which makes it a wonderful learning tool. Having worked through YouTube video like this it would then be great to have an online session with some of the dancers: five or six couples spending regular afternoons on line with several couples of the older dancers and a translator. I think it's an experience everyone could enjoy and benefit from, and the cost wouldn't be great.

I'd certainly jump at the chance to film and upload material any time I'm within reach of any of this generation of dancers. & if there's the interest, I'd be very glad to help set up a video meeting.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

La última curda

I can't resist the temptation to link another song from Sur. (Note that the cafe is just closing. That's about as close as we get to being inside it.) I've been really knocked out by the music in the film. Most of what we listen to is the tango of the 30s, 40s, 50s, the golden age, a time of reasonable prosperity and stability in Argentina. I've also listened to music from the last nine years: El Arranque, Orquesta Escuelo Emilio Balcarce, and all the great new groups, Color Tango, Ciudad Baigon, Fernando Fiero, the music of a time in Argentina that's been sometimes difficult but reasonably optimistic, mostly a time of growth: music with great optimism and energy played by musicians who've grown up since the bad days. But I think the music of the 80s and 90s is something else. The musicians were older, had suffered through the dreadful tragedy of oppressive military rule, and moreover had no way of knowing that their music would ever become popular and vital again, let alone so soon. I think you hear all this in these clips from Sur. Great musicality, pouring out of the harshest environment.

I think you also hear it in the CD Pugliese en El Colon, the concert Pugliese and his orchestra, with Goyaneche singing, gave in the opera house on December 26 1985: you hear bitterness, anger, fierce joy, tenderness, defiance... They'd lived through it all, and for all they knew it was the end of tango, and they used the opportunity to say everything. As a group they'd stayed together for so many years they could play personally, and yet together. It's a CD I can't listen to that often: it's not something you can have on in the background.

I'd like to hear more from that time. There can't be that many releases, tango wasn't yet popular. It's not easy because CDs on the internet tend to give the date of the CD re-release, rather than the original recording. The only place to research this is a record shop with a lot of tango. But there is a Goyaneche CD called Vuelvo Al Sur from 1989, which is probably the film soundtrack.

PS: the 1989 album is a Piazolla album, not the film soundtrack. It includes Goyaneche singing Vuelvo al Sur, but that's the only track with Goyaneche, and the only track related to the film.