Friday, 23 April 2010

The legacy

While thinking about the legacy of the older dancers a few weeks back I commented that it would be great if someone could get a research grant to put on small milongas in Buenos Aires, perhaps in the afternoons, and pay older couples generously to come and dance – and be filmed.

By the usual process of coincidence, a few days later I discovered that something like this was made about five years ago. It seems to be available on DVD, and it's called Susana Tango Pial. It's a 40-minute documentary by Sandro Nunziata and Carlos Pico about La Milonga de Susana at the El Pial salon in Flores, Buenos Aires, and run by Susana Minana, who is now in her 70s. A crowd mainly of senior citizens gathers there every week to dance. The film shows the dancing and talks to some of the dancers. An old man who has returned to dancing tango after years says: “Tango enters you through your eyes and goes through your heart. But once it reaches your feet, it stays with you for ever”. Be warned! Or reassured!

Wonderful, but perhaps not quite what I'd envisaged. Susana Tango Pial shows ordinary people, occasional dancers perhaps. I'm thinking about the surviving superlative dancers of that generation. There are very few good videos of Pocho and Neli publicly available. There's half a tango of Osvaldo Buglione, and one-and-a-bit of Miguel Balbi, both on Tango and Chaos, and a couple of Osvaldo Centano in the dark at El Beso, on YouTube... and so the list goes on, and it's not a long one. Thanks to Jantango there are two good clips of Ismael Heljalil and Graciela Blaisten on a fairly empty and well-lit floor at Maipu 444, but often the quality is dark and mobile-phone-ish. Of course it's great that we have these few, but... more! More! It would be wonderful to get these dancers (and others like them) together to make a record, in good quality, to celebrate the best dancing of that generation. Because their roots go way back, and they've had a whole lifetime to work on it and to put into it. They really are an inspiration, and through video they can continue to inspire.

Video thanks to Amsterdamtangoclub.


Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Tangocommuter,

Congratulations on your 302nd post! ;) And coincidence - we were thinking about exactly the same topic as you right now. There's not a lot out there in terms of great video of great dancers, and it's not always possible to get ideal conditions for filming examples of great dancing. There's also the problem of getting permission.

We'll keep our fingers crossed for you about that research grant! But for now we've just posted some of the few videos that we have taken, with more to come. Hope that you enjoy them!

Irene and Man Yung

Tangocommuter said...

Many thanks for your comments! Europe is hardly the best place to start looking for research grants, and I probably don't have the background to apply, but it's good to agree on the urgent need to record the dance of a rapidly disappearing generation. Of course, the dance will continue, but each of these older dancers brings something individual to it. Since we have the means of recording, it would be a pity if all that is known of them is a name.

David Bailey said...

One benefit of such a project is that it would help raise the profile of social dancing, compared to show tango dancing.

We always seem to have an uphill battle to persuade people that social (salon) dancing is how you should dance in social settings. Some high-quality videos of lovely social dancers would really help to make that argument