Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Old masters

I keep emphasising the old, and that's not some personal oddity. The historical fact is that between 1960 and 1985 the whole tradition of the milongas, where people had learned to dance for generations, faltered. For 25 years very few people learned to dance, and many dancers who'd learned earlier gave it up. Most current teachers learned after 1990 from that older generation. There's not really a generation of younger teachers who've learned through the milongas. But don't the younger dancers give us a more contemporary tango, more suited to us? Maybe, but they might not have much background in social dancing, which is what we go to classes to learn! & any learning is an interpretation, and any teacher is likely to present or distort material in such a way as to attract students. Of course, there is a way of recording the old tradition clearly so that it's available for future reference: it's called video.

& what's wrong with going back to the source, the older tradition, while it's still available? Learn from your teachers' teachers if you can! They tend to be dancers pure and simple, rather than trained teachers on an international circuit. Yes, some do teach, perhaps as much by example as by explanation. But how else do you learn dance than by watching dance and by being watched while you dance? (& by talking to your partners!) Martha and Manolo teach canyengue week in and week out in Buenos Aires with hardly a word of English between them, but you know immediately how friendly and encouraging they are, so it's easy to learn from them.

& when it comes down to it, we can get a lot from their generation that simply isn't available from the younger generation: we can get a sense of what the milongas were like, the feel of tango. & it's very evident when we watch the older dancers how much they enjoy dancing together. They don't perform for us with that vaguely disdainful expression, looking, as Tete put it, as if they have a lemon in their mouths!

I see that Irene and Man Yung's tango blog have anticipated me in this: their posts on their recent visit to Buenos Aires show the warmth and happiness and good-heartedness there is in the tango world there these days. It's a really wonderful time for the older generation! They were right all along! The dance and music they loved so much in their youth – and through which many of them met their partners – and which they lost for most of their lives, has come back for them to enjoy again late in their lives, along with reasonable political stability and material prosperity. Irene and Man Yung have posted a number of photos and videos. The videos of Alberto Dassieu are of course wonderful, and Coca and Osvaldo Cartery's dance to 'Poema' at Ideal is simply sublime: tango is the dance of love, and love, as we know, means tenderness, intimacy, warmth, as well as passion. & don't miss the link to Adela Galeazzi and Jorge Garcia's jive. Jorge is 'El Flaco' Danny's elder brother, and I watched his jive with an open mouth last December: I'd never seen anything like it, and most definitely not in a septuagenarian!

In the UK we have a particular problem: recent legislation makes it terribly difficult and expensive to bring visitors to teach here, even for a short period, so it's worth considering a visit to Buenos Aires to enjoy tango, and the best of teachers, there. I've already linked many of the older teachers like Luisito Ferraris, who now lives and teaches in North Italy (easy to visit for a vacation). Here's a video of Ruben Aybar and Cherie Magnus, whose website is here. Ruben's tango goes way back. Like Luisito, he dances with enjoyment and generous good-hearted warmth, as well as an easy facility. It would be wonderful to see dancers like this on our floors in London!

Video thanks to Macfroggy.


Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Tangocommuter,

Bravo for your post! And thanks for mentioning our blog! We always thought that the comment that Tete made about "lemons" was dead on. The more we spend time with our teachers and their friends - the "old masters" as you have said - the more we feel the love and the joy that we are supposed to feel participating in this wondrous gift called tango.

Tango shouldn't be just about taking lessons and learning to be more technically/culturally/stylistically impressive, or getting the one-up on the next dancer. But we guess that many would be disappointed to find out that it is not supposed to be a competition to find out who is most "flashy" or "acrobatic", or even most "correct" or "authentic". As you have shown in your posts and in the video you have posted of your time spent with Pedro Sanchez at his home, tango is a lot about living - and being alive in that living. That means living with feeling, sentiment, emotion - and love.

We hope that more dancers will have the good fortune to feel what we feel and see what we see by spending time with the "old masters" - before it is too late,

Irene and Man Yung

Tangocommuter said...

Thanks, Irene and Man Yung! Lovely words about being alive and living with feeling and love.

Yes! This is definitely a lemon-free zone!

tangocherie said...

Dear TC,

Good for you to speak up for, as you say, perhaps the last generation of dancers who learned in the milongas.

Imagine my surprise and pleasure to see the video you posted of us, and to read your lovely words about Ruben. He was quite moved.

Un abrazo tanguero from both of us,

David Bailey said...

"Adela Galeazzi and Jorge Garcia's jive" - here:

I don't think it's Jive (i.e. ballroom jive) per se. Doesn't seem to have that triple-step rhythm.

It's a bit like Modern Jive, but with incredible musicality. If I were being hypercritical I'd say that Adela's spins / turns could be a bit sharper, but it's still lovely to watch.

Tangocommuter said...

DB, 'jive', my mistake. The YouTube track says 'bailando rock'n'roll'! I wonder if it's not a wonderful invented dance based on watching Elvis and a few others. It's certainly neither West or East Coast Swing! I can't help noticing how level the heads stay, which might well be tango influence. Whatever the legs and feet are doing, the heads just glide around.

Really it's Jorge's act. But it's worth checking out Adela Galeazzi's tango and milonga on YouTube.