Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Interview with Melina Sedó: part I

I got a surprise email from Cassiel, a German tango blogger, asking me if I would be willing to post on Tangocommuter a translation of his interviews with Melina Sedó. Not only willing, but absolutely delighted! Melina Sedó and Detlef Engel are known as among the very best European teachers and dancers. Moreover, they are kept extremely busy: I read that their schedule for 2011 is already booked solid. This is wonderful news because it means that a serious, large tango community that values an elegant, musical, close-embrace tango is beginning to develop in Europe.

The interview is in three parts, of which this is the first. The rest will follow over the next few weeks. The German version of Part I is here. Translation, many thanks to Tricia Bruce.

* * * *

Today’s interviewee needs no introduction from me. Melina Sedó & her partner Detlef Engel are internationally recognised Tango teachers. On 2nd Sept 2010, Melina spent over three hours talking to me though the medium of Skype.

We agreed to focus on “Teaching Tango”. The interview is divided into three sections:-
1. Introduction and teaching Tango to beginners
2. Workshops, such as those held at Festivals
3. The role of self confidence in Tango

Melina & Detlef live in Saarbrücken, Germany, when they are not travelling on behalf of Tango

This article is an accurate record of our conversation, with very light editing from Melina. The original text was published in three parts on http://tangoplauderei.blogspot.com/2010/10/melina-sedo-zur-didaktik-im-tango.html in German. This version was translated by Tricia Bruce, with kind permission of Melina Sedo & Cassiel.

For convenience and economy throughout the English text, “he” and “his” is used to refer to both men and woman.

Part A

: Hello, Melina, it’s great to finally get some time with you. Shall we just plunge straight in?

As I prepared for this interview, I wondered how best to describe you. Not that we would need to, but I’m still interested. Tanguera? DJ? Tango-teacher? Tango professional? All these are accurate, but scarcely sufficient. How would you describe yourself?

Melina Sedó: Hi Cassiel. Thank you for inviting me to this interview. In Tango, I do all those roles, but I would describe myself principally as a Tango teacher and organiser. Although, of course, at the moment, the hours I spend on organisation, preparation, travel planning and marketing, bookkeeping and contact management far outweigh the hours spent teaching. ;-) In my heart, I’d say just Tanguera, but these days I just don’t get enough time.

Cassiel: Just roughly, then, how many hours do you spend on average on Tango each week. (Can you even give us any kind of rough idea?)

Melina Sedó: well, for me, all the organising counts as Tango. Most weeks, we spend two full working days in a car, train or airplane, travelling for Tango; I’d probably say six days a week, and sometimes, those are very long days, morning to evening, and long into the night.

Cassiel: Is Tango still fun, for you, after so many, such intensive years? Or do you find yourself tiring of the intensity?

Melina Sedó: The dance is still fun, as is teaching, DJ-ing, organising. But, of course, I’m often pretty exhausted, and, above all, tired of the constant travelling. I would love to spend more time at home, but, at the moment, that just isn’t possible. And when we do get a free weekend, it’s not unusual for us to hit the road again, to visit another festival, just for fun. And yes, nowadays, that doesn’t happen much, simply because we just don’t get that many free weekends. There’s no doubt about it, that it’s a huge challenge and not something that I see myself doing for ever, certainly not at this current level of intensity.

Cassiel: How do you relax, do you get any time for hobbies?

Melina Sedó: My favourite hobby is to lie on my sofa and read a book. Or watch some DVDs in the evening. When I can find the time and energy, I love historical fantasy role playing with my friends. I’ve also just started a University distance learning course, which is bound to take many, many years.

: Distance learning? What are you reading?

Melina Sedó: A Masters in Modern European History and Literature, which I’ve always wanted to study.

Cassiel: That sounds very interesting, but we’ve got to leave that there and turn to Tango. We agreed that this interview would focus on “Teaching Tango” We had to choose a focus, or I would have needed days for this interview. Would you like to start with a definition, or shall I get started on my questions?

Melina Sedó: Well, it’s very sensible to narrow the focus, because I enjoy writing and will produce lots. We don’t want to bore your readers, so let’s get going with your first question.

Anibal Arias

A brief note to point to Jantango's post on Anibal Arias, who died recently. She draws attention to his album, La Guitarra Romantica del Tango, which is available here as a download from Digital7, and can be listened to on Spotify.com. I think it's wonderful solo guitar playing, and all the tracks are tango favourites. A great musician, sadly little known outside the tango world.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Leaders and followers?

In the BBC Argentina programme Ignacio Varchausky says something that I found quite curious. He made a number of very interesting remarks, and this one really struck me: '...we have so many outstanding individuals (in Argentina) but as a whole we don't do great as a society, and I think that has to do with the identity issue...'

Tango music has always struck me as very lacking in any kind of 'star' cult. If you didn't already know, would you be able to guess, from the music, which instrument Fresedo, or Miguel Calo, or Lucio Demare played? We all know that Pugliese played piano, but could you guess that from the music? The piano is always there, if you listen, but it only predominates for brief passages. Listening to his music, you might perhaps guess that Troilo played bandoneon, but perhaps only because his phrases are so distinctive, so different from the rest of his orquesta. The ensemble is what seems to matter above the individual: the individual voices are very meticulously balanced so no one voice, no matter whose it is, seems to predominate. Contrast this with jazz: when you listen to the Dizzy Gillespie Allstars there's little doubt that Dizzy Gillespie plays trumpet, and the same is probably true for most jazz bands and orchestras. Kind of Blue? If you didn't already know, you might wonder if Miles Davis played trumpet or sax, but the group is generally there to accompany: to duel with the leader on occasions, but usually to play something of a subordinate role.

Perhaps many outstanding musicians have made a remarkably harmonious society in the orquestas of tango.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

World Routes: again

'So tango is still telling Argentines who they are, just as it did 100 years ago. That's amazing.' (Banning Eyre, presenter.)

I've just listened again to the BBC tango programme from Saturday, and I've become very appreciative of the thought and discernment that's gone into it. It focuses on four contemporary musicians, and plays their music, recorded especially for the programme. & it's made by a musician and broadcaster who is there simply to find out more from the musicians he talks to. It's very refreshing.

Particularly welcome is the emphasis on contemporary musicians who are deeply involved in the long and extraordinary tradition of tango. Piazzolla gets mentioned a couple of times, but that's all. It ignores the attempt, popular a few years ago, to modernise tango by taking a superficial element or two and adding an electro beat to it.

Interesting that the four musicians involved – Adriana Varela, Ignacio Varchausky, Cristobal Repetto and Ramiro Gallo all mention tango in connection with Argentine identity. For Varchausky ...'tango equals identity' and he says that identity is an issue for Argentines, who see themselves as 'Europeans in the wrong place... we are Latin Americans but we are not, we don't belong here... Tango is a very lucid mirror of this issue...' Ramiro Gallo (violinist, friend of Varchausky and co-founder of the Orquesta Escuela, and a big presence in the film Si Sos Brujo), who now leads his own quintet and who seems to be an inventive composer and arranger, to judge by his quintet's four CDs, says: '...Tango... is a way of life, and is a way of knowing who I am and who the people around me are...'

Gallo closes the programme with a 14-piece tango orquesta, assembled for the programme. I think there's only one piece of music not recorded directly for the BBC... and that's a recording of Gardel.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

World Routes: Argentina

This is a link to the first of two BBC Radio 3 programmes on the music of Argentina, which is about the music of Buenos Aires, tango. The second programme is about the music of the Argentine Andes, and will be broadcast next Saturday.

This link may not open outside the UK, but it's worth a try!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Silvia Ceriani

Silvia was the dance and teaching partner of 'Tete' Rusconi, who died suddenly in January. They started working together in 1996, when she accompanied him to Wuppertal to help train the Pina Bausch company for performances of Nur Du. Since then they've taught throughout Europe, in Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, Holland, Spain, Belgium and Sweden, as well as the USA.

Silvia has now started a blog, teteysilvia.blogspot. She has notes from classes they gave, her own writings, and pieces written out from what Tete said; his thoughts on tango were clear and full of insight. At present she says she's working on notes from a class from 1998, and I look forward to seeing this on her blog. Silvia is fluent in English, and everything appearing on teteysilvia.blogspot is in Spanish and English. Having lived at the heart of tango, she still has a life outside it as an artist and writer, and creator of websites, and is in demand as a DJ too.

She's off on a tour of America later this month. A very experienced teacher in her own right, she says 'I would like to share everything I've learned'. She has friends and well-wishers in many places, and I hope that we can expect her back in Europe before too long. It would be wonderful to see her, and experience her lively energy in London.

P.S. I might have misunderstood what Silvia said about a class from 1998. This video appeared on her YouTube channel today, and it's probably what she was talking about. It's a memorial to her dance partner, with video and photos from different times. Strange to see a lean Tete in the older footage.

Video thanks to Silvibook.

Monday, 4 October 2010

...and back

A milonga with a succession of partners I love dancing with, and then a sunny morning. Two things that make me feel good. And on a sunny morning remembering a series of wonderful partners the night before. But it doesn't last. By the time I'm heading south, again, this time homing in on the south coast whence I commute to dance tango, rain is falling and I delve into my .mp3 player for consolation. Fresedo, then Orquesta Escuela. But it's just a distraction from the gloom, it deadens the pain of separation.

Since someone asked a while ago, I'd like to make clear there's no connection between Tangocommuter and TangoCommute. According to the latter's website '...passion for peace is a new dance movement expressing compassion and connectivity during the evening commute in city centres worldwide.' No questioning the ideals behind it, but I'm not quite sure that dancing tango in a train station at rush hour, without (from the viewers view-point) any music at all (and in fact to a soundtrack of announcements), really conveys a passion for peace. If it works, I'm all for it, but it's nothing to do with Tangocommuter. Mine is the hard graft of getting through train stations to reach somewhere I can enjoy dancing.