Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Performances

Quite a few of us find tango demos a wearying waste of good dance time. I've no doubt the various organisers know this, and may even sympathise, but they know that a good display brings people in, and this is reflected in the takings. I like to watch choreography, and I've enjoyed many great evenings at Sadlers Wells, but the technique and choreography I enjoy there are usually used creatively, and aren't just displays for the sake of display. I can't see anything much more than self-advertisement in most tango demos, and a dance that's little more than a technical display is just a bit too limited. I prefer the custom of the Cachirulo milonga in BsAs, where the regulars celebrate their birthdays and other events by dancing a tango with a partner of their choice, for everyone to watch. Of course, they are all excellent dancers, and everyone is likely to know them personally, or at least to have danced with them, as there's a feeling of family there, and the dances have heart. & of course it's a long night of dance, so it's no imposition to sit out for a while and watch.

The main reason for linking this video is that I've always enjoyed watching it. It's a choreography performed by technically brilliant dancers, but it feels fresh, while the agility in both high heels and polishing pads is both alarming and funny.

26 comments:

Terpsichoral said...

"Dancing a tango with a partner of their choice, for everyone to watch" I think you just defined performance for me, Tangocommuter. And I have seen plenty that I've found beautiful and inspiring. Of course, if the couple are highly skilled dancers, their skill will be evident when they dance in performance, but that doesn't mean that the only point of the performance is to show off their abilities. It's to present their artistic interpretation of the tango. Many performances are improvised and don't differ very much from what I see the couple dancing on the floor at the milonga. The difference is that they have more space -- which provides freedom to play -- and there is more intensity -- they want to dance the best tango they can. And why not take pleasure in watching someone's else artistic interpretation of the music and sharing some of their joy in tango?

Maybe you could answer this, rather than leaving it to Chris?

www.tangoaddiction.wordpress.com

Chris, UK said...

"And why not take pleasure in watching someone's else artistic interpretation of the music..."

Because too often it's like everyone in a restaurant being forced to interrupt their meal to watch someone else's artistic interpretation of the food. Which turns out to actually be an advert for eating classes. From people who prefer to use food for decorating the walls.

In BA there's a proper place for these people - the dozens of tango show theaters that serve dance to non-dancers. Their stuff doesn't belong in a place for dancers - the milonga.

Chris, UK said...

PS forgot to say - thanks for that nice video TC. Here's my favourite video of that milonga, Cachirulo, at the old place.

Terpsichoral said...

Tangocommuter, do you have any opinions of your own on this?

Anonymous said...

tango is not something you do on an empty cleared floor. it is something you do sharing a crowded floor with other dancers.

Terpsichoral said...

Yes, at peak hours at the more popular Buenos Aires milongas you share a very crowded floor with other dancers. Many people dance milonguero when it's crowded(even if it isn't their preferred style); most people tone down their moves a lot. But in the last couple of hours of the milonga the floor empties out considerably and dancers have space and, naturally, they use it. (Usually without colliding: that's what floorcraft is for).

Yes, I have seen performances of tango escenario-like dancing at milongas. But most of the performances I've seen bear little resemblance to tango escenario.

Tango escenario is designed to be danced in a rectangular space, not around a dance floor and usually includes acrobatic moves, aerial moves, a degree of histrionics, etc. What I much more frequently see is couples dancing Villa Urquiza style salon (or, sometimes, milonguero) pretty much as they would dance it in the milonga, except freed up from the constraints of having to keep a constant eye on the other leaders.

If you have performed you will know that there is a certain intensity to the dancing because a) it's fully improvised, but you do know the numbers extremely well, having practised to them and can therefore offer a better response to the music; b) you want to show people you best tango, the tango you dance all the time but better.

And surely most people have felt it. When the performance was good people are inspired. They dance better. I don't mean more acrobatically or without floorcraft. I mean more beautifully. Because they get inspired. As for the time, it's 15 minutes out of a four or five hour long evening. And, as Tangocommuter, pointed out, it brings it the punters. Because many people enjoy it.

If you really hate seeing people dance tango well, you might want to ask yourselves why, frankly. If you paint, do you loath galleries? If you play the piano, do you hate professional pianists? (In your case, Chris, you hate everyone and everything connected with tango, that's clear. Which is strange, but your prerogative, I suppose.)

Incidentally, the lines between what happens at Cachirulo and what you guys consider 'real' performance are very blurred. Most of my young Argentine friends who aren't professional dancers but who dance well socially have performed at a milonga at least once. They dance in performance much as they do in the milonga. Except that, as there is no one else on the floor, I have the plesure of actually seeing them.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous - Tango is something between two people and the music. It's irrelevant if the floor is crowded or not.

Chris, UK said...

Ms Terpsichoral, you've been seriously misinformed. Shows at milongas here are rarely "fully improvised" or "as they would dance it in the milonga". Most are completely choreographed a.k.a. fake. Anyone who's been dancing for a few years can tell you that.

You say these teachers (and every one of them IS a teacher) are trying to dance their best, and that's why that they need a clear floor, prearranged music etc. I'm sure you're right. Which makes it all the sadder to see the results.

And no I do not I hate to watch people dancing well. I love to. But that does not include dancing fit only for its purpose - selling classes to newcomers yet to discover the difference between real and fake.

Terpsichoral said...

Of course, I've recently seen a lot more performances in Buenos Aires than in London and it's those that I'm talking about primarily.

I would certainly disagree, however, that choreographed equals fake. My tastes run more towards improvised performances and towards salon, rather than tango escenario. And I find it stressful, personally, to dance choreographies. So far, I much prefer to improvise in performance (although I haven't done much performing, so I'm not well qualified to talk about it).

But I *have* seen wonderful choreographed, escenario dancing. Tangocommuter nowhere says that he is referring specifically to London, or to choreographed performances or to bad performances. He just says he hates performances in general. To me, this is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

I think you can learn things even from performances you dislike. If you eager to learn, you can learn from all kinds of sources. And I also think that it can be quite useful to know how your teachers dance when the chips are down.

Tangocommuter said...

Terpischoral, you don't share my opinions. No problem! & thank you for taking the trouble to say so. But I'm not obliged to find time to argue with anyone who disagrees with me. I write only for myself, and I said what I wanted to say in the post. & please don't misquote me. I didn't say I hate performances. In fact I said I enjoy choreography – when it has heart.

For the record, and since I think it's important, I define artistic expression as 'showing heart', giving an ordered external form to inner feeling. When I watch people in a milonga, I think I see this, and I get an impression of wonderful heart and feeling in the Cachirulo videos. But when I've watched professional dancers give performances, all too often I've seen well-rehearsed, heartless formal perfection, which just doesn't move me. I said find it tedious.

Chris: glad you enjoyed the video. & thanks for reminding me of that Cachirulo clip: there aren't many clips that show Tete where he was truly at home, joyfully on the floor, amidst all the other dancers in a milonga. It's a few brief seconds, but great to watch again.

Terpsichoral said...

Tangocommuter, I apologise if I misrepresented what you said. But you should remember that when you make wide, sweeping criticisms or negative statements about aspects of tango some people (or at least I) will sometimes want to hear justification for your opinions, especially if they appear to be extreme ones. And of course it's nice to have a dialogue with you, rather than with a representative like Chris who may or may speak for you.

Tangocommuter said...

Terpiscoral, you misrepresent me again. I said that to me '...a dance that's little more than a technical display is just a bit too limited'. That's my personal preference; it's not a 'wide, sweeping criticism' or a negative statement.

Terpsichoral said...

Well, as a dancer I would hate people to think my performance or dancing was "little more than a technical display". Bear in mind that there are actual people doing these performances. People whom you are implicitly attacking (which makes me, as a fellow tango dancer, want to come to their defence).

Chris, UK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris, UK said...

Terpsichoral, I do wonder what leads you to claim that these views of TC's are extreme. In truth they are very much the norm amongst dancers who are as experienced as himself.

In general, a dancer's enthusiasm for shows is inversely proportional to the number that he/she has seen. At first, everyone is impressed, but the more you see the more it's obvious that most are just rote-learned clones to the same formula - necessarily so, because they are adverts for the same product, rather than expressions of human individuality.

As for your comment that it is "as a fellow tango dancer" you come to the defence of these performer/teachers, I find this disingenuous, given you are a fellow performer/teacher, and are writing under a psedonym name that conceals this fact.

I leave you with the words of probably the most experienced dancer I've met - Ricardo Vidort:

"Technique and choreography are only for performance, this is tango which has been learned for hours for show business; there are hundreds of couples doing the same thing, and only a few of them, let us say ten or fifteen are really very good because they are different and that is another thing."

And with some of his beautifully individual dancing

Terpsichoral said...

@Chris You flatter me. I have done not a huge amount of teaching and very little performing. I'm absolutely not a hotshot dancer by any stretch of the imagination. I love dancing tango; that's the only claim I can make for myself. And I respect a lot of teachers and performers. Including Ricardo Vidort who, incidentally, was a performer.

For my feelings about the late lamented Ricardo Vidort, see:

http://tangoaddiction.wordpress.com/2011/04/15/a-question-of-style/

Chris, UK said...

Terpsichoral wrote "I have done not a huge amount of teaching and very little performing."

I'm surprised, given your londondance.com advert has you teaching two classes a week, and the performances of yours on YouTube and in London milongas.

PS I loved that performance of you dancing with Luis, pretending to be drunk. It's a shame there's no video of that on your website. If you'd like a copy of the recording I have, do just ask.

Terpsichoral said...

@Chris This is a case of mistaken identity. I have never performed with Luis, pretending to be drunk or otherwise. In fact, we have never even danced socially.

Terpsichoral said...

PS I don't live in London. Chris, read my earlier blog entries.

Anonymous said...

For me almost every interruption of the dance - apart from the ones I choose myself, of course - is very likely to be a waste of good dance time. The sadder it is that performances are often not enough, but the organizers have to contribute even more. Last weekend I went to a milonga, where they had a performance, after that they played a game, where the people who had paid proper attention to the performance could win a prize, finally they had a birthday vals. The whole interruption lasted for at least an hour.
It's really hard to accept a highter entrance because of this, but at the same time less dancing possibilites. Unfortunately this happens rather often.

Chris, UK said...

"PS I don't live in London. Chris, read my earlier blog entries."

I've read the blog your write under your assumed name, Terpsichoral. My reference was to the teaching and performances in London under your real name.

Terpsichoral said...

@Chris OK, you have mistaken me for someone else, some London teacher, which is fine, just don't hold them responsible for anything I write in the blog. Email me separately (terpsichoral.tangoaddict@gmail.com) if you wish.

Chris, UK said...

No mistake, Terpsichoral. I respect your wish to hide your identity, so I would not post copies of the adverts for your London classes and performances. My wish is only that you stop misrepresenting your views on teachers/performers as views of the regular tango dancer you depict yourself to be on this blog and the one you write under your assumed name.

Terpsichoral said...

@Chris I'm sorry, but I have no idea what London performances/classes you are talking about. I have not done any teaching or performances here in London whilst I have been visiting this summer. I don't have any advertisements anywhere for any such thing. There would be no shame about it if I did and I wouldn't rule it out for the future. But at the moment I don't. Looking at your photo, as far as I know we have never met. I don't offer opinions in my blog, just write about my personal experiences dancing. Because I write so personally, sometimes people can guess my identity. But usually people who were there on the occasions I am talking about or recognise the people I enjoyed dancing with and describe. You're a complete stranger so I find it weird that you might guess. Anyway, it's not important. If people enjoy the writing in my blog, I'd be very happy for them to read it as complete fiction. And I don't claim to speak for anyone else: professional dancer, teacher or otherwise. It's purely personal.

Terpsichoral said...

Oh no! I am an idiot; I've been sucked in to a pointless argument with Chris. And completely hijacked your nice thread, which was about something completely different. Apologies, TC!

Tangocommuter said...

Anon (7 August) thanks for sharing a badly-interrupted evening with us... But I think you should send the organisers an email too, if you haven't already sent it. Feedback should always be welcomed.

Yes, you did, Terpischoral. Don't let it happen again!;-)