Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Pedro 3

Time for one last session with Pedro at Alesandro's guest house. For this session he finds me a partner, who he introduces as a very fine milonguera, with a lot of experience of the milongas here. I recognise her from El Beso where I'd never be likely to get a dance with her, so to dance with her today is like a gift from Pedro. Essentially, I get a class with the two of them: I get feedback from her, and she reinforces what Pedro says. She's observant and offers advice too; she knows when it's going well, and is encouraging.

Like Ana Maria last night, Pedro talks about the flexing of the knee, the leader lifting the leg slightly from the knee before stepping. I've received so much similar advice from different people that it's as if they've been in touch by phone: Ana Maria said this last night, and Silvia talked about the feet making straightforward contact with the floor. &, like Cacho Dante, Pedro insists that the foot must point forwards if you are walking forwards: turn your foot to the left or the right and your partner can feel this as a lead to change direction.

But they shake their heads: Oh dear, in the UK he learned to dance with his feet instead of with his body. Relax! Listen to the music! Always the same refrain. It's what I've been realising over the past couple of years, but still have bad habits to get rid of: 'listening to the music' means dancing every single step with complete, relaxed attention to the partner and to the music and to the other dancers around in a milonga. One reason why London tango doesn't look like Buenos Aires tango, and doesn't feel like it either, is the lack of this kind of attention.

& 'tango is a feeling' – that mysterious porteño phrase, which Monica repeats, as if it is the closest she can get to expressing what tango is for her. To me it suggests a concentrated feeling of tenderness: something I've felt in every milonga I've been to in BsAs, but really never in London. I'm going to miss that tenderness.

I film them dancing in the studio:



As we part in the street, Pedro tells me to go back to the UK and dance like this. 'No need to be a teacher' he says (never my ambition). 'Just go back and dance like this: your partners will know the difference. They'll learn from dancing what BsAs tango is like'. But as I walk back I wonder: I can dance like this with Monica under Pedro's eye, but London is a different place. For a start, in London it's rare to feel an embrace quite as immediate and trusting as the 'abrazo' of Buenos Aires. Then partners in BsAs understand from experience where this kind of dancing is coming from: by and large they're much more familiar with the music and the kind of phrasing in the music. & without the support of a room full of people dancing like this, the feel of tango starts to get lost. Going back suddenly becomes an unwelcome prospect.

3 comments:

Chris said...

"Pedro tells me to go back to the UK and dance like this. 'No need to be a teacher' he says (never my ambition). 'Just go back and dance like this: your partners will know the difference."

Excellent advice. But I agree TC, that it works with only a few partners in the UK. And yes this can demoralise, until one accepts that Pedro's "the difference" is between two kinds of dancing found in milongas here. The Argentine tango based on the music, and the English tango based on instruction. The English variety is what your porteño friends are talking about here:

"But they shake their heads: Oh dear, in the UK he learned to dance with his feet instead of with his body."

The two are incompatible, and divergent - the more one progresses in either one, the less one can dance with partners who are doing the other. The hardest place to be is at the fork in the path, but it gets easier when you recognise that there is a fork and you take one of the paths, rather than struggling to go forward on both simultaneously.

Thank you for all your inspiring reports of your experience in BA. I wish you every success in continuing along your path back here in the UK.

Elizabeth said...

This video makes me miss BA more than anything. There is that feeling in the air, in the sounds, in the attitude. I resist the idea of going back there for a variety of reasons, and this makes me forget all those rationalizations...damn.
And, Thanks.
e

tg said...

Thanks, Elizabeth, but no apologies for making you miss BsAs more and more! I'm just curious about the variety of reasons for not going there, if they aren't the obvious ones of cost and disruption. There's much to enjoy there.

& I'm so glad the video gave you so much. It's not easy filming dance in a small space, but it seems to convey plenty: just the embrace at the beginning I think says a lot about the dance and the culture...