Saturday, 10 December 2011


The luxury of a morning in after a milonga, to enjoy a slow coffee in the sunshine and remember the partners you shared the previous evening with: the tall one who delighted in a fast vals tanda, the short round body that fitted itself so memorably and fluently into the slow grave music of some Tipica Victor, the older Italian who enjoyed so much the elegance of a tanda of De Angelis early when the floor was empty. I enjoyed dancing with her a few times: she spoke no English and very little Spanish, and I guess her conversations (with Pedro Sanchez among others) were in Italian of sorts, possible because it was the language of at least one of the parents of many living Argentines, and anyway Italian and Spanish are not so different.

And some local partners: the one with tattoos and tight jeans (I didn't notice the jeans until she stood up) seemed out of place in a traditional milonga, not so much because of the jeans (she looked elegant enough) but as she clearly preferred an open/close embrace and the kind of dance that goes with it. & then a wonderful lady who talked and laughed happily between dances and then simply melted into four tangos of D'Agostino (with Angel Vargas, as she reminded me): the floor just seemed to open up around us. Then that slender partner: at first we couldn't quite agree on the beat, then it began to settle down and by the fourth tango the shared warmth of the embrace was the only thing that existed, constant and unchanging, so much at one with partner that the music and the floor just fell into place around the embrace. Then we walked away from it; that, after all, is the agreement.

Dance and music: musicians leave hard evidence of what they've made, but dancers leave nothing but memories, and perhaps an unquantifiable change of consciousness created by the few moments' experience of intimacy with a partner, who may be a complete stranger.

Memories, and now videos I guess. Actually I wonder if video could be misleading for intimate social tango as it emphasises watching and performance rather than direct experience. It's great that people learn from it, but learning from video is likely to be partial. You see only the obvious and you may really need someone with long experience to show you, physically or even in the video, things that might not be immediately obvious. Video tends to minimise the physicality and you might end up with the bare bones of a dance, without its seductive flesh. I hope video doesn't end up degrading the close embrace dance.


Paul said...

I wonder if video could be misleading for intimate social tango as it emphasises watching and performance rather than direct experience.

It is perhaps not coincidental that the great bulk of tango clips appearing on YouTube these days show professional touring couples giving elaborately choreographed performances on an empty floor that aim to impress the uncritical neophyte. By contrast, those clips that attempt to show glimpses of intimate social tango may run the risk of appearing (at least to the inexperienced eye) tame, restricted and dull. As you suggest, there may be a real risk of doing the more intimate experience of social tango a great disservice in showing video performances of it. Some things you can’t see; you just have to feel and experience them.

jantango said...

A new tango documentary with interviews of Argentine teachers in Rosario. On the embrace:

Tangocommuter said...

Thanks, Paul. Of course you're right: social tango is always going to look less interesting visually than stage tango. But I was also concerned about people trying to learn social dance from video. You simply don't see enough in 2D video on a tiny screen. 3D on a large screen would give a much better idea of the real physicality of the social dance. I'm with Wim Wenders on that one: 3D is great for dance!

& thanks for the link, Jantango. Must check that out, when I have a moment!

Janis said...

The young milongueros of the 1940s learning by watching; of course, they didn't have videos or classes in those days. Videos and classes can't convey what tango is. One has to feel the music to dance.

Teachers are making tango a technical dance for trained dancers who can memorize choreography.

Tango is a social dance that anyone can enjoy.

Chris said...

Paul, I recall a fox that agreed.

"One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye."


Thanks for that documentary Janis - it seems the correct link is the one found here.

Cinderella said...

Of course, watching is no substitute for direct experience. But one can still learn a lot through watching - not videos, but what about sitting in the milonga and watch people dancing?
I don't agree with you, TC, that social tango is always going to look less interesting than stage tango.
And there's something else:
I recall that special moment last weekend, when I sat in a milonga very late at night watching the few dancers which where left on the floor, their embraces, their relaxed and happy faces... Even if I was not dancing myself at this particular moment - or perhaps because I wasn't -, I could witness and share their feelings. Like this also newcomers or beginners can get a glimpse of the feeling of tango. And you sometimes can see that in videos, too.

Tangocommuter said...

Thanks, Cinderella. Oh, watching is very important! & when we watch other people move, our muscles move involuntarily, our bodies unconsciously follow what we see. & I love watching tango, the dancers in a milonga, that is. As you say, even the faces are expressive. Good social dancing is always better to watch than any demonstration! I just think video, as a way of learning, is always going to be incomplete. You just don't see enough. As I added above, dance on a big screen in 3D is the only way to get an idea of the physicality of movement in dance.