Monday, 24 January 2011

Pedro Sanchez and Rosanna Remon

I made a mistake a few weeks ago: I titled a post 'As good as it gets'. I had a feeling at the time that this was unwise. It highlighted a wonderful piece of dancing, Adela Galeazzi and Santiago Cantenys, but we live in such a wonderful decade that within weeks there's bound to be another wonderful piece of dance on YouTube, and the title suggested that all the others will always be inferior. & that's what's happened.

Pedro Sanchez and Rosanna Remon. They're not in the romantic setting of the last tanda at Centro Leonesa around 4am, with just two other couples left on the floor. It's daylight, and they're in someone's neat but not too spacious kitchen, with a CD player on the worktop. Does it matter?

It seems absurd to me that she's not known in London: as far as I'm aware she's never visited. She's Argentine, teaches and lives not that far away in Milan, so she's at least an EU resident, possibly a citizen. Wouldn't it be great to see her here every once in a while, to get some workshops, perhaps? I like the way she looks completely absorbed in her dance, which is so uncluttered by superfluous ornaments that even the slightest toe tap (and they are slight) attracts attention. There are very few videos of her: the other five are of her dancing with Tete when he taught in Italy.

It's great to see Pedro dancing with her. Many thanks to Jantango for filming and uploading this.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Sound systems

There's a kind of rumour that sound systems in BsAs are not that good. Does this suggest that sound systems elsewhere, in London, say, are far superior? Because I don't think they are necessarily.

Many of the halls that are home to milongas in BsAs are home to nothing else: they have milongas night after night, with different Djs and organisers, so it's likely that the systems have evolved to give the best possible sound. Sadly, this is never the case in London, where organisers can face the trouble of setting up speakers and amplifiers, and removing them at the end of the evening. The set-up might be adequate or not, even if the equipment is excellent.

Salon Canning is an interesting example of a hall which functions as both a milonga and, because it is so extensive, as a place where people sit and chat. There's never room on the dance floor for everyone who is there: you dance in shifts, so to speak. The square dance floor is at the centre of a massive square room, and the speakers are on a rig over the floor itself, so the music is angled down onto the floor from all four sides. This works well: the dancers have sufficient volume of music, while people sitting around the sides of the floor aren't so deafened that they have to shout at each other. Moreover, the system delivers excellent bass, so the dancers get a strong rhythm. It may be that the equipment in Canning isn't the best, but it's certainly well organised. The upper register of music is much the same pitch as conversation, and if people can't hear themselves talk because of the high notes, they simply shout louder. As people drink their voices get louder anyway, but this may be less of a problem at Canning, where you might have to wait half the evening for the waiter to deliver your drink!

Some smaller halls in London have built-in speakers which aren't necessarily focused on the dance floor, but so long as the bass is strong and clear the volume doesn't need to be high, and a strong bass conflicts less with conversation. It tends to be larger venues that are more difficult to organise for good sound.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Between milongas

At Tate Modern: Gauguin's mask-like faces; masks, idols. Faces dream, rarely look you in the eye, even in the Brittany paintings. More similarity between Brittany and Tahiti than I'd imagined: different clothing. & animals constantly, dogs, lizards, birds, horses. The other. And riders on horses, suggesting the transitory, passing through. These days a rider on a horse suggests affluence: it's different. But Gaugin seems to set up an environment in which a horse and rider seem to be passing through the present, from and into the unknown. Polychrome wooden bas reliefs and paintings: similar lack of depth, animated by colour. The marvelous, massive carving for the entrance to his house, where he was to die, 'Maison de Jouir' carved large on the lintel, and at ground level "Soyez mystérieuses" on one side, and "Soyez amoureuses et vous serez heureuses" on the other. And a striking painting in the last room: a youth with his arm around his girl, looking straight out. Nostalgie for youthful love, confronting a feeling of inevitable loss.

Brigid Riley at the National. As Adrian Searle said, you don't look at her paintings, you watch them.

He also commented that they are 'made' by assistants, and it's nonsense that the artist's hand must be there; it's the presence of the artist's mind that matters. Yes, but it's great to visit the exhibition of 20th century drawings at the British Museum and see both the mind and the hand of a good many artists there.

“I believe that in the indeterminacy of drawing, the contingent way that images arrive in the work, lies some kind of model of how we live our lives. The activity of drawing is a way of trying to understand who we are or how we operate in the world. It is in the strangeness of the activity itself that can be detected judgement, ethics and morality.” William Kentridge.

A lot of drawing at the BM, because there's also the show of Egyptian prayers drawn for the dead to use, maps of the afterlife, instructions. Negotiating the wonderfully strange world of the afterlife a bit like logging on, with passwords to remember, and questions to answer correctly. Amazing stuff. This, from 1,200BC, really caught my eye:

Two priests: they carry implements to open the mouth of the mummy, so the spirit can fly out (as a bird). But they are coloured slightly differently, and their bodies are actually interlaced in a way that is physically impossible. Perhaps whoever coloured in the outlines got it wrong, but I took it as deliberate, the artist enjoying the potential of drawing.

1,100 years later they were still making the same images, but all that humour and spirit had gone out of it. The drawing becomes lifeless, crude, dull.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Héctor 'Cachirulo' Pellozo

Here's someone I really look forward to seeing again, Héctor Pellozo. (I always thought he was actually called Héctor Cachirulo!) Seeing him again will mean I'll be climbing the stairs at Maipu 444, and there I hope he'll be, welcoming guests he knows and those he doesn't know too.

It's a great story. The 8 year-old who once sold papers on the trams now runs the Cachirulo milongas, among the best in town. With respect, and a passion for tango: 'You owe respect to the others, to the dance floor, to the people... for me this is essential'. He says he's the good cop and the bad cop: he enthusiastically welcomes anyone dressed well enough to his milongas, but he'll confront anyone dancing without care for other people on the floor, give them their money back, and see them off the premises. The tango floor is not for entertainment, and that's how he's going to keep it.

I just wish there were more of him! I just wish he could open a weekly milonga in London, too. It probably wouldn't survive, but what a treat that would be! The milonga is for dancing tango, and dancing tango is about the expression of love and tenderness. Inexpensive alcohol and cheap entry for non-dancers would get short shrift, as they encourage people to hang out and talk loudly. If you want to amuse yourself there are other places.

Many thanks to Practimilonguero for highlighting Héctor. Without doubt he's one of the really accomplished dancers of his generation, as well as running the best milongas in town, and it's great to hear him talk and in Part 2 to watch him dance. To... Cachirulo – what else?

Here are the codes, displayed in several languages in Cachirulo. 'Respect' occurs four times:

Welcome to the best milonga in Buenos Aires. Tanguero friends, please pay attention.
Here we dance milonguero style tango, and we learn to respect the codes of the milonga.
We dance with a warm, respectful and close embrace.
We follow the line of dance, in a counter-clockwise direction.
We try not to step backwards into the line of dance, always walking forward, as it should be.
We do not lift our feet too much from the floor; this way we avoid hitting other dancers.
We invite women to dance through the classic “Cabeceo del caballero”.
Furthemore, and “very important”, respect is the first card we play in the game of the milonga.
Much to our regret, not respecting these codes will make it impossible to dance in Cachirulo.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Magic tandas

Irene and Man Yung commented on height in dance, something we are all aware of, particularly with partners we've not danced with before. I'm always cautious about dancing with a partner who's taller than me: the embrace might not feel so comfortable, your partner's head completely blocks out your right-hand view, and height changes the centre of gravity. Shorter partners usually have problems trying to sort out how to use their left arm, but I danced once with a truly tiny Argentine woman who'd got that one sorted: she just reached straight up with her left arm and put it around my neck. I don't know if she found it comfortable, but we danced a fast vals tanda as if we were a single entity.

So when I face a partner I don't know and realise she's rather taller than me, I have an apprehensive moment, but the great thing is that without thinking I pull myself up and stand tall. It's too easy for me to start to lean over a shorter partner; uncomfortable for her, and my dance suffers. Not having good natural posture is a problem in tango; maybe not if you dance open embrace, but if you want to dance close you really need good posture. Leandro Palou remarked in class that a lot of the problems people have in tango result from poor posture.

Having a tanda of early Canaro to dance to, the music Martha and Manolo use for canyengue, is always going to help. That relaxed, earthy beat is calm, reassuring and buoyant. It's music that hardly suggests anything elaborate. If you have a fairly empty floor you have space to walk too, and if you happen to have found a partner who responds to all that, it's as if you can do no wrong. A really good dance can stay with you for a long time, and leaves you wondering what made it feel so good.

It's a pity tango dancers sometimes look as if they're trying to be teenagers again. Why? Nothing to be ashamed of in listening to that music and savouring it as you dance. & 'Dance like your partner is your first love, or don't dance at all' as Irene and Man Yung say, reflecting no doubt the views of their Argentine friends! The result can be magic.

Sadly, the main source of that early music, Francisco Canaro: Las Grandes Orquestas del Tango, is currently unavailable.