Friday, 30 March 2012

'Cacho' Dante

It made me so happy to see this. Cacho is a great teacher, and he teaches group classes several times a week. Or he used to teach. Last year I found he was no longer teaching as he wasn't well. It looks as if he's back, lively as before. I think he's great because he takes the trouble to watch very intently, and can then make a comment that changes everything about your tango. I think of him as a very generous teacher, and modest. His group classes weren't that expensive, and were serious and intense, and the general standard of dance was good. But they were entirely in Spanish, and most of his students are local.

& I'm also happy to see the dance at the end of the interview because, unbelievably, there's only one video of him on the whole of YouTube. Or at least there used to be; I just checked and noticed that armanyengue1 has recently uploaded two more, dating back to Seattle in 2004. It used to be a great pleasure to watch him in the milongas a few years ago, and I look forward to seeing him again.

Incidentally, talking of 'shooting the feet' I notice how, like Ricardo Vidort, he often lifts his knee a little high so the foot comes down more emphatically, with the leg quite straight. I think this is very characteristic of his generation, although it might not always be so pronounced. Stepping like this emphasises the beat, and pushes the body up straight too. I wrote about his classes here.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Meeting Myriam

Meticulous and precise, as a teacher and in approach to dance. Ricardo Vidort was neat and precise in his movements. I'm not sure if she taught with him, but she danced with him a lot.

After a single tango she reminds me the details are important: the upright posture, getting the embrace right, the right arm in full contact with the woman's left side but not tight, the left arm and hand firm, so the energy for a turn comes from the full extent of torso and arm. '& STRETCH that leg straight!'

I ask about Ricard Vidort's way of emphatic stepping, almost stamping, and her face becomes radiant; for a moment she becomes Ricardo walking. 'The energy!' she says, walking and turning her torso, eyes shining. Meticulous, precise, funny, friendly and utterly charming.

You don't need to do a lot of complicated things: it's good just to walk well.

The energy down into the ground, yes, the body upright. With the foot, like a cat, soft but strong, not pointed like a classical dancer, on the ball of the foot not the heel, the upper side of the foot leading, the weight forwards. The feet always collecting, stepping into the space left by the partner's foot. The legs straight. Breathe in and then keep the chest raised. The main connection is right upper arm under the woman's left armpit, rarely ever with the right hand. It's a flexible connection, the upper arm and shoulder opening a little in turns to give the woman more space. In turns make sure the upper torso, left hand to right shoulder, stays in line, firmly guiding the giro. Once the leader starts the giro, leave it to the woman to continue the energy. The head angled slightly down to the woman's right shoulder.

Head up and chest out when you go to dance with a lady. I am a winner!

Monday, 19 March 2012

Some buildings

One of the pleasures of living in the Congreso district is the discovery of extraordinary Belle Époque buildings. Most of the city is recent concrete residential blocks, mostly as dull as can be, but in Congreso older buildings have survived. As the name suggests, this area is where the Congress building is, so maybe there were more great mansions there, dating from the days when, as I discover from reading Irene Nemirovsky's short stories of 1930s Paris, a wealthy, generous and good-natured playboy in Paris would be Argentine.

& the disadvantages of Congreso? The endless political demonstrations, noisy with drums and shouting, the streets closed off, and riot police, backed up by water cannon. Not that I ever saw them do anything.

The Confitería El Molino is one of the most extravagant – and decayed – buildings in the district. Completed a decade or so after the Congreso, it became a favourite meeting place for local cultural, business and political figures. The café was closed in 1997, and today is only rarely opened to the public except for events advertising the urgent need to restore the building. Derelict and boarded up, it appears to be falling apart. The more strange because it is just across the road from the Congress building itself, a great contrast of styles, the well-maintained austere American/Hellenic Capitol/Congress commanding serious respect, with the almost wilfully bizarre Molino, which almost urges you not to take it seriously, a fun building. I think Tangocherie wrote about it and the well-used dance floor there, but I can't find the reference.

(Just a note here: the UK has an ornate Parliament building as its predecessor burned down during a short period when Gothic was fashionable. A few years earlier or later, and our Parliament would have been a serious block of Portland stone.)

Wandering round the streets reveals other less fantastic but still fabulous buildings, with wonderful details.

 But nothing prepared me for turning a corner and coming across this. Those nymphs must be at least three metres tall, and the putti above the size of a grown human. They look like marble, and could well be, but are more likely to be stucco, perhaps mixed with with marble dust. I can't help wondering who chose to sit on that balcony between those nymphs for a morning coffee. & in that quiet, tree-lined side street it would still be exceptional.

Friday, 16 March 2012


Tango is improvised? People say that, but I wonder if it's the right word. You could say disco is improvised: it's not really a partner dance and you can make up your moves as you go along, wave your arms around, jump up and down, throw your head back and forth. In tango you are holding your partner close to you; there are limits.

Ricardo Vidort said you can make up moves in tango, but tango itself is a limited framework, which is part of the beauty of it. I think 'making up moves' is more like finding new connections between things you've done hundreds of times, and practised through dancing. In effect, you've practiced over and over again even the simplest things like taking a step forwards until, as Fred Astaire (who practised obsessively) said, 'your body tells you what to do', you no longer have to think about it or make a conscious effort, your body is free to dance, to be spontaneous. Astaire's dance, of course, at source wasn't in the least spontaneous – it became spontaneous with practise.

Tango might be spontaneous, rather than improvised. There's an element of freedom, but so much of what forms the dance is very far from being improvised. Part-improvised, perhaps, in the way musicians improvise music: their music arises from working on practising their instruments, practising improvisations over and over again, probably studying harmony and counterpoint, and listening closely to improvised music, too.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

El Nene

I've somehow managed to think online about tango for four years (four years and one week to be exact) with hardly a mention of El Nene, although I've known of him from videos. I don't recall seeing him dance, but there are plenty of videos on YouTube. What's particularly interesting about this one is that it was uploaded just a few days ago: that is, he's around and teaching right now. If you live in Europe or the US this might not be news; you might have enjoyed the good fortune of watching him, of dancing with him, of learning with him. But if you are in the UK, it's quite possible you've never heard of him. I can't help repeating myself: we've been missing out for years, and we still are.

Difficult to find out much about him: the only biographical info seems to be on the milongueando site, which sadly has been infected with something nasty and isn't safe to visit ( - avoid it). This incomplete sentence occurs in my (StartPage) search result: 'Eduardo 'El Nene' Masci has been dancing tango in Buenos Aires for 50 years. The youngest of seven sons brought up in the barrios of...' But do you really need a biography when you can watch dance like this? I can watch the opening 30 seconds, the walk, of this over and over (well, and the rest of it too), right from the first step, so clearly and completely led with the whole body. There's a complete attention to the lead, a complete absorption in the music. There's a gentleness and softness about it, it's so inevitable that you hardly think of it as leading; the music just seems to draw Elisabetta Cavallari and El Nene along the lines of melody and the rhythm. A fabulous Troilo track, a great sensuality of music and movement.

&... well, wouldn't it be great to have someone like this in London, in the UK? To watch this quality of tango, perhaps to dance with someone like this? I wonder what workshops with a tanguero like this would be like. I guess they'd be very much like the dance: perhaps dazzling on the surface only in moments, but something that would continue to inform how you dance, how you felt about the music, for a long while.

& there's a great Troilo tango then vals here, from a week or two ago. Better video quality too.

(Rovigotanto were the hosts for this, run by Elisabetta: they are centred in Boara Pisani, about 60 km south-west of Venice. That area of north Italy, Milan, Venice, Ferrara, is home to several great dancers from Argentina, and regularly invites others. Rovigotango videos are here on YouTube. There's quite a wealth of great tango there, including video of their milongas. It's evident from their website that the milongas are run along quite formal Buenos Aires lines; in fact you can see the separate seating of men and women in the videos.)

PS: I find the red light a bit over the top. The world must look wonderfully green outside.

PPS: The following seems to be the Spanish version of what can't be read in English:

Eduardo Masci baila el tango en Buenos Aires hace 50 años. Es el mas joven de siete hermanos criados en los barrios de Caballito y Boedo, ha sido apodado como “el nene” cuando siendo solamente un chico aprendió el tango de sus ermanos mayores.
A los diez años ya estaba bailando y cuando tenía 14 era un habitué de las milongas mas populares de la época como el Club Huracán y el Club Buenos Aires entre otros. Trabajo para el Estado toda su vida pero su pasatiempo fue siempre bailar y con los años fue desarrollando su particular estilo por el que es muy respetado. A menudo hace exhibiciones en las milongas más importantes de Buenos Aires y hace pocos años comenzó a viajar al exterior a enseñar y exhibir su tango. Maestros de Milongueando organizado por Maria Plazaola y Susana Miller y jurado al Campeonato Mundial de Tango en Buenos Aires.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Joaquín Amenábar

More good news, as Tango en el Cielo says. Bandoneón player and leader of Orquesta Típica de la Guardia Vieja of Buenos Aires, Joaquín Amenábar will be in London Saturday and Sunday 17 - 18 March teaching workshops at Tango en el Cielo on tango music for tango dancers. Joaquín has created a method for teaching dancers with no musical training how tango music works and how to dance to it, how to move with the music. Please see details here.

PS: I wrote about Joaquín's last visit here.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

The good news...

For anyone within reach of London, in case you haven't heard, Carablanca is having an extended evening on Friday 16 March. No class, just dancing, 8 to 2am, with DJ Bernhard Gehberger from Vienna. Six hours, a full-length milonga! A mini-festivalito! Great if you can't afford to travel far for a good evening of tango.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Start Page

To celebrate Google's new 'privacy' policy, I've added a new box on the right of this column, Start Page search, right under the Tango Blog List. Start Page (it used to be Starting Page) is ingenious: it uses Google search, but doesn't pass on the ID of your computer, doesn't, in fact, even note the ID of your computer. So you get to use Google without Google knowing where your search is coming from. This extra stage in a search means a delay which I've found imperceptible, but bearing in mind what a detailed picture of you your search engine is building up, it's probably worth it.

Anyone knows anything wrong with Start Page, do let me know.

PS. The button to click to search is to the right of the box: if you aren't using full page width you may not see it. However, if you click on 'Start Page' it will take you to the main search page.