Wednesday, 6 February 2013

'Coming back from Buenos Aires to dance in …' 2

I keep remembering those BsAs tandas that become so hushed you can hear the swish of the soles of many shoes kissing the floor, although the music is loud and clear. Everyone is that attentive to the music, and that precise on the beat. It makes me hold my breath for fear of disturbing it. It's an experience worth any number of long-distance flights. I've noticed it occasionally, for a moment or two, in London, late in a milonga. It's strange that I think of it as very moving, but it is. That degree of absorption in the music and in each other, by a number of couples moving as one. At that level all the fears and uncertainties about connection have evaporated, not as a result of training but just because there's something infinitely more enjoyable to be absorbed in.

London milongas can seem a bit raucous by comparison, but I wouldn't want to suggest that there's no fun in BsAs milongas. There's a lot of fun, and probably duplicity too. But there's also an incessant attention to the partner and the energies of the music. The overall feeling is often of very warm affection. Look at any couple dancing, and you'll see why tango is called the dance of love: they look blissfully absorbed in each other even if they are total strangers. & then the music stops, they laugh and go their different ways. Sadly, love doesn't usually work quite like that.

I think that attention to all the energies of the music is what we should aim for, and I think we're getting there. Not so long ago, in the 'nuevo period', music was often background to a lot of gymnastics. Now people are listening, and know the music better, are discriminating about the music played, and dance more closely with it. (In fact, not so long ago it was actually hard work getting tango CDs, and YouTube and internet streaming were in their infancy.)

Learning to be open to all the energies of the music takes time, and listening. We can learn about the music and its structure from musicians and dancers like Joaquín Amenábar, who offers a lot of insight into the music and how to dance to it. But responding to the music as the older dancers do? I don't know how we can develop this, apart from dancing as long and as frequently as they've done. First of all I think we need to be aware that it is a possibility, something to aim for. I guess it takes a lot of listening and practice, with old friends, with newcomers, with both experienced and inexperienced dancers, to become that confident with the music and the embrace. Perhaps Tete's advice is useful: sin pensamiento! Without thinking what you're going to lead next, just letting your whole body react to the music.

Guided practicas might be more useful than formal classes because they are places where you can let yourself go a bit. Classes suggest a topic to be learned and mastered, with all the discipline and competitive learning of the classroom, with the feeling that you've 'got it' (or not), and then it's over. Practicas are an immediate and hands-on way of developing a feel for the dance and the music, a continuing process that doesn't end with the class, since a practica is more like a milonga, a place where people can share experience. But guided practicas, practicas observed and 'moderated', not free-for-alls. Or classes like Cacho Dante's classes, combining exercises, new material and a lot of free dance, closely observed by Cacho.

What Pedro and Osvaldo Centano do in those videos is instinctive; they couldn't really teach it, but Pedro gave me a big hint when he pointed out that I must have learned to dance in London because my dance was all with my feet, and he went on to point out how, in stepping to the left, there can be a dip then a lift. We all started out learning tango as steps, and thinking we need to learn more steps, and keep on learning steps in class, so it's not easy. True, you've got to learn the footwork for ochos, giros and so on; you need to learn how to move on your feet. The problem arises if no one suggests to you that there's more to it than that: getting your feet in the right place might be only the basis to the dance, not the actual dance.

'Listen to the music!' as Pedro would say. &, 'Take it easy!'

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