Monday, 19 August 2013

Flamenco and tango

'Try to be good friends with the earth and with the sky. Feel the floor. Lift the arms very slowly, but only feeling the feet and the floor. With the whole body feel the floor.'

'When you do only one strong beat with the hand or with the feet, but just at the right moment – and there's only one right moment, you know it? – and with your whole being behind (if not, it's not enough) it can be like, like a beam of light to other people. That's true; I know it.'

'If you are healthy you can dance until you die. In flamenco we only dance because it is necessary, not because the curtain is there...'

In one of his wide-ranging monologues Pedro Sanchez said there's a flamenco influence in tango, and since then I've wanted to sit down with him to watch flamenco and find out where he saw this influence. I was reminded of this when I watched Flamenco at 5:15, an Oscar-winning short about a flamenco class taught to students at the National Ballet School of Canada. The (Spanish) teachers speak English. (It's on Openculture, along with 549 other films that are free to watch.)

The three quotes are from the teachers, and they reminded me of things tango dancers have said, or things I've watched. Tete talking about the importance of the floor, of being grounded, Cacho Dante making one precise, clear step at the end of a tango, Ricardo Vidort insisting on the urgency of dancing. If you don't dance because you must, don't dance.

It's interesting watching trained ballet students, their whole discipline based around being aerial, trying to get to grips with flamenco, which is resolutely earth-based, however much the arms reach up. I watched the Bolshoi a few weeks back: not only are their leaps phenomenal, it's the way they land, softly, as if they are as light as a feather.

They did well, the students; quickly mastering the rhythms and movements, but in the end flamenco looked like a style of dance, without the personal urgency you see in great flamenco. The old woman who taught them could create real shock just by moving. & when they danced, their eyes looked out, as if looking for applause, for reassurance. In the best flamenco I've seen the eyes are lost, inward-looking. But they are young, still very young.

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