...Pedro Sanchez said to me a few years back. It wasn't intended scornfully: he was just trying to get through to me how tango is danced in Buenos Aires. 'Con el cuerpo!' he kept saying. With the body! It took me a while to realise that he was talking about the upper body.
I thought of this recently, sitting watching the dancing at a London milonga. Dancers who've learned in London (and elsewhere) prioritise the footwork, which can be elaborate and skilfull. But that's where the energy begins and ends. The upper bodies tend to be largely inert, and the dance looks dull and incomplete.
Poorly-trained teachers, even from Buenos Aires, have learned little more than footwork, and that's what they practice and teach. In any case it's only recently that close embrace has become widely acceptable here: if you don't contact your partner with your upper body there's not much need to use it when you dance. But once you do dance in contact with partners, everything changes. It's a whole different dance.
Another quote: as Silvia Ceriani, the late Tete Rusconi's dance partner said, 'If you want to dance, you have to move your body!'
This appeared recently: a video of the late Eduardo Aguirre, who spent the last ten years of his life in Europe, teaching with Yvonne Meissner. He passed away in 2010 and I know is greatly missed by partners he danced with. Sadly, almost inexplicably, he taught only briefly in the UK. Where do you see the energy in this dance? He's showing what the feet do, but to me that's not the important part: the energy is in the upper body. I'm sure we've all learned much more precise and fine-looking ways of using our feet in turns – but have we learned to dance, and dance with such warmth and energy? I think this clip makes quite clear that the 'cuerpo' isn't the feet! It's a very bodily way of moving, an abundantly physical dance. This is a classroom demo and might be a bit exaggerated, but it shows the movement clearly.
Towards the end of the clip he and Yvonne dance briefly with music and show how, just turning, you can follow the surges in the music. A short, great lesson in dance and musicality. Así se baila el tango! That's how tango is danced! Wonderful.
Thanks to Patricia Muller for that one.