Monday, 30 September 2013

You dance with your feet; I can see you learned in London!

...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.


Chris said...

Nice article. Thanks TC. You've put your finger on probably the most important difference in movement between what the Argentines call dancing tango, and what most in the UK call dancing tango.

"Eduardo Aguirre... almost inexplicably, he taught only briefly in the UK."

Some of the explanation was apparent to those like myself who learned with him. What he was trying to put over was incompatible and actually opposed to what most classgoers had learned from UK-based teachers, and so inevitably his teaching was not well received. If he'd been here ten years later, he would have found a few more learners here ready to receive what he was offering. I'm sad he's no longer with us.

Anonymous said...

I agree but from a different perspective. I see too many London dancers reach out with their feet, or be caught in poses unbalanced and awkward.

To move well, whilst maintaining a good posture and pose, and remain dignified, we keep our feet under us.

This coincides with what you say - we move with the body, and never plant our feet "out there somewhere". And this helps the follower too - you're moving, instead of your feet are over there and you are here .. confused.

Tangocommuter said...

Hi Anon, and thanks for the link. You've reminded me of a couple of slow motion clips I posted in 2009, one showing Luisito Ferraris, who grew up in the milongas of Buenos Aires, and one showing 'Junior' Cevila, a well-known show dancer, about exactly this topic of sticking a leg out without first moving the upper body. In the clips, both are taking a simple step to the left. Guess which one steps before moving the upper body!