Thursday, 24 October 2013

A tango dream

I dream again about tango. A group of friendly, good-natured people gather for a milonga. But first the floor has to be cleared. It's strewn with rubbish. Building rubble, waste paper, old clothes, shoes, broken furniture. Perhaps there was a phantom grand piano, I'm not sure. Maybe it was an elephant.

I think it's interesting that I've only dreamed twice in eight or nine years about tango, given that it's occupied a prominent place in my consciousness. Twice that I can remember, anyway. I wonder if it's because the activity itself, dancing, is something of a dream. In fact neither of my tango dreams has actually been about dancing. A while back I dreamed of some dreadful future in Buenos Aires in which people were trying to recreate something they called 'estilo milonguero'. I laugh and shudder at the memory.

As to the rubbish-strewn pista, to me that's specific and local. There's all kinds of rubbish I need to clear out of the way before I can dance well: perhaps the same goes for the other friendly, good-natured people too. Specifically, I would say, muscle memories of stuff that was learned by rote years back, that springs onto the dance floor partly out of memorisation rather than feeling for the music, the whole manner of using ready-made movements and attitudes, a lack of direct, immediate response. I just watched again my video of Pedro Sanchez dancing with Monica Unzaga: his lead is as supple and flowing as the music, totally instinctive and fresh throughout, and at the same time effortlessly adapted to a crowded floor.

More than a bit of clearing up to do before we get there...

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Learning from dancers

It's often said that one of the problems of learning from dancers, especially the older generation, is that although they dance wonderfully they haven't learned how to teach. & it's true. I still think you're better off with them: somewhere along the way what they're doing gets through, and what you've worked to master is yours. 

That's what came to mind after I'd watched the video of Eduardo a number of times. He's fast. He simply can't slow down to show what he's doing because he'd lose the impulse, the momentum, which is what feels right to him. You might feel more comfortable with a trained teacher who would make sure that everything was cut up in bite-sized pieces for you, but you might well be missing the vitality in the food, the vitality that's going to nourish you and your partners long-term. The impetus, the energy. The reason you dance in the first place.

There's one simple solution, slo-mo video. It seemed like a good idea to take a short piece of Patricia Muller's video and slow it down. 


& it works: the basic but effective use of the feet is clear, as is the movement of the torso. But what really came through to me was something I hadn't clearly seen at full speed, the delay on the side step Yvonne takes before her back cross, and the long step after it. Eduardo holds her there a moment so he can match a beat in the music with the emphasis of the back cross, then the energy of the turn carries her across a long side step. & to do this, of course, his feet need to move. 

There's no music playing in this piece, although it feels as if he's singing audibly as he dances. (I'm told he used to, and I've noticed his generation of dancers often sing if they are asked to demonstrate without music.) That pause, a breath, gives both of them the chance to prepare for the back cross, and makes the actual turning much more emphatic without looking rushed. Even if it is fast.