Monday, 19 January 2015

Tango foxtrot

There seems to be something missing in the tango world, something I can't find anywhere, and it's foxtrot. We have it from older dancers, especially from Osvaldo and Coca (in the MP interview I think - I don't have time to check it out) that foxtrot was one of the dances that defined Argentine social dancing in the 20s and 30s and 40s. I think Osvaldo said that any 'milonguero' who claims to have danced tango in the Golden Age and can't foxtrot just wasn't really there. & yet... where's the video of Osvaldo and Coca dancing foxtrot? I've never seen a couple dancing anything that seemed to me remotely like foxtrot during a jazz or rock tanda in Buenos Aires, and I've never come across it in films of milongas either. If there is a video of Buenos Aires foxtrot please let me know! I've looked but can't find it.

It was big! It's not just Osvaldo talking. Francisco Canaro recorded a lot of foxtrots like this, and also a charming foxtrot Chá para dos, better known in English as Tea for Two: sadly, the audio quality isn't great. It's curious that Canaro's syncopation in foxtrot is really lively, but he doesn't use it much in the tangos he recorded around that time, as if he felt it out of place. His jazz band recordings started around 1923, and there are plenty of them over the following years, although tango remained his main output.

I came across this video of Oscar Casas and Ana Miguel. The title calls it 'La colegiala (fox trot)' . La colegiala seems to be a popular song from a Columbian band, recorded in 1983, but I'm not sure it's really foxtrot music*. As to the dance, Oscar would be in a position to have learned foxtrot from the older dancers, but I think his dance resembles tango as much as anything. But perhaps the two dances are similar? 

Foxtrot was one of the dances of the American jazz scene in the early 1920s, but it was taken over and popularised as a ballroom dance at some stage, with the characteristic open embrace. There are a few old Pathe clips of foxtrot on YouTube which suggest the original dance. To me, this, danced in close embrace, remains the best: others are more flamboyant and showy. It also seems to show patterns that aren't that far from stuff that's danced in tango and I get the feel of a relaxed musicality, although the bouncy tip-toe style is very far from salon tango. These Pathe videos are early all right, but that means from the silent era, so the music was added later. & there's a foxtrot lesson here, taught by 'Santos Casani, the well-known Teacher of Dancing', using an novel 'special glass floor', from 1931. Maybe something of the old version survived: the great photographer Don McCullin talks in a documentary about dancing foxtrot, 'the naughty kind, not the ballroom version' when he was growing up in the UK in the late 1940s.

But the Buenos Aires version? I'd be very interested to see it. 

* See comments! 

8 comments:

Mat thias said...

What about href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKTWiLu1MXk">that? The steps look for me like the steps taught by Santos Casani. And, by the way, La Colegiala was already recorded by Enrique Rodriguez.

Tangocommuter said...

Many thanks, Matthias!

Ah yes, Rodriguez, of course. There are several Rodriguez versions of La Colegiala on YouTube: I like this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-C_WEVIsA4 although the music seems to have moved away a bit from the jazz origins.

& thanks for your link to the dance, but it needs surgery. This version works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKTWiLu1MXk
It resembles Oscar's version, so maybe this is close to the earlier Argentine foxtrot. As I said, there seems to be common ground between 1920 - 30s foxtrot, and some of the patterns we use in tango. But I'd still like to see how Osvaldo and Coca dance it, a direct link to the Argentine foxtrot of the golden era.

Janis said...

Sorry TC, but you're giving credit where no credit is due.

Oscar Casas started dancing in Toronto, where he met his wife Mary Ann Henderson. What he dances now as foxtrot was learned by watching the milongueros.

Osvaldo and Coca aren't old enough to have danced in the golden era 1935-1945. Better to ask Roberto Segarra who is 94 about it and others in their 80s.

You're making so many assumptions without doing your research.

Janis said...

Julio Alejo is 80.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88iavCchGLs

Alito is 85.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ial0to9mY6E

Tangocommuter said...

You're making so many criticisms without reading what I wrote. I said I'm looking for a video of 'golden age' foxtrot. I believe Osvaldo was born in 1938, so would have learned 'golden age' foxtrot, like tango, from his parents' generation.

Thanks for the links. Both show dancers having a lot of fun, but is that 'golden age' foxtrot? Is it any kind of foxtrot? Looks like swing/jive to me, with perhaps a bit of tango thrown in.

& Oscar learned 'by watching the milongueros'? All credit to him, for that at least!

JohnM said...

I don't believe you will find video of what you are calling "Golden Age Foxtrot". In Argentina there seems to be no evidence of the sort of naming and standardisation of dance prevalent in England which resulted in English way becoming the basis of most ballroom around the World.

To all kinds of (dance) music they would have socially danced in any appropriate way they could and some still do to this day.

Tangocommuter said...

Thanks, JohnM. I get your point, but I don't agree that there's no naming and standardising of dance in Argentina. There's a dance called tango, for a start, and although there's no 'official' standard of it, it's fairly consistent from milonga to milonga in BsAs. & Osvaldo and Coca seem quite convinced there was a dance called foxtrot that wasn't the same as tango, and Canaro and others recorded the music.

As to a film of it, that's another matter and I don't think any is publicly available, if it exists. A pity.

Tangocommuter said...

JohnM, sorry, can't follow your comments on Victor Sylvester. Please read my post again! I drew attention to Osvaldo Cartery's identification of a dance he called foxtrot that he danced when younger, and that people who only claimed to have been around at the time wouldn't know. I wondered what the dance was like and asked if anyone could point me to any video of it.

If you think Osvaldo got it all wrong, take it up with him, not with me!