Monday, 8 June 2015

Some videos of Ismael Heljalil

I was totally astonished to see a couple of videos of Ismael Heljalil dancing with María Nieves at La Nacional a few months ago. Surely that's not the María Nieves, the tango queen of Broadway, and long-time partner of Juan Copes? The María does still dance, but recent videos of her don't greatly resemble this María, who is almost certainly younger. (The María was born in 1938.) I've never seen Ismael Heljalil outside Lo de Celia, looking frail in a heavy sweater which I assumed protected him from the airconditioning, but there's no doubt it's him in La Nacional, looking well and minus the sweater.

I first saw him on TangoandChaos. At a time when there were few videos of salon tango on YouTube, TangoandChaos suddenly electrified many of us with a series of videos of traditional tangueros from the then distant world of the Buenos Aires milongas. So this is what tango looks like in Buenos Aires! We'd heard about it but never seen it. The very first of these videos was of Ismael Heljalil in Lo de Celia, and the music was No Me Extraña of Pedro Laurenz. McGarry wrote a thoughtful introduction to the video and the music. As he says, there's no 'real giro', but what strikes me is that it is a dance full of turning. The opening phrase is about thirty seconds, and the couple calmly turn back and forth in one corner of the floor, and the dance continues like this. It's a dance suited to confined space, and of course the constant turning gives the lead a mental picture of the space around. 

(Apologies: this isn't from the T&C site, as the video there loads slowly -- it was set up before YouTube got so good.) I still love to watch this clip, and I still find No Me Extraña (along with Paisaje, also from Laurenz) just marvelous music. 

I enjoy watching clips of the complex and energetic dance of Ricardo Vidort. Ismael's dance may be deceptively simple by comparison, but as an example it's less intimidating. The content of the dance is the way he dances, rather than the steps he uses. It's not a particularly slow dance, but wonderfully effortless, smooth and unhurried, energetic, and calmly precise on the beat. The more recent clips of Ismael with María are more of the same, but in La Nacional, which is well-lit and more open than Lo de Celia, so the dance is clearer. I enjoy watching this María: I like her simple elegance, nothing superfluous, and her total attention to the music.

Not to dismiss the María who, it's said, claimed her success came without ever taking a lesson. 'The first time I danced the tango, it entered my skin through my feet, passed from my skin to my blood and through my blood to my heart. It requires no acrobatics, you simply have to devote yourself to your heartbeat.' & her comment on a recent Mundial del Tango was brief: 'Menos aire y mas piso', '[There should be] less air and more floor'. 'Tango acrobatics' is an oxymoron.

There are also two excellent videos of Ismael in Maipu 444 from Jantango and three tangos in Lo de Celia from Isa Negra tango.

No comments: