Sunday, 4 June 2017

One-metre Pugliese

Pugliese isn’t easy. It's often more complex than other tango, and we don't hear it so much. One tanda a night if you’re lucky. Late Pugliese was composed and played more for listening than for dancing. He had a long career: he was just 19 when he had a hit with Recuerdo in 1925, and he was invited to perform at the Colon Opera House after the fall of the military in December 1985.

I was dancing Pugliese with a friend recently, and we started talking. ‘I remember a visit to one of the milongas in Buenos Aires’ she said, ‘and I danced to Pugliese with a local guy. It was incredible. We hardly seemed to move more than a metre or so, but it seemed that all the complexity and emotion of the music was in that one metre. At that time Pugliese was the opportunity for the wildest dancing in London, so this experience really stayed with me.’

I looked at YouTube for examples of one-metre Pugliese. There are plenty of teachers’ demos, exaggerated performances on empty dance floors. I also came across Pugliese’s milonga for Fidel Castro, which I’d never heard before, politically a dangerous composition given the time and place. And I came across some amazing dancing too. It was wonderful to remember again just how marvellous the late Alberto Dassieu was. A teacher, yes, but he danced demos as a dancer in a milonga. Watching him in these clips you could almost sense invisible couples around him, denying and then opening spaces as he dances among them, lost in the music with his partner, his wife Paulina. It’s so great to remember them enjoying evenings in an over-crowded El Beso, dancing one-metre Pugliese on a packed-out floor. Of course there wouldn't have been much point in filming it, there was nothing much to watch, but it was obviously very satisfying emotionally. Here they are performing in Centro Leonesa in 2008.


This is slightly different, a demo during a workshop. The feeling of intimacy and tenderness is so clear.
'Muy bien', as he says quickly at the end. There are several other clips of the couple giving demos in milongas, but this seems the clearest and most intimate. There's also footage of them dancing Pugliese in Lujos
Milonga from Marina2x4, but it's from Alberto's last years, and I don't find it easy to watch. (Incidentally, I see she uploaded a 30-minute interview with Pedro Sanchez just a few weeks ago, but only in Spanish.)

According to Tango and Chaos Alberto was the teenage protege of the Villa Urquiza maestro Luis Lemos in the late 1940s. More than any other dancer of his generation I find his dance looks taught, even ‘drilled’, unlike the more casual-looking dance of his peer group. I get a sense of an entire system, a social code that includes posture, movement and sensibility, feeling for the music as well as attitude to a partner and to everyone else in the milonga, to society. His dance itself is mannered and still instinctive, intuitive and absolutely precise, full of deep respect, and equally full of enjoyment. Granted he’d danced to Pugliese all his life, which helps! But the movements he and his partners, whether his wife or a student, make, whether on a crowded floor or an otherwise empty studio, are precise, relaxed and at the same time quite formal, and always inextricably part of the music. There's a brief biography of Alberto in Todotango.

From watching Alberto’s dances I get the sense of how significant and how wide, culturally, the tango tradition was. He was a great teacher too, and I think there’s everything to be learned from watching and enjoying these few clips we’re so lucky to have. & perhaps the most hospitable, open-hearted and encouraging person I’ve had the good fortune to meet.