Thursday, 18 December 2008

Quatro causas: Tete

No Oscar class today. I get to El Beso and find Mary Ann outside. We have no electricity. An enthusiastic Danish woman asks if we have Oscar. “Oscar's the class, the music, the coffee bar...' 'Yes,' observes Mary Ann drily, 'but he's not the air conditioning'.

'Quatro causas' says Tete of what he's taught me. Four patterns of movement. A long turn that develops out of a walk, a back-and-side step by both dancers that leads to a cruz, a step on from the cruz that becomes an anti-clockwise turn with an enrosque, which leads into a circular walk on the follower's left. All of which fit together or can be used separately. Two fairly intense sessions. On film he looks as if he must be unhealthy, and true he has a paunch, but in person he gives the impression of being tough and muscular. There's nothing loose and floppy about his weight, he's incredibly quick on his feet. He's a dancer.

& he really is an extraordinary teacher. I think he's great teacher because he believes, with a lifetime of experience, in what he teaches. He believes dance is important and his concentration on teaching is total. There's something of a professor in his manner, but the seriousness breaks easily into laughter. There are the quick jokes in castellano; they laugh, she laughs easily. He says I should think of dancing more like a tortoise. As it is I'm dancing like 'un hormiga'. They laugh. 'A hant?' she asks me. 'An ant!' We all laugh. They are patient and good-humoured; if I'm a bit slow to pick up something they help me get it at my own speed, if I get something right they are really pleased and encouraging.

When they demonstrate a step, they dance it with the same intensity it would receive if they were dancing together in a milonga. The music and the dance require and receive whole-hearted attention. There's never anything in the least casual or inattentive about their dancing, and that's a whole lesson in itself, how seriously they take what they do, and also I see real tango, rather than a display of tango or tango steps, and that's just beautiful to watch.

One more class with them on Monday, and two public classes the next two Saturdays at La Calesita. I've learned a lot; I certainly couldn't have learned more in a couple of hours. He sees me out at the end. 'Suerte.'

I've never taken private classes before. You are very exposed, but it forces me to concentrate, and I'm really learning. There was a group class at Porteno y Bailarin last night: too many men, again. So I didn't get as much practice as I needed, and the partners weren't too sure of what they were doing. It was a beautiful little step, but I didn't get it right, and still can't work it out. Such a shame. But that can happen too easily in public lessons. Later in the evening I was in a good position to watch guys getting dances, and I got one tanda before I left. The floor was very crowded. I've talked over this problem of getting dances with an American woman who is a good dancer and we agreed that being at the same place at the same time week after week is the best strategy. If you are persistent you aren't a passing stranger or a tourist. If you're there a lot you're interested in dancing. My problem is that I can't catch a waiter's eye in an empty restaurant, let alone the eye of an attractive young tango dancer. I've always liked a bit of invisibility.

TV (cable, 70 channels): on the Argentine cultural channel I come across a programme about the Mexican photographer Carlos Jurado who has worked with pinhole cameras all his life, and with gum bichromate colour prints on paper.

“Carlos Jurado considera la fotografía como el producto de un acto mágico. Trabaja principalmente con cámaras estenopeicas (pinhole). Con este sistema trata de obtener anbientes y atmósferas sugerentes poco comunes.
a realizado también obras utilizando sistemas antiguos como la goma bicromatada, la cianotipia, papel sepia ,etc. Carlos Jurado construye sus propias cámaras, así como algunos equipos necesarios para su producción.”

Gustavo and Giselle were performing at Ideal tonight... and I didn't go. I didn't go to watch the great superstars of tango. There are actually a few dimensions to this. Without doubt it was going to be a big tourist event, an event put on for tourists. Ecstatic applause for the great dancing skills of this couple, and why not? That put me off, but actually I just didn't want to go. I'd had such a good hour this afternoon, strongly rooted in the directness and intimacy of tango, that a public display just didn't appeal, however skillful. But even the skills don't really appeal. Pina Bausch invited Tete to appear with her in public performances, and I'd go a long way to see that! A whole different sense of emotional directness and honesty. So instead I watched Carlos Jurado, the end of Bunuel's Diary of a Chambermaid, the end of Coppola's The Conversation and the beginning of a Barenboim masterclass. TV is pretty good here.

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