Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Tete and Silvia.

Strange how much people can differ from their photo or video images. Oscar, for example turns out to be almost a head taller than me. & 'Tete' Rusconi, who looks outsized in video, turns out to be surprisingly trim and not particularly tall.

Tete and Silvia. One of my reasons for being here is to meet them. My first tango classes nearly four years ago were a revelation; that music made me move. Then I found myself in classes in an industrially-named tango school in north London, forced into ever increasing contortions and told that the music really didn't matter. “In tango we walk right through the beat” -- as if the music was incidental. A single class with Ricardo Vidort at the Dome reminded me that tango was enjoyable – very sadly he died the following spring – but it wasn't until almost a year later that I found three videos of Tete and Silvia on YouTube, filmed dancing in Porteno y Bailarin. These were a revelation. It was the first real Buenos Aires tango I'd seen. I could recognise bits, 'steps', in what they did, but the bits were all run together, and the whole dance was inseparably part of the music. It wasn't a smooth choreographed performance, and it had the fierce energy, enthusiasm and musicality of people to whom it really mattered. I watched those videos over and over again. To me that was tango, it was the way I'd felt about the music from the start.

So I found myself outside an unremarkable door in tree-lined Avenida Belgrano yesterday afternoon, wondering what was behind it. Tete and Silvia have toured and been filmed a lot over the last two years, but have no website and don't seem to advertise any grand teaching schedule. I tracked them down through Sylvia's website (don't jump, it plays music): she's an artist, and the website is part of her work. She emailed that they teach mainly privately, and offered to partner me if I couldn't find a partner. I didn't try to.

There's an interview with them online, and the 'prensa' link on her website leads to a .pdf of the interview. Online there's an interview with them with basic information, and an interview/statement of her work. There's also an article by a trained classical/contemporary dancer about the experience of a class with them.

The class was an intense hour, with a lot of laughter too, but serious and clear teaching. There's a turn they dance frequently which I've never been able to lead, which is what I learn, plus some alternative endings. I'd asked for vals classes. Vals is different from tango, explains Tete; tango stays low, vals wants to fly. I must lead more directly with my chest, and the contact with the partner must be very frontal: it shouldn't be shoulder to shoulder. I must take longer steps. Silvia astonishes me by leading me: when they dance they switch roles, and everyone laughs, but it's for real. I've hardly ever been led and don't find it easy to follow, but when Silvia picks you up and moves you around it's totally natural; she seems to have such a clear intuitive sense of axis and balance. We dance: “You're starting to think!” he says. “Don't think: dance! Con musica! Sin miedo (fear)! Otra vez (again)!” They seem to be naturally very gentle in their teaching, it doesn't feel like a teaching strategy they've learnt: if something's wrong they stop and start again, if something's good they say so, they are very encouraging. (I remember Ricardo Sarandi's class in London: “NON NON NON NON NON NON NON!”, very loud.) It's clear from some of the videos that Tete loves to fool around, and can be very funny, and they laugh a lot, but he's very serious and intense in teaching. “Sin miedo! Con musica! Bueno!”

Watching them dance together was totally magical. Their connection is extraordinary: their capacity, instantly, to become one single entity with the music. The gentleness, precision, energy, vitality of their dance is very far from anything I've seen before. It's such a good model: they don't give 'a demonstration' of 'a move' in 'a class', they just dance together, perfectly. & their affection for each other is always apparent. It was a wonderful hour.

It was their last lesson of the day and as we walk out into the street, Silvia says: “Come to Canning tonight. It's a good evening, lots of nice people. & I'm deejay.” Her English is excellent.

I've got another class with them tomorrow, and they are teaching at the outdoor milonga, La Calesita, in Nunez on Saturdays. I'll be here for two of those evenings.

I went out to Canning, but didn't dance. I'd had a good afternoon, and it's not always easy to lead someone you don't know and have never danced with before, in public. It was good just to sit and enjoy the music, particularly the cortinas. Silvia not only played a lot of really good tandas but also found interesting music to go between them, everything from flamenco song to some unusual rock and salsa: sort of tango meets Late Junction. & above it all there's always the great photo collage to look at: despite the shiny plastic surface it has the colour and scale of a huge Venetian painting by Tintoretto. Right in the centre is Ricardo Vidort in a shaft of light, talking to a pretty girl, while in the foreground a hand reaches out with a plate of empanadas. A wonderful piece of work.

A rough idea of what Canning looks like during class.

I'm just going to have to apologise to Carlos Stasi for missing his class again.

This is one of the three Portenyo y Bailarin dances from three years ago: the turn is between .21 .25.

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