Saturday, 20 December 2008

Class at Canning

This too should follow on from the previous posting: the release of the 14 officers has been overturned after a public outcry on the grounds that they might flee. The events of 20 - 30 years ago are still very much alive here.

I made a joke on a friend's blog the other day about getting a grant to spend time dancing tango in Buenos Aires: a while back I'd found a book by an American who had got a six-month research grant to write a thesis on The Sociology of The Milonga, something like that. Then at Oscar's class yesterday I found myself dancing with a very attractive Asian woman who spoke with the melodious and (to me, very familiar) accent of educated north India, who told me she was Nepalese. (You dance with all the world in tango.) We chatted for a while, and slowly the truth came out: after finishing her Masters in the US she'd applied to the Rockefeller Foundation for a grant to spend a year dancing tango in Buenos Aires. Yes, you heard right. She doesn't even have to write a thesis, just give a presentation, a few photos, some video, a short talk, at the end of it. I was so happy for her I just didn't know what to say. How wonderful! Nice people, those Rockefellers.

Oscar's class: a mild colgada. He points out that spins have always been with tango, and that the colgada as we know it is an exaggerated form. So we go back to the roots. It's simple, fits the music well, and takes very little room.

On to Canning for what would have been the class of Alicia Pons, and she was there but didn't teach. Ana Maria Schapira taught. The best-advertised milonguero classes here are taught by six or seven women. According to some, the word 'milonguero' started to be used quite recently to mean basic, old-style tango in close hold. Maria Schapira taught, and Alicia Pons followed, and it was fascinating to watch how her classical training resulted in the swiftest ankles in the business. Her feet are constantly active, reaching, turning, moving, a redefinition of “womens' technique” but I suspect not something to copy wholesale, even if you come from the same dance background. She teaches in the US, and I wish she and Ana Maria, as well as Tete and Silvia, could visit the UK. It just might give us a whole new perspective on tango.

It was a good class: yet another ocho cortado class, but the second half to vals. Ana Maria watched me and commented that the dancing was fine, but a bit hurried. Bearing in mind my reputation of dancing like 'a hant' I found I could slow it right down and still keep the beat, which resulted in a vals that seemed to be both energetic and smooth. I was dancing with an older woman who clearly knew her dance, and she seemed to approve. My Nepalese friend of the morning was there and we danced a good vals in the class, but she was kept very busy in the milonga. She's very attractive.

Tete arrived at the end of the class, and it was a good chance to watch him dance socially, first with Alicia. I get the impression of two people from very different dance, and probably social and educational backgrounds moving very easily together. His style of movement seems to change from dance to dance: like an actor he can seem jaunty, lyrical, even heavy, depending on the music. & he changes constantly the degree of lift, being low or high depending on what he's leading.

The idea that people dance strictly in highways around the floor here is rubbish. They dance like we dance in London, around the perimeter and making use of whatever space is available. Available space varies from venue to venue, but often there isn't much. Canning from midnight onwards is as crowded as London's tango al fresco: you rarely have room for walking steps, and you need to work on your gyros on the spot, as that's all you're likely to have room for. Tete always seems to have room, but I guess that if you see him bearing down on you you get out of the way. It doesn't work for me, though.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Alicia Pons is adding ballet barre exercise to social tango dancing. I know first hand that milongueros prefer a woman to keep her feet quiet because a man feels everything she does with his chest; embellishments are good for stage, but one's partner can't appreciate them.

"Tango Milonguero" and "Estilo Milonguero" were coined by Susana Miller and Ana Maria Schapira when they began teaching the simple style danced in downtown BA.

The "ocho cortado" is being milked and marketed to death with variations to sell when everyone will eventually find their own way. Repeating it once or twice is horrible in my opinion, and milongueros with whom I dance never do.