Monday, 29 November 2010


Since YouTube began just over five years ago video has become an incredibly valuable resource, thanks to everyone who's made and uploaded videos of the dancers and milongas of BsAs. Videos bye-pass the filter of 'teaching'; not that teaching is necessarily inferior, but video gives an immediate feel of the dance and its environment, the milongas of BsAs. Tangoandchaos was among the first, and over the last year or two Jantango has uploaded videos from the milongas of the city centre, while Irene and Man Yung have recently uploaded a number of videos from the 'Barrio milongas': watch their recent videos of Roberto Segarra. (More in their previous post.) We can now see a wide range of BsAs tango, just in time to acquaint us with that generation of older dancers and the kind of environment they learned and grew up in.

& now Argentines themselves are beginning to upload their own videos of their own milongas. Hector and Norma Cachirulo run the marvelous Cachirulo milonga on Saturday nights at Maipu 444, and also at El Beso on Tuesday nights. Hector's probably the first person you'll meet after you've climbed the stairs, paid at the booth and pushed through the curtain into the milonga itself: you're welcomed with a kiss or a handshake like a long-lost friend, whether you're local or a visitor, and then he'll bustle off to find you somewhere to sit, carrying a spare chair or two over the heads of the dancers if need be.

& I've just discovered that since March they've had their own YouTube channel to which they are uploading their own 'home videos' of the Cachirulo milongas. It's almost too good to be true. There's tango from the best, both on the floor and in 'demonstrations', there's rock, chacarera, and birthday dances from the great and the good, and it all continues to be uploaded regularly. Camera quality isn't great, but the spirit comes over so strongly you can ignore that. Cachirulo is one of the great institutions of BsAs tango today, attracting some of the best dancers, and there's plenty here to dip into and enjoy on these cold dark evenings!

(& watching these videos might just oblige you to try and learn Spanish, spend all your spare time and more in tango, and everything you have on interminable flights south of the equator. & why not? If you like tango it's worth a great deal to step as a guest onto that velvet-smooth floor and join in all night with the music.)

So here's Norma's birthday dance with Hector last June. Eso!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Les Cigalles 2011

MILONGUERA SECOND MAJOR MEETING of CIGALES in Provence each May at TOULON (12/13/14 May 2011) - South of France. (From the YouTube channel of Celine Deveze.)

The website is still being prepared.

PS: Please read the comments: it turns out that Celine Deveze's info is premature, as the dates have not yet been fixed.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Midwinter again...

I was talking recently to a friend I hadn't seen in a milonga for a while: she's lost her job and is struggling to make ends meet on temp work. She can eat for two days on the price of admission to a London milonga. Why does it have to be so expensive, she asked: a nice hall, a class, a bar, an excellent DJ... it all adds up. Why can't we get a private place somewhere, with a CD player and some friends who just want to dance, and bring along our own food and drink if we need it? Indeed, why not?

It might be obvious, but it sounds as if the seven nights of the Nimes midwinter milonga are run on a low-organisation, if not exactly a DIY model, as if the organisers rent the hall, hire Djs and deal with the regulations, and then put an announcement on their website. People turn up with their own food and drink. Since it's midwinter smaller businesses are closed, so I'd guess chocolates and food are brought along for sale by friends, who make some sales and enjoy the party too. It's low-cost too: £42 for seven nights, 7.30 to 3am, with a complementary drink each night. An advantage Nimes has is that it's a small city (around 150,000). The hall would cost more in a big city, but I think there's likely to be a real sense of community. It's natural for people to get together and organise things amongst themselves, and even to help each other: help us out for a few hours and come in for free. I really envy them this, but I don't think it's impossible in London. A regular, informal milonga, friends getting together to dance, might work well.

The other thing that seems obvious about the Nimes midwinter is that it's now well-known: the publicity talks about meeting up again with people, presumably from the previous year, and from other parts of France and Europe. Such a shame travel booked now for this time of year is so costly. It would be worth booking early next winter...

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


London tango becomes somewhat somnolent at midwinter, and I've been looking around for alternatives. This, from the Milonga de Angel (look for the '12eme grande semaine de Reveillon' button) in the southern French city of Nimes certainly caught my eye:
- - -
The 12th Great Midwinter Week
from Saturday 25 December 2010 to Saturday, January 1, 2011.

Book today at 06 63 90 69 18 (tables reserved in the order of registration).
Entrance: 13€; 11€ for members and 8€ for the under-25s and unemployed. For the whole week €50, or €45 for members.

A warm event that the many friends of Milonga del Angel have shared for 12 years.

At 19:30 each evening, a cocktail will be offered to start the evening in good spirits. You will be able to eat there, and Felix will play videos of Golden age orquestas, so we can dance, eat, and chat with friends we meet up with again...

A traditional Milonga starts at 21h with music by the best current Djs. At midnight, there will be various entertainments, demonstrations of folklore, films, photos and videos ... and the famous pastries or chocolates that we will happily share.

The Great Midwinter Week every year is intimate, friendly, and classy. We enjoy all the precious little dishes that everyone will put together, and taste wines, champagne and hot drinks all night. It will bring together three excellent DJs and various entertainments.

Courses on tango, milonga and folklore will enrich this week for the happiness of those who wish to improve.
- - -
This is my translation, so you're advised to check before you rush off. It sounds too good to be true! A whole week of tango, eating and drinking for midwinter! Increíble! Why can't we do something like that in London?

Another possibility is the 13th Tangomagia festival in Amsterdam, from December 26 to December 30. OK, so we might not fancy workshops by 'Chicho' Frumboli, while Sebastian Arce's workshops on 'Sequences with use of Orbital Dynamics' sounds like rocket science, but there's a big milonga each night and, perhaps even more fun, a daily 'tangocafe' every afternoon for four hours, which costs very little.

The only problem is that transport costs soar at this time of year. 'Cheap' flights cost close to the train fare. By the time you've spent nearly £200 on return fares, plus hotels on top of that, the midnight chocolates might not seem so sweet, while the afternoon tangocafe might start to seem very costly. Why can't we do something like this in London?

Any other suggestions?

Monday, 15 November 2010

Carlos and Rosa Perez

Carlos and Rosa Perez were teaching at Carablanca milonga a few weeks ago, where I filmed them. I can't find a website for them, but there is an interview here.

Here they are dancing to Di Sarli:

Their dance to Poema is here, and to Pugliese (from the live 1985 album 'En el Teatro Colon') here.

I missed the class, but they seemed very genial, warm-hearted and modest.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

As good as it gets

I love this! Every now and again a tango video comes along that makes complete sense of everything. If you ever have doubts about tango, how it should be danced, whether you should be doing something else, what it's for, what it's about, here's the complete answer. It just makes sense.

Cumparsita, the last tango, the end of the night. Only a few couples are left on the floor, and the table cloths are being folded away. This is Centro Leonesa, so it could have been the Nino Bien milonga. Adela Galeazzi and Santiago Cantenys are dancing. They have as much space as they can use, but they aren't dancing a demo and only the camera is watching: they are dancing just for themselves. It's the last dance of the night, they've been on their feet for hours, but there's no romantic softening or slowing down about it: their dance is full-on and filled with the energy of the music, as intense as if it were the first tango of the evening. In effect it says: if you dance tango, do it full on. Put all the meat on the grill every time; no half measures.

Her feet are wonderfully fast and precise: she marks time with her feet, but there are no superfluous, fussy ornaments that get in the way of the dance as a whole, and there's nothing ostentatious about his posture or his dance. They aren't 'old generation' (although they aren't exactly young, either) but this must be about as good as it gets. I love this. It's the fluent dance of a couple who dance a lot together.

& it was her birthday. At least, according to Irene and Man Yung's blog, where I first saw it. OK, so I'm copying them, but at least I'll be able to watch it every time I open Tangocommuter, and anyway, they're in BsAs right now, too busy to notice, I hope! And they mention Adela's site: worth keeping an eye on.

And when I checked out Adela's site I found this: a video of Adela and Santiago joined by Elba Biscay. I linked a video of the three of them dancing together a while back, and I think this one is even better. If that's possible.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

A German theme

There's been a German theme recently. I was honoured to host the interview with Melina Sedo, which was very interesting and illuminating.

I watched Over your Cities Grass will Grow, a film by Sophie Fiennes (who is English, sister of Ralph), watching German artist Anselm Kiefer, who grew up in the ruins of post-war Germany, at work. Offered an extensive property by the French government, he developed a landscape of his own work, as well as a studio and library. Erudite, but also at home melting a vat of lead with a large blow-torch, or creating a mound of broken plate glass around a sculpture, a huge book made of lead. Everything is physical and on a huge scale: heavy lifting gear is needed to move the paintings. When you see the works in a gallery they can be massive, but always look refined and poetic, informed by layers of allusion. The film is still showing in London.

& I saw the Pina Bausch company in Iphigenia in Tauris, a dance set to the 18th century opera by the German composer Gluck: the 18th century, the best century for opera! Stunning: a full orchestra, a chorus of 24 soloists and singers on the sides of the stage, with the dance on-stage. To obtain a fair wind to sail to sack the innocent city of Troy, Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter, Iphigenia. When he returns home, his wife murders him to avenge her daughter, and his son, Orestes, murders her to avenge his father, and exits pursued by Furies. Of course, none of this happens onstage. In Euripedes' version, the goddess has saved Iphigenia from sacrifice, but doesn't inform her family. We meet Iphigenia some years later, and there's a sense that we are in the land of the dead. The mad Orestes turns up, and brother and sister recognise each other: it's hardly a resolution. But the music and the dance are beautiful.

& German film-maker Wim Wenders is completing a film on the work of Pina Bausch – filmed entirely in 3D. He says that 3D can show dance with an immediacy never possible in 2D. This seems to be the future: one day soon we'll upload our 3D vids to YouTube, and watch them in 3D. It won't be long now.

Jericho: Anselm Kiefer at the RA Summer Exhibition 2010.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Interview with Melina Sedó: Part III

Here's the final part of Cassiel's interview with Melina Sedó. The original German of this part is here. Melina Sedó and Detlef Engel's website is here, and their tangokombinat website is here. Their YouTube channel is here. Cassiel's blog (in German, but with a Googletranslate link) is here.


Cassiel: Next is one thing, that I always notice, and I’m including myself in my observations: how can lessons build up a leader’s self confidence? This is pretty key issue for me.

Melina Sedó
: Another difficult topic. Lots of people, especially those from northern countries, lack self confidence in dealing with others. This shows up right away in Tango as postural problems and hesitation. It might appear at first glance to be a typical problem for men/leaders, but women/followers are often too submissive or passive. There is limited scope for a teacher to address these issues in a group class, but we have, on occasion, managed to uncover the proud and communicative Tanguero hiding in the shy mouse or bad-tempered loner. It takes lots of individual attention, which you can only get in private lessons. We have spent entire privates, just talking, rather than dancing. In our usual group lessons, we use pictures and stories to get our approach across: we suggest dancers visualise themselves as kings, queens, Hollywood stars or opera singers, on the red carpet. We encourage them to exaggerate so that there is some residual left over in their dance, to allow this internal feeling to influence their outer form.

We continually emphasise that Tango is a partner dance, and that it is based on an equality of the partners; that both partners are equally responsible for the process of communication and for being active in the dance. In the past, old concepts pushed men into an over-dominant 'leader' role, who pushed the follower around and was always at fault for anything that went wrong. Women were supposed to be passive dollies, whose role was to stay in front of the leader and to maintain the embrace. That doesn’t really work, it leads to rough dancing, and just forces many educated Europeans into artificial roles which have nothing to do with their usual ways of being. This puts them under stress and holds them back from fully experiencing the richness that Tango has to offer.

My thesis, on 'Gender roles in Tango Argentino' demonstrates that the ideal male partner is not the classic dominant macho figure, but a more androgynous dancer, who knows how to be clear about what he wants, but has enough empathy to also recognise what his partner wants, and to respect what she wants from the dance. Any women who can survive and thrive in the world of Tango, will step up to their partner, and express what they want in their dance. There is certainly no room for shrinking violets.

In our classes, we take into account this modern understanding of roles, and have produced a closed loop communication system; the leader indicates a movement, waits for a response from the follower, and then follows that response. This might sound a tad esoteric, but is firmly grounded in simple, technical, biomechanical laws, more specifically on circular motion, on which we base our whole dance. More details are beyond the scope of this interview, the point is that good technique clears up lots of issues with self confidence.

Cassiel: A more personal question: I tend to hold back a bit, perhaps be inhibited is a more accurate description, with double time steps. Perhaps it's for fear that I might run my partner over. So I tend to avoid using double time, what would you suggest to help with that?

Melina Sedó
: Ha! That‘s a great example of what I said: good technique builds self-esteem. I hope the readers don‘t get the impression that that question was just a set up.

Cassiel: Hmm, even if I'm not particularly macho, my basic strategy when things go wrong, is that it's all the leader’s fault.

Melina Sedó: That’s just b*******. There are loads of mistakes that followers can make. If that wasn’t the case, they would hardly need lessons, would they? But to get back to your question, we use the body’s natural movement, counter body rotation, to prepare for each step, forward or back, in parallel. This means that you have an additional channel of communication, which allows you to propose a movement, which your partner will have plenty of time to respond to. If all you do is push faster, all you get will be bigger strides and heated looks from the follower. Have a look at our teaching video:

[In French. MsH has a translation on her blog: it's here.]

This is just one part of our summary of a five day workshop in Tarbes, which illustrates some of our concepts. The counter body movement comes towards the end of the clip. And there is even more on that in our classes.

Cassiel: What are your views on short teaching videos, even YouTube videos?

Melina Sedó: Well, any talented, educated person can learn some things from well-made videos, even short clips on Youtube, so long as the person can process visual input well. Naturally, this method of learning will lack any sort of feedback and subsequent correction, which many people require in order to learn, especially if they don't have a good sense of their own procipriation or are beginners. Even a good video is no substitute for a good lesson, though it could well be better than a bad lesson. We looked after a practice group in New York, using a mixture of video and written instructions. They wanted further instruction in our approach and there was no one around who could help them. It is possible, if you really have no other options.

Cassiel: And the inevitable question: are you a tango addict? What is your score?

Melina Sedó: 248: 31 Milongas, 8 of 19 possible 'yes' answers. ***

My high risk of addiction to tango comes from the number of milongas I attend, though they are almost exclusively for business purposes. In the past twelve weeks I've probably visited a milonga just for fun four times. I tend to dance very little at milongas, apart from demos, because I so seldom get asked to dance or because I‘m just too tired after teaching all day. Sadly, that’s what comes of making my hobby into my job; nowadays I seldom get a chance to really dance. It‘s a pity, but it‘s bound to change again in future.

Cassiel: Dear Melina, thank you so very much for taking the time for us. What do you want to add, the last words should be your own. What do you wish for, for Tango?

Melina Sedó: For myself, I wish that Tango stays with me till I'm really very old indeed and that I never lose my pleasure in it. And for the Tango itself, I hope it grows and prospers, rather than stagnating and that it provides pleasure for ever more people. We mostly covered issues in development and education in this interview. We shouldn’t forget, how many people find something positive for themselves at classes, or at a milonga.

Tango can make us feel happy and satisfied.

[*** Cassiel refers to his 'test for addiction', which is to be found here.]

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Melina Sedó and Detlef Engel dancing

I've also been meaning to post some links to Melina and Detlef dancing. Here they are dancing in Salon Canning. As far as I'm aware, very few visiting couples ever get to dance solo at any of the main traditional milongas in Buenos Aires.

& here are two recent videos: to D'Arienzo and Di Sarli, both at the Autumn Tango in Eton, UK.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Interview with Melina Sedó: Part II

Many apologies for not getting Part II of Tricia Bruce's translation of Cassiel's interview with Melina Sedó onto Tangocommuter for almost a week. I've just been very busy with non-tango stuff. It happens.

Once again, Melina Sedó is to be found here, and Cassiel's original German version is on his blog, here. If you have any comments or questions, do leave them as comments, and Melina will answer you.

Tango teaching is very new: none of the acknowledged 'milonguero' dancers ever went to classes - the very idea seems ludicrous. Before the current interest in tango, there was very little organised teaching, so the best way to teach a lot of people in the context of a culture in which tango isn't mainstream might not be obvious. These days, most teachers decide to teach 'steps': repeatable patterns of foot and body movements. It's a mechanical approach: it is necessary to some extent, but perhaps rather misses the point of tango. Melina and Detlef's approach, starting from musicality and improvisation, and encountering 'steps' as examples, rather than as the dance itself, might be a better way to encounter the world steeped in tango music of BsAs 70 years ago, in which those we call 'milonguero' grew up.

- - - -

Cassiel: Let's turn to another typical Tango situation, which has a similar scope for causing issues, albeit with completely different causes. Take any workshop at any festival. How do you agree the topic, or theme? What are the typical issues you find amongst the participants? How do you address them?

Melina Sedó: Well, that’s another whole heap of questions in one. I’ll start with how we agree the theme. We send out our list of workshop themes, which comes sorted in priority order, with Fundamentals, Improvisation and Musicality right at the top. We don’t do workshops which just cover steps, or figures. Steps tend only to crop up at the end of our workshops, as examples, or when we are working on improvisation.

We also rule out lots of potential themes; we never teach ways of moving that are not suitable for the Salon, or which require breaking the embrace. Any organiser who just wants us to teach figures, and who isn’t interested in our work on fundaments, would probably be better off engaging other teachers. There are plenty of other teaches who are prepared to do just that.

This does tend to mean we exchange lots of emails before an agreed theme finally emerges. Naturally there are always organisers who want to cram everything in to a weekend, and those who are looking for the latest Nuevo figures. My job then becomes, to tie it all down to something do-able, which plays to our strengths and so that anyone who attends all the workshops can see how the material covered in each workshop builds on all the previous ones. Typical Themes include:

• Walking in the embrace
• Walking with elegant variations
• Improvisation with pivots, ochos and linear turns
• Savouring Tango: Discovering Tango danced slowly, with savour
• Elegant variations of the cross
• Tango Milongero: improvisation around the ocho-cortado
• Salon Survival Guide
• Musicality: Expression and dynamics of movement
• Musicality: Rhythm & Melody
• Vals - the music

The trickiest question for us is always about different levels. Many organisers expect each workshop proposal to come with an indication of what level of experience is required to attend. We don’t really have any regular concept of levels of experience required; only occasionally do we have to set out a level of experience required to attend. Generally, we just announce the themes and let each couple decide whether they are ready for that theme. We tend to find couples in our workshops have a very wide range of experience, from beginners to professionals. This really isn’t an issue for us; in each workshop we start with the basics and build up from there. At each point in the workshop, each pair can decide whether to accept more input or continue to work on the material that they have so far.

Take, for example, our workshop on elegant variations on the ocho. We start with the axis, techniques for pivoting, ochos as a combination of steps and pivots, communicating a simple ocho (forwards and backwards) in couples, one or two examples of using ochos followed by musical variations. So, a beginner couple can stick with the simple ochos, while more advanced couples explore further possibilities to apply these techniques. Couples who come to our lessons are seldom looking for advice on more figures, it’s not unusual that we would work with the more advanced couples on details of communication and technique which they have discovered for themselves within this workshop format. This means that everyone can learn at their own pace, and take responsibility for their own learning. If everyone in the workshop appears to be struggling with the material, then we can refocus on a subset of the material, or even change the focus entirely.