Wednesday, 15 February 2012

On being a tango commuter 2

It was mainly because I moved out of London, but it was also an accident of timing. In the early 2000s Ricardo Vidort and possibly Gavito taught regularly in London. I was lucky enough to come across what was probably Ricardo's last class ever in London soon after I started. I say 'come across' because I'd no idea who he was; I turned up that evening quite by chance. Later I realised what a wonderful chance it was, such a relief after miserable classes spent in a futile attempt to master Pablo Veron's choreography, wondering where the music had gone to. & it was Ricardo who said 'Hold your partner close!' That one class gave me a glimpse of the kind of energy and life, the sheer enthusiasm and happiness tango was, or could be. No wonder I was dissatisfied with London tango as I was encountering it.

Six months or so later, when YouTube got going, I found another name, or pair of names, Tete and Silvia. You mean BsAs tango isn't a salida, then an ocho, then a giro, then an ocho cortado, then a cross? It all runs together in one impulse, one energetic movement that relates so closely to the phrases of the music? That's what I want! I watched Ney Melo's videos over and over, open-mouthed. Thank you so much, Ney! No one taught that, let alone danced it, in London! From YouTube I began to realise that Tete and Silvia taught all over Europe, but never in the UK: since I could never find advance dates for their Europe tours I decided I had to go to Buenos Aires and hope they were there. I knew by then that Ricardo Vidort had died, so I went to meet Tete and Silvia. & they were there. More enthusiasm and happiness, and the moving presence of a couple who loved nothing more than dancing together. & of course there were others too who danced the tango of Buenos Aires.

So when I'm asked what I think of the European 'festivalitos' I have to say I really don't know. (Why 'festivalito' by the way? Why the diminutive? They aren't small, are they? & I think 'fiesta' would be the usual Spanish; doesn't 'European Tango Fiestas' sound much better?) On my first trip to BsAs over four years ago, I couldn't understand or communicate a lot, but I could get by. I didn't get many dances at first, but I was usually very satisfied with what I got. So for four years, during which time the 'festivalito' movement has grown so wonderfully in Europe, my tango thoughts have been elsewhere. & I think the teaching of close embrace social tango in the UK has generally got itself together during that time. Not that I've paid much attention to it I'm sorry to say; I've usually got plenty enough memories from a dozen or so classes stacked up in my mind to keep me occupied between yearly visits. (I call them 'classes' but for the most part they are practica sessions with portena dancers with long experience of the milongas, whose feedback and advice is incredibly valuable.)

It's as if there was a gap in London teaching between the early 2000s and 2010, give or take a few years. Dancing close embrace when I started seemed something of an endeavour: perhaps it would have been in 2000 too, but at least at that time there were sometimes teachers who encouraged it. & if you want to dance close now it's not hard to find people who can help and support and encourage you. This blog, and others, partly grew out of trying to make sense of and communicate what we were trying to dance at that time. It seemed all very new, and it took a while to find teachers who could help make sense of it.

I do look forward to taking part in a 'festivalito'... the diminutive is really irritating! Start again: I look forward to taking part in a great tango fiesta! I'm sure there's good dancing, but I know I'll always want to go back to Buenos Aires while it's still possible to sit in wonderful milongas and watch and meet dancers with over 60 years of tango behind them, and I'll probably still want to go there after they've gone, too. I'd urge everyone to think of taking the plunge while those older dancers are still there and on the floor; it's something else altogether. & I have to say, as a city it does start to get under your skin, resist it as you might.


Cinderella said...

TC wrote: So when I'm asked what I think of the European 'festivalitos' I have to say I really don't know. (Why 'festivalito' by the way? Why the diminutive? They aren't small, are they?...)
I think they are - compared to the great European festivals at various places. But the main difference is that they usually don't have shows and live music (therefore the tickets are much less expensive). Thus, they mainly attract a certain type of tango dancer, no beginners, but advanced dancers who have grown tired of watching fancy choreographies and of trying to dance to live music which is often hardly danceable, though it might be nice to listen to. People who dance for the love of it.
Moreover, as far as I know the "festivalitos" cannot get too "big" as they usually allow only a certain amount of people. The ones I have been to recently had about 100 people or a bit more.
As for the expression "festivalito", some people use other names, like "encuentro milonguero" or simply "abrazo" and guests are usually addressed as "friends of the close embrace".
Of course, that's still nothing like BsAs, but I can imagine that it is currently the most successful and authentic attempt of bringing some of the spirit of BsAs to Europe.
One of the most positive side effects for me as a woman is that dancing is usually so advanced that you actually never get kicked or hurt on the dance floor. And I've never heard any men complain about the anti-social dancing of other couples. ;)

Chris said...

Yes, TC - festivalito just means small festival.

Encuentros come in all sizes. Of those I've been to, the smallest I recall was for 18 couples (Valderrobles, 2002) and the largest was for around 700 dancers (Madrid, 2000).

Tangocommuter said...

Janis commented:

The new system makes it impossible to post a comment. The words are illegible.

Anyway, I wanted to say this:

Cinderella wrote:
dancing is usually so advanced that you actually never get kicked or hurt on the dance floor.

I don't believe it's about the level of dancing. Dancers learned to respect others on the floor. That's the way it used to be in every milonga in Buenos Aires, but things are changing. Respect isn't being taught, but choreography is.

Tango en el Cielo said...

Lots of interesting threads here, will just start with a comment on "In the early 2000s Ricardo Vidort and possibly Gavito taught regularly in London." Ricardo spent 3 summers in London - 2003, 2004 and 2005. He died in 2006, a year after Gavito.
Gavito lived in London from mid-1993 to mid-1994, during which he taught in various places including his own milonga under the arches at Waterloo. From mid-1994 to end of 1995 he lived in Scotland but continued to teach in London every other weekend. From Dec 1995 he toured with Forever Tango so was only an occasional visiting teacher in London, with his stage partner, first Marcella Duran then Maria Plazaolla.
Sadly, when he lived in London, his teaching was greatly undervalued here especially by the men. Ironically it took stardom as a performer for most people to notice him. Yet his earlier days here were the best London tango has ever had, with Gavito on the social dance floor several nights a week, supporting all the regular milongas and dancing with a large number of women - young and not so young, beginners as well as the more experienced. I'm sorry you missed that era, but glad you met Ricardo!

Tangocommuter said...

Many thanks for the comment, Tango en el cielo. I wrote 'possibly Gavito' because I knew he'd been in London in the 90s, and wasn't sure if he was there later. But of course there are videos of him at the Welsh Centre in 2003.

What an amazing time it must have been: to be able to go to Gavito's own milonga - in London! & to watch him dance regularly: I assume this was Gavito in 'milonguero' rather than performance mode. Interesting, and sad, that his stay in London seems to have left little obvious trace and I wonder if he wasn't actually a bit intimidating. His effortless elegance and gracefulness were qualities that don't come easily to many of us, and if copying was what leads wanted to do, I can imagine other models might have felt a bit less intimidating.

I've taken classes with Maria Plazaola: she still looks incredibly young, with a child now and a career in higher education. My impression is of a very thoughtful person with deep experience.

Hope you'll pick up on some other 'threads' to comment on.

Chris said...

Tango En El Cielo wrote: "Sadly, when he lived in London, his teaching was greatly undervalued here especially by the men. "

Very true. Carlos Gavito's teaching was uncompromisingly honest and direct - a searchlight cutting through fog. For classgoers typically accustomed to expert guided tours of the fog, that light was intolerably bright. For others, it was the illumination that reveals the way out.

Melina Sedo said...

I'd like to back up Cinderella's comment:

Festivalitos ARE small compared to the typical Festivals. They usually admit 150-250 dancers.
And there will also be LESS "programm": less classes, teachers, demos. NO orchestras... So the diminutive makes sense.

Actually I think, that we (Detlef & I) were the first to use the term in Europe in 2004 when we organized our first Festivalito "Tango de los Angeles". We wanted to make a point and therefore chose a name, that showed people that there will be far less "entertaining" but much more social dancing. Later, other organizers adopted the term.

"Encuentros" or "Radunos" usually contain NO classes, teachers, demos...

All of these events DO attract a totally different crowd than the big festivals with lots of classes, demos, orchestras and other stuff.

Greetings from France.

Tangocommuter said...

Many thanks for the comment, Melina, and greetings. & thanks to you and to Cinderella for pointing out that there are festivals that are considerably bigger than a 'festivalito'. I'm glad to admit I've never encountered one, and never realised there were events for up to 700 people. The biggest milonga I've been to must be Salon Canning, and I'm curious to know how many people are there on a crowded night. I'd guess at between two and five hundred. It's OK, but I prefer more intimate events.

Chris said...

TC wrote: "It's OK, but I prefer more intimate events."

Then Europe's longest running festivalito, Edinburgh's "Tango on Loch Tay", is one you might enjoy - as did I in 2001. I hear it is just as good still.