Friday, 27 April 2012

Carablanca again...

Don't believe everything you read in the papers... or on the internet, and especially in blogs! I must correct what I said about the music at the milonga that became Carablanca many years later. As Tango en el Cielo kindly pointed out, there was a variety of music. & I was even wrong to say that there was just one CD. Totally wrong, because (I now hear, on the very best authority) there wasn't even one CD: all the music was on cassettes brought over from Buenos Aires, and of varying quality. & when one side of the cassette had played, someone would turn it over, and the dancing would go on. Since the cassettes were of single orquestas, an evening's dance might be two or three orquestas, an hour or ninety minutes each. Tango CDs, tandas and DJing all came years later.

Curiously, this must have echoed the music of the golden age milongas, since in that era you were likely to get only one orquesta in the evening. If Pedro Laurenz was playing for you, you wouldn't get neat tandas of Di Sarli, Canaro, D'Agostino and others. (& with live music like that you probably wouldn't miss them either!)

 & many thanks to the tango pioneers of London who started milongas like Carablanca many years ago and have kept them running for us to enjoy!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Carablanca's big night out

Recently, for one evening, as a trial, Carablanca milonga in London decided to dispense with a pre-milonga class and use the time instead for dancing. In a bold move the organisers also decided to get an extension, so the milonga started at 8 and finished at 2am. Moreover, they brought in a really good DJ, Bernhard Gehberger. It seems to have been a big success. Plenty of people were on the floor from start to finish, and it was remarkable that almost all the dancing was close or close-ish embrace. It wasn't as disciplined and restrained as a BsAs milonga, but then Londoners haven't had years of practice at dancing on crowded floors. (All it takes is practice! It's not something you can learn in classes!) Although it's a fair-sized hall, the organisers have limited the amount of space available for dance, so everyone is developing the skills needed for tango at a traditional milonga.

I gather that when the Welsh Centre milonga, Carablanca's previous incarnation, started out they had just one CD, a Troilo CD that those who remember those days know by heart, and that it was known as a place for kicking and being kicked. (I hope I'm not maligning it: this was years ago, anyway.) From that to six hours of excellent music, and reasonably good dance too: times have changed for the better I think! It parallels some comments made recently by Irene and Man Yung about Toronto tango: perhaps Toronto has gone through the same transformation as London within a similar timescale. (It's a hilarious post if you haven't already seen it.)

& the good news is that there's more of this coming up. I hear that there are several evenings without a pre-milonga class arranged for the next few months, a full four hours of dance each night, and that an extension until 2am for a further evening has been applied for. Combined with bookings of first-rate DJs, there are some really good evenings to look forward to. Keep an eye on the website.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Pedro Sanchez again

I keep watch for friends on YouTube but hadn't checked out Pedro Sanchez for a while. There's one new video, posted last October. On the beautiful inlaid floor of the practice room of Alejandro Gée's guest house, Casa Tango Angelitos, and the track is Pedro's kind of tango, the wonderfully passionate D'Arienzo song, Amarras. (Tango and Chaos has the story, the words and a translation here.) It's very clearly filmed too. & at 2:59 something that looks almost like a nod to the late Tete: I can't recall seeing anyone else do that. Many thanks to Hsueh-tze Lee.

I can't help feeling that you can learn everything you need to know about leading from a video like this – by which I mean that I recognise everything I need to be able to do... and I'm not really thinking about feet. 'Con el cuerpo!' as he says, 'With the body!' & watching his partner makes me think of something I've noticed in porteño ladies, something very few non-locals seem to have picked up; they seem to show a slight hesitation before stepping. I don't know if anyone else sees that too, but it seems to bring a slight, sensuous indolence into their dance. You wanted to dance with me? So make me dance! Not a few Europeans I've danced with are more likely to anticipate the beat.

Here's one of Jantango's two marvellous videos of Ismael Heljalil. I'm not sure that his partner is local, but she never seems to rush into a step. It's as if she steps at the last possible moment. Or am I imagining things?

But this post is about Pedro so he should have the last word. Here's Tina's five-second video of Pedro.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Shooting the feet, slow motion

Many thanks for the comments on Meeting Myriam. As often happens, there's a lot there that's interesting.

As to the embrace, I was very struck by Myriam's point that the main contact is between the lower side of the woman's left arm and her left side, and the upper side of the man's right arm, and rarely ever with his right hand. If his right hand becomes the dominant contact then the embrace is likely to be tight. But I can't help thinking that women generally need to be aware of this too, they need to seek out that side of the contact. Man's right to woman's left arm and side, and the contact of hands on the other side, form the classic 'frame', with the contact of torsos directly in between. (I wonder: if the woman's arm is over the man's right shoulder, isn't half of the frame missing, or at least less effective?) She also spoke about varying the hold: when the man dances to the woman's left he needs to be firmer, and when he leads turns he needs to give more space. This seemed to me a difficult thing to control, but it might be essential.

(Incidentally, she was speaking in English. Her English isn't exactly fluent but it is clear, and she has the instinctive teacher's perception of any stress, which can hinder learning and understanding, and she immediately relaxes your attention with some good-humoured comment, often about her English. Too many teachers in general imagine that if they just hammer on they will get their point across.)

Thanks for the comments on 'shooting the feet', especially Tango en el Cielo's remark that Ricardo regarded 'shooting the feet' as '… a very masculine characteristic, one of the qualities of dancing that distinguished a woman's way of dancing from a man's'. I love the description of Ricardo going '...pad, pad, pad, as if he was in slippers', and RealityPivot's description of 'foot punctuation' too. But verbal description is limited and I wanted to look at some slow-motion video of Ricardo 'shooting the feet'. I think it's common to that generation of dancers, although perhaps it's most noticeable and distinct in Ricardo's dance.

Ricardo and Myriam. The full video is on TangoNad's channel.

& here's Ricardo dancing with Jill Barrett in 2004, upright posture, chest well out and leading with the weight well forwards. Perhaps because the weight is well forwards the forward step shoots forwards with added urgency. & it meets the ground exactly on time! The music sounds terrible slowed down, but I included it because it makes sense of the movement. The full video, correct speed, is on TangoCelebration's channel.

I was also fascinated to hear from Tango en el Cielo that '...Ricardo eschewed technique. He believed that technique analysis was only for stage dancers; social dancers didn't need it as "the body finds its own technique naturally"'. I guess the 'own technique' you find that way, naturally, is your own individual tango. Technical analysis seems like a short cut for people in a hurry, a verbal, cerebral practice that will never build up the muscle memory or get the results developed from hours and hours of dancing and watching dance.

We are never passive when we watch. Our muscles follow instinctively, which is how we can imitate: we've been through it before. Watching, too, builds muscle memory. But a YouTube screen is a bit small: it would be great if we had an hour or so of high quality film of Ricardo and others, to watch full-size on a big screen, our bodies relaxed in a cinema seat, before we go dancing. Well, maybe one day there will be algorithms that can take old video and make a beautiful clear HD image from it...