Saturday, 2 June 2012

Three voices

Sitting at a London milonga with two friends who have recent experience of Buenos Aires. It wasn't a great night; not a lot of people there and the dancing looked scrappy, bouncing around like clothes in a washing machine, to requote another friend's immortal comparison.
'When we got to Buenos Aires we were really saddened, frustrated, to find that the tango we learned in London wasn't the tango danced in the milongas there. What we'd learned was a simulation of tango, taught by show dancers. We just sat and watched. It was so amazing to watch those older dancers, how much dance they can fit into the space, how smoothly they do those endless turns!'
'& this is what we see when we get back!' We laugh – but it's not meant dismissively. It's just... what we're watching doesn't really look like tango! OK, it's tango, but not as we know it.
'The whole experience is so different. People come here for a fun night out... They have fun there too, but it's really different.'
'It's really part of their lives there, it's a real force, tango is a passion there. They really enjoy it and they are really serious about it too.'
'& their whole lives, half a century of life in Argentina, are wrapped up in it too. When you dance with an Argentine you really don't know just what experiences you are embracing.'
'Well, it's not our culture, not our music, but it's great people come here and enjoy themselves with this music.'
'& then we met Silvia, and we were really impressed by her. She left us both feeling pretty down about our tango: she leaves you with the feeling you have to start all over again. But that's great: that's what you need.'
'It's the guys here who need to change, and they are most resistant to change. We need teachers like Myriam and Silvia here.'
'& Muma.'
'One problem, there's just so much tango in London; a milonga one week can be quite different the following week because different people turn up. There's not so much continuity of community, at least in central London milongas. Perhaps that's one reason  why milongas outside London have a better reputation; there's more consistency.'
'& now you get teachers who claim to teach 'milonguero' – with no real connection with the Buenos Aires milongas and the people who dance in them. They come over here and teach something they call 'estilo milonguero'! Using the name to make money. 'Milonguero' has become a buzz-word here, and it's really sad we never get anyone in London who really has long experience of the milongas. But they might not be popular. They'd be speaking an unfamiliar language to many. They'd want to get people to do basic things, to walk well... people who already know dozens of giros with lapizes, saccadas and voleos! & even worse: they'd expect people to really listen to the music and dance with it.'
'It's not our culture, not our music. It's becoming part of our culture but it'll never be our culture like it's the culture, history, the life story of Buenos Aires. The music speaks to us, but not really the poetry. Tango song and music is everyone's experience there, even though not so many people dance it.'
'Traditions renew themselves or they die off, but we shouldn't assume that therefore we can ignore the culture as it is over there today. Ignoring all those years of experience doesn't make sense. It'd be so great to have a flow of visitors here who have lived their lives with the milongas...'


Anonymous said...

It requires a visit to the milongas in BsAs to make these statements. Seeing is believing.

It's unfortunate that false advertising is part of the tango business.

AlanJonesj said...

We were lucky in previous years,as some of the older dancers came over to England and we learnt from them.One dancer told me that many couldn't afford to travel over,and some didn't want to come over.Why would they? Alan Jones from England.

Dieudonne said...

You might enjoy this if you haven't seen it already.

Tangocommuter said...

False or misleading advertising is part of business, Jantango! Sadly, the tango business is no different.

Alan, true, but then older dancers, and a younger generation who have grown up dancing with them, do travel extensively and regularly in Europe, and have done over the past decade, even quite elderly couples like Osvaldo and Coca.

Thanks, Dieudonne. I posted the link to that video before I'd checked your comment. Great that other people are keeping an eye open for these wonderful clips: I hope you're enjoying them too!

Chris said...

"Alan, true, but then older dancers ... do travel extensively and regularly in Europe"

Mainland Europe is different in that every capital I know has at least a couple of milongas where such dancers would be happy to spend an evening socially. When in the past the same could be said of the UK, such dancers did indeed visit. If/when London recovers from the recent plague of tango quacks, and gains a few trad milongas, I'm sure such dancers will return.