Monday, 25 February 2013

Cacho Dante and the embrace

I hadn't intended to write any more about the tango of Buenos Aires and the tango of Europe, and then I remembered a basic exercise. But it was when I discovered a video as well that the keyboard started to rattle. & anyway, I think it's important. When it comes down to it, the outstanding differences between those two tangos seem to be in the embrace and in the way the music is followed with the body.

The exercise is occasionally (too rarely) used in classes here: the leader leads without using the right arm and hand. Holding the right arm behind the back forces the leader to rely exclusively on using the sternum-to-sternum contact to lead. (It might require the 'follower' to use the left arm a bit more firmly.) It always surprises me how sensitive this is: the slightest move from the lead is picked up and responded to immediately. This exercise is great for practicas, and really encourages a clear, firm lead from the chest.

& the video? Sadly, Cacho Dante has injured his right hand. Does this stop him dancing? No way! Here he is giving what appears to be a class demo. I don't remember him giving formal demos in classes but he would dance a bit, aware that we need to watch a lot in order to learn. The video shows clearly the embrace and how it is used. Of course, Cacho is a different shape to many of us, but I assume he was slimmer when he danced as a young man and could still lead well. With regard to body shape, a friend who has danced with him and many others tells me: 'They just lift you onto those big bellies and dance away with you!' & I wonder about that lifting: thinking about the embrace, I've recently noticed that dances where I have the feeling of lifting from the core are successful: those where I can't get that feeling, less so. Entirely subjective. & pushing up from the core means pushing down onto the floor, being grounded.

With thanks to Lonesol.

Posture is central to the embrace. As a young man and as an older man Cacho was unlikely to have spent days hunched over a terminal, and being upright was probably much more part of his culture than it is ours. Myriam Pincen said leaders should stand up straight and breathe in fully as they embrace: ' are then in the right position'. That's easy to do as a drill: the problem is staying in that position throughout a tango. The moment a leader's posture slumps, the embrace loses its firmness and clarity.

Cacho is dancing to Pugliese, and I take this video as a masterclass in dancing Pugliese too. It's a different kind of music, and we're likely to get one or at most two tandas a night, so we don't dance much to it. The abrupt energy as well the lyrical side of the music are there effortlessly in his lead. I'm not sure how he does it, but I'd guess he's so precisely on the beat he doesn't need to exaggerate his movements. That final step is an example; it's firm but not at all demonstrative, and yet it has great energy.

There are two other recent clips of him dancing Pugliese at the Lujos milonga in Plaza Bohemia. His right hand is bandaged, and although it is behind his partner's back you can see he doesn't hold her with it. It's a great lesson, but I hope the hand has healed. 

The two other clips are Lujos 1 and Lujos 2. & two tangueros in each: I'm sure the guy in the white shirt with the elegant lady in pink is Eduardo 'El Nene' Masci. I note he's relatively slim and can still lead effortlessly; encouragement to many of us. & sorry, I don't know who the lady in pink is.

PS. Ah, Lujos milonga! Just look at that big floor, perfectly normal lighting, people turning up to eat and drink and dance for hours! Isn't that civilized?

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Ricardo Vidort at Confiteria Ideal, 2003

The drip-drip of appearance of films of Ricardo Vidort's tango is slow: I hope he will still be remembered by the time everything there is appears! Although there probably aren't that many, but at least they keep coming.

This one is great: Ricardo (in the light-coloured jacket) dancing in a milonga at Ideal, and dancing with a lot of energy and fun, weaving all over the floor. Nobody else seems as grounded and sure of themselves. It's great to see such enjoyment of the dance, and as ever it's a wonderful lesson. & it's such an individual dance: tango, but unlike anyone else's tango. Clearly tango from an era before professional teachers who all dance alike and teach the same things.

A pity there's not more: there is a Part 1, but he doesn't appear in it. Moreover, the camera seems to be surreptitious, and dwells on the other dancers too. But thanks for the few moments; a pleasure to watch!

Video with thanks to Tango Vida

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

'Coming back from Buenos Aires to dance in …' 2

I keep remembering those BsAs tandas that become so hushed you can hear the swish of the soles of many shoes kissing the floor, although the music is loud and clear. Everyone is that attentive to the music, and that precise on the beat. It makes me hold my breath for fear of disturbing it. It's an experience worth any number of long-distance flights. I've noticed it occasionally, for a moment or two, in London, late in a milonga. It's strange that I think of it as very moving, but it is. That degree of absorption in the music and in each other, by a number of couples moving as one. At that level all the fears and uncertainties about connection have evaporated, not as a result of training but just because there's something infinitely more enjoyable to be absorbed in.

London milongas can seem a bit raucous by comparison, but I wouldn't want to suggest that there's no fun in BsAs milongas. There's a lot of fun, and probably duplicity too. But there's also an incessant attention to the partner and the energies of the music. The overall feeling is often of very warm affection. Look at any couple dancing, and you'll see why tango is called the dance of love: they look blissfully absorbed in each other even if they are total strangers. & then the music stops, they laugh and go their different ways. Sadly, love doesn't usually work quite like that.

I think that attention to all the energies of the music is what we should aim for, and I think we're getting there. Not so long ago, in the 'nuevo period', music was often background to a lot of gymnastics. Now people are listening, and know the music better, are discriminating about the music played, and dance more closely with it. (In fact, not so long ago it was actually hard work getting tango CDs, and YouTube and internet streaming were in their infancy.)

Learning to be open to all the energies of the music takes time, and listening. We can learn about the music and its structure from musicians and dancers like Joaquín Amenábar, who offers a lot of insight into the music and how to dance to it. But responding to the music as the older dancers do? I don't know how we can develop this, apart from dancing as long and as frequently as they've done. First of all I think we need to be aware that it is a possibility, something to aim for. I guess it takes a lot of listening and practice, with old friends, with newcomers, with both experienced and inexperienced dancers, to become that confident with the music and the embrace. Perhaps Tete's advice is useful: sin pensamiento! Without thinking what you're going to lead next, just letting your whole body react to the music.

Guided practicas might be more useful than formal classes because they are places where you can let yourself go a bit. Classes suggest a topic to be learned and mastered, with all the discipline and competitive learning of the classroom, with the feeling that you've 'got it' (or not), and then it's over. Practicas are an immediate and hands-on way of developing a feel for the dance and the music, a continuing process that doesn't end with the class, since a practica is more like a milonga, a place where people can share experience. But guided practicas, practicas observed and 'moderated', not free-for-alls. Or classes like Cacho Dante's classes, combining exercises, new material and a lot of free dance, closely observed by Cacho.

What Pedro and Osvaldo Centano do in those videos is instinctive; they couldn't really teach it, but Pedro gave me a big hint when he pointed out that I must have learned to dance in London because my dance was all with my feet, and he went on to point out how, in stepping to the left, there can be a dip then a lift. We all started out learning tango as steps, and thinking we need to learn more steps, and keep on learning steps in class, so it's not easy. True, you've got to learn the footwork for ochos, giros and so on; you need to learn how to move on your feet. The problem arises if no one suggests to you that there's more to it than that: getting your feet in the right place might be only the basis to the dance, not the actual dance.

'Listen to the music!' as Pedro would say. &, 'Take it easy!'