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?


Chris said...

"The exercise is occasionally (too rarely) used in classes here: the leader leads without using the right arm and hand ... rely[ing] exclusively on using the sternum-to-sternum contact"

TC, it must be said the main reason removing the right hand is rare here is that the kind of dancing of most classes has already removed all sternum-to-sternum contact. Here's an example.

Ana Saraiva said...

It must be a good exercise but I absolutely hate a less than very present left arm... and too many dancers are afraid of a strong abrazo, maybe because the line that divides presence from force is a bit thin: it also depends on our sensitivity.

Tangocommuter said...

Yes. In effect we learn tango backwards here. We start with complex foot patterns, then if it suits you, you move on to an embrace. Classes I've been to in BsAs start with walking and the embrace, and then if it suits you you move on to complex foot patterns. But that's the way it is here. At least people are finding their way to the embrace, and enjoying the music.

Tangocommuter said...

Hi Ana, and thanks. I guess you mean a very present right arm, no? The leader's right arm, that is. But I made clear it's only an exercise for practicas. Cacho Dante is only leading like that in a milonga because of an injury. It is a good way for a leader to learn, but I think followers always like to feel held! & as you say, there's a fine distinction between presence and force, and it's not always easy to get it just right, particularly since different partners can prefer slightly different leads.

Ana Saraiva said...

Ooops, yes, I meant the leader's right arm and not left, of course.
I understood you meant it as an exercise but it did make me think of the lack of a real embrace many men have. They do connect at chest level (sometimes too upright, like dedicated students) but seem reticent to close that embrace. And that can make a huge difference in terms of connection.

Tangocommuter said...

In the UK it's rare to get teachers who normally dance in close embrace themselves! & there's a perception that the British don't like close body contact. Nevertheless, and despite what the (Argentine) teachers teach in classes here, dancing is getting closer. But there's very little help, and so we end up with what you call a 'lack of real embrace'.

For what it's worth, I'm finding that the best contact for the lead is lower than 'chest level', and actually at about the level of the solar plexus, the lower end of the sternum. It always seems very comfortable, and it's easier to lead from that point. Watching Cacho and El Nene in the two videos from Lujos milonga, it looks to me as if that is where they lead from.

Janis said...

That is not Eduardo Masci at Lujos. He is Horacio Rodriguez with an unknown woman with awful arm syndrome.

JohnM said...

I think you should look again at Cacho's embraceless dancing. He may have no useful right arm but he certainly is using a toned left to compensate and his partner uses her own rather rigidly toned right arm.

At times you can see him using his left arm independently of his torso. I don't think your conclusions are justified in this case. And an extended arm like this is evil on a crowded social floor although I would be happy to accept his necessity of using it in this case and on an empty floor too.

Pushing up from the core does not mean pushing down onto the floor, it's an impossibility. Your weight is your weight and you cannot increase the load on the floor when you have nothing to push up against. Being grounded isn't just subjective, it only has some sort of relevance when comparing (some) tango with other dances and movements.

Ana Saraiva said...

For me, a good tango embrace doesn't differ much from a good "normal" embrace: real, loving, stable.