Sunday, 21 July 2013

Disappearing documentaries

Tango documentaries – documentaries about the social dance of the milongas – don't seem to have it easy; no sooner do they appear than they vanish. In a paranoid moment I wonder if dancers of other kinds of tango have Friends in High Places. Catch a glimpse of a wonderful documentary about social tango, and it's gone.

It's happened several times recently, most recently with the Russian-made documentary featuring Pedro Sanchez. Jantango wrote about it and filmed a behind-the-scenes glimpse of filming in Lo de Celia: there's a link to her clip in the post. The documentary was on YouTube, and now 'This video is unavailable. Sorry about that.'

I'm glad I watched it while it was available. I skimmed through the first half, the tango tourist's visits to La Ideal, to La Boca. Then half-way through he, the Russian who wants to learn tango, rings the bell on an unremarkable door in Boedo – and Pedro, beaming as ever, opens it and invites us up the flights of stairs to his roof-top terrace, where the tango lesson begins in the wonderful late-summer afternoon light of Buenos Aires. Just the Russian and Pedro: for 10 minutes or more we watch a scene that could have taken place (less the CD player) 60 years ago, the older guy giving the newcomer an idea of tango. Imitate what I do, now let me push you so you get the feel of it, now push me. & above all, listen to the music! How it informs the way you move! The commentary is entirely in Russian: so what!

I should add that this one-to-one teaching wasn't familiar to me from my encounters with Pedro, who would always find a partner for me if I didn't have one. But the direct learning was always there. & I didn't intend to be impolite when I said that Pedro pushes: he firmly grabs your forearms and leaves you in no doubt what you have to do.
Then the scene shifts to Lo de Celia, where the Russian negotiates a milonga. It's well done: the failed efforts at cabeceo, and finally the nod that accepts his invitation, and the ensuing dances. & it's all disappeared. 

Other films I can think of that have vanished:

Maestros Milongueros, which has been shown occasionally in Buenos Aires.

There's a half-hour film by French film-maker (and architect) Odile Fillon about Tete Rusconi, which has an excellent sequence of Tete teaching in the Plaza Bohemia on Maipu: he's in great good humour, laughing, joking, flirting outrageously, and giving clear and useful advice. A couple of years since I saw it, and I'd dearly like to watch it again.

Ad Occhi Chiusi, Eyes Closed, is an Italian film, which exists as a trailer on YouTube.

Some months ago a tango documentary was shortlisted for a film festival (in Italy I think) and was available on the festival website and on YouTube – for a couple of days. It disappeared from the festival website, although other videos on the website remained visible, and since I can't remember what it was called I can't even start to see if it's available on YouTube, but I doubt it.

& that's just an off-the-top-of-my-head list. I'm sure there are more. Too bad, really: there must be around six that have appeared briefly and vanished. Of course the producers, the people who paid for them, will hardly rejoice that their product can be seen for free on YouTube, but I wish they'd get together and produce a DVD of all their wonderful short videos of social tango, of the older dancers at home and on the dance floor. (Same thing, really.) 

One documentary that has been around for a while is One Tango Moment, a charming and instructive documentary of how a couple who became Australian tango champions visit Buenos Aires to take part in the Mundial, the world championships. She goes out dancing one evening and discovers Argentine tango... After that, everything they do seems excessive, overblown. Their rehearsals of their choreography become fraught, and she wants to drop out of the Mundial altogether. They go through with it but get nowhere. (I guess from one point of view you could say it has a happy ending.)

The video was posted on YouTube by the director, Carla Thackrah, along with her other films. One Tango Moment is well filmed and put together; it has only the briefest moments of social tango but it's a revealing record of the experience of two quite different forms of tango.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Tango from an earlier time

Jantango just sent me this link and I've sat for 30 minutes, open-mouthed. Thanks Janis!

It's a playlist, 34 videos in all. (I noticed I was only the second view: Jantango was presumably the first.) First up, Tete on a fairly open floor in Canning in 2006: nice, I thought, always great to watch Tete dancing in a milonga rather than giving a demo. But then my jaw really hit the deck: two videos of Martha Anton dancing with El Petaca. Is this really Martha Anton many years ago, perhaps even as far back as the early 1970s? Extraordinary. & I'd never come across El Petaca. Two really wonderful compelling tracks of dance, just wonderful.

Then an unnamed couple. & then... Mingo Pugliese leading Antonio Todaro. Unbelievable, and great fun. What a treasure trove!

Then there's a tango from another un-named couple, another very intense dance, but undated too. After that, two tracks that must come from Marisa Galindo's show, La Milonga, in 1991: the first is Mingo and Esther Pugliese, and the second, Gerardo Portalea and partner (his wife I think), how to dance to Di Sarli by the best. After that, Gavito from 2001, followed by another un-named couple, then two dances by Pupy Castello and Graziela Gonzales.

After that we're into HD video, Sonia Marambie and Christian Henriquez filmed in 2013 in a studio decorated with rather dodgy paintings.

Some but not all of the dances in this sequence are quite elaborate, but despite the elaboration (the kind which probably wouldn't be too welcome on a crowded floor) there's still a real sense of feeling, the capacity to be moved by the music, an intense dance with some flashy moments, almost defiant flashy moments; I couldn't help thinking of this against a grim political background. But when we get to 2013... well, I don't think it's just the paintings, but at this point we seem to have reached a kind of dance I'm sadly too familiar with, great technique, but not a lot more by comparison with the earlier videos. The emotional intensity of the earlier dances draws me in, moves me, whereas the wonderful technique of the recent dances leaves me cold.

Many thanks to tangobravo6 for this sequence. Hopefully it'll be possible to identify some of the other dancers. Some wonderful tango from an earlier time. Just a pity there's nothing here from Ricardo Vidort! Then it really would be an epic find.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013


I discovered recently that comments sometimes don't get through to me: I know for sure that comments by two people have failed to arrive. I thought I should post about this: perhaps it happens more widely, perhaps I'm not the only one. Perhaps there's a simple fix for it. If you can shine any light on this, please do send a comment. One clue seems to be that sometimes the usual statement '...your comment is awaiting approval' does NOT appear when you post a comment.

Now this is a bit of a delicate matter. For most of its eventful life Tangocommuter has been unmoderated. I found that even the most irritatingly trivial comments could sometimes provoke useful discussions, and I liked the immediacy of it: it felt like a forum, open to all voices. But I began to get weary of what seemed like self-promotion. Tangoimmigrant published a wonderful piece about this, wording it with a delicate good humour that I can't match. Anyway, recently I've been moderating comments. I don't exclude anyone, but I have excluded comments (a few) that don't seem to me to contribute anything at all to the discussion. & that's included comments that are way off-subject.

But comments not reaching me, even perhaps your insight as to why this might be happening, that's a real problem. So I've switched off the moderating option for now. I'd be very grateful if you could contact me with any similar experiences you've had with Blogger, any solutions you know of, any queries as to whether I received comments you sent and which didn't appear. If this has been at all regular I need to try and get an answer from Blogger.

Paul has already suggested that Blogger was updated a while back, and that this blog started before then, but I've checked up on that, and the software is automatically updated just by logging in. I can't find a version number, as you usually can with software, but I'm reasonably sure it's up-to-date. I think it's unlikely to be a problem at either the sender's PC or mine, but you never know. Maybe there's some obscure bug. But I want to be confident that if you send a comment I will receive it. Possibly I might not publish it, but I want to read it. Thanks!