Sunday, 30 March 2014

Ricardo Suarez in Buenos Aires

After seeing Ricardo Vidort's milonga in Rome, I started to look for other milongas from that generation... and remembered Ricardo Suarez, who was five years older than Ricardo Vidort and celebrated his 90th birthday a few weeks ago.

When I first watched him in Maipu 444 six or seven years ago I didn't know who he was: he certainly appeared to be the oldest dancer there, and yet didn't miss out many tandas. I kept watching him because he seemed to have an incredibly precise sense of the beat: he seemed more 'on the beat' than anyone else in a room full of some of the most experienced tangueros in Buenos Aires. Every time I've been there I've seen him at a milonga two or three evenings a week, dancing most tandas, dancing with old and young, dancing all evening.

His movements aren't big, but look very precise. Small movements doesn't mean movements without energy: his steps are absolutely decisive. That back-step has a sudden precision to it: you don't need to take a big back step to get the energy of the movement. As usual it's not what you do it's how you do it. Useful on crowded floors, and also useful if you want to keep dancing all night: no energy is wasted.

There have been a few recent videos related to his birthday, and several are milonga. The feeling that he's more 'on the beat' than anyone else is still there, and I assume that his partners are exactly with him, very precisely on the beat too. (There's nothing approximate about 'on the beat' in traditional Buenos Aires tango, as I've been reminded a few times while there.)

For some reason the 'embed' isn't working: the video is here. Abretango also has other videos of Ricardo's birthday celebrations.

Here's Ricardo and the late Enriquetta Kleinmann at Ricardo's 89th birthday last year, a well-lit and very clear video. (You have to fast forward to about 2:40 to get to the dance.) Same music: curious how similar Tati Caviglia and Enriquetta Kleinman are, both in height and dance, although I think Enriquetta looks more assured.

And to return to the 90th birthday: Ricardo Suarez dancing with Muma. Not a milonga, but a lovely tango. The film is mainly close up on upper body, and the movements of the dancers are very clear, and it's extraordinary just how much movement there is, up and down, side to side and round, little movements back and forth, like a conversation. It's not exaggerated, and it is precise. But when the camera does pull back... Muma is dancing barefoot! Wonderful. In conversation once, a 'porteña' deplored women wearing jeans to milongas: But, I said, just last night I saw Muma at Cachirulo in jeans! 'Ah! Well. Muma!' she replied. Muma can wear jeans to a milonga, and she can dance barefoot too. But that's Muma.

One thing clear in this clip: Muma and Ricardo actually look as if they are dancing together, and enjoy dancing together. Sad to say, that's not so with some of the other dancers visible. A pity they are surrounded with dancing that seems to lack this personal, interior absorption, lost to the world in each other for a few moments.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Between tangos

A partner who's danced in Buenos Aires most summers for many years describes as best she can the feeling of dancing with the older/more experienced dancers there: 'Soft energy'.

& another partner tells me she thinks of tango as 'consolation', not a word I'd associated before with tango. (All those Practimilonguero interviewees, who grandly and unanimously describe tango in a single word as 'pasión'.) But 'consolation' makes sense. Consolation is what gets you through a sense of loss, which accords with the nostalgia perceived in golden-age tango. Sur, that great anthem of golden-age tango, looks back at the wonderful times of trembling with love in youth, the waiting, the peaceful walks under starry skies... '...and it's all died, I know'. The place has changed, the experiences are only a memory, the dream has faded, leaving bitterness. & at the same time it's a wonderful song with great music. That's consolation.

(Words and a recent translation of Sur here.)

Monday, 10 March 2014

'El Flaco' Dany

Looking up from the ronda at a recent Sunday-afternoon milonga in London I suddenly noticed a face I hadn't expected to see there: 'El Flaco' Dany, sitting at a table. I shouldn't have been surprised: he's patron of that milonga, and I knew he was in London.

& especially great to see him take to the floor just like everyone else. Just to dance, not to give a 'demo'. It was great to watch that easy, comfortable grace: the experience of a lifetime of the ronda there! Nothing fancy, just the kind of salon everyone else was dancing – but with a distinctive relaxed elegance. Easy is the word I keep wanting to use: as ever, if someone makes something look easy, natural, effortless, it usually reflects a lot of experience. A real inspiration, and to my mind the best kind of tango 'demo'. &, at 78, he's a lot more upright than most of the dancers around. It's wonderful that a tanguero of his generation can now go to a London milonga and not look completely out of place.

Yellow mimosa (or is it acacia?) blossoms on every table: a soft scent of spring all afternoon.