When going to a tango festival, one tends to have fairly high expectations of the evening milongas. Some dancers travel several hours, cross borders and pay many times the entrance fee of their hometown milongas to hear world famous DJs and to dance with other experienced tangueros / tangueras from other countries. We want to have a good time dancing in a new place, often with new partners, late into the night (or even until the morning). It is then all the more disappointing when you find that tanda after tanda the music does not inspire you to dance; instead, you are left wondering about the DJ’s intentions behind choosing the songs he did. So let’s just say none of the observations below were from any particular festival I recently visited; “Like the old tale, my lord: ‘It is not so, nor ’twas not so: but indeed, God forbid it should be so!’”.
Musical taste is highly subjective, of course, and in several conversations that night and afterwards I heard wildly different opinions about the music, ranging from “I had no problem dancing to most of it” to extremely negative ones. Because of this, I would like to concentrate on only one aspect of the music: what, specifically, were the signs that the imaginary tandas of this imaginary night were inappropriate for dancing at a very crowded milonga during a festival?
1. Incongruent tandas (i.e., 2-3 songs from the best years of a given orchestra, then the remaining 1-2 songs from a decade or two later) will shock dancers out from whatever mood they’re in. For example: Echagüe sang with D’Arienzo for over two decades, but Pénsalo bien and Mandria are in a very different league than their recordings from the 1950s with Echagüe’s fake stuttering. Similarly, OT Victor’s Una vez from 1943, sung by Ortega Del Cerro, is very different from their El mortero del globito (Alberto Gómez, 1933), Adiós Buenos Aires (Ángel Vargas, 1938), or Ventarrón (Alberto Gómez, 1933).
Playing an unexpected track in a practica or in a class can help dancers to get out of their patterns and try something new, but the point of a milonga is to have fun and enjoy the dance, whatever level you’re at in your dancing. Music will be one of the few familiar things at a festival for many dancers, so why take even this away from us? We already need to deal with navigating an unknown floor, perhaps with a new partner, perhaps after hours of traveling by plane, car, or train. Please let us a get into a mood for one tanda and enjoy it until the cortina starts to play.
2. Very fast milonga tandas during the whole night. One extremely fast milonga can be great for a performance when it allows a couple to showcase impeccable technique at a high speed. When heard at a milonga, three of them in a row can tire out even the most energetic dancers. Once a night this might make sense – e.g., before a performance or some other break during the evening, or maybe towards the end if you want to finish on a high note. But when during an all-nighter nearly every milonga tanda features machine gun speed recordings, you have a choice: you can run through them (with most of the crowd), you can be the couple who dances it at half-speed while everyone else keeps bumping into you, or you can sit it out, no matter how much you love milongas. Why deprive dancers of the joy of Canaro or D’Arienzo milongas from the 1930s (not to mention OT Victor’s milongas), when those songs can create such a fun little break from the heavier, deeper mood of tangos?
3. Almost no break (read: less than one second) between one tango and the next within a tanda. Maybe you bumped into someone (or they into you) and a quick apology is in order. Maybe you just had an absolutely transcendental experience with your dance partner and want to hold on to the feeling (and each other) for a few more seconds. Maybe you knew the lyrics of the song that just ended and it touched you one way or another, and you need a few seconds before you can move on to the next one. Maybe you simply need time to adjust your dress or shoes. In any event, it is great to have 4-5 seconds between songs, because at a festival many couples around you will start dancing immediately with the first beats of the next song, forcing you to start moving as well or face being pushed.
4. Tandas that start off with lesser known songs, then that “oh damn, I must get up and dance to this one” track comes at 3rd or last place. Not everyone is a tango music aficionado or budding tango DJ who knows, recognizes and enjoys dancing to every tango track ever recorded. There are also local dancers who may have been going to class for a few months and may know a few of the “hits” of the major Golden Age orchestras but not much beyond that. Still, they came to the festival to meet new people, to see the performance and to dance and have fun. They (and many other more advanced tangueros) will feel more inspired to dance the tanda from the beginning, if they can recognize the first few beats of the first song (or at least the second one).
Or maybe a dancer is thinking of taking a break and getting a drink or some fresh air (unless the next one is a really great tanda — let’s see, what’s the first song?) And when leaders feel more inspired to get on the dance floor, more followers will dance, too. Given the gender imbalance at most festivals, it would be great for the followers if more leaders were looking for a partner for the first song of every tanda.
5. Playing “difficult” music (read: songs recorded way after the Golden Age, with no steady compás, unexpected pauses / rhythm changes, and the singer very much in the foreground) early on in the evening when there is a huge crowd on the dance floor. There are few more effective ways to create havoc, mess up lanes and the flow of dancers, and cause foot injuries on a crowded pista than playing, let’s say, 1960s Pugliese and hour and a half into an all-night milonga with several hundred dancers. Many dancers enjoy a musical challenge, but the hardcore ones will be around a few hours later, too, when there is plenty of space to be creative.
6. Playing only dramatic tangos from the late 1940s well into the 1960s for approximately an hour. The blessing (and curse) of dancing tango today is that we are exposed to many orchestras even during a short, 3 hour milonga. You cannot go out anymore to hear D’Agostino play live at your neighborhood café for a couple of hours and then move over to another milonga in another barrio if you feel like dancing to Troilo instead. You’ll hear both of these orquestras and half a dozen to a dozen others at most milongas these days, depending on the length of the event and the taste of the DJ.
DJs have the entire repertoire of the Golden Age at their disposal; songs that were all written for the dancers and recorded with them in mind. So it is perplexing when for a straight hour a DJ plays tangos that are not meant to be danced to. Yes, they are better quality than earlier recordings, and more exciting, emotional and dramatic than those of the Golden Age, but they were simply not meant for dancing because by the time they were recorded, the age of milongas in Buenos Aires was over. Many of these are great for performing. A tanda (or two) may even be a nice break from the usual flow of a milonga. But several late, dramatic tandas played one after the other will drive many dancers off the floor.
A few orchestras are played very often in Buenos Aires milongas: Troilo, D’Arienzo, Biagi, Di Sarli, Tanturi, Pugliese . . . all of them have their own Golden Age “hits” that most dancers know and love. A DJ’s job is to entertain his audience, and, to a lesser extent, educate them. (And, to an even lesser extent, to keep himself from getting bored.)
As a dancer and potential customer of tango marathons, encuentros and festivals, it is my hope that DJs play more of the music that dancers need and want in order to have a great night instead of trying to provide them with something special and unusual to such an extent that it becomes a source of frustration. There is no need to reinvent the wheel – the songs that get a lot of play everywhere get it for a reason, and there are plenty of blogs and other resources on the internet about reliable and fun tango music for dancers. Let us enjoy an evening of inspiring and varied tandas that help maintain the ronda and get most of us out onto the floor.
Every once in a while I get asked by tango dancers and students about the lyrics of the songs we are dancing to – what they are about, and if there are any translations or at least the full Spanish originals are available on the web. Sometimes the questions are about the tangos I play when I DJ at a milonga – when a song was recorded, by which orchestra, who is the singer, etc. Over there years I collected many links that helped me a lot to learn more about tangos and I think it’s worth sharing them so those interested in the music can learn more about it and appreciate even more the beauty and poetry of many lyrics. (For me, it was a surprise when I found out that most of my favorite lyrics were written by Homero Manzi.) Here are a few resources for finding a variety of information online about tangos, performers, composers, recording dates and lyrics.
Q: I’d like to know more about the songs I already have in my tango library, and would like to find out who recorded a particular tango, or what recordings does a given orchestra have with a specific singer. Where can I find this kind of information?
A: Check out tango.info – it is an extensive database with a lot of details for thousands of tangos, valses and milongas. It also has a built-in tagger functionality that works together with a free tagging program called mp3tag, so you can easily label an entire CD’s worth of mp3s with just a few clicks.
Q: I want to learn more about tango, vals and milonga lyrics – if possible, in English.
A: There are quite a few resources available on the internet to help you. In most cases, if you know the title of the song, or even just a few words from the lyrics with the correct Spanish spelling, you can use Google to help you find the full lyrics (in Spanish, of course) at one of these three websites:
Lyics web sites – with lyrics in Spanish only:
http://www.argentinaonline.info/tangos/ – not very user friendly, but has the largest lyrics collection of all three
There are also some tango lyrics web sites with English translations (song counts as of July 2011):
http://poesiadegotan.wordpress.com/ – a blog with about 70 lyrics of well known and popular tangos, milongas and valses
http://letrasdetango.wordpress.com/ – over 100 lyrics, many with mp3 files so you can listen as you read
http://tangodc.com/lyrics/index.htm – about 90 lyrics translated
Q: I speak some Spanish, but there are words in the tango lyrics that I don’t know (or cannot even find in a Spanish dictionary). Where can I look these up?
A: These words are most likely part of the Buenos Aires slang called lunfardo – a mixture Italian, Spanish and many other languages. Here are some lunfardo dictionaries to help you to translate a song yourself, or if you need to look up a specific word in the slang Buenos Aires:
http://www.todotango.com/spanish/biblioteca/DiccionarioLunfardo.aspx – this page has a lot of lunfardo expressions, but explanations are very short
http://www.clubdetango.com.ar/lunfardeando/Terminos.htm – a smaller collection of lunfardo terms, with more detailed explanations and some examples, including tango lyrics
http://www.elportaldeltango.com/dicciona.htm – one-word translations of lunfardo termspeter | music | Comments Off
[Please note that this article was written for the Polish tango magazine Tango8. Due to the amount of comment spam this blog receives, I turned off commenting for this post. If you have a comment or question regarding this post, please email it to us.]
When it comes to learning tango, Spanish speakers, and especially Argentines, have an advantage over us. Sure, when they walk into their first few dance classes they have, just like us, problems with coordination, using their chest to lead, extending their free leg and maintaining a comfortable embrace. But they have a lot less difficulty with the music and the lyrics than we do.
If you are a native speaker of Spanish, you will immediately understand the lyrics of the tangos you hear in class. Maybe not the expressions in lunfardo, the Buenos Aires slang, but you will still have a very good idea of what a song is about. And if you are from Buenos Aires, you will even recognize the names of the local parks, cafes, streets and neighborhoods mentioned in many tangos, valses and milongas. Just imagine dancing to tangos written in Polish with references to the city where you live: wouldn’t it be easier and more fun to dance to them? Wouldn’t that music feel closer to you? You cannot grow up and live in Buenos Aires without hearing tango, even if you’ve never danced it yourself. It’s on the radio. It’s on the TV. You hear it in the stores and on the street. Maybe your parents or other relatives played it at home when you were little. Either way, you’ve already heard many, many tango songs before your first ever tango class, you understand the language they’re in and know the places they talk about. The songs talk to you, and you understand them.
We who begin to learn tango outside of Argentina, speaking a language other than Spanish are missing all these experiences with tango music. Often, our first tango class is the first time we ever hear classical tango music and it sounds unfamiliar to us. Of course, we would prefer to dance to music that feels familiar to us, music which we understand. So we have a choice: adapt the music to ourselves or adapt ourselves to the music. Many of us are used to music with a steady, clear beat that is carried by drums – such as pop, rock, hip-hop, salsa and many other genres. It is natural to want to dance to music in which we feel the beat and know when to step.
One option, then, is to have milongas where a good portion of the music played is not traditional tango music. Today, there are milongas in Europe where up to half the evening consists of alternative, nuevo, fusion, folk etc. songs. This keeps many dancers happy because they can feel the higher energy level and the beat of a song without having to go through a long learning process, without having to develop an appreciation for something that’s unfamiliar. For many young people, “old” tangos sound all the same, and have too little energy. New, alternative songs are the ones they find really fun to dance to. This is the path of least resistance – dancing to what is new, cool and instantly enjoyable.
The second option is to take the time and the effort to listen to classical tango music, learn about it and develop an appreciation for its complexities. If you are lucky, you will not be completely alone in this work: your dance teachers and local DJs can help you. (Please raise your hand if in your tango classes your teachers regularly mention which orchestra they are playing, or even talk a bit about the characteristic style of the orchestra or what a given song’s lyrics are about.) Some tango teachers have noted that it usually takes young people 2-3 years to start to “see beyond” the figures and appreciate the complexity of a tango dance in which music is expressed just as creatively with simpler steps. I think there is a similar learning curve for tango music: it takes a few years of dancing to discover the beauty and complexity of Golden Age tangos. But tango teachers and DJs also have a responsibility to the students and dancers. A beginner student can be taught not just steps, but an appreciation for the music he is dancing to. DJs can create their tandas paying attention to which orchestra recorded each song with which singer in which year, creating a consistent mood in each set of songs.
But as a beginner, you need to be active, too: ask other dancers or your teachers and DJs questions about the music, search on the internet for more information, build your own library of music and take some time to listen to it. There are even websites and blogs with English translations of tango lyrics, so if you speak English, you can learn what a lot of songs are about.
Still, this is a whole lot more effort than dancing to Libedinsky, Gotan Project, Johansen or world music, so why do it? Why spend hours and hours trying to learn about songs that were recorded 60, 70 or even 80 years ago in a different language in another part of the world? The short answer is: because Golden Age tango music is an integral part of the experience of dancing tango. Or, to put it differently, the technique and “feel” of close embrace social tango dancing comes largely from the music itself. (It is also influenced and limited by the crowded conditions and social rules that developed in the 1930s and 1940s in Buenos Aires, but that is another story.) The goal of a social Argentine tango dancer is to move to the music he loves, to express the melody and the beat and to share this feeling with his partner. A social dancer wants to enjoy dancing with his partner, not entertain an audience or demonstrate his superior speed or skills. Social tango is a very different dance from what you can see on stage in a tango show or in a demo at a tango festival.
* Tango waits for you (Anibal Troilo)peter | milongas, music, musicality | Comments Off
Recently I bought an old 78 rpm record at a street fair in Trójmiasto. It was produced by the Polish firm Muza and, according to its label, had a tango on one side:
Cicho grajcie mi znów - Tango / Bixio / Kwartet Rytmiczny I. Bogajewicz - J. Geisler, F. Nowak - J. Witkowski
“Cicho grajcie mi znów” (“Play for me again quietly”) – doesn’t sound very tango-like, but it does remind one of other interwar Polish tangos such as “Zagrajcie mi” or “Graj skrzypku, graj”. The description on the label (“Kwartet Rytmiczny”) looked like an instrumental quartet, and indeed the song has no vocals. I haven’t been able to determine the recording date but I was able to transfer it to my computer, and after re-equalizing it and removing some noise, it sounds like this:
As it turns out, it’s not a Polish version of an Argentine tango. It’s not even a Polish tango inspired by the dance craze that swept Poland in the interwar period. The music and the original lyrics were written in Italy, although later the composition was recorded in many countries around the world. The original composer is Cesare Andrea Bixio, and lyrics are by Bixio Cherubini. (The links lead to Wikipedia articles in Italian, since there isn’t much information available in English. Please use Google translate if you’d like to read them.) The song’s original title is “Violino tzigano” (Gypsy violin) and Bixio composed it in 1934 for the Italian movie “Melodramma” by Giorgio Simonelli. Here it is performed by Meme Bianchi:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4k9GE3BzUIo (Embedding is disabled by the uploader - please watch on youtube.)
Oh Tzigano, dall’aria triste e appassionata,
che fai piangere il tuo violino fra le dita,
suona ancora, come una dolce serenata,
mentre, pallido, nel silenzio ascolterò
questo tango che, in una notte profumata,
il mio cuore ad un altro incatenò.
Suona solo per me,
o violino tzigano.
Forse pensi anche tu
a un amore, laggiù
sotto un cielo lontan.
Se un segreto dolor
fa tremar la tua mano
questo tango d’amor
fa tremare il mio cuor,
oh violino tzigano.
Tu che sogni la dolce terra d’Ungheria,
suona ancora con tutta l’anima tzigana.
Voglio piangere, come te, di nostalgia
nel ricordo di chi il mio cuore abbandonò.
Come il canto che tu diffondi per la via
con il vento, la mia passione dileguò.
A year later, in 1935, the song was recorded in French by Tino Rossi under the title “Un Violon Dans La Nuit” (A violin in the night), and in 1936, was translated into English by Jimmy Kennedy and became part of the soundtrack for the movie Serenade In The Night:
In Poland, it was also recorded by
Mieczysław Fogg in 1936 on the Syrena label with Henryk Gold’s orchestra under the title “Cicho grajcie me wciąż”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cwsi1ZN9axU (Embedding is disabled by the uploader - please watch on youtube.)
Marian Demar in 1937
and years later again by Mieczysław Fogg:
The song certainly had a colorful and interesting history, and while I wouldn’t play the instrumental version I have at a milonga as part of a tango tanda, I’ll be testing it as a cortina very soon.peter | music, Polish tangos | Comment (1)
This is a quick summary of our open level introduction to sacadas class. Divided into 2 x 90 minutes, the class covered the basic concepts and technique of the leader’s sacadas.
We concentrated on the idea of first leading a step to the follower, then projecting the free foot and delaying the leader’s weight transfer to achieve the proper dynamics and an “elastic” feel in the embrace. We used a walking turn and a parada-pasada exit to return to the line of dance at the end of the step.
Below are the demo video and a printable pdf file of the notes we prepared.
Our resume from the end of the first class:
Introduction to Leader’s Sacadas - Dec. 11th & 18th, 2010
1. What is a sacada?
one partner goes into the space that the other partner left a moment ago. To do this, the partner who is “invading” the other’s space must delay taking his (or her) step.
How many sacadas are theoretically possible?
[follower or leader] can do a sacada with the [ left or right foot] in the [forward, side or back step] into the partner’s [forward, side or back step] = 2 x 2 x 3 x 3 = 36 sacadas total
2. The five phases of the walk
all weight on left foot with ankles collected, project the right foot, transfer of weight, leave left foot projected, collect left ankle to right
3. How to pause in a projection
use of embrace – compression and downwards intention, use of dorsals and supporting leg
4. Leader’s right foot, forward step sacada into follower’s side step (parallel system):
- Leader first needs to lead the follower’s side step to his right and make sure she has NO weight on her right foot to which the leader is doing the sacada. To do this, he dissociates to his right and moves his embrace together with his torso, and stops follower’s movement before she would collect at the end of her step.
- Leader projects his free right foot to where he will do the sacada – right next to the follower’s right foot, but delays his weight transfer, still keeping ALL his weight back on his supporting left leg. To do this, he keeps his chest in his axis, and his hips BACK, almost as if he was going to sit down on a chair behind him.
- Once leader has taken the step, he transfers his weight to his right foot, brings his left ankle to his right, and allows his hip to rotate to the right so that both his chest and his hips are facing towards the follower.
5. Important points for the follower:
- work with the supporting leg & the floor to maintain balance during the projection. Important: all your weight is on the supporting leg, the free foot (as the name suggests) needs to be without ANY weight
- keep your hips open
- maintain the contact of the big toe / inner part of your foot with the floor
- connect your embrace with your dorsals to feel the pivot and the moment of stopping in a projection
6. The role of the embrace – elasticity, contact, involving dorsals
7. Leader’s left foot, forward step sacada into follower’s open step (crossed system)
Similar to 4., but leader goes in with left foot, not the right. Parada-pasada exit to get back to line of dance.
8. Leader’s right foot, forward step sacada into follower’s back step (crossed system)
Lead an ocho to follower; as she takes back step to leader’s right, leader enters with his right foot in a sacada into follower’s left foot. Parada-pasada exit to return to line of dance.
In Buenos Aires, you can get a tango lesson anywhere. Even on a street corner on a crisp, sunny autumn afternoon, on your way home from the bank.
I was standing in line to get coins (I do this a couple of times a week, since they’re in extremely short supply, but are the only way to pay the fare on the buses), when an Argentine man in his late seventies began chatting with me. We kvetched for a while about the long line and the bad service, then talked about the economy, life in Buenos Aires and in Argentina in general, the weather, being a tourist here and in Europe, plus a few other topics. He spoke heavily-accented, rapidfire porteno Spanish, but I understood the better part of what he was saying, and he had no trouble understanding me, so we continued to talk outside the bank. It turned out that despite his age, he was still actively working with tourist agencies around the world to bring tourists to Argentina, and continues to travel to Europe and Asia regularly. He talked about the neighborhood where we were, saying it was called Villa Freud because of the high concentration of psychoanalysts and psychiatrists living there and said it had become one of the most expensive places in the city to buy an apartment. Then, when I explained that we were here for tango, he said that he used to dance, but doesn’t anymore because of his age. So we started to discuss tango, I told him how it’s danced and taught in Europe, the USA and in Argentina, my perceptions of milongas here, alternative music and the increasing interest in Golden Age tango music around the world.
He said the same things I had heard in private classes as well: that to dance tango, you don’t need to do a lot of complicated steps and acrobatics, instead, you must listen to the music, the lyrics of the song you’re dancing to, and dance to the compás and the cadencia with your heart. As we continued to talk standing on the sidewalk in front of the bank, he quoted several lines from Naranjo en flor and then from Volver, saying that they were beatiful poetry that one needs to be able to understand and appreciate in order to dance to it:
“Toda mi vida es el ayer
que me detiene en el pasado,
eterna y vieja juventud
que me ha dejado acobardado
como un pájaro sin luz.”
“Volver . . .
Con la frente marchita
Las nieves del tiempo
Blanquearon mi sien”
I said that as a foreigner I found it hard to understand some tangos because of the old lunfardo (Buenos Aires slang) used in them. He suggested that I ask local teachers about these, so I can really get the meaning, and, therefore, feel what the poets meant when they wrote them.
He also talked about the importance of the embrace and how he much he liked the elegance of dancing tango de salón at the milongas where everybody used to take great care to dress and look their best. I was starting to wonder if he was one of the milonguero types who stay up all night to dance and womanize, but no, he’s been together with his wife for over 50 years.
He said society has changed a lot, for the worse, that the city is less secure, human, and friendly than it used to be. He used to go to the same bank for several decades, where he was on a first name basis with the employees, and before talking business, they would always have a bit of small talk about what they had done since the last time they had met. Now you get impersonal service and long waits in line, with special service reserved for the bank’s “Privilege” clients.
He mentioned an address, Boedo 777, where he used to dance. I told him we had been taking classes just two blocks from there with Jorge Dispari. That part of Boedo, near Avenida San Juan, is a very famous tango neighborhood, where many well-known figures of this dance were born or lived for a while, with name plaques on a lot of buildings and street corners in their memory. There is actually a tango titled Boedo y San Juan, written and composed by Enrique Cadicamo, who grew up in that neighborhood. Like many tangos, it describes a nostalgic longing for the past, a love of the streets where the poet grew up, and the changes in the neighborhood as the old streets and buildings disappear . . .
We talked for nearly an hour (including the nearly twenty minutes spent waiting in line). As we said goodbye, he wished me a pleasant stay and said he hoped I will want to come back again one day.peter | Buenos Aires, musicality, tango classes milongas in BsAs | Comments (3)
“You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that fleeting moment when you feel alive. It is not for unsteady souls.” -Merce Cunningham
We have been living in Buenos Aires for about a month now, taking tango classes and workshops during the day and going to the “tango tourist circuit” milongas in the Palermo district at night, with occasional trips to more traditional ones such as El Beso or La Baldosa. From our own experience, from observing other dancers and from conversations with Argentines, it seems that locals go to milongas with very different goals from tourists. Understanding these differences can help you avoid a lot of frustration — if you want to have a better time at the milongas in this city, read on.
First, outside of Argentina, in many tango communities milongas are shorter then here and they are a place for dancing — as much dancing as possible during those 3-4 hours in the evening. So those who are dancing tango anywhere outside of Argentina are most likely used to dancing quite a bit at their local milongas, and chatting, socializing, etc. was probably on the back burner for them. Their main goal was to have some really great tandas with their favorite partners.
Second, most people who come here will spend thousands of dollars on their trip, including airfare, accommodation, classes, milonga covers, etc. It’s natural to think that one must get their money’s worth, and that this should include dances with the best local dancers as well. Otherwise, we could all just stay at home, right?
Argentines, on the other hand, go to milongas to socialize — to hang out, talk with friends, drink beer, and so on, from about 10-11 pm until way into the night. If they feel like dancing a tanda, they will get up and dance one, but most likely only a handful of times a night and usually with their friends from their table or group. (There are exceptions, of course, but this is what we saw and heard in general.) Many locals at the milongas are also involved with teaching tango, and they go out after having taught a couple of group or private classes that day.
So, in most milongas, there are tourists really actively trying to get dances all the time, and there are Argentines who would rather just be left alone. But this is just the beginning of the differences. The rules (“codigos”) of asking up partners can be quite confusing, too.
In the Palermo milongas, the cabeceo rules vary quite a bit. In Salon Canning partners are asked mostly via cabeceo, in Practica X (which really functions as a milonga) or the milongas at Villa Malcolm it’s a mixture of cabeceo and walking up to the lady, in La Viruta it’s mostly directly asking her up — with the darkness and crowds it would really be impossible cabeceo anyone across the dance floor.
In La Baldosa, a milonga visited almost exclusively by locals, people seemed to be dancing mostly with those at their table, while at El Beso, men and women are seated separately. In theory, this should make cabeceo easier, but there are so many tables and they are placed so tightly together (with women seated in multiple rows behind one another) that it’s often very difficult to cabeceo someone without the lady in front of her or behind her misunderstanding the invitation.
To complicate things further, tango tourists as a group seem to have something of a bad reputation here. Having danced in Canning a few times, I can really understand this one. Most Argentines, regardless of their level of dancing, are quite good at navigation and are aware of the line of dance, lanes, the space around them and other nearby couples. (This is not only true on the dance floor — just watch them navigate a crowded Corrientes sidewalk at rush hour.) Some tourists, however, cut in and out of lanes, crowd the couple behind or in front of them, lead or follow high boleos, ganchos and other moves completely inappropriate for a crowded milonga. I can see how locals don’t want to take a chance on someone they don’t know because of this. They have to see you dance a few times until they can be pretty sure that you are able to lead or follow not just well, but safely.
This pretty much leaves the tourist with two options. You can spend your evening at the milonga as if you were at home, trying to dance as much as possible with the other tango tourists (most of whom are very high level dancers, and are also eager to dance a lot). You are likely to be pleasantly surprised: there are lots of dancers who teach tango at home or have a serious background in music or other movement modalities, which can lead to truly wonderful dances. You can also try the local way: relax, get a drink, circulate, make eye contact and chat with Argentines, and maybe after a while you will dance with them as well. For this, at least an intermediate knowledge of Spanish is needed as most of the locals don’t speak English or any other foreign language at a conversational level.peter | tango classes milongas in BsAs | Comments (3)
Edgardo Donato’s music is special for me because of its upbeat, joyful rhythm — similar to D’Arienzo’s, but less driving, less insistent. As a dancer, I feel like his songs are inviting me to dance rather than insisting or driving me to the dance floor with an incessant beat. As a soloist, Donato also took the spotlight quite frequently with his violin, making his orchestra’s recordings more lyrical and melodic than most other Golden Age performers. In La melodía del corazón, he has a quite lengthy solo starting at around 35 seconds into the song.
In milongas in Europe, one can see quite a bit of energy and sometimes even acrobatics on the dance floor, but less of the simple pausing and dancing to different instruments within the same song that can be observed in milongas in Buenos Aires. It is these qualities that can give a milonga its flow and special energy, so I was very happy to find several videos of Sebastian and Mariana performing to La melodía del corazón. As far as I can tell, these are not choreographies, rather, the dancers know the music very intimately and improvise each dance in a way that expresses the qualities of the various parts of this song.
Sebastian Arce & Mariana Montes - Dublin performance:
Watch how the quality of their movement changes two minutes into the video, when the violin solo part starts — it’s almost like slow motion, but watch Sebastian’s left feet for just a second at 2:13.
Sebastian Arce & Mariana Montes - performance at La Viruta:
Here, the violin part starts at 53 seconds — again, note the flowing, soft movement they switch to immediately. At 1:07, they take a few quick, playful, rhythmical steps, then immediately return to the previous quality, slowly transitioning back to more complicated, faster movement over the next 15-20 seconds.
Sebastian Arce & Mariana Montes - Sitges performance:
Unfortunately, the first few seconds of the song are cut off, but you know what to look for. The changes are obvious at 0:27 and at 0:41. Here, instead of a gradual transition into more energetic dancing, they preserve the flowing quality until the end of the violin solo.
Sebastian Arce & Mariana Montes - Moscow performance:
One more beautiful interpretation of the same song. Again, note how the changes in the quality of their dancing follow the changes in the music.peter | musicality | Comments Off
The time really flies here and so i find myself packing as tomorrow i’m leaving Buenos Aires… Totally off topic: Buenos aires means “good air” – yet one could say that the city has no air at all. The air is heavy and dirty and the noise level is beyond all limits. I’ll be double happy to spend Christmas in the countryside and then the New Year party just by the seaside. And sea in winter is so so beautiful… and empty :) I always recall the amazing scene from Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind with Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey when i think of the sea in winter…
Anyway, back to Buenos Aires and the temperature oscillating between 30 and 35 degrees…
I spent my last weekend here taking part in the previously mentioned Festival Cambalache – I watched alltogether 6 theatre performances during the weekend with my impressions varying from “wow, that’s amazing!” to “someone wake me up when it’s over”. In any event, it was worth seeing all of them. I have two favourites:
1) Living by Pablo Inza & Mariela Samtband – because of the sense of humour, wit and excellent acting
2) Sintonias by Milena Plebs with Cecilia Garcia, John Galindo, Claudia Jakobsen, Ezequiel Farfaro, Silvia & Alfredo Alonso dancing – seeing them dancing was like a magnet for me, i was sitting there hypnotized and couldn’t believe the quality of the movement and excellence of the dancers.
On Monday I took a class with Cecilia Garcia @Tango brujo – Entrenamiento corporal. I used to take this class two times a week last year and i must say it has changed a little bit since then – of course, for better. Around 2/3 of the class were the stretching and core strengthening exercises from yoga and pilates and my favourite – rolling on the floor :) Another 1/3 of the class was contemporary dance sequence – which looked really simple, but when it came to doing it with faster music and proper technique and quality of the movement – no one really could master with Cecilia. Excellent class, i wish i few took more classes with her… well, next year then i guess!
My last class in Buenos Aires was with Martin Gutierrez – technique of course! In the first part of the class we were working on our coordination, balance in boleos backward and forward and on turns. Leitmotiv: ‘use your upper body please!’ or ‘don’t move in one block please!’ ;) The second part of the class was devoted to barridas. I took part in the class as a leader so i had lots of fun finding the right position for barrida (triangle of course ;), what else?) and drawing a beautiful croissant with my foot as i was doing barrida. We played with some more advanced variations, but as my leading skills are much more at the intermediate than advanced level, i tried to polish the basic version of the proposed sequence. Ech… i will really miss these classes and Martin’s sense of humour.
The rest of the day i spent running around and saying goodbye to all the teachers and friends. As a goodbye present i got a recipe for empandas con pollo / with chicken which are served in DNI. If i have some energy left after the workshops on Saturday and Sunday, i’ll try to make them for the Sunday ‘Buenos Aires milonga’ in Feszek. We’ll have all the ingredients necessary for a good fiesta then! :) (along with mate and alfajores)
Now i’m packing and listening to Adios Buenos Aires by Orquesta Tipica Victor with Angel Vargas singing… (for sure, I’ll play it on Friday milonga :) ) Hopefully, next time we can come back here for longer … 3 months? half a year…? who knows :)misia | tango classes milongas in BsAs | Comment (1)
The closer I am to leaving, the more things I need to think of, organize etc. In one word: holidays are already over ;) So in between the classes I’m organizing and preparing the website for the Danube Tango Meeting, corresponding with Homer and Christina Ladas (they’ll be in Europe and they’ll most likely visit us during the first days of August, I truly can’t wait to meet them! ), preparing for our December workshops (in Hungary and in Poland) and organizing our classes in January… uff.
At the same time – ‘I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…’… no snow in Poland yet, but I can feel the Christmas atmosphere when I hear from my mum about baking Christmas cookies & packing presents. It’s really a beautiful time in my family, full of warmth and love. And of course delicious food ;)
When it comes to the classes, I’ll mention the most important one – Tango contact improvisation workshop with Javier Corrales & Anayansi Macherel. That was my first ‘real’ meeting with the contact improvisation -I had heard about it before but any action vanished into thin air. The workshop was deep and meaningful, showing me the new planes in my dancing and in general in tango and the possibilites of the contact and the embrace. It also helped me to understand what it means to dance with your whole body and how to be balanced in imbalance (el desequilibrio, for example: in colgada) with the help of the Body Mind Centering. It also helped me to get rid of some sterotypes that i had in my mind by, for example, an exercise in which i was doing salto and jumping on the lady that was 1,58tall and in general petite. Or when i had to receive weight and sustain a grown up man in a similiar exercise. What seemed impossible, was much easier once you followed the contact. I left the class relaxed and felt almost enlightened :) Since January – contact improvisation classes and contemporary dance classes in Trafo are awaiting me :)
On the topic of contemporary dance, postmodern dance and tango – Cambalache festival has just started this week. It’s a festival organized by Pablo Inza and a group of other tango gurus here, which presents all the new trends in the area of tango, theatre and dance during the week of performances in the theatre, seminars/workshops and exhibitions. I zealously bought the tickets one week before and on Thursday went for the Funcion 2 with Sharna Fabiano’s Uno, Karine Monneau’s Quebrada and really excellent Eurydice Ascendente (by the group called La Semilla, with Kara Wenham, Nina Tatarowicz and Julio Ernesto Bassan among others).
[more about Festival Cambalache and Fiesta Cambalache soon... now i'm off to bed.. :o ]misia | tango classes milongas in BsAs | Comments (6)