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Tuesday, 26 May 2009

What can we learn from performances?

Obviously it depends on who's performing, but it also depends on what we're looking for.

Geraldine Rojas and the late Carlos Gavito gave one of those unique and "I wish I'd been there" performances a few years ago. Carlos illustrated his mantra "less is more" - that passion, timing, and giving time for his partner to improvise was far more important than what he once referred to as 'dancing like a bunch of washing machines". Geraldine shows her clear joy at dancing with one of tango's greats, but it didn't get in the way of her demonstrating her exquisite skills that complemented her partner's intensity. What can I learn from this piece? Aim to evoke sensuality from the dance and focus on musicality - but that'll mean keeping it simple.

And two dancers who do keep it relatively simple are Sebastian Achaval & Roxanna Suarez while performing this great De Angelis piece; note the word relatively. Mind you, their turns are brilliant - no chance of emulating that - but they otherwise dance small figures that would be familiar to many intermediate dancers. So what puts them on quite a different plane? Their execution is precise, balanced, and grounded for a start. Now add a generous layer of timing while they expertly link their figures seamlessly. And finally, as with the other couple, their musicality - the dance reflecting the moods & changing rhythms of the music. Again, I learned more about timing & musicality, but there's no short cut to the hours of constant practice that needs to go into it.


Monday, 18 May 2009

Códigos de la milonga (milonga etiquette) - Have your say #4!

While watching dancers at Comme il faut on Sunday, we noticed how well the milonga codes were being observed - great line of dance, invitations across the room largely using the cabeceo ... while still appreciating the appropriateness of directly asking friends to dance. One male dancer commented about the overall calmness of the evening and respect for other dancers. The codes, after all, are intended to enhance the comfort and enjoyment of everyone at the milonga

Here are a few more scenarios that are encountered now and again at milongas. How would you recommend navigating around these tricky situations?

Scenario #12

You arrive at a milonga/practica, and sit on your own. After a while, with no offers, you notice one of your regular lesson partners is free. Do you:

1. Try to catch his eye, then move toward him if he acknowledges.
2. Immediately approach him, and ask for a dance before he shoots off again.
3. Though you do wish to dance with him, simply wait for him to manage the whole thing
4. Wait for him to approach you, and if he doesn’t, give him a hard time at the end of the milonga for not dancing with you.

Scenario #13

A woman is executing flamboyant and dangerous figures and decorations which her partner has not led. Despite his attempts to contain her movements, she manages to injure another dancer with her stiletto. What’s appropriate?

1. He should apologise profusely to the injured dancer.
2. She should save her showy moves for performances rather than the milonga.
3. They should simply carry on dancing, since this is one of the hazards of the dance-floor.
4. The injured dancer should have been more observant and avoided her, so is partly to blame.
5. The man will be more judicious in his choice of dance partners in future.

Scenario #14

Despite wanting to dance with a range of partners at a milonga, a woman is being invited to dance repeatedly by one man, resulting in her being unavailable to dance with others. When he begins approaching to ask again she should:

1. Politely accept the man’s invitation, believing it would be rude to refuse.
2. Use her body language to indicate discreetly to him that she is unavailable to dance with him and employ the cabeceo to encourage invitations from other dancers.
3. Politely decline the invitation using an excuse, such as tiredness.
4. Tell him, in no uncertain terms, to leave her in peace.

You can say you think by adding a comment.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Cracking the code of the music

Some people like to start dancing each tango (vals or milonga) as soon as possible. "We're here to dance, so let's make the most of it." But I 'm rather fond of the old tradition of not dancing the moment the music starts. And I'm finding that the more I get to know the music, the more I like to tune in to the opening phrases - somewhat like savouring an appetiser before the main course.

Certainly the music of the Golden Age of tango isn't anywhere near as complex as that of the genius Astor Piazzolla. The rhythms and patterns are more predictable, so social dancers can easily connect and respond to them. Yet the great musicians of that era were no slouches. The large number of dancers at that time had very high expectations. So in the first 10 - 20 seconds of a piece, the artistry of the arrangement and brilliance of the musicians were able to create the mood for the dance. This is the time for the body to absorb the music, indeed surrender to it. And later, when the singer comes in, especially if you understand some of the lyrics, that's another treat! (Sometimes I get goose-bumps.)

Those interested in music could easily spend an hour or two on Rick McGarrey's brilliant website where he looks at some fabulous pieces of tango music in Cracking the code. It will feel like peeling away the many layers of an onion - tears and all! After this, Golden Age tango music will never seem the same.


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