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Saturday, 27 June 2009

Dancing to the music - Poema: a case in point

A Youtube search for Poema will reveal countless dance interpretations of this much-loved, romantic tango by Francisco Canaro & Roberto Maida. A nice story I once heard, was that other orchestras didn't try to record Poema after Canaro nailed it, simply because of its perfection. But I'm sure the following more mundane explanation for the absence of other versions is closer to the truth. Carlos Puente of the Buenos Aires Tango Club set me straight one day when he explained it was all to do with commercial imperatives. Put simply, the recording companies determined what was to be put on disc and what wasn't. However, I reckon perfection still figures in there somewhere, because tangueros of all ages love to dance to it!

Watching the popular couple Coca & Osvaldo Cartery dance to it a few years ago in the milonga La Nacional genuinely brought tears to my eyes. For me it's a tango begging to be danced with love, even if it is for an audience. Alongside the typical strong Canaro rhythms, at various points Maida's voice and the violin demand a "gentle" approach - advance & suspension, light & shade.

Performances for an audience, although a form of entertainment, need to do justice to the music and its moods, too. This principle shouldn't just apply to social dancing. For my tastes, some performers stretch the idea of entertainment a little too far, where their skillful moves begin to look somewhat gratuitous and incongruous, some might even say gimmicky. But instead of focussing on what I don't like, here are a few favourites of mine:

Just came across another blog comparing 11 "Poemas". What are your favourites?


Thursday, 11 June 2009

Códigos de la milonga (milonga etiquette) - Have your say #5!

The debate continues worldwide over milonga codes, particularly the use of the cabeceo. In some countries, and some cities in Australia, the cabeceo is almost non-existent, making it harder for out-of-towners to get dances. Some would argue that it is an anachronism - with no part to play in modern societies, while others talk about it protecting dancers from unwelcome partners or from music they don't want to dance to.
However, we don't hear much dispute about the importance of codes like keeping the line-of-dance, leading & executing figures which are safe in the circumstances, and treating partners with respect. These are all about ensuring that everyone at the milonga has a chance to enjoy the dance.
Scenario #15:
A woman approaches a man to ask him to dance. He should:
  1. Accept, even if he doesn’t want to, and dance the tanda with little connection.
  2. Politely decline, because, in truth, the music isn’t the type he can connect with.
  3. Accept, make the best of the music & partner, and strike up a light discussion about the fun & value of the ‘cabeceo’ at the end of the tanda.
  4. As soon as he spots her coming, dash into the toilet.
Scenario #16:
A man is leading large open figures which take up a lot of space, intruding into the line of dance, and encouraging his partner to execute moves which are dangerous to other couples. Another couple should:
  1. Put up with it and keep well out of their way
  2. Approach the couple in a break in the music and suggest they dance in the middle, not in the dance lanes
  3. Speak to the milonga organiser and point out that their dancing is affecting other couples negatively
  4. Try doing the same, since the other couple seems to be having fun dancing this way.
Scenario #17:
A woman is being taught on the dance floor during a milonga because she’s apparently not following what her partner wants her to do, and she doesn’t appreciate it. She should:
  1. At the next break in the music, suggest to the leader that he find someone who already knows what he wants, thank him, and return to her seat.
  2. Tell the leader that she’s simply following what he appears to be leading.
  3. Put up with it for the tanda, but make a mental note not to dance with him again.
  4. Tell him that she isn’t able to concentrate on following while he insists on talking.
What would you do?

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