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Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Every tanguera's (not so secret) desire

Once upon a time at a milonga not so far away, began a tanda of intense Pugliese tangos.

She casually looked around, and to her delight he was waiting to catch her eye. As he took her in his arms, she felt that this might become one of those delicious tango experiences. His embrace told her he knew how to dance tango, including how to look after a partner (who would be dancing backwards into the unknown for the next 12 minutes). A wave of complete trust swept over her. After the first few bars, she felt herself surrendering to the emotion of the music. And so, they let themselves be transported by the magic that is tango.

But her bliss was to be short-lived ...

Towards the end of Gallo ciego, he took swift evasive action to prevent a collision when the couple in front of them abruptly starting moving backwards against the line of dance. "Never mind" she thought, "there's more good music to come."

Resuming the embrace, their smiles expressed an unspoken understanding that the rest of the tanda would be better. Yet having travelled just half-way around the floor, an elbow jabbed her in the ribs, as the couple alongside them unexpectedly executed a large dramatic figure, somewhat akin to an aggressive martial art move. He held her closer and checked she was OK, feeling guilty he had been powerless to protect her from such thoughtless behaviour.

Dismissing the disturbance, they continued to dance, and gradually re-immersed themselves in the beauty and challenge of Pugliese. Dancing as one, they lost sight of their day-to-day concerns, gradually making their way along the perimeter of the pista (dance-floor) in the line of dance - he, ever vigilant for "loose cannons". She felt herself entering that elusive tango trance.

That night, the DJ had been playing tandas consisting of 4 tangos. And too soon, they realised they had only one tango left to enjoy together. So for that very special piece which the DJ had reserved till last, as they danced, they bared their souls.

Thud! Completely shaken, they recovered and realised what had happened. Another couple had been sitting out the tanda, but had made a last minute decision to take advantage of that final Pugliese tango. Hastily making their way onto the pista, they had caused that ugly collision.

Apologies were profferred and accepted, but it was all too late. The spell was well and truly broken. As he escorted her back to her table, disappointed and deflated, they both silently reflected on what could have been.

Postscript: "Nothing can be done about these problems of the dance-floor. It comes with the territory. We just have to live with it." you may be thinking.
But just a minute - there is another way. Interested? Take a look at some of the strategies suggested by Tom Stermitz and published on

Postpostscript: Click here for a few of videos of normal people navigating around the pistas in Buenos Aires: Porteno y bailarin, El Beso & Nino bien
Enjoy your dancing,

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Los cantores de Carlos Di Sarli

Occasionally a strange story does the rounds that traditionally, singers should not feature in the music played at a milonga, ie. that the DJ should play only instrumentals. It probably originated from, and was confused with, the reluctance of porteños to dance to recordings of the legendary singer Carlos Gardel, out of respect for him and his untimely death. Certainly the great tango orchestras who used to play nightly for the dancers in the milongas of Buenos Aires had no problem including singers – Famá (Canaro), Campos & Castillo (Tanturi), Vargas (D’Agostino), Maure (D’Arienzo), to name just a few.

At this year’s Sydney International Tango Festival, Pat realised, after DJ-ing the Saturday milonga, that most of her selection involved singers – not deliberate, but just the way she had charted the moods & energies of the evening. Yet, the music received rave reviews, including from BsAs choreographer, Mario Morales. Could it have been that it was the frequent use of singers that enhanced the tango experience for the dancers?

I’m particularly taken with the singers that accompanied Carlos Di Sarli in the 1940s & 50s – somehow he managed to assemble a stable of consistently high quality male singers. When they sing, they often tug at the heart-strings, bringing out the romantic in me – something that allows the music to take over the dance.

Make your own judgment by listening to these five singers:
Alberto Podestá singing Nada in 1942 (he’s still performing in Buenos Aires), Roberto Rufino - Anselmo Acuña el Resero (1943), Jorge Duran - Tu Intimo Secreto ( 1945), Mario Pomar - Bailemos (1955), Roberto Florio - Porque regresas tú (1956)
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a recording by Horacio Casares on the internet, so at your next milonga, you might want to put in a request for ‘Hasta siempre amor’ (1958, among the last of Di Sarli’s recordings).

Music with these singers is also popular in dance performance, and in my opinion, the following interpretations capture the essence of dancing to Di Sarli:
Ney Melo & Jennifer Bratt - Nido Gaucho (Podestá)
Milena Plebs y José Almar - Un tango y nada mas. (Duran)
Marcela Guevara Y Stefano Giudice - Y todavia te quiero (Florio)
Maximiliano Cristiani y Juliana Maggioli Tormenta (Pomar)
Finally, because I couldn’t find a tango performance to my liking with Rufino, here are those wonderful world champions Daniel Nacucchio & Cristina Sosa dancing one of his milongas – Pena Mulata


Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Códigos de la milonga (milonga etiquette) - Have your say #6!

The material for these quizzes has come from our observation & experience both locally & elswhere, and from people talking to us about their own experiences. Sometimes the after-class pub-talk has turned to questions about the codes in the milongas of Buenos Aires, and at other times complaints about some behaviours in our local milongas.

It was out of one of these discussions that someone suggested some sort of quiz as a light-hearted way of educating dancers. We already had a ready reference in Gustavo Benzecry-Saba's book La pista del abrazo (English version: Embracing tango)which we got from him a couple of years ago.

And the result? Some people have been amused by some of the scenarios & responses, a few have engaged in the on-line debate, while others struggle with how the codes fit with our local cultural norms. We have certainly noticed a distinct change in the observance of the codes at local milongas - due also, no doubt, to the emphasis local teachers are placing on them.

So here are a few more real situations. As always, feel free to add your opinions:

Scenario #18:
Two people are in earnest conversation, and a man approaches, wanting to dance with the woman. She should:
  1. Ignore him until he goes away.
  2. After a short time, acknowledge that he’s there, and continue the conversation.
  3. Stop the conversation and get up immediately to dance.
  4. In a break in the conversation, give him some attention, but refuse the invitation because she’s tied up at the moment.

Scenario #19
The leader stops dancing, twists his follower backwards, waits, then says, Gancho, gancho! She should:

  1. Ignore him and wait for him to continue dancing.
  2. Ask him to lead it properly next time.
  3. Tell him that a gancho is inappropriate for a woman like herself in her middle years.
  4. Execute a gancho as best she can under the circumstances, regardless of how she looks.
Scenario #20:
A beginner male leader is unsure whether to limit his dancing to beginner females or to invite experienced followers to dance. He should:
  1. Stick to the beginners until he’s put in the hard work to improve his dancing to merit dancing with experienced women.
  2. Ask experienced women anyway – it’ll be good to challenge his dancing, and he might pick up a few tips.
  3. Any women can be available partners at a practica, but at a milonga, he should leave the experienced women to the leaders who can dance well.
  4. Use the cabeceo – if the experienced women want to make themselves available to him, they’ll make it obvious.
Well, what do you think?

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