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Monday, 26 October 2009

Códigos de la milonga (milonga etiquette) - Have your say #8!

We thought we had exhausted the possible topics for this quiz, but now there are more! As in other aspects of life, tango continues to present us all with challenges. We're sure you'll recognise these situations.

Scenario 25
A fairly experienced male dancer invites quite an inexperienced lady to dance at a milonga. On the dance-floor he should:
  1. while dancing, lead her through the full range of tango figures he knows, thus giving her a sample of things to come in her tango life.
  2. start with walking and very simple figures, always remaining within a range which is comfortable and enjoyable for her.
  3. explain to her how to execute the movements he is leading as they dance, so she understands what to do.

Scenario 26
It's fairly indisputable that a DJ's role at the milonga is to provide music so that people can dance tango. A milonga convention is that the music is usually presented in brackets of 3 - 5 pieces of tango, vals or milonga (tandas) separated by a short segment of non-tango music (cortina). Should the DJ:
  1. present a range of non-tango, but danceable music to cater for the diverse tastes of the people attending the milonga?
  2. present pieces from his/her extensive library of music which aren't very popular or the most danceable, but are interesting and different?
  3. play only music which really summons dancers to the floor and is accessible for most levels of tango experience?
  4. play a somewhat educative role in his/her tango community by gradually exposing dancers to the common body of great tango music played internationally at milongas?
  5. at a milonga accept without notice, requests to play certain music without a chance to pre-listen?
What do you think?

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Musicality of The Last Compadrito

Maybe it's the Buenos Aires withdrawal symptoms, but today I found myself dipping back into Rick McGarrey & Alejandra Todaro's fabulous Tango & Chaos in BsAs website. There's a feast of anecdotes, advice and general musing. Being a visual person, I was drawn to the videos again - just to re-visit some of those traditional milongas where the music is consistently excellent and the dancing ..... well you know what I mean ...

Despite the lure of the visual, it was the affectionately told stories framing the video clips of the late Ricardo Vidort which especially stayed with me. Those tantalising glimpses of the fast-disappearing milonguero sub-culture are the stuff of tango social history ..... and the videos of him dancing socially, including one clip showing him with his old chum Osvaldo Cartery, are an absolute delight. Milongueros dancing together at a milonga is an extremely rare sight indeed, but as young men, Osvaldo learned to dance tango with Ricardo leading, being the older male.

Vidort was a master of playful musicality. According to McGarrey, the milongueros used to play a game where the first one who danced outside the compas (the music) would have to buy his mates champagne. Apparently Vidort never had to open his wallet!

"When you dance tango, you must give everything.
If you cannot do that, do not dance." Ricardo Vidort


Friday, 2 October 2009

Why do we dance tango?

Yesterday, UNESCO declared tango - the music and dance from Buenos Aires and Montevideo - a world cultural treasure. (The fact that this declaration took place in Abu Dhabi seems to me somewhat incongruous considering the nature of the dance - but that's another story.) Such recognition would appear to be good for tango in its countries of origin, as well as strengthening it internationally.

Interestingly, according to the Guardian, fears about unintended detrimental consequences of tango's international popularity had spurred Argentina and Uruguay to lodge a joint application to UNESCO: As it swells into a global phenomenon, Argentina and Uruguay want to keep its roots intact.

I have often reflected upon why so many of us dance tango, even though we have no previous link to the region or culture. (By the way, if in any doubt about the global spread of tango, just take a quick look at websites such as Torito.) In the current edition of El Tanguata, Milena Plebs gives her view:
The answer is the same everywhere I go: the embrace, the contact, the encounter. Being able to return to the feminine and masculine roles, which have been so blurred these last decades due to women's liberation, technological and industrial advances, and isolation. Tango, on the other hand, is a connection to the crude reality, it's a body-to-body encounter, it's feeling the other person's energy.

What do you think? Why do you dance tango?

Plebs also makes some interesting observations about the importance of rescuing the tradition.


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