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Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Dancing as equals

While chatting with a local lady in El Arranque (a milonga in BsAs) about the nature of ‘connection’ in tango, she said that “the man and woman need to dance as equals if they are to truly achieve connection in tango.”

This made me examine my mentality when I dance with ladies whose skills and experience vary greatly. For example, many of the women with whom I dance at milongas in my home city, are those that I have taught or currently teach - including beginners. Elsewhere, including in BsAs, I have danced with some women who force me to work hard to simply maintain my axis, and with others who are acclaimed ‘maestras’.

The question I had to ask myself was: "How can we dance as equals?" For me, it's about how I approach the relationship with the woman I'm going to dance with. If there's any thought, for example, of superiority on my part or inferiority on hers, then the relationship we are seeking is doomed from the start, and there’ll be no chance of that elusive connection in our tango. If I have any feeling of anxiety or intimidation when I dance with women who are clearly more experienced and skilled than me, then I won’t experience connection with them in the embrace.

And this is what I found in BsAs - the women I danced with love tango. Some sang in my ear. We danced for each other - there was nothing in our brief relationships that suggested anything but equality. We used all of our skills to bring the music into our dance, and we brought ourselves confidently into a collaborative relationship. I felt we were dancing as equals – and that’s the only way tango can be danced, in my opinion.

There is no reason why this mentality can’t prevail wherever I dance tango – but it needs to be shared – the women need to feel this way too: they need to feel self-confident and they need to trust.


Monday, 20 December 2010

Less is more

Just found this superb video of María Inés Bogado y Sebastian Jiménez, the current Tango Salón champions performing in Valencia (Spain). There is so much that can be learned from this recording of just 3 minutes! Their musicality is brilliant, with clever changes of dynamic executed with total control and excellent technique. The connection is utterly palpable. A brilliant performance where colgadas, volcadas, ganchos etc., fashionable in some tango circles, would have been totally superfluous.

So what can be learned by ‘mere tango mortals’ which could be of any use to dancing socially in the milonga from this outstanding performance? Many things, I think.

But let me focus on only her footwork. Why? Because it’s perfect for dancing in a crowded milonga, and it is simply beautiful! So many ladies in tango frantically try to execute adornos (decorations) as a way to express themselves, often to the detriment of their partner, the music, the dancers around them, let alone their own elegance. I’ve expressed my views on this topic in the past.

Interestingly, María Inés dances with few explicit adornos, and they are done with understatement and sensuality. Yet who could say that her footwork is not exquisite and utterly mesmerising? I simply wish that ladies wanting to add a little spice to their social dancing, would focus more on walking elegantly and using their feet beautifully.


Friday, 10 December 2010

What a difference a singer can make

Whenever anyone asks me which tango orchestra a prefer, all I can ever say is "It depends on my mood". Moods are governed by emotions, and music reflects, affects, or should I say, manipulates our emotions. In his Tango & Chaos website, Rick McGarrey illustrates this beautifully using Una emocion as an example. He also adds an interesting, perhaps controversial, observation about Pablo Veron's interpretation when he dances this tango with Geraldine Rojas during the credits of the film Assassination Tango.

Enrique Campos, who sings this piece with the orchestra of Ricardo Tanturi, seemed to change the mood of Tanturi's tangos when he joined the orchestra in 1943. Despite the strong rhythmic elements, there is an overwhelming romantic, softer, more introspective feel about them.

Whereas his predecessor, Alberto Castillo, with his extrovert style, appeared to bring out the more energetic side of the musicians. I love dancing to his Pocas palabras.

Perhaps the musicians affected the singer rather than vice versa. Or perhaps it was simply a popular style at the time. I'm not sure. I'd love to know the answer. Of one thing I am certain, and that is that they create different moods and demand a different response from the dancer.

Jennifer and Ney performing to another punchy Castillo favourite La vida es corta provide a stark contrast to Regina and Martin's romantic interpretation of the nostalgic En el salon, with Campos.


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