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Sunday, 18 November 2012

The dance-floor’s full - the music must be good!

I’ve sometimes heard this comment at milongas when feeling grumpy about the music and unmotivated to dance.  Lots of dancers are on the floor, but most are not dancing to the music.  OK, I realise that we all hear music a bit differently.  But in truth, I can see little connection between their movement and the music being played. Besides, the music is not calling me to dance.

So what could have gone wrong?  Humans naturally want to move to dance music, unless that innate response has been inhibited.  (Take a look at Tangotherapist’s blogs on The psychology of musicality & don’t miss the baby dancing!).  Perhaps something else could be amiss. In any young tango community (outside of the Rio de la Plata region) most dancers will come to tango unfamiliar with the music. So their teachers have a major responsibility to consistently expose them to it.  I mean quality tango music composed and arranged for social dancing (here are some useful guides) – not tango music intended just for listening (eg. Astor Piazzolla – marvellous music, but not for social dancing).  

Newcomers to tango are like empty vessels ready to be filled.  So if they are fed a diet of high quality danceable tango music, their tastes are nurtured, their tango growth thrives.  The music and the social dance form start to make sense - they form a coherent unit.  More and more dancers will feel the music calling them to respond in certain ways.  They may experience the wonderful union of the music, their partner and the other couples on the dance-floor, and may unexpectedly encounter that fleeting state of tango bliss.  And then they’ll want more!  But if quality dance music - one of the key ingredients - is lacking, then it’s not likely to happen.  Dancers may persist and continue to seek out that elusive tango high, but will leave disappointed.  

Those of us in young tango communities who choose to DJ bear a significant responsibility.  We can make or break a milonga with our musical choices.  In the long term, DJs can influence the musical tastes of dancers in that community.  When DJing, I love sharing high quality danceable gems of the Golden Age of tango.  I get great satisfaction from seeing dancers responding to the call of the music.  Yet DJing is not a task to be undertaken lightly.  At a milonga a good DJ chooses music suitable to the dancers, reads & influences peoples’ emotions and helps shape the event.  Take a look at Ms Hedgehog’s DJ questionnaire Was that good? and think about your milonga experiences.  

Teachers and DJs – I beg of you, don’t ignore an important aspect your role in young tango communities – that of educating and nurturing the tastes of developing tango dancers.  

Note. In the interests of full disclosure, I admit that this plea contains a degree of self-interest: at milongas I’d love to enjoy the music and dance!



Bill said...

Given your thoughts on Golden Age tango, what are we all to make of something like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVAmfYgy7_0

Ariadna Navira & Fernando Sanchez dance "La Colegiala" by Enrique Rodriguez really beautifully..I'd love to be able to do as well...

But it is hardly Golden Age tango.

Tango Salon Adelaide said...

Thanks for sharing the link, Bill.

You're right. It's not Golden Age tango, but a playful foxtrot. Enrique Rodriguez and his musicians were very versatile and played not only tangos, valses and milongas, but also foxtrots, pasodobles, etc.

In dance-halls during the Golden Age of tango, it was apparently common to have a live tango band alternating with a band playing other rhythms. I guess with Rodriguez, organisers got two for the price of one!

Unknown said...

Tips for Dj's.
Try to play high quality danceable gems of the golden age of tango.
There four orchestras that are essential: Troilo, DiSarli, Pugliese and D'Arienzo. You can build your music with this axis and around it you play D'Agostino, Tanturi, Fresedo, Canaro, Rodriguez, Malerba, Laurenz, Biagi, Calo, Donato, Gobbi, Jose Garcia, Demare, Tipica Victor, etc. If nessesary you can repeat the first four.
Don't abuse with old tangos, is binary music, one tanda is enough. Remember the bright orchestras of the golden age.
Forget tango nuevo, Piazolla (except 4 tangos: El pillete, El recodo, La rayuela and Todo corazón) and most tango music after end of 1958
Remember that in almost all milongas in BsAs your dance with this music
Good luck

Tango Salon Adelaide said...

Unknown, many thanks for your specific recommendations.

Of course, I'm sure you would agree that even with these key Golden Age orchestras, the DJ must always be very selective. However, that would be too big a topic to discuss here!

Bill said...

Hi Pat, At one level your remarks avoid the question I've been thinking about on nature & character of tango, the dance and the music. with a side step.. It's not tango it's soemthing else.....( Quickstep ? )

But in another way your comments go to the heart of the matter : tango in BA's in the Golden age was not a purist thing at all.. In the milongas bands played other styles of music and dancers just switched to other types of dance. foxtrot or whatever.

I guess I just love the fun and playfullness shown in the way Arialdna Navira & Fernando Sanchez dance "La Colegiala" ...And the musicallity.. It's wonderful

Tango Salon Adelaide said...

Hi Bill,

Re. your initial question about the nature and character of tango - this is a big one, and I suspect it would receive a different answer from each person asked. Have you watched the interviews with milongueros linked to our website (Videos section)? They are all asked what tango means to them.

For me, tango (the dance) is about responding to the emotion in the music - having a physical 'conversation' about that emotion with one's partner. But despite the intensity or power of the feeling, the dance is characterised by restraint. The strength of the emotional response is felt only by one's partner. The dance is for the couple, not for onlookers. Hence, the value of close embrace, which we're seeing a lot more of at Comme il faut.

Of course, for each couple to have the opportunity to feel and express what I am describing, and not be disturbed, the space around them on the dancefloor must be respected by other dancers. In my view, respect is another core characteristic of tango (the dance).

Bill said...

I've watched a number of interviews with old style milongueros and milongueras..

For me also dancing tango is about responding to the music, the emotion, the rythym and the melody of the music.

For some music 'restraint' is indeed sometimes called for. But other music calls out for different responses.. There is a world of difference between how I dance the music of Canaro and how I dance Pugliese - or for that matter Piazolla and GoTan.. And there is a world of difference between tamgo and milonga..

An aside : Yes I know that there is a 'faction' of tango dancers who think that milonga must be danced with restaint. But for me that is an attempt by folk who love the tango of the Golden Age to 'colonise' its predecessor, the milonga and re-shape it in it's own image. I do not belong to that faction.

I guess for me it is this whole glorious sweep & range of tango music starting in the 1890's to 2012 that draws & entrances me.. Rather than the single period of the Golden Age' And of much of this is simply not danceable; but much of it is.

Tango Salon Adelaide said...

Of course, different music calls for different responses, Bill.

However, in my opinion, restraint is a constant for a number of reasons. Firstly, we should remember the medicos' motto of "cause no harm". Over-exhuberance or drama on the social dancefloor is, quite simply, a hazard to others.

The music to which I love dancing often contains lots of subtleties. Responding to the subtle elements of a playful Donato milonga or an intense Pugliese tango requires a high degree of body control. Sure, one can dance without it, but it is quite different. I know which experience I prefer.

In social tango, less is definitely more!


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