Tag Archives: Gotan

Nuevo anyone?

We arrived home at half past one in the morning, our trips to Shrewsbury finish later every time.

We had sat in The Coracle until about twenty to twelve, and talked about all the usual rubbish, who was doing what and with whom. There was nothing exciting that I could report here. Strangely it was after Dave left that things became more interesting, he’ll be upset to have missed it.

As we got up to leave, the conversation turned to Nuevo Tango, or more to the point what constitutes traditional tango. We stood with our coats on and carried on for nearly another hour, unable to leave the gripping debate.I think we all agreed that those who do Nuevo moves rarely if ever do them with any musicality, but interestingly, someone said that I do more moves than anyone.

This is obviously a matter of perception, I may do lots of secadas, and the odd volcada and barrida but nothing is choreographed. This I think is what makes it look like I do a lot, because nothing is set, I can do the same thing over and over, in different ways and it always looks different. (I hope).

The point is I let the music tell me when to do a certain move, not some routine that has been taught.

We had a lively debate about what is traditional tango: To me it is what we have kept from the golden age. I say kept because much has been lost and some only exists as yet in sheet music. The dancing is close, very close, it involves a lot of pivots and giros, the heels never come far off the floor. This is a style that developed in the golden age, when we had (in my opinion) the best music, there was money in Argentina and people had leisure time and wonderful dance floors.

The assertion was made that traditional tango could be what came from the turn of the last century. To this I would disagree; the music was more rhythmical, the hold was more open and pivots did not exist. This was a product of the floors that they danced on; it was not common to have good floors, often dancing on cobbles or flagged areas.

Later on in tangos history the film industry got involved and a much more open style developed, what we now call Nuevo. The distance between the couple was necessary so that they could both be seen on the screen. The big kicks and flicks again were there to look good on the big screen.

We (well most of us) are not in the movies; we go onto the dance floor for our own pleasure, so it makes sense that we do the dance that is designed to give us the most enjoyment, not something designed either for the big screen or cobbled streets.

Back for a while to the music: There is nothing wrong with a bit of canjegue along with our golden age music, it gives us some variety. We can dance to tango music from all over the spectrum, and why not? The problems come when we move into electronic. All argentine tango music follows a set pattern and because they follow this pattern we can predict what the music will do next and when it will finish. For this reason they are all between two and a half and three and a half minutes long, generally three minutes or there about, but theses are the extremes.

So how can the likes of Gotan fit into this? Triptico, for instance is ten minutes and ten seconds long. Quite apart from the difficulty of knowing what is coming next, I would be exhausted, and because the music does not tell me what to do, I would be running out of ideas. This is of course why the Nuevo crowd dance to this music; if you are choreographed you don’t want the music to get in the way of your routine.

Now don’t get me wrong I enjoy listening to Gotan and other elecronico, but tango is about the music as much as the dance (some would say more). There is some modern music that is good tango, there are good bands out there and it can be fun to experiment with new instruments and push the boundaries, but when you loose the structure you loose the essence, the dancers cannot follow and this feeling that the whole room is dancing as one is lost.

There I have gone off on one again, tango brings out a passion in us all, and to those who still want to do Nuevo I would say “As long as you feel the passion it is OK” but the two cannot mix, our social dancing is interrupted by high kicks and we do not allow the space. Nuevo should be kept to the clubs and dances that cater for it, when you mix Nuevo with traditional, conflicts happen. The traditionalists will complain about selfish dancing and music that is not tango. Often the nuevos will not be allowed the space in which to dance and will be treated with hostility. This is of course because the traditionalists need to keep moving line of dance, where as the nuevos do not, so much so that they almost become different dances.

There are places to dance in this style even in Buenos Aires, so that is why I am bemused by someone coming into a traditional club and throwing their legs in the air. This happens of course, but in my favourite club Fulgor, I have seen people thrown off the dance floor for doing ganchos. (Not physically of course, but they were asked to leave)

I think that those who do Nuevo will, in time, learn the true meaning of tango and come back into the fold, until then they must enjoy in their own time and space.

Something else that came up in The Coracle was of course my blog. I get some stick about it, it is only fair as I often give it out, but all I would say is if ever I upset or unjustly insult someone (Dave is excluded from this) please tell me. It is never my intention to cause offence. Similarly you are more than welcome to correct any factual errors or spelling mistakes I may make.

If no one pulls me up I will of course go on believing that I am perfect.

One other thing, I have accumulated some more facts for Mike about the Dutch invasion of Britain on 5th November 1688 with some20,000 men and 500 ships. I will of course debate this further next week.

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Have I lost the spark?

Have I lost the spark? For the second time in three weeks I have sat out and just watched the class in Chester. Viv worries that we are not getting the most from Mondays, me, I am happy with the situation. I never know what the evening holds, I could be leading, or I could be following, I could be just watching, or very occasionally there is someone who has just joined and is not able to follow the class. At these times I am able to take them to one side and help them to a level where they can join the rest, it is always very rewarding passing on your knowledge.

So on this Monday I am just watching, I still enjoy it, even though I am not dancing. The classes at the moment are more about musicality, until the new term starts, and Sharon has some interesting choices of music. I use the word interesting with care, this is not the “I am so clever I can find other music to dance to” sort of interesting, that I find elsewhere, but she has found some new takes on the classics that are really good. I will make note of the artists next time and relay them here, but for now my memory fails me.

The class were taken through a new step; a secada into a back cross, and I was asked to demonstrate with Sharon. So at least I did a little, but in the main I was happy just watching.

Of course after the class was over I was away, dancing with all the ladies and hopefully giving them some practice with the things that they had learned and of course the benefit of my vast experience.(bubble needs bursting).

On an entirely different subject, I regularly check on other blogers to see what they are up to and check out what they are thinking. In one of my regular explorations I came across this article about the lighting levels in milongas.

http://londontango.wordpress.com/2009/08/24/ask-arlene-who-turned-out-the-lights/

This got me thinking, not so much about the light levels, but why some people dance. Do we dance to be seen to show the world our fancy footwork, or do we dance to seduce our partner, or is it just for exercise?

In the Clubs de Barrio that I love, it is normal to dim the lights when they have a session of Cumbia, but they have the lights up when they tango. Why is this? It is certainly more atmospheric when they only have the lights on the mirror ball, but do they need so much light when they tango? I think it all comes down to the cabeceo, In clubs like Lo de Celia and El Beso they do it all the time, but in the clubs de barrio it is mostly couples, and you rarely see anyone practicing the cabeceo. So I wonder; why do we need the lights?

Here in the UK nobody does the cabeceo, few if any will dance with strangers, and most stay in their cliques. This again leaves me wondering, why not have a more intimate atmosphere.

This brings me back to why we dance. If you dance for the exercise, then lighting is unimportant to you. You will burn as many calories whatever the light level. Maybe it is better if no one sees you sweat, but hey do you care. Milongas are the music for you or any fast tango, perhaps some Pugliese would suit.

Now if dancing is pure seduction, the mood is enhanced with a little dimmed light. Candles are the thing here, dark corners and a crowded floor, so no one can pick you from the crowd.

Then we move to my least favourite group, for these bright lights are a must, as is modern music like Gotan or Otros Aires. They dance only to be seen. Every other move is a gancho or a boleo, the ladies heels are never on the ground, but flying around dangerously. The most obvious sign however is that the couple are not looking at each other, but instead stare around the room to see who is looking at them. There is no real connection, no intimacy, and often no musicality.

My own view on lighting is I really do not care that much, because much like the majority of tango dancers, I dance for the music and my partner. My partner is, I hope, enjoying the embrace in a totally non sexual way, and lost in the feeling. We look past each other only to see if it is clear, but the whole of our being is together. A three minute romance? Maybe, but I am returned to my wife at the end unblemished, and those who watch can enjoy our dance, criticise, or learn from us, that is for them alone to decide.

My wife prefers the lighting dim; she does not like being watched, and hates to be first on the floor, so if asked I would go for the lower light levels, if only because I would get more dances with my favourite partner.

So how about you; is it light, or is it dark?

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