Tag Archives: Milongueros

The teacher is not always right two

I get comments these days that are more like posts than comments. I am not complaining all comments are welcomed, good and bad, but I like to reply to them all. So for the second time I must do a post in reply to a comment.

I received a comment from Jantango in Buenos Aires Teacher is not always right and feel again that this deserves more than a quick answer.

I remember the first time I was at a milonga in Buenos Aires it was at Confiteria Ideal in the afternoon. We had been taken there by our guide for the trip, who educated us about the codigos where to dance and how to cope with what was a totally alien environment to us.

We fell out some time later, which was a shame, as I think she gave us invaluable information for times to come, and although we are no longer in contact I would gladly recommend her to anyone visiting for the first time.

She had the sense to bring us early, when the place was less crowded. This allowed us to get a feel for the room and to get up and dance in the time when people were still coming in.

So how does this relate to the comment? Well no teacher I had been too had ever been to Argentina, none of them knew the codigos, none could tell me how to cope.

As more people came to the milonga, we found it more and more difficult to move, and for some reason, I had yet to learn, and we were always in the middle of the floor.

We had couple of days of this before our first dance lesson. We had been signed up with a guy called Roberto Canelo. He was not milonguero in the true sense of the word, more a stage dancer. In his early days he had been embarrassed at his local club, Club Almagro by being asked to leave the floor and watch how the true milongueros did it. He soon learned how to navigate the floor and move to the music not just doing steps, so now he passes his knowledge on at his tango school. Nothing of this was known to me, of course, I was just passed to an Argentine who taught tango, and of course to me the fact that he was argentine was all that mattered to me at the time.

With him we learned to dance milonga, how to cope with a crowd how to navigate the floor, and importantly to me, why I always ended up in the middle. He told me that old milongueros will dance to the outside of the room, taking any space left to the right, forcing any principiantes into the middle. So now I must learn that as well as protecting my partner I must defend my right hand side, I do not let anyone into this space, it is mine alone. With this knowledge I can gloat at the show dancers, principiantes and yanquis who populate the middle of the floor. He learned all this by going to the milongas, he already was a great dancer, but could not cope with the milonga floor, not until he had experienced it himself and had the coaching of other milongueros.

So when I learn that a great show dancer with years of experience could not cope at a milonga, you should not be surprised that I greet with horror the thought that people who have less than two years tango experience want to teach. You should also not be surprised that I will not go to any teacher who has never visited a Buenos Aires milonga.

Too many spend their time learning steps. In the UK we learn boleos, ganchos , baridas, but rarely do we learn about the music. What we need to do is listen to the music, as it changes cadence, we need to be aware and change with it.

Often in beginner’s classes, we are so intent on learning that our movement’s bare little relationship to the music, this is Ok for beginners, but as we get more proficient we should be dancing to the music not just doing moves in spite of it. Go to almost any milonga in Europe and you will see them; they do all the moves, awesome routines, fancy footwork, but no musicality.

In the northern hemisphere we need to learn that dancing is not about moves, this is not Strictly, it is social dancing. Tango is the music as much as it is the dance, if you do not feel the music then you are not dancing tango. The music needs to be in your mind and in your soul. If you spend all your time learning more and more moves, you miss the point, your time would be better spent listening to the music, and trying to get to know the artists.

And don’t even think about getting me back on the subject of DJs playing non tango music.

Again all comments are welcome, good or bad. If you disagree tell me why, wealth of experience comes from exchanges of ideas not monologue.

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The Lost Tangos

For those who remember the 70s, just about the worst thing to come out of this era were the stark concrete  buildings, most of which have now thankfully been demolished. Which brings me to The Biblioteca Nacional, firstly I do not know when it was built, (1971) but they have brought stark concrete to a new level. There is non of the huge flat areas normally associated with this type of construction, instead it floats on pillars above a walkway littered with quotes from letters to and from Juan Peron. Honestly if architects in the UK had had this much vision, many of the buildings that came and went at such costs may still be around, and revered instead of hated.

Curtesy of BA gov

Curtesy of BA gov

The Biblioteca Nacional I am told houses over three hundred thousand scores of unpublished and un played tango, something they are working hard to remedy, by publishing as much as they can. This was not why we were here however, we came to listen to the Orquesta Escuela Del Tango Emilio Balcarce.

We arrived a good half hour early yet the queue was huge, and when we finally got into the auditorium there was not enough room for us to sit, so we sat on the floor. All the time we had a running commentary from Janis, who was a priceless font of knowledge. Unfortunately my brain ( tired from too many late nights) was unable to hold all she told us.

The orchestra was led by Nestor Marconi who also gave us renditions of several tangos. After he had given a short speech he introduced us to Leopoldo Federico  another famous bandonista who regaled us with some fantastic music. The sheer joy of listening and the enthusiasm of the audience was unbelivable. I felt so privilaged to be there at times the emotion was so great I was close to tears.

At the end, which had to come they were given a rousing ovation.

After wards we were brought back quickly to Buenos Aires reality, in the street we heard a huge bang, two buses had crashed. The one at the front was disgorging all its coolant, while the one at the rear sported an interesting truncated front and left it’s windscreen all over the road.

The bus at the rear would have been ours, a 92, so that all the passengers who were on it now waited with us at the next stop for the next bus. A young Japanese looking girl stood waiting and we recognised her as one of the violinistas. We found that she was from here but of japanese descent and it was here second year with the Orquesta, she complained that her neck had been jarred in the bus crash. Nobody here has yet heard of whiplash and where there is blame there is a claim. That day will come no doubt.

We returned to our place for a meal. Viv as usual managed to create something in next to no time, then while we changed Janis fell asleap on the couch, it looks like we are not the only ones for whome the hectic life here is too much.

We caught another 92, our third of the day, now to go to Mataderos, where we were to go to Glorias Argentinas. We have not been before, because although it is a local club of the type we love, it is an hour door to door. Believe me, even if you have a seat, you do not want to spend forty minutes on a colectivo.

We were greeted as if we were family, Janis had been invited to the birthday of Carlos Anzuate http://jantango.wordpress.com/2009/05/21/carlos-anzuate/  And were honored to be seated at the great mans table, Viv not used to celebrity, was embarrassed when some locals were asked to leave our table as it was reserved for his party. We enjoyed some good dancing here including another round of the campeonata, but the highlight of the evening was when Carlito (see freinds already, not Carlos any more) did a demonstration of jazz dancing with Janis. It was without doubt the most entertaining dancing we have seen (and I am not just saying this because I know Janis will read it) if you were not there you missed something great. I have to add, coming from a country where you are written off at fifty, and some miseries use their age as an excuse to do nothing but moan, the combined age of the two demonstrators was 140, they put on a show of so much fun and energy it would put many youngsters to shame.

Now Janis I know hates me saying she complained, but she did again (only pulling my leg, or was she?) this time that I had not danced with her, only with my love, she said. Well there were so many milogueros for her to dance with, surely she did not need a frustrated miloguero from Wales. Ah but we did do the chacarera, and it was gooood. Those mataderenos will be talking about the galesa chacerera for years.

Mataderos at night feels dark and frobidding, the two ladies felt nervous, not that I am some sort of hero, but I never feel threatened here, not as I have done in some other cities, even though we are in a very poor area. There were however some homeless people behind the bus shelters, so we jumped on the first bus. This one went to Janis’s place ( was there a plan I wonder?) anyway we had to jump off some distance from our place and walk a few blocks untill we could get a taxi. Janis very thoughtfully phone to make sure we got home ok, but we were fine, though it was after four and I wanted to get up at eight for the Monaco Grand Prix, more of that later.

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Filed under Argentina, Dance Venues and Schools, milonga, Uncategorized