Tag Archives: music

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Tango

Endings

If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.

 OK not that sort of endings, but the sort where you finish a dance as if you meant to, not where did the music go? And not, is it ever going to end? Good dramatic endings of course depend on knowing exactly when and how the music will end. This can only be achieved if you know the music very well, or the music follows a traditional pattern. Of course if it is traditional and you know the tune as well, then there can be no excuse for not finishing well.

Part of the Shrewsbury class this week concentrated mainly on endings, and we stopped over and over, looking at ways in which we could end dramatically and with style. For me though, it is the way that the music ends which will dictate how I finish, so that listening to the music and knowing it, is the most important part. I did practice all the endings I could think of, including my Bogart impersonation, and of course I had a chance to try some new endings as well.

The class started badly for me, I sat at the back with Dave talking tango as usual. Unknown to me there was no beginners and no intermediates just one long class, so as we talked I had missed some of the point. Dave and I were asked to join in as there was a shortage of men, and I had to ask what we were doing. Keep up Bob. We all did our own dance, and being me, I did lots of secadas. Sharon now directed us to lead the woman to do the steps we had done. This was an exercise in leading, as the women had not been taught the steps we were doing; we really had to lead it. Boy! Did I give myself a hard task, not one of the women wanted to come straight at me, and they made every effort to avoid me. As I have pointed out here before tango is about illusion and the most difficult part was to get them to do almost nothing, so I got no displacement and too much activity, I guess it did not look good. Fortunately this was only an exercise and would not be repeated in the dance, it gave me some food for thought though.

Things were not going well for Bob the expert, tonight, still they could only get better. A session of no side steps was next. Dave said something and Sharon said “does anyone else not do side steps?” Fool that I am I came to Dave’s defense, and my reward was to be told to do little else but side steps. It was all good practice but again I had made a rod for my own back. There are only so many things that you can do with a side step and very soon I was drying up.

So it was with relief that I set off for The Coracle again. Back in the bar I can talk tango and sound like an expert, without having to do too much. Again we hit on the subject of dancers who just do moves, no feeling no real lead and no musicality. So now we have a new name for them, they do stuff, so now they are “stuff dancers”

On Monday I was back to my confused sexuality, numbers were more or less even and I could start the class as a leader. When another man arrived I could stand out and watch, we were revising the back ochos, so I was not missing much. I was soon allowed to re-enter the class when another woman arrived. Realizing perhaps that I was not getting much out of it and Ali, who had returned, wished to lead Sharon suggested that we change roles. Now I suspect that Ali works out and may well be strong for a woman, but I know that as a man I am not the lightest of followers and was very conscious of the fact that I can sometimes give just a little too much weight. She seemed to cope well, but I think was as glad as I was when I moved on. Not let me hasten to say that I did not enjoy dancing with her. As a follower she danced well with me, and as a leader she also did well, the problem is with me, I do not carry my own axis well as a follower and prefer to lean against someone bigger. (I did think to say big men, but that sounded just a little gay).

Too soon again it was time to leave; I need my beauty sleep if I am to get up at five, but will be rested and ready before Saturday’s milonga.

If you enjoyed this, leave a comment. If you did not enjoy it, leave a comment.  All opinions are valued and without them I will only get bitter and self opinionated

4 Comments

Filed under Tango

Don’t cry for me Argentina

Friday and we were off to see Evita, I have been asked to tell you all about it, so here it is warts and all.

It must be twelve years since I last went to Venue Cymru, in fact it was not even called that then. The reasons we have not been for so long soon became obvious, to reach anywhere around the N Wales Coast it is necessary to drive down A55.

I would have thought after all this time they would have finished the road works, but no.  It took us over an hour to travel less than three miles, at one point I was convinced we would miss the performance, never mind the meal, but thanks to Viv’s foresight in leaving early, we arrived at almost dead on six, with ten minutes to spare, but my blood pressure through the roof. Why it is necessary to constantly dig this road up I have no idea. They talk of improvements, but to my mind, the best improvement they could make, is to get rid of the three sets of road works, that occur in a twenty mile stretch of road.

Our table was booked for quarter past six, but thankfully it was ready when we arrived. The menu was different from the sample menu we had had, shame I really wanted the honey glazed pork. The food was actually very good and the service was excellent. My only small criticism is that I could not understand the menu, no, it wasn’t in Welsh, but everything was described in flowery terms that actually meant very little.

Viv ended up with a rice dish covered in cheese (she is not a cheese lover) and I ended up with a fruit salad for pudding. Viv said “it’s not like you to have the healthy option” Still it’s to their credit that we really still enjoyed the food.

We managed to finish and pay the bill by twenty past seven, leaving us ten minutes clear to get to our seats.

As my company was paying (although they don’t know yet) we had the best seats, and the view from here is awesome. We sat and waited for the performance to start.

The first half, was enjoyed by almost everyone, but me being an old misery, I had a few criticisms. Evita’s life story was (certainly the version I have read) filled with tango, it filtered into every part of her life. The music had been slightly jazzed up and now it was more like Samba. Also the guy accompanying the tango singer was playing a piano accordion, not a bandoneon. Small criticisms aside, it was very enjoyable, and as Viv said, it was not aimed at a tango audience, I particularly liked the Quilmes advert on the bar (very authentic and gave me a thirst). I also enjoyed the rendition of another suitcase another hall, I thought the girl deserved a bigger part, but then I suppose She would not have been singing that song, you can’t have everything.

The second half, moved into another gear.  Where Evita stood on the balcony singing Don’t Cry for Me Argentina, it must be one of the most powerful and moving pieces of musical theatre ever, it was just awesome.

At one point there is a solo from a child of no more than ten years old, cynic that I am, I hate to see people fawning over child stars just because they are children, but this child had real talent, she held the audience in her hands.

The stage setting is also worth a mention; There were three sets of  steps and balustrades, which when moved around formed various  interiors and also the balcony of the Casa Rosada, pillars which came down from above along with some clever lighting effects created all the different scenes. The mix of lighting and the height of the balcony created a sort of saint like aura around Evita when she sang Don’t Cry for me.

I found the scene where Evita is dying particularly moving, Ok again it had moved away from the true story but after all this is theatre. When the curtain finally fell, the cast were greeted with rapturous applause.

After all this the drive home was quiet, all the traffic had dispersed, although of course the bollards were still in place.

Watch out for the report on the first Gresford Milonga, coming soon.

2 Comments

Filed under Argentina, Dance Venues and Schools

Basic eight and more

OK so last night I took the Chester class. I had planned to do something about the lead and the embrace, but Sharon had asked me to go over the basic eight in preparation for the coming year.

There was one guy who was fairly new, but in general everyone including the new guy was very soon doing the eight with no problems. We went on to make it a seven, leaving out the back step, but this was never going to fill two hours.

I decided to ask if anyone had anything they wanted help with, and everyone either said ochos or giros.  We spent some time going over the steps of the giro, until someone asked the killer question “if tango is improvised then why do we learn steps?” it was as if I had planted the question. Now I could break the moves down into their basics and show that any ocho or giro could be started or finished at any point. The lady must wait for each lead, because the man may not go the way they think he will go.

I then gave them something of a demo; I chose a fairly new partner and asked her forgiveness for what I was about to do. I played Poema by Canaro, I think one of the most beautiful pieces ever written.  I then proceeded to ignore the music and do every move I could think of, it was horrible, she hated it, and every one could see that she was struggling.

I apologised again and asked how it was for her. Now I asked for a second chance, Poema again, but this time I listened to the music, we did nothing but walk, but changing speed and direction as the music dictated. She was happy, we looked good, our audience enjoyed it and I did not even lead an ocho.

I set the class back to their tasks, telling them not to lead just giros and ochos but fill in with walking and feel the music. I picked my drink up as my mouth was dry and when I turned back everyone was dancing, not as in a class, not practicing , but just dancing.

At this point I gave up teaching and just left the music on. I no longer had a class, but a group of Tango dancers.

4 Comments

Filed under Dance Venues and Schools