Monday, May 7, 2012

A new beginning

I wonder if there's a point of posting at all, since nobody reads this. Even I had forgotten about the existence of this blog. But I still think it's worth posting a reflection from my meeting with tango legend Miguel Angel Zotto. I've never seen any professional dancer so laid back, so relaxed, so tolerant, so humble, yet so confident, so mature, yet so youthful as Zotto. Most professional dancers are snobs, but the master of masters is pretty much the opposite of a snob. This was quite a surprise given the legendary status he has. If he is not a snob, then I have absolutely no ground on which to be a snob. I guess this was pretty obvious to everyone from the very start but me. I don't know if I can change the title of the blog, but even if I can't, the tone of the posts (rare as they are) will certainly change. We had an interesting conversation about the codigos. Having seen him in person, I have realized that he encompasses all styles of Tango Argentino. He is a stage dancer, yet at the same time he is an old fashioned milonguero. To many, this is an oxymoron, but he converges at these two seemingly irreconcilable styles beautifully. His old fashioned self has great respect for the codigos of the milonga. Yet he stresses how the codigos should be upheld because of their usefulness, rather than arbitrarily only because it is tradition. Codigos exist for practicality; it should be adapted according to the times and circumstances - else the purpose is defeated. I hope people learn not only his steps, but his wisdom from his age and experience. Gracias, Miguel!

Monday, September 12, 2011

The six pack experiment

For those who have wondering, the six pack experiment is over. The results have proved inconclusive, because many unexpected things have happened between the time I thought of this experiment and now. In other words, for the supporters of the scientific method, far too many variables were modified. For example, I hoped to keep progressing on my tango as I worked on my physical shape, but on a steady, controlled manner; I didn't expect my style to change as drastically as it did, mainly due to the Missé brothers. Whether the change is for the better or for worse is not for me to judge. Secondly, among the many changes in my life, when I first thought of doing this, I never thought I would have so many responsibilities by now. In particular, I now have a newborn child to take care of. Just kidding, I am no father yet. But I do have a full time job, which makes it virtually impossible for me to practice and dance more than twice a week, since I wake up at 5 in the morning. I haven't let this get in the way of fitness because, while there are no milongas or prácticas at five in the morning that I am aware of, the gym is open. I am in better shape than I have ever been before, but how that affects my tango I have no idea. (I will post pictures of my quasi six pack if I receive enough female requests). I will have to conduct some surveys with the local tanguera community to hear their opinion. The point is, though, I hope, that a work-health-tango balance is possible.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Invierno (Francisco Canaro c Roberto Maida)

Lyrics: Enrique Cadicamo
Music: Horacio Petorosi

Volvio el invierno con su blanco ajuar
Ya la escarcha empezo a brillar
en mi vida sin amor
Profundo padecer que me hace comprender
que hallarse solo es un horror
Y al ver como soplan en mi corazon
viento frio de desolacion
Quiero llorar
Porque mi alma lleva brumas de un invierno
Que hoy no puedo disipar

Proper spelling and English translation coming soon

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Si la llegaran a ver

Si la llegaran a ver
Music: Juan D'Arienzo
Lyric: Enrique Cadícamo

Por un recuerdo que me sigue siempre,
por un pasado que borrar no puedo,
es esta pena cruel, es este gran amor,
que nunca, nunca, deja ya de florecer.
Por esos días de felices horas,
en mis desvelos, siempre, siempre están.
Tú eres mi mal sentimental
y yo un triste atardecer.

Si la llegaran a ver,
si la llegaran a hablar,
que no sepa que aún
yo tengo su querer
igual, igual clavado como ayer.
Si la llegaran a ver,
si la llegaran a hablar,
yo no quiero que le digan
de que aún está en mi corazón.

If they get to see her

These memories that chase me
and the past that I cannot erase
are the reason behind this cruel sorrow
and this great love that will never cease to flourish.
The past days of happiness
are always with me in my sleepless nights.
You are my sentimental illness,
and I a sad dusk.

If they get to see her,
If they get to talk to her,
may they not let her know
that I still love her
just like yesterday.
If they get to see her,
or if they get to talk to her,
I don't want them to tell her
that she's still in my heart.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The importance of individuality

One criticism I recently heard about tango festivals is that it creates clones of the teachers. I appreciate the value of festivals, especially ones that bring great teachers. But great teachers teach more that proper dancing technique. They teach the mindset one must have. They teach the culture of the milonga. They teach the attitude of dancing. Etiquette. All the intangibles that only those who have danced since their childhood or even since their teenage years can understand and transmit it around the world.

Yet I also can see that there is some truth to the criticism, although it's more of a side effect than the desired effect, and it does not happen to everyone. But some students idolize their teachers to the point that they imitate their every single aspect, down to their mannerisms, their clothing accessories, and of course the way they dance, down to the way they wrap their fingers around their partner's hand. This is all good if the teachers are great. But the way I see it, it is not the best way to learn, because no matter how hard you try, no matter how good you get, the best you can be is an imitation of your teacher. And indeed, nobody can dance exactly like anybody else. Imitating everything about somebody is silly. Even if somebody dances exactly like Javier Rodriguez, they'll always be a shadow of him, because Javier Rodriguez is true to himself, he puts who he is into his dancing. And this goes for any other dancer too... I only use Javier Rodriguez as an example not only because I admire him but because there are many imitators of him in this continent. Emulating the superficial aspects of somebody's dance will not give any depth to the dance. It is nothing more than the shell of the original. The copies have not lived the same life as the original. They do not have the same values nor the same attitude towards life. And as such, all they can copy is the surface. There is no depth.

On the other side of the argument, there are dancers with plenty of individuality. They dance like nobody else. Yet they are awful. And what they dance, I don't want to call it tango, because it is a grave insult to everything I love.

Perhaps the most difficult thing in tango is finding one's individuality without falling into the trap of dancing something awful. But it is absolutely essential. I asked Gabriel Misse in a class how to develop one's individuality, and he told me that it was only through technique that this could be achieved. Indeed, I think perhaps the best way to find one's individuality is to perfect proper tango technique, and by that I don't mean the exact details of how famous tango teachers place their hand this way or the other. I mean the most basic things, like walking, embracing, and leading technique. With the right technique and the right mindset, one can put their feelings and emotions into the individuality of their dance, and perhaps this will show on the superficial details, but it will have depth.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Puente Alsina (1926)

Music and Lyrics: Benjamín Tagle Lara

¿Dónde está mi barrio, mi cuna querida?
¿adónde la cueva, refugio de ayer?
Borró el asfaltado de una manotada,
la vieja barriada que me vio crecer...

En la sospechosa quietud del suburbio,
la noche de un turbio drama pasional
y yo, desde entonces, el hijo de todos,
rodé por el lodo de aquel arrabal.

Puente Alsina, que ayer fuera mi regazo,
de un zarpazo la avenida te alcanzó...
Viejo puente, compañero y confidente,
sos la marca que, en la frente,
el progreso te ha dejado
al suburbio rebelado
hasta ayer te defendió.

Yo no he conocido caricias de madre...
Tuve un solo padre que fuera el rigor
y llevo en mis venas, de sangre maleva,
gritando una gleba con crudo rencor.

¿Por que me lo llevan, mi barrio, mi todo?
yo, el hijo del lodo, lo vengo a buscar...
Mi barrio es mi madre que ya no responde...
¡Que digan adónde la van a enterrar!



Where is my neighborhood, my beloved cradle?
Where is the cave, yesteryear's refuge?
The asphalt erased with a slap
the neighborhood that saw me grow.

In the suspicious quietude of the suburb,
the night of a murky drama of passion,
and I, from then on the son of everyone,
rolled by the mud of that arrabal.

Puente Alsina, yesteryear's lap,
all of a sudden the avenue reached you.
Old Puente, fellow and confidant,
you're the mark on the forehead
left by the progress;
the rebelling suburb
defended you in the past.

I have not known my mother's caresses...
I only had one father who was the rigor,
and in my veins flows the malevo blood
screaming a glebe with crude grudge.

Why are they taking her away, my neighborhood, my everything?
I, son of the mud, have come to find her.
My neighborhood is my mother and she no longer responds...
They better tell me where they will bury her!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The right to judge

I had been meaning to ask a friend of mine, who I know is a very competent tango salon dancer, why she teaches with a guy who dances something - I don't know what it is, but I know for sure it's not tango, yet it's labelled and marketed as tango. Said guy is a nice guy, and I'm sure he's not intentionally tricking people into thinking that what he does is tango. I'm sure that he does not know tango very much. But I know she knows tango, having her roots in Buenos Aires, travelling there once in a while and hanging out with the heavyweights of tango.

She said two things that irked me endlessly: first, that eventually everyone comes back to 'traditional', and second, which I wish to discuss in more detail, that no one has the right to judge anyone's dance. It seems like a trend in the US that tango is classified traditional or modern/nuevo, the latter having a more positive connotation. However, anyone who uses this classification has just put a big label on their forehead that says: I don't understand tango. Because tango is tango; there is no traditional/modern/nuevo. It's either tango or it's not. But more on that later.

The second argument, that no one has the right to judge anyone, irritated me because it seems like it's the political-correctness shield for mediocrity that people who are not confident about their dance use to defend themselves (An alternative argument used is "be open minded". I am very open minded, but crap is crap, no matter how open minded). I told her that she had all the right to judge his dance because she deserves a dance partner that shares her vision of tango, which I hope she has. But it goes beyond that: people learning tango have the right to see what the real tango is, and compare it to what quacks teach and call tango. People who love tango have the right to look down in disgust at those who are spreading something unpleasant looking and giving tango a bad name. Because having a competition of who can do a longer sequence of leg wraps with ganchos and colgadas and volcadas and soltadas is definitely not tango (for this is what the students end up doing, becoming clones of said teacher). People who want tango to be spread around the world the way it should be have the right to judge a teacher who does not know what they teach and harm the quality of local tango communities.

In fact, let me change that: people who love tango not only have the right to judge; people who love tango have the obligation to call out on shitty tango or non-tango.