Tango: my life as a not-so-good leader

And you thought that YOU were the worst dancer in the world ?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Richard Galliano 

One of my class partners is currently investigating the intricacies of alternative tango, neo-tango, tango nuevo, tango-fusion, electro-tango, tango-anything-you-name-it.
For the moment she's mainly gathering material: CDs, articles, URLs, videos. Then she will extract the ultimate truth. And it seems she has already found a lot of it (of material, not truth...)

Yesterday she proudly gave me one CD ("New York tango") by Richard Galliano, whom she said was Piazzolla's main heir. The name was completely unknown to me. If asked who he was, I would have answered maybe a fashion designer ("And now, ladies and gentlemen, here is Richard Galliano's lingerie Winter collection!")

So I'm listening to it, and it's clearly not to my liking. It's jazzy, and I don't like jazz. Some pieces are by Piazzolla, most of them by Galliano. The first half of Piazzolla's pieces played by Galliano sound tango-ish, but if I listen only to the second half of these pieces then I can't recognize them, Galliano's jazzy mind has taken precedence over Piazzolla's themes.

My partner was nuts about Galliano's "Adios Nonino" (on another album by Galliano), but I bet it's because she didn't know this title at all. I'll give her the Piazzolla's version.

posted by Pablo  # 3:26 AM (1) comments

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


Ok, tonight I'll just never quit the floor. Because this is practise time, the class just finished and now we all have one hour to train, experiment and refine what we just learned. And I intend to be dancing for the full sixty minutes. The teachers are on the floor too. The maestro is inviting all the female students one after the other. He doesn't rehearse the taught patterns (shame on him...) but just dances simple things. The female teacher (what an horrible expression, but what else? Maestra sounds funny.Bailarina, maybe) is open to any invitation. I don't even think of inviting her though, as I'm always much too tense when I have to dance with any teacher. Plus, when everything goes well I'm sure it's because she keeps compensating for my mistakes.

But hey, I'm here to dance. Who's next, then? All the ladies are dancing already. Except Helen, but she's chatting with the Bailarina. Ok, let's wait. End of the tanda, the Bailarina has to change the CD. So she's not chatting any more, and even before the music starts I'm standing right in front of Helen and making her stand up.

Well, I should have waited a bit more, because when the music begins, it's se dice de mi, a milonga! It's impossible to practise tango steps on a milonga, they just should not play milongas during their practise, now the tanda is useless, ten minutes are lost! Back to my seat, not for too long, I hope. Who is available? Only Carol, it seems.

Unfortunately, she's from the beginners class. Not my lucky day. Ok, at least she must know the basics: crossed/parallel 8CB, dobble-times, ochos, so with a lot of care maybe I'll be able to practise my giro con enrosque y lapiz. After all it's a pattern where the follower has nothing special to do, all the work is for me. Let's give a try. Shall we dance? Uh-oh, I feel tension in her abrazo. 8CB? Ok, she's doing it. Front ochos, back ochos? Fine. 8CB in crossed system? No. Switching from back ochos to front ochos? No, she can't stay on her axis. Ok, back to basics-basics, too bad for my enrosque. 8CB. Missed. Obviously she's confused by now. Simple simple. Back ocho. Missed. At present she's really doing weird things, such as stepping twice with her left foot. 30 seconds until the end of the song...hobble steps (aka rock steps) will do.

Practise time is almost finished by now, and I'm here sitting again, but this time I'm sure that finally I will do a few giros, because next to me is a lone intermediate follower. I'm just waiting for the end of the present song. Here it comes. I stand up. At this very moment, the maestro, who had gone outside to smoke his hourly cigarette, comes back in the room and with a warm smile extends his two arms towards her. Seconds later they're far away on the dance floor.

"Ultimo tango!", the Bailerina shouts. And after the ultimo she even adds a bonus ultimo one. Which changes nothing as far as I'm concerned, since all the followers are eager to dance these very last songs, none of them quits her leader and so I've nobody to practise with.

Ok, next week I'll just never quit the floor.

posted by Pablo  # 6:26 AM (0) comments

Friday, November 05, 2004

El Cachafaz 

Last Friday one of the teachers made an imitation of "El Cachafaz". I could not judge the quality of his imitation, of course, but his partner seemed to find it very convincing, and funny at the same time. Bending over a lot, with a protruding backside, he kept throwing his leg up (or tapping) during static moments, and walked heels-first in a way that was evocating a drunken man rather than a jungle tiger, with this somehow weird canyengue style, making brilliant things (corridas) but never leading his partner in any simple cruzada, because at this time the cruzada did not exist (he said).

After that he demonstrated a sequence, that he called the "american exit", a kind of 8CB without the cross (!), the man leading a side step to the right instead of the "4" of the 8CB and making at this moment a sort of high sacada with his left thig, followed by "7" and "8" of the 8CB (got it?)

Although this teacher is near his eighties and spent his childhood in Buenos Ayres, I doubt that he actually saw
El Cachafaz (who died in 1942), probably he viewed some movies featuring him. But the teacher's partner
actually met El Cachafaz' partner, the legendary Carmencita Calderon, who must have celebrated her 100th birthday by now. Carmencita was touring abroad, and when asked whether she liked the way tango was danced by the locals, she just answered "But this is not tango, this is prêt-à-porter!"

posted by Pablo  # 5:19 AM (0) comments


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