Well... sadly enough they are hardly new. Newly released, and not that newly either. Newly noticed by me, more like. The wonderful Myriam Pincen, who danced and taught with Ricardo in the last years of his life has posted some clips of a workshop in the old Porteño y Bailarín venue in 2004, taught by Ricardo, Myriam and Osvaldo Cartery, on her YouTube channel. The clips are all dated November 24.
The sequence begins with a demo by Myriam and Ricardo. The video quality of these clips is analogue, and the light level is low. I find quite appealing, a kind of raw, fiery colour, but unfortunately in this clip the movement isn't that smooth so although you get an impression, it's not particularly enjoyable to watch. The other clips are much smoother.
Also before the workshop began, Ricardo dances with Osvaldo, who took the role of follow. Old childhood friends from the days when Argentina was still a predominantly male society: sexual parity wasn't reached until the late 1940s, which meant large groups of men standing around at milongas trying to get dances... This must have put a lot of pressure on men to up their dance, their appearance and courtesy, particularily since social dance was the main venue where men and women could meet. At least in the UK, and probably elsewhere too, dance halls remained the places where most couples met each other right up until the beginning of the 1960s. Hence the fanatic interest young guys of Ricardo and Osvaldo's generation had in excelling at tango.
There's a general dance, pretty much like a milonga, carefully watched by Myriam, Ricardo and Osvaldo, at the end of which Osvaldo, crackling with energy as ever, dances a brief demo with Myriam. There's a cut to another general dance with Ricardo and a partner. The video quality here is reasonably smooth, and the analogue colours glow.
Sadly that's it from Porteño y Bailarín, but there is one further video of Ricardo and Myriam, a demo at the end of a private class. The lighting is good so it's clearer how Ricardo leads those corridas, runs of quick steps, round his partner, so much of the energy, the impulse, coming from the chest. It's also a complete piece of music, and performed in true tango style on a space no larger than a fair-sized floor tile, but full of energy and playfulness nonetheless.
Myriam's channel also has a number of clips of her with other, more recent partners. She continues to teach in Buenos Aires, in English if necessary, an invaluable bridge to the dance of the golden age.
...Tango and Chaos! On the off-chance I searched for it this morning, and there it is again. Wonderful to see it back. However it might not display properly on Firefox which moreover blocks the Adobe Flash Player by default. I don't know my way round all that, but on the Edge browser the site is as good as ever, and the videos always wonderful. Many thanks to Rick! I can claim from personal experience that his site, and especially the clips on it, is inspiring. As he says, if you can't see it you can't dance it, and there's plenty to see here, so plenty to dance.
I wondered again recently if I could listen through, chronologically, to all the Troilo recordings I have. On the surface that’s far from impossible but I failed of course. After a while, fewer tracks really stand out, but it’s still an ambition to get a sense of the span of an extraordinary career from start to finish.
The start is easy enough. Comme il faut/Tinta Verde of 1938 was Troilo’s first 78 with his own newly-formed orquesta. He was 24. It seems a stupendously confident start. Right from the first note it sounds like Troilo. In fact, the very first chord of Comme il Faut seems discordant. Compare it with the performance of composer/performer, Eduardo Arolas who quickly plays two notes, a sprightly flourish leading to the first note of his composition. Troilo seems to jam all three notes together, as if relishing the striking and slightly discordant chord. Within the first 30 seconds there’s no mistaking the driving, tightly rehearsed and disciplined rhythm playing that allows the soloist (piano) to improvise freely, and of course invites the dancers to step out. Right from the very start it doesn’t sound in the least like any other tango orquesta. This is Troilo from the very beginning.
One track that really caught my ear and demanded a repeat listening was La Maleva, from 1942. The energetically incisive rhythm, the expressive softness that Troilo was getting from his five violins, and above all the intense tenderness and sorrow of this track is remarkable. In the first 10 seconds the strings fade practically to nothing, offering a clear platform to the piano. The expressive playing of the strings brings out the tenderness of the phrases. Whereas I think most orquestas until then played loud with little control of volume, Troilo used volume to create emotion and sequence and drama. Nowhere more so than in the final minute of La Maleva. The strings play over a bandoneon rhythm that fades in and out – which I guess was played in-orquesta, not engineered on a mixing desk. All leading to Troilo himself, soloing over or even duetting with a very subdued piano, Troilo, who seems to have found, as Miles Davis, another musical hero, discovered a few years later, that playing quietly can be more emphatic than playing loudly.
& why did this particular song seem so familiar? Suddenly I remembered a dance clip I had watched over and over 10 year ago when it first appeared in Rick McGarry’s great Tango and Chaos blog. Very sadly the blog has gone, hopefully not permanently. But could some of the clips have survived on YouTube?
Lo and behold, miraculously, I found La Maleva,the very clip I’d watched (and listened to) with such fascination a decade ago. What a relief it’s still available! Filmed, I think, in Lo de Celia, two dancers wind themselves endlessly, fluently around each other, rising and falling to the energy and cadence of the music.
I watched it again and again when it first appeared, but my experience of the dance then was very limited, and it seemed almost miraculous. Now I notice first how much dance there is in it. It’s Troilo at his most tender, almost sorrowful, and I’d be inclined to dance more slowly, even if I could lead all those twists and turns (beyond me, in any case.) But despite the constant movement of the dance there’s absolutely no rush, they are both completely at ease. It doesn’t look forced or showy in any way. After all, if there are so many beautiful notes why not mark them, if you can! & then I notice the flexibility of her knees, and realise that he’s leading this. You don’t notice his knees, but the couple’s embrace is too close for her to do this independently. He’s lifting and lowering her, so in effect he’s leading in two plains, horizontally and vertically, which makes sense as you listen to and express the music, the rise and fall of the melodic phrases set against the onward pulse of the rhythm. I notice the precision of lead and follow, his clear ‘steering’ with his feet, and the energy and lightness of her stepping.
Two wonderful dancers, and just how lucky we are to be able to witness it! It’s not the only way to dance to La Maleva but I’m glad to say it’s no less of a miracle to me today.
(Who was La Maleva? A type rather than a person, the bad/loose woman who becomes a milonguera and a ‘kept woman’, but repents and goes back home, to her mother’s joy. It was a tango written in 1922, and subsequently a silent Argentine film released the following year. Troilo’s version, like other versions, dispenses with the lyrics, which can be found on Paul Bottomer’s site along with a translation, and where you can also listen to versions by other orquestas.)
About a month ago I remembered a clip I’d seen on Rick McGarry’s great Tango and Chaos blog, which I hadn’t visited for a few years. I found the site – but the clips were no longer there. I was using my mobile and I assumed this was because of some software incompatibility. However, when I went back to the site a few days later, on February 22, I found a message saying that the site ownership had expired and that it was available for purchase. Currently, if you search for it, you don’t get anywhere or you get a message asking you to try again later. I’m not sure when McGarry set it up, but free blogging might not have been so easily available then. YouTube began in 2005, and might not have been the obvious choice for hosting videos until later. I remember McGarry’s videos were good quality but took ages to download as he’d bought space on a server to host them.
So much enthusiastic writing, so much background info about tango, about dancing and the milongas, and in particular so many wonderful clips of some of the great dancers, all gone. It’s a real loss. It was over-elaborate in parts, especially the attempt to explain the tango walk, but the enthusiasm was undeniable. I’m sure everyone who read it will share my dismay that this great resource has vanished, and will hope Rick will resurrect it along with the wonderful clips which, he claimed, were just some of his extensive archive from years of filming in the milongas, a priceless record of a generation of dancers, many of whom are no longer with us. His site was a real inspiration for those of us who believed in social tango, and guessed that it wasn’t what we were in general paying our teachers for. In an atmosphere of choreographed moves Tango and Chaos was a breath of fresh air, and when the clips started to appear, suddenly we began to get an idea of what social tango really looked like.
The site, or part of it, lives on in a Russian translation McGarry authorised in 2012. But in Russian! Of course the clips are there, records of some wonderfully happy afternoons of dance in Lo de Celia, but it’s only part of the site and it doesn’t seem to have all the material that was in the original.
Does anyone have news of McGarry? It would be great to hear that his enthusiasm for social tango is undiminished, that there is a backup of the site, that a revised version is planned, even that more of his archive of clips of social dance, filmed at a time when dancers who had learned in the Golden Age were still on the floor, will become available.
(I received a comment on this subject which I don’t think I should publish as it has an email address and phone number. It reads:
Albert Doan has left a new comment on your post "Ricardo Vidort and Luisito Ferraris: videos":
To my great disappointment Rick Mcgarry's website Tango and Chaos is not available. Can I get some help in resolving the problem. Does anyone have contact information for Rick Mcgarry.
Sorry Al, I can’t help. I discovered this myself just recently, and this post is my response. Of course I’ll update you with any news.)
I commented briefly on Gavito dancing Pugliese above, and found several links to statements he made about tango. I also found a link to a book, also available as a download and translated into English a few years ago, based on his recollections and on taped conversations in his final years. He died in 2005.
Of course the book is his recollections, his version, but it gave me something of a new perspective. I always thought he grew up with tango, but it seems clear that this was only partly true. Tango was something he grew into. Most of the ‘older generation’ were born around 1935, turning 13 in 1948 when the predominant dance was still tango, but Gavito was born in 1942, which means that he was 13 in 1955. Although tango was still everywhere, the predominant new culture was rock ‘n' roll, and jive was his first passion: his teenage dance was to Bill Haley and Chubby Checker, and to jazz. ‘Gavito was an impressive dancer: quick, agile, likeable, elegant.’ He grew up as a jazz dancer with a bit of tango and the tango slowly came to predominate after that.
But above all Gavito was a dancer. He danced everything he could, jive, tango, cumbia, folk, latin, flamenco, swing, tap, cumbia, zamba, all forms of social dance. Later he formed companies that travelled the world giving stage performances of a wide range of South American dance, but tango became the highlight. He could dance fast, but claims he never hurried. But as he got older he found himself drawn back to the social tango culture of Buenos Aires, the culture of his parents’ generation, and he slowed down until he became known as ‘the motionless dancer’. ‘Tango is what happens between steps’ he said. His dance and his views on tango expressed that older culture.
He claims to have had teachers of tango – Miguel Caló the musician and Julián Centeya the poet – rather than dance teachers, but he tells a great story about advice given him by ‘Old Márquez’ from Pompeya. ‘I never forgot it... At one point when he was sitting down and I danced past him, he pulled on my jacket and said, ‘Kid, with tango, you have to wait.’ I didn’t know what he meant or why he said it to me. Three years later, I met him when I went dancing in Almagro. I saw him and went up to him and said, ‘Maestro...’ He interrupted me and said, ‘Have you come to ask me what to wait for?’ I was taken aback. What was I supposed to wait for? ‘For the music to reach you and not for you to chase after the music.’
He had a lifetime experience of dance in general, spoke a number of languages from his travels, and was very articulate. As a result he became something of an ambassador for tango, and his teaching was greatly valued. A recollection of his classes in Toronto between 1995 and 2000 gives a good flavour of this. He says: ‘When I am on stage, I play the buffoon. Do not mimic me on the dance floor’ and adds: ‘In Argentina you won’t see people doing a lot of steps. In a dance, three steps is too much.’
There’s also an excellent interview with him from the same period, with a lot of insight into the dance, and an outline of his life.
‘Gavito: A good tango dancer is one who listens to the music. R: Is that the only criteria? Gavito: Yes. We dance the music, not the steps.’
He was a teacher who taught dancing, rather than dance steps. He spent some time in London (he was married to a ballerina from Scotland) and organised a milonga in the 1990s and taught regularly here. It amazes me to think there was a time when you could go to a milonga in London and be greeted by Gavito, while the ladies could expect a dance with him. The current worldwide popularity and spread of tango owes much to him. & he also raised the profile of the older generation of dancers - 'El Flaco' Dany, Osvaldo and Coca, 'El Nene' Masci, Tete, Puppy Castello - by inviting them to dance at his Buenos Aires milongas.
It’s unwise to try to summarise a whole life, particularly one as varied as that of Gavito, in a few paragraphs based on partial evidence. I hope I haven’t misrepresented him.
Many of the available videos are of Gavito 'playing the buffoon', but some of the more recent videos of classes, particularly with Maria Plazaola, are excellent, such as this one. Probably the best is the famous 'Nobody can teach you the feeling' video, a good flavour of the dancer and the teaching.
Carlos Gavito class-nobody can teach you the feeling, http://prishepov.ru, archive video, tango - YouTube
I’ve edited the earlier post on Alberto Dassieu, changing the embedded video for another I preferred. And soon after I wrote it I discovered that several of the videos I linked to were unavailable in France. I hope some clips Alberto and Paulina are available there: it’s most likely a copyright issue with Pugliese’s music. Fortunately that’s not a problem here.
In any case, that post was incomplete. I started writing about dancing to Pugliese and found myself writing about Alberto. But Alberto didn’t only dance Pugliese, and of course he wasn’t the only person of his generation to dance Pugliese. The orquesta continued to play as much as possible, despite government persecution of Pugliese himself through much of the lifetime of Alberto’s generation. Pugliese was a hero for many, he stood for freedom at a dark time, and was imprisoned for his political views. You couldn’t expect a quiet life, perhaps you couldn’t even expect a life if you were openly communist in South America in the 1970s – 80s. He was brave and he survived.
It was a great pleasure to find a few clips of Pugliese danced by Alberto’s contemporaries. I hope there are more, as dancing to Pugliese is an important topic! I’d really like to find more, but I think the few I’ve linked here give a good idea of how Pugliese is danced by the generation that once danced live to the orquesta.
First, Beba Pugliese with Jorge Firpo. Beba was Pugliese’s daughter, growing up with his music, with the orquesta rehearsing in the house. She still directs her own orquesta from the piano, like her father, and she also dances. Here are Beba Pugliese and Jorge Firpo. & here she is directing the Orquesta Beba Pugliese from the piano in La Yumba.
The late Enriqueta Kleinman with Nestor La Vitola dance to Pugliese's Don Augustin Bardi. There are several other good clips of Nestor La Vitola dancing Pugliese with other partners, all well worth checking out.
Gavito danced Pugliese a lot, but sadly most clips are of his show dance, although he came from much the same background as Ricardo Vidort and other tangueros of that generation. I think I once found a very indistinct clip of Gavito dancing in a milonga in Club Gricel, but mostly you’ll see Gavito and partner on stage in a near-horizontal line. This clip shows him dancing with a very young-looking Maria Plazaola, perhaps around 2002 when she started to dance with him and before he fell ill. It’s a class demo to Pugliese, showing class material, and probably the nearest to how they might have danced in a milonga.
But my favourite Pugliese clip is of Ismael Heljalil dancing in Lo de Celia. It’s particularly valuable as it shows Pugliese danced in a crowded milonga, Pugliese in the real world, if you regard the milonga as the real world of tango. It’s marvellous how they move in a limited space as a single unit, inseparable from the music, echoing in dance its sinuous line and energy, rising and falling back. There’s no ‘style’, no decoration, to get in the way of dance, there’s just music, a couple, and fluent, calm, energetic movement. It’s minimal, intense and beautiful. Dancing the music, not the steps! & certainly the closest I’ve found to one-metre Pugliese.
Monica Paz is one of a few Buenos Aires-based tango teachers whose aim is to teach people to dance tango - rather than to teach a lot of tango steps. It's not necessarily the same thing. In fact it's probably a whole lot easier to teach steps since that's mechanical learning, learning by rote.
Monica has spent much time in the milongas for many years, and has learned by dancing with a great many older-generation dancers, many of whom she's interviewed on her website. She also speaks good English! Not to be missed.
SEPTEMBER 2017: London, Bristol, Saarbrücken, Antwerp, Hamburg.
United Kingdom from September 4th to 13th:
Date Location Venue Event Time
SEPT. 6 BRISTOL Tango West Technique Class 5:00 to 6:00 pm
SEPT. 6 BRISTOL Tango West Tango Workshop 6:30 to 8:00 pm
SEPT. 6 BRISTOL Tango West Milonga Workshop 8:15 to 9:45 pm
SEPT. 7 LONDON Embrace Tango Guided practica 9:00 to 10:00 pm
SEPT. 8 LONDON Technique Class 7:30 to 9:00 pm
SEPT. 9 LONDON Light Temple 5:30 to 7:00 pm
SEPT. 9 LONDON Light Temple Intermediate Class 7:30 to 8:30 pm
SEPT. 10 LONDON Pavadita Intermediate Class 7:30 to 8:30 pm
SEPT. 11 LONDON Technique Class 7:30 to 9:00 pm
Technique Classes: Pre-registration required, first come, first served.
Private Lessons in London: Contact to Brigitte: email@example.com – 07818 808 711
Saarbrücken, Germany, Sept. 13th through 20th
Date Location Venue Event Time
SEPT. 14 SAARBRÜCKEN Tanzstudio Fortuna PractiMilonguero 18:00 to 19:00 SEPT. 14 SAARBRÜCKEN Tanzstudio Fortuna Tango is an Embrace Workshop 19:00 to 20:15
It's so rare that something sounds too good to be true and is neverthless true.
From February 2018 the Norwegian budget airline is starting scheduled non-stop flights by Dreamliner from London to Buenos Aires. It will take about 13 hours, which is amazing. Even more amazing - outside peak holiday times the cost is under £600... Just be aware it'll cost another £25 to put a bag in the hold, and you still won't get anything to eat, but it's still much faster and cheaper than anything else that flies. Booking is already open.
Pugliese isn’t easy. It's often more complex than other tango, and we don't hear it so much. One tanda a night if you’re lucky. Late Pugliese was composed and played more for listening than for dancing. He had a long career: he was just 19 when he had a hit with Recuerdo in 1925, and he was invited to perform at the Colon Opera House after the fall of the military in December 1985.
I was dancing Pugliese with a friend recently, and we started talking. ‘I remember a visit to one of the milongas in Buenos Aires’ she said, ‘and I danced to Pugliese with a local guy. It was incredible. We hardly seemed to move more than a metre or so, but it seemed that all the complexity and emotion of the music was in that one metre. At that time Pugliese was the opportunity for the wildest dancing in London, so this experience really stayed with me.’
I looked at YouTube for examples of one-metre Pugliese. There are plenty of teachers’ demos, exaggerated performances on empty dance floors. I also came across Pugliese’s milonga for Fidel Castro, which I’d never heard before, politically a dangerous composition given the time and place. And I came across some amazing dancing too. It was wonderful to remember again just how marvellous the late Alberto Dassieu was. A teacher, yes, but he danced demos as a dancer in a milonga. Watching him in these clips you could almost sense invisible couples around him, denying and then opening spaces as he dances among them, lost in the music with his partner, his wife Paulina. It’s so great to remember them enjoying evenings in an over-crowded El Beso, dancing one-metre Pugliese on a packed-out floor. Of course there wouldn't have been much point in filming it, there was nothing much to watch, but it was obviously very satisfying emotionally. Here they are performing in Centro Leonesa in 2008.
Alberto and Paulina's Tango Workshop in Waterloo, Ontario, September 2010 - YouTube
This is slightly different, a demo during a workshop. The feeling of intimacy and tenderness is so clear. 'Muy bien', as he says quickly at the end. There are several other clips of the couple giving demos in milongas, but this seems the clearest and most intimate. There's also footage of them dancing Pugliese in Lujos Milonga from Marina2x4, but it's from Alberto's last years, and I don't find it easy to watch. (Incidentally, I see she uploaded a 30-minute interview with Pedro Sanchez just a few weeks ago, but only in Spanish.)
According to Tango and Chaos Alberto was the teenage protege of the Villa Urquiza maestro Luis Lemos in the late 1940s. More than any other dancer of his generation I find his dance looks taught, even ‘drilled’, unlike the more casual-looking dance of his peer group. I get a sense of an entire system, a social code that includes posture, movement and sensibility, feeling for the music as well as attitude to a partner and to everyone else in the milonga, to society. His dance itself is mannered and still instinctive, intuitive and absolutely precise, full of deep respect, and equally full of enjoyment. Granted he’d danced to Pugliese all his life, which helps! But the movements he and his partners, whether his wife or a student, make, whether on a crowded floor or an otherwise empty studio, are precise, relaxed and at the same time quite formal, and always inextricably part of the music. There's a brief biography of Alberto in Todotango.
From watching Alberto’s dances I get the sense of how significant and how wide, culturally, the tango tradition was. He was a great teacher too, and I think there’s everything to be learned from watching and enjoying these few clips we’re so lucky to have. & perhaps the most hospitable, open-hearted and encouraging person I’ve had the good fortune to meet.
’It’s so crowded tonight’ said my partner. I glanced around. At a guess there was room for twice as many couples. ‘Not really crowded’ I replied. ‘It’s just that many people use a lot of space.’ I remembered dancing – trying to dance – on a heaving floor at Cachirulo in El Beso, when it was underground-like and really hard to move at all. Likewise at Salon Canning, a larger floor that could be very densely packed with dancers. Then I remembered the garage photo, a milonga in someone’s garage in Buenos Aires! I don’t know how many couples, shoulder to shoulder, happily moving to the music. But where did I see it?
Miraculously it turned up a few days later in the Practicaelbeso blog. I think 15 couples are visible, but that’s only part of the floor. In a garage. It’s hard to tell just how big or small the garage is, but in any case the couples are very close together, and they all look happy!
In turn, this reminded me of a wonderful London milonga, Tango al Fresco, ‘tango in the park’, and how, very sadly, it’s ceased to be run. To cut a long story short it relied on a wooden floor that could be packed away when not in use, and a group of volunteers who worked to set it up in Regent’s Park in June and July. It was very popular, an al fresco tango picnic twice yearly, and non-profit-making as the money taken went to planting trees in the park. The floor was a bit bigger than most garage floors (it had to be stored in a garage when not in use) but it could get tightly packed. & because there was often so little room, dancing had to be close and tidy. It was a pleasure to dance alfresco under the trees with such a crowd, and many of us miss it a lot. I briefly checked out photos of bandstands in the London parks to see if they could serve as milongas , but they don't look big enough. Dancing in small spaces isn’t entirely unknown to London tango.
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