Friday, March 01, 2013

My Buenos Aires Mentor's magic . . . and a luscious performance

I've finally nestled comfortably into my 2-month home in Buenos Aires! When I arrived last Tuesday evening, the apartment owner's mother, Sol, welcomed me warmly. The next day Sol gave me a little tour of the neighborhood.  My luggage arrived a day later, so that night I went to a milonga!  I had reached out to reconnect with my dear friend Maria Teresa Lopez, the woman who had taught me all about Buenos Aires tango life on my first visit 15 years ago, and she suggested we meet at this milonga. Here I am in the photo on the left at milonga "Nueva Chique" (chee-KAY). 

On my first night out, I could have gone where most of the foreign tangueros visiting the city went: to the fashionable, world-renowned milonga, "Niño Bien". I chose instead the "non-touristic", porteño milonga, because that's the kind of experience I prefer. ("Porteños" are natives of Buenos Aires.)  Just like old times, my sitting at Maria Teresa's table attracted the best milongueros in the room to promptly invite me to dance!  Once I had danced with a few of the best, many others invited me with a gaze and a nod from a distance.*  Sometimes I politely averted my eyes to decline, and sometimes I simply smiled my acceptance. I even danced one tanda with the man who had been Maria Teresa's teacher long ago!  I got lots of opportunity to practice speaking Castellano between tangos.  I felt wonderful.

* For my readers who are not familiar with this traditional mode of inviting, it's called "mirada y cabeceo". 

Across the room from us was a table with 5 women who had been guests at Maria Teresa's tango house several years earlier, and they waved to her.  Maria Teresa told me they were all good dancers, but she observed that this evening they did not dance at all.  Meanwhile, I was able to "hit the ground running" and dance as soon as I chose to, even on my first evening.  Sitting at Maria Teresa's table has that magical effect. 

As much as I danced that night at "Nueva Chique", I had just one particularly special tanda; it was with Maria Teresa's friend Ramon, who transmitted incredible feeling in his tango. I felt a constant, warm vibration through my sternum, and though we chatted and joked lightly between tangos, it stirred emotion in me. I was surprised that no one else had given me such connection. Maria Teresa said the same thing happened to her that night - she too felt it only with Ramon.  

Wanting me to have an even better time, she invited me to meet her on Wednesday (tonight!) at her favorite milonga, "Lo de Celia" (Celia's Place), where she says the dancing is the best in the city, and where we'll meet many milongueros as special as Ramon. I know that if I'm at Maria Teresa's table, I get to shortcut the usual days or weeks of proving oneself, and I can enjoy the pleasure of porteño tango right away. Having the "Maria Teresa" advantage at my first few milongas was not in my plan, but I embrace the gift gladly!  

We left "Nueva Chique" early that first night to go out for dinner and finally have the chance to talk.  Here I am with Maria Teresa Lopez at the end of our meal in a wonderful Spanish fish restaurant.  The place was packed even at 11pm with a warm, lively crowd that created a wonderful atmosphere. The bottle of "Lopez" malbec we had ordered in her honor reminded me of our dinners together years ago. I made a toast to "my Buenos Aires tango mentor". The restaurant staff so kindly delayed closing, to let us sip our limoncellos and enjoy our conversation uninterrupted.

We met again over the weekend to start brainstorming some of the ways we can combine our talents to create an exciting project. This time we had dinner at the historic "Cafe de Los Angelitos", named for two of its legendary patrons named "Angel": Tango orchestra leader Angel D'Agostino   and singer Angel Vargas  (one of my absolute favorites), who used to meet at the cafe' to compose tangos! Later when the cafe' declined and its owners considered converting it into a shopping mall, tango greats of the day picketed on the street corner in front to keep it alive, and "Los Angelitos" was born. The large cafe' is now also the home of a popular tango dinner theater for tourists. We could hear the music from the show in the background as we dined.  I didn't want to see the show, but I wondered if I was sitting in Vargas' chair . . .  

I'm just getting warmed up, and I look forward to many wonderful tango nights with local tangueros and milongueros (the "old timers").

* * * * * * * 
Tango Mojo Video and Commentary of the Week

Adrian and Amanda dance to Pugliese's "Una Vez"

Just before I arrived in Buenos Aires, one of my favorite artist couples of what I call "Rose Vine Tango" (Villa Urquiza Style), Adrian and Amanda Costa, did this performance at Club Sin Rumbo. I wish I had been there, but I'm glad someone posted the video on Facebook.

Please enjoy the video, and then read my commentary about it, below.  The tango is "Una Vez", written by Osvaldo Pugliese and played by Pugliese and his orchestra, with Alberto Morán singing.  Wow. What a powerful piece!

Here's the link:


For my men readers, especially those who worry that all their walking will bore their partners, please notice how much Adrian walks in this tango, and how often and how long he pauses! Notice the solidity with which Adrian walks, which we can see so clearly toward the end, from 2:54-3:03. Notice also throughout the piece that most of his figures are very simple.  

How does Adrian make his walking and pausing interesting?  With his acute sensitivity to the music!  Notice, for example, how he's sometimes dancing to the singer, and with what precision he does that!  I recommend that you watch the video a few times to observe this and make other discoveries  about Adrian's musical interpretation.  You can develop such a quality of musical sensitivity, too.  If you're already pretty astute in your musical interpretation, you can become more precise, or more exploratory. What can YOU learn from Adrian's musicality in this piece*?

(*Note:  One of our Tango Improvisation Mastery members who has many years of tango experience, as well as a great knowledge of tango music, confessed that he's often perplexed about how to interpret pieces by Pugliese. Here Adrian's interpretation is mostly so easy to read that you could make a study of this piece for your Pugliese-interpretation research!)

And ladies, Amanda offers us a similar lesson.  Please watch the piece through again, noticing that with her steps as well as with her embellishments, she is right in the music.  A good example that encompasses both is the passage from 2:10 - 2:36. First Amanda walks in a molinete, turning Adrian who's on one foot;  it's Amanda who provides the RHYTHM here with her steps, until 2:22.  In the next part of this passage, just 5 seconds - till 2:36, she does a series of expressive embellishments, all perfectly in tune with the MELODY.  

Tangueras, YOU can aim to take more responsibility for listening carefully and interpreting the music. Be on the alert for times that you may be following passively. Putting your attention and your heart into the music, as well as into the embrace, will give you and your partner greater pleasure!

I'd like to point out one more important thing about this video for our tangueros:

Men, please go back to the passage from 2:11 to 2:19. Here Adrian turns, leading Amanda in a molinete and he is performing a "Needle", with the toe of his free left foot pointing down into the floor.  Now notice what's happening with his upper body: his "spiral" is so easy for us to see.  It's the torsion of his upper body which precedes the rest of him that leads Amanda to walk ahead of him, so that her momentum carries him around. Can you see his vertical spiral, starting with his shoulders?  We can observe a twist in the back of his jacket that results from his torsion.  

Good torsion in a giro really facilitates a beautiful molinete for the woman, and you'll need your partner to feel good in her molinete so she can help you turn!

Whether you followed the analysis, or just watched for pleasure, I hope you really enjoyed this video.

As always, I welcome your thoughts!

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