(Originally appeared on Tango In Toronto in an interview with Lydia)
In this blog’s last post, I asked Toronto’s Isabella Szymonowicz why dancers should experience the teachings of Buenos Aires tango instructor Alicia Pons when she visits our city early in March. In her reply Isabella included a video of the two of them dancing. Knowing that this blog’s readers have varying levels of tango knowledge and varying levels of ability to relate to a video, I asked Isabella to put in down in writing what is happening in the video. Here is her response to that challenge.
Alicia was asked last September to do a series of classes at La Milonguita which is a popular milonga a tiny bit out of the downtown core. The idea of the class was to do something simple, elegant and with the music.
During this clip Alicia and I are demonstrating the concept of simple weight change as an actual step. At about 28 seconds she verbalizes that we are only changing weight. The follower is simply walking backwards and the leader (Alicia in this case) is walking on one side of the follower and then on the other side of the follower. With great fluidity and ease the leader keeps hips level, leaves feet a bit open at times, and changes weight when he (the leader) hears it in the music. This is all done gently and with great precision. It sounds and looks so simple but really it is challenging.
The soft quality of the steps here follow the beautiful stunning music of this Osvaldo Fresedo piece with Ricardo Ruiz vocals. The music and lyrics bring forth a mood of gentle, sad, long forgotten promises never to be brought forth. The marriage of music, dance, partner, fuses into something incredibly haunting and unforgettable.
Despues del Carnaval by Osvaldo Fresedo with Ricardo Ruiz vocals.
… Fue una noche que
lloraban los violines
un triste tango de
mientas la luna plateaba los jardines
un beso ardiente en la noche palpito.
Mas el encanto
de aquellas horas,
al morir Momo
Y con mi dolor
LLore la muerte
de mi ilusion….
Another beautiful example of tango as danced in the milongas with simplicity and weight changes is this clip of Cacho Dante. He and Alicia performed and taught together.
Isabella’s conversation with Alicia continues…
1. How do you think you can help people in the North American community understand tango more?
Alicia: By showing my heart and sentiment and putting a lot of energy in the classes.
2. What would you say to women who want to come to your workshops but are worried about not having a partner?
Alicia: Come anyways to learn, we have the possibility to rotate partners.
3. What do you think are the qualities in a dancer that most milongueros in Buenos Aires look for?
Alicia: To have passion for the music and dance. To let go of the body so that it can “express” and not think too much if it is good or bad to let whatever happen.
4. What would you like to share with us that we may not know?
Alicia: Tango is to feel, not to do. The music takes us away, the connection is the most important and this is intimate, not public. It is not to show others how you dance but to tell your partner how well you feel.
Often when a tango teacher visits Toronto we don’t have the opportunity to get to know them, beyond the context of a class or workshop. We’d like to “introduce” you to Alicia through a series of conversations that she has had with Isabella. Enjoy…
1. What brought you first to tango?
Alicia: My parents met while dancing tango. My family, aunts and uncles all danced. I remember dancing as a small child on my fathers’ feet. Even when my mother was pregnant with me I danced while in her belly. Tango is in my blood. In my adolescence I got away from it but again it came back into my life at the age of twenty when I was at a party and saw a couple dancing.
2. What was the reaction of your friends and family outside of tango when you first started?
Alicia: They have always encouraged me and now they feel proud of what I have been able to do.
3. What was the cultural climate like when you started tango and how has it changed over the years?
Alicia: The thing that has changed the most is that now it has a commercial side to it that before did not exist. Everybody danced because they enjoyed it. Now many things have appeared, taxi tango dancers, lots of teachers etc.
4. What do people in Argentina think of people that visit Buenos Aires mainly for tango..tango tourists?
Alicia: They can’t believe that tango attracts lots of tourists to come to Buenos Aires, and that they stay two or three weeks or more “ONLY TO DANCE”.
5. What was the most significant thing you learned from Graciela Gonzalez?
Alicia: Graciela was my model, she gave me the technique, her elegance. The way that she moves her feet gave me the inspiration to create my own expression.
6. How did you enjoy teaching with Cacho Dante?
Alicia: With Cacho we had a lovely school, he always respected my concepts and I always respected his. I always felt good teaching classes with him.
7. Being a world class dancer and teacher puts you in the spotlight often. What is the most important thing you would like people to learn from you?
Alicia: Really I would like to transmit the sentiment of dancing, the connection with the partner and with the music more so than the “steps”. I always say that “tango happens inside you”.
It’s late, almost the end of the milonga Cachirulo El Beso 2010. Swirling shapes move around me in the line of dance. Close, open embrace encircle me. So many friends from far and wide abound. Different styles, maximum floorcraft. Moving as a group, we all progress forward, dance, chat, enjoy. Every single moment is pleasurable and joyful. The music enters our bodies and we share a communal affection for the milonga. Here we love, hate, laugh, cry and sometimes even fall in love.
This video was taken at Cachirulo (Saturday) now at Villa Malcolm (originally Maipu 444) in Buenos Aires August 2011.
The music is by Carlos di Sarli with Roberto Ruffino vocals. This milonga is from the Golden Age entitled “La mulateada “.
What an incredibly fun Saturday night that was. I had gone out for dinner with my friend Graciela to a parrilla in Palermo where we had dinner and enjoyed a few glasses of Malbec.
We were feeling pretty good when we walked into Cachirulo. Hector (the organizer) asked me if I was going to dance (demo) because it was my Birthday. I said sure.
So very quickly I had to find a partner to dance with. Luckily Jose Luis, a friend of mine, who is a great dancer and teacher, cabeceo’d me to dance a tanda and then I had the opportunity to ask him if he would like to do the demo with me. Happily he agreed. I think we had only danced one milonga together at El Beso on a Sunday.
Anyway, the place was packed, there was definately a party atmosphere going on and mainly all the best dancers in Buenos Aires were there. We had a lot of fun doing the demo but were equally happy to relax afterward and enjoy the rest of the night at the milonga.