Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tango from Brussels to Iberia

I am writing this post in the train, travelling from Marseille to Granada, aiming to finally reach home at Faro. This is the final part of a trip that started from the Brussels tango festival. It was the first time I was visiting the city and thus dancing there, while the festival was completely international confirming some old, well known theories… (which are..)
• short people dance better! (even though I am medium height!)
• people from northern countries have difficulties touching each other.
• however, some of them can dance very well!
• Parisiens can be extremely snob…
• people from the Netherlands can be crazy in a very interesting way!
• Tango is becoming really international with so many different interpretations and approaches, a fact that makes it even more interesting! (and addictive.. mmmm!)

Starting with the comment regarding short people, this goes to the Argentinean professional dancers which are as fabulous, as … short! I am talking about the couples that impressed me in this festival, the perfect Pablo Vilarraza and Dana Frigolli and the playful Oracio Godoy and Cecilia Garcia. All short, flexible, musical and so charismatic! I wonder if we have any chance to become so smooth, if it is a matter of hard work or there is a limit there!
About the northerners, well, having danced REEEEALLY close embrace most of my tango years, I always find difficulty in the beginning to dance with people who don’t enjoy and feel comfort by hugging others! I understand that for cultures where contact is completely out of everyday life this is can be an issue, especially when people pour sweat on others (!!), but well… we do it in the south and it doesn’t hurt! What happens is that at first you ‘invite’ your partner to come close (I never grab anyone but I leave him ‘space’) and you feel her uncomfortness. This is already a bad starting point.... You try to dance more open but then you are under-qualifying yourself as this is not your tango, not the way you want to express it… Anyway, given that at such festivals people in general dance well (which is the most important) this can be overpassed. On the other hand some adaptation is necessary as posture, definition of axes, interpretation and several others when the bodies break up….

Continuing commenting on my remarks, I have to admit on the other hand that in that ‘family’ of tango dancers from the North (I say family as it is the same ‘tribe’ of French, Belgians, Swiss, Dutch, Germans, etc going to one tango gathering to the other..) there is a style developed which is very elaborate, light, technical and creative. There is less passion according to my humble opinion, but a lot of musicality, technique and improvisation; it is a more mental rather than emotional way to do it. And on top of that everything remains ‘fresh and clean’!!!
And that brings us to the famous world wide snobbism of the people from Paris. Guys, it is true that some of you dance very well, but RELAAAX! You are not even the best to act like that… I have been around a lot, as an unknown tango traveller and I have seen and danced with many excellent dancers (thank goodness…). Nobody ever made me feel as intensely as some tangeras from Paris that I am giving some kind of harsh exams, that I am not good enough and I shouldn’t be there at the first place. Even girls dancing tango one year have this attitude of tango divas, sitting in the milongas and saying no to the people they don’t know, in order to ‘protect’ themselves from the ‘bad guys’ who will ruin their perfect technique.
As I have written above, I have danced with several ‘super’ tangeras and inevitably some ‘super’ tantas have occurred several times, with better and worst dancers than me. When the first was the case, what made the tango great was not the technique, but the presence of the partner, just feeling all the energy, soul and attention to this awkward but so creative addiction we are subject to. My (again humble) opinion is that tango in the milonga should always be popular and not elitist, a social gathering as anyway good or bad is relative and to go to the extremes, even people you don’t consider good dancers can often surprise you. For all those of you who feel so lonely at the top, why don’t you start giving tango shows and let us common living beings enjoy getting together?

In the other extreme (in the good way) have been several Dutch girls (or at least girls living in the Netherlands) I have met in several milongas. These people have something that completely liberates them from clichés, dos and don’ts and makes interaction with them a very relaxing and at the same time dynamic and creative process. In Brussels I had one really amazing tanta (if not the best of the 5 days) with a Dutch girl which was so present and so communicative that I was sure she was Argentinean. In fact it was really funny as between the fantastic tangos (I was starting to lose it and getting dizzy..) we were trying to define the language in which we would talk. As her French was not good she was trying to speak to me in Spanish, with her thinking I was Belgian or French probably and me confirming that she was a super tangera from Buenos Aires!. In the end we realized that none had any ‘exotic’ origin and that English was the best choice… Tango was great though!
Finally, about the internationality there are many things already mentioned above. Different styles, interpretations, all this orgasm of workshops and festivals make the tango scene very dynamic. In this festival I saw for the first time (in my life) coloured people dance very good tango, while I am looking forward to meet again the very funny and creative 2 m tangero (so interesting to watch him dance…) and the so charismatic (and polite indeed) young dancer from Russia!
All the above make Brussels festival a good choice for international tango experiences. In general the festival was very well organized with good quality professional dancers, courses and demonstrations. On top of that, the venues for the milongas were really fabulous, extremely cosy and elegant and the only drawback is the same that applies for all the festivals of this scale… They are too big and rather cold… Meeting people and making ‘friends’ is a little bit difficult as there are too many people in such a big space and the ambience hardly ever warms up. On the other hand the feeling of being part of something so big and well organised has a charm on its own…
The train is arriving in Granada in few minutes and my trip to Faro continues by motorbike!! Hope to see you all my friends at the Lisbon festival end of May!

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