Saturday, April 7, 2012

Tango in Catania-Feel the rhythm

When the bus left me somewhere near the center of Catania, my first sight were the old, almost destroyed buildings, polluted air and dirty streets; it was difficult not to make the comparison with Latin America. Of course few minutes after walking around I was already overwhelmed by the countless beautiful spots of the city. It was clear to me that Catania had thousand ways to surprise you. It wasn't only the breathtaking monuments, but the way these merged with the people and the atmosphere of the city which is full of life. Later in the afternoon having some beers with a friend in a beautiful small square at Cona, we were observing the traffic on the streets. Cars and scooters moving constantly as living organism, never stopping, just filling the empty spaces, mixed with pedestrians, parked cars and an endless list of other obstacles that can be found on the street. Suddenly I made the very cliche comment: 'Oh man they really drive like crazy here' and he made the discussion again interesting with this very clever answer: 'You have to feel the rhythm of the traffic, otherwise you just go on foot'.
His words came back to me later at the milonga. Tango is all about feeling the rhythm and fitting in... The rhythm of the music, the partner and the space, a completely non-linear process that needs brain capacity but most important, acute senses. And the Catanians they know very well how to do this, because life for them is not only what you are and believe, but also reacting constantly to a fluid environment. They are connected with this ever-moving city, dispersing in its narrow streets, interacting with each other, constantly receiving stimulations and responding by instinct. And while the numerous monuments reminds them about their past, an active volcano nearby also makes a clear statement that nothing is to be taken for granted. As a result, it was not surprising to me that the milongas in Catania have a similar magic and frenetic rhythm.
The first day I arrived at the milonga early. Many people weren't exactly polite, you could immediately sense the strong character around, even though after starting to talk a little bit the sweet voices and the smiles were honest and generous. When more people started to showed up it was a revelation. It was an atmosphere that if you are not used to, has a paralyzing effect... One that I have experienced only in some other places in Italy and of course, Buenos Aires. If you are not confident, fully immersed and concentrated, you should just forget it. People dance 100% with their mind, body and soul.
I have written before about tango in Italy and I don't want to repeat my previous post, but Catania was even beyond my experiences in the North of Italy. Tangeros don't go to the milonga just to spend their time or fight their fears and loneliness. They are there! You touch them and you feel the energy and their feelings. If they like dancing with you, you will experience it 100%, same as if they don't. And if you are not honest or you don't dance with your heart they will just turn their back like you don't exist. There is no space for well educated, fine behaviors and manners, it's what you have inside what matters and what you can only use. And just like they want their pizza, espresso and pasta to be perfect like it has been for decades, similarly they will not take your tango unless it tells them a story...
The other impressive thing is that it has been a long time that I enjoyed so much watching people dance. One important characteristic is that tango in Italy is social and even though Catania is smaller than Hannover where I live now, there were at least twice the amount of people on the dance floor. Moreover, unlike most places in Northern Europe, young Italians are very interested in tango and they give a completely different vibe. But it's not only quantity and age that make the difference, it's the character...
In the chaotic, dirty streets and between the weathered buildings of Catania, every now and then a bakery, or a barber shop shows up, looking like an art gallery. It is not like the typical North European thing of keeping things clean and in order, it's even beyond. It is exactly this stylistic touch that is the magic of Italy and that makes you stare something for hours without being able to understand what exactly lured you. Similarly, you can find this magic touch in many people, on the way they smile, their eyes, their voice, or the way they make contact; milongeros in Catania have this element of pure artistic creation, beyond perfection. It's not only that they are stylish and look good, nor about how they move (and they really do!), but it's the sensitivity and the musicality. I believe that milongas in Italy are unique in Europe for the possibility to have so many unique interpretations of the music in the same room. So many people that open a window to see tango or milonga with a different way.
So, if somebody asks me how was dancing in Catania I reply 'once you feel the rhythm, it's magic'!

1 comment:

sandra said...

he's dancing ! :>)
Italy, here I come.