Dancing to Piazzolla


Watching videos of some milongas in Buenos Aires is mesmerizing for me. The music and dancing are beautiful generally, but, especially with some of the more crowded traditional milongas, if the camera angle is just right, you can see the mass of people moving counter-clockwise as one flowing, beautiful, multi-legged organism. Each couple is doing something different, but they are within the music together, with the rest of the floor. Some dancers call this "flow". When you've felt it on the dance floor, there's nothing else like it. It requires a high level of floorcraft and a certain willingness to not stand out - if that makes sense.

Within the flow, my partner and I can relax a little, be soothed by the music, each other, and the mass of bodies around us. It's deeply moving, almost meditative. Blissful. Soothing on an almost cellular level. That is the milonga experience I crave and it's so rare. I hear it's rare pretty much everywhere outside of Buenos Aires. It's a shame, because traditional tango music seems designed to create that flow - the structure of the music opens the opportunity for it. Flow is one of the three reasons, the other two being connection and the music itself, that I dance tango. Simbatango talks about the same three things in his blog post, the Three Fundamentals of Tango.

Guilty Pleasures

I know Piazzolla is considered listening music, not dancing music, by many, maybe even most, tango dancers (certainly in Buenos Aires I'm told). But when the chance affords itself, as it did last night with Austin Piazzolla Quintet playing at Esquina Tango, I can't resist, I dance.

It's challenging to say the least. Whatever you're bad at, whatever your tango weakness is, it's amplified 10 times dancing to Piazzolla because you have to do everything much more slowly, deliberately. It's exhilarating, intense, emotionally-charged - and exhausting. I couldn't do a milonga like last night's, with mostly Piazzolla, very often. As gorgeous an experience as it is - it's missing one of the essential three things I covet - the "flow". The structure and style of Piazzolla's music (and some would argue Pugliese's music s well) is not conducive to dancers finding that sort of communal, enveloping, shared experience, it seems. It's a different animal altogether. There are exceptions. There are some songs that fall outside of "Traditional" or "Golden Age" tango that seem to also be conducive to connection and flow on the pista - I think those might vary from community to community.

The only way I have been able to describe the different feeling, for me anyway, is that it feels a little bit like going to an elegant costume party. It's exciting and mysterious, adventurous - but (again for me) not relaxing. Not as soul-soothing. Beautiful - but in a different way. I love dancing to Piazzolla and Pugliese and Neotango/alternative tango etc - they push my dancing in new directions, explore different territory. But the feelings and experiences I have with most pieces in those categories of music are fundamentally different than what I go to dance tango (socially) for. It's a wonderful dance experience, but not so wonderful a tango experience. I'm not trying to weigh in on the what is and what is not genuine/authentic/real/legitimate tango here -I'm only trying to describe how the different music feels to me. Which is all I can ever do really.

So now, while I take my ibuprofen, nurse my sore feet, and drink my tea - I'm settling into some Di Sarli, then later, some D'Arienzo, or Calo.


happyseaurchin said...

i love dancing to piazzolla
though it is definitely more demanding

it is operatic
and requires a large range
from fine sensitivity
to monumental surges of energy

tango can occur
but it requires a very forgiving partner
and an almost carefree attitude

it's like driving in the dark at up to 70 mph

Anonymous said...

"it's like driving in the dark at up to 70 mph"

that's captures it exactly - frightening yet exhilarating.

Quarto Stato said...

Happy to find your blog.

I agree dancing to traditional tango is completely different from dancing to Piazzola or any of the tango music of the past fifty years.

NeoTango & Tango Nuevo are simply different dance & musical forms. Granted, they do retain much of the the same structure. But, there appeal is to modern sensibility.

Its truly different personas that are attracted to the different genres. Alvin Alley & Martha Graham may have waltzed at some time in their lives. But, they found themselves in modern dance.

I love dancing to Piazzola with my partners eyes shut, resting on my shoulder.

Quarto Stato said...

I love dancing to Piazzola, with my partners head resting on my shoulder and her eyes closed.

NeoTango & Tango Nuevo are not for everyone. But, neither is pre-fifties tango.

Its really a matter of what means something to you. I see the tango as a matter of interpreting the music and expressing that to your partner.

Alvin Alley & Martha Graham probably had a hard time interpreting Strauss. But, they were quite comfortable with Coltraine. It all has to do with your personal sensibilities.