Un tal Gavito

"If I could suggest a theme for our walk it would be : Tango es entre paso y paso. Tango is between one step and the next. Steps are not tango, steps are memory and choreography. Tango can never be in the things that are said. It is in the improvisation. The steps learned in dance schools are not improvisation, they are choreography. Small choreographies, brief ones. Then you learn how to connect one figure to another but one thing is still missing – tango. There is no step."

Gavito in “El Farolito”, Oct. 2003






Almost all of Carlos Gavito's dancing that I had seen until this past week, was stage tango. Choreographed, elegant, dramatic. For all the drama, his performances were still more "contained" than many other stage performances. What few clips on YouTube I had seen of his teaching gave me a glimpse of another side of his dancing. Every move was as elegant, and yet perfectly efficient, as it could be made - for his partner and for himself. His movements looked smooth, controlled, yet powerful, and so precise.

So began my quest for DVD's of his teaching. Every time I would find a site that sold the DVD's, they would respond that they were out of stock. Finally, I found the 3 DVD set at The Tango Store. For around $50, I got all three DVD's and the arrived in a few days.

From the cover: "Un tal Gavito" (A certain Gavito): "a different way of dancing tango. Carlos Gavito and Marcela Durán will take us to their particular world, surrounding us in their embrace, suggesting with their looks, telling us with their feet that tango is a three minute romance. They will show us that technique and emotion also are united, that the intention is feeling and not steps... that dancing is the same as loving."

I would say that I wish I had had these DVD's earlier, but I'm not sure they would have done me as much good as they're doing now. I would have been watching them without a context for understanding the movements, and certainly for understanding the unique qualities of those movements that set him apart. Simple, powerful, graceful. Stillness when one should be still, fluid movement when the music asks for it. Presence.

Presence is important. There are a few dancers I've met who have it. Yet every time I try to talk about it, or explain what I mean by it, I sound like a character in Star Wars. A disturbance in the force, er... milonga.

When I had a lesson with Darryl Gaston, a student of Gavito's, the first thing I noticed was his presence. In truth, I wouldn't have been able to ignore it. His presence, his "being there" filled the room. When someone is so completely present in the moment, so powerfully still, you can't help but feel it. I can only speculate how much of that would be Gavito's influence.

There is a sense of that controlled, compelling power even in something as detached as his performances on DVD. What can appear as simple theatrics in watching Gavito on stage, looks and feels completely different when watching him teach movements appropriate to a crowded milonga, and then explaining his experiences. It can never be as good as it would have been to study with him, but I'm grateful to have this much.

Thank goodness for subtitles, because Gavito actually speaks quite a bit about his philosophy on walking, on dancing small in the milongas, on movements that are more comfortable, and yet supremely elegant on the dance floor. And for someone who was known for intensely dramatic performances, his manner and the details he shares, his reasons for doing something one way, rather than another, make his instruction very accessible. His philosophy is at once romantically idealistic, and pragmatic.

I'm so happy to have found these and I highly recommend them.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great post - thanks for letting me know - I'm going to get me a copy too.

AmpsterTango said...

I've had these videos for a few years now.

The one (and most significant) thing I learned from these DVD's (that I remember to this day), was a quote from Marcela Duran. She said...

"Too many dancers will want to embellish.They will do this, and do that (she demonstrates). This does not look good... In simplicity, there is beauty"

tangocherie said...

Those instructional DVDs are the only ones I can recommend to our students.
The other ones teach steps and choreography, not how to dance tango.

Whether on stage or off, Gavito was an amazing presence.

He was my teacher too.

Mari said...

Anon - you're so welcome - let me know what you think of them!

Ampster - I think Marcela's technique contributions alone would have made the DVDs worth the price!

Cherie - Glad to know you recommend them as well. :) It is very gratifying to get so much instruction on technique - as well as context for a lot of the movements. I find watching so many of the milongueros and milongueras inspiring, but Gavito . . . for me, he was just something else entirely. *sigh* I wish I had started tango earlier...