Of Margaret and the stars

"In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing when you look at the sky of
–Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry, The Little Prince

Our tango community has lost one of its mothers. Margaret, and her husband Vance, were two of the first people I met in tango. Engaging and supportive - they both helped spread the 'gospel of tango' here in Austin and nearly everywhere they travelled. I had no idea at the time, almost a year and a half ago, how much they had done to support and expand this group. If you've ever traveled here for the Austin Spring Tango Festival, then you probably saw them - welcoming everyone, checking and double-checking details, and dancing when time permitted. Margaret was a graceful and very gentle soul. She had a gift for bringing people together. She had a soothing presence in stressful situations (an essential skill when organizing events like tango festivals).

And now she's gone too soon.

I thought I would have more time with her.

That's only part of it, though. The rest of it is simply childish, selfish. I thought if I avoided thinking too much about the cancer claiming her health, that I wouldn't really lose her. Denial . . . I didn't get to say goodbye, or to say thank you. I wanted to say thank you for talking to me when I didn't know anyone at the milongas. And thank you for inviting me to participate in, and become part of, this wonderful community.

When I read the news and told my husband, he asked if I was still going to the milonga that night. I think I just stared a moment. I had to go dancing - I don't know how else to cope with things like this anymore, but to dance. What did I do before tango? I don't want to remember. When things are good, I dance. And when things are too much to bear, I dance more.

Margaret had a healing, reassuring way about her. This community shares her beautiful, welcoming spirit, and for that I am so grateful.

"Perhaps they are not the stars, but rather openings in Heaven where the
love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they
are happy."

Author Unknown

Margaret's obituary is here.
Information about her memorial at Esquina Tango June 24th, 2010 can be found here.

Gavito talks about Tango y nada mas

By request, a transcript from a talk during Gavito's San Francisco tour, 1996. Courtesy of Alberto Paz, Planet-Tango. The video embedding is disabled, but if you click on the picture it will take you to the Youtube page. Also, since there were a few places/words that were hard for me to make out, if anyone has corrections or suggestions for the transcript please email me at infinitetango(at)gmail.com.

"And I have to talk about that. Might be boring for you again, but sorry. . . But I have to say that.

"Not too long ago I read on the Internet some note about/regarding someone here in the Bay area saying, which (that) I say, and the others say (in conception?),

'because the history in tango say[s] . . . ',
'because Borges say[s] . . .',
'and because Cortazar . . '

"I don't know. I don't know who.

"'because the tango blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah . . .'

"Listen guys, I'm a milonguero. A dancer. A poet. I dance and I teach tango. I am not a historian. I am not a psychologist. I am not a psychiatrist. I'm not a [*blows raspberry*]. I teach tango and I dance tango.

"And you people, if you think because we teach tango or because we dance tango, we have to give you as well classes of philosophy, psychology, and history, you're wrong. We teach only to dance tango. What say[s] Cortazar? What say[s] Borges? As a tango dancer, I don't care. I don't care . . . not that big. Not that big. And I never will read Borges for tango. Never. I might read Carrero(?) or ___?___. But no, never Borges or Cortazar. I don't know how much they know, or they knew, about tango. I don't know. I don't care actually. I know one thing, they never dance the tango. They never went to a milonga. So I don't care. I'm caring about the people who [were] at the milonga [to] dance tango. [To those] people, I listen. They know. And tango, afterall, is simple.

"I have [a] tango here, just a little tango. It's a little piece I want you to play for me - and that is tango. That's tango - real tango."

(Una Emocion
Ricardo Tanturi orchestra, Enrique Campos)

Come and see what I bring
with this union of notes and words.
It’s a song inspired
by a dream that rocked me last night.

It’s the voice of the tangos
that can be heard on every street corner,
by those who live with this powerful emotion.
I want to sing about this beautiful sound
that is more sweet and seductive every time.

I heard it last night, wrapped in a dream…
an emotional dream of things in my past:
The house where I was born…
the window bars and the vines…
an old carousel, and a rosebush.

It’s a song with a sentimental voice…
its beat is the rhythm of my city.
It's not vulgar,
and it's not pretentious.
It’s tango... and nothing more.

Gavito: "It's tango y nada mas. Tango and nothing else. And that's the tango..."

"This is for those who use the Internet for a lot of hanky panky things, okay? If you use the Internet, use for the positive basis of tango, not negatives. Talk about the ones who dance well. Don't talk about the ones you don't like. Ignore them.

"The tango is built on [a] good basis by people who know, not by those who don't know. That's what I wanted to say. Sorry but I needed to say it here."

New Flabellas!

I was about to give up on being able to find shoes locally, and yet hearing/reading everyone's reviews about trying to obtain shoes mail-order from Argentina was pretty disheartening as well - but thanks to Monica at Esquina Tango, I finally found a pair of shoes that fit perfectly! And they're Flabellas which are not especially popular, but about the only shoes that I've been able to find that fit me very well. Sort of.

The problem is consistency. Comme il Fauts don't fit the shape of my feet, but they don't fit in consistently the same way. At least that's reassuring. I tried on 6 pair of the same size, similarly styled Flabellas, and only 1 pair fit. I've found the same problem with other brands that I've tried at festivals - even when styles are nearly identical, the same brand in the same size can fit quite differently. Very frustrating. And people have told me that getting "made to measure" shoes from several companies in Argentina aren't much more consistent.

Anyway, pictured above are my new silver and blue Flabellas, with my flower shoe clips that I'd meant to take off before photographing them, but I forgot and I'm too lazy to take more pictures of them right now lol. I wore them in practica last night and, after a full weekend of dancing, my feet weren't sore - and they aren't sore today. I can't believe my luck!
Plus, after wearing my new Flabellas, I realized why my old Flabellas were starting to hurt my feet - the soles have gotten so much softer (and thinner) compared to the new ones (and, I suspect, than they were when I originally got them). So I'm going to take the old ones to be resoled and then I'll have two pair of great fitting tango shoes! Woot!

A little tango light reading

. . . courtesy of Books.Google.com

Some texts are complete, others aren't - but there's a wealth of good reading to be had!

"The Wicked Waltz and Other Scandalous Dances" by Mark Knowles (2009)

Contemporary Readings in Social Problems By Anna Leon-Guerrero, Kristine M. Zentgraf (2008)

Tango and the political economy of passion By Marta Savigliano (1996)

Tango: The Art History of Love By Robert Farris Thompson (2006)

The tango in the United States: a history By Carlos G. Groppa (2004)

The living age, Volume 279 By Robert S. Littell (1913)

The Rotarian Mar 2000

From tejano to tango: Latin American popular music By Walter Aaron Clark (2002)

The Temptation to Tango: Journeys of Intimacy and Desire By Larry M. Sawyer, Irene D. Thomas (2005)

Tango Lover's Guide to Buenos Aires: Insights and Recommendations By Romero Migdalia Romero (2010)

National rhythms, African roots: the deep history of Latin American popular ... By John Charles Chasteen (2004)

Yoga Journal Mar-Apr 2000 - The Tao of Tango by Deirdre Guthrie

Intersecting tango: cultural geographies of Buenos Aires, 1900-1930 By Adriana J. Bergero (2008)

Something in the way she moves: dancing women from Salome to Madonna By Wendy Buonaventura (2003)

Love for Sale: A World History of Prostitution By Nils Johan Ringdal, Richard Daly (2004)

Sex & danger in Buenos Aires: prostitution, family, and nation in Argentina By Donna J. Guy (1991)
Tango in Translation: Tanz zwischen Medien, Kulturen, Kunst und Politik By Gabriele Klein (Hg.) (2009)

Whiny Ruffians and Rebellious Broads: Tango as a Spectacle of Eroticized Social Tension -- Marta E. Savigliano, Theatre Journal, Vol. 47, No. 1 (Mar., 1995), pp. 83-104. Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Tango Tools and Energy Flow

I've been trying to broaden my tango (technique) world. At the recommendation of friends and teachers online and off, I have been filling my tango tool box with musical embellishments, improving my technique for my boleos (high and low), sacadas, leg wraps, ganchos, and volcadas. I'm learning to give the energy I receive from my leader back, rather than almost absorbing it (or so it was explained to me) - so it feels a little like keeping the energy in the loop. I feel more elastic in my technique - though I'm sure there has to be a better way of describing it. At the milongas, I follow what I'm led, when there's room, including high boleos without my usual consternation. I've asked for help from teachers, watched videos, practiced, practiced, practiced.

One of the most revealing experiences I had at the last milonga was when I felt my partner "hear" a high boleo in the music. That's awkward isn't it - "I felt my partner hear" but how else can I describe it? I was turned with my back toward the wall - an empty space - so he led the boleo very big. I could feel the music, and his reaction to the music, almost coil around us and the sharp change of direction that led the boleo was like a bolt of lightening releasing the wound up tension. It was perfectly 'in the moment' of the music - the only boleo (or big move of any kind) of the tanda. It was exhilarating. Still, as beautiful and exciting as it was, and even though I followed it with all the energy he'd put in, it felt unnatural for me. Like I was playing dress-up for a minute in someone else's clothes. It felt perfectly natural in the music - not forced, just not natural for me. Maybe that's what all of this really comes down to. Some things/moves/techniques don't feel like me.

I want to feel natural at the milonga. Instead, I felt oddly conspicuous. Don't get me wrong, I did feel a bit accomplished, even graceful, but obvious. Out of the flow.

In my lessons and at practica I was really enjoying learning and practicing these great, dramatic moves. I thought that my excitement and enthusiasm would carry over into the milonga. I wondered if I would finally "get it". One of my teachers tells me that I consistently dance too small, too quiet - almost timid. I don't feel timid. Only my partners can speak to how timid I feel to them. But small and quiet keeps me in the flow where I want to be most. I can keep the energy flowing back and forth in other ways.
Karin of Joy in Motion, in her comment on my last post, made me think of things in those terms.
She wrote:
"The movement may slow or even "stop," but the energy doesn't go away. If anything it intensifies because now it's being contained in a smaller area. I think it's the same when it comes to withholding or making it smaller like what this post expressed. Especially when your partner is expecting something bigger or grander like what they normally get, doing it like this really surprises in the nicest way. Sometimes in conversation with another person you actually lower your voice instead of raising it to elicit more attentiveness and sensitivity. The truth is in the intersection/resolution of opposites."

As far as the embellishments go, the more I learn, the fewer I do lately. I've seen followers, especially in shows and demonstrations, tap out nearly every beat with their leader and it gets me wondering if there isn't an opportunity being missed. If my leader and I are both tapping out the rhythm - who is dancing the melody? I had been under the impression that, though there are no hard and fast rules in tango, the follower dances the melody. I like that feeling. That it takes both of us to express the completeness of the music. If we're both tapping out the beat - who is dancing the violins, for example?
Who is painting the silence?

Gavito and Duran: Beauty and Simplicity

Part II of Un Tal Gavito Vol 3 Review
Remarks on Waiting, Beauty and Simplicity

Gavito and Duran's comments continue, as they describe the beauty of simplified, slowed down movements and how emotion is expressed in the absence of a movement, rather than in a multitude of movements. After Gavito's remarks about intention and moving from the heart in the dance, Marcela added her own comments about the intimate conversation going on at all times, with all parts of the body, between the two dancers.

One example she takes issue with is the woman looking like she is "shining her shoes" on the man's pant leg, before the step over after the man's "sandwich". Marcela stresses almost more the caress of her own leg, "the sensuality is in the closing of the legs, with the ankle and knees touching."

In the video, embedded in the previous post, you can see the beginning of the sandwich ("el sanguchito") and Gavito's movements, in which he very lightly caresses Marcela's leg, then almost appears as though he'd caught himself doing something too intimate, and quickly pulls his foot away crossing it behind his other leg, leading her to the step over (which unfortunately isn't visible in that sequence). Later, when it's shown more fully, Marcela answers his caress with an almost tentative brush over his leg, then caressing and closing her own leg and ankle as she steps over him. The feeling is more of a denial of an impulse to do something more intimate. So the sensuality of the step comes from what is not done rather than what is done.

Marcela goes on to say, " ... a lot of women who dance, experienced or not, tend to overload the tango, overload the movement. Putting in a lot more things than the tango needs. In reality, the beauty is in the simplicity."

Finally they discuss the dialogue of glances, of facial expressions. The way "not" looking at each other can speak more than look directly at each other. The experience, the effect, the emotion, is different every time - even with the same partner and the same music, the moment can never be duplicated.
Gavito states simply, "You can't teach it. You can't lead it."

Gavito and Duran: Dance of Intentions

More from Un Tal Gavito, DVD Volume 3. I like this at least as much as the first DVD, but I think that both volumes are essential. What I liked so much about this portion is after they do their initial demonstration dance (shown in the video above), the scene changes to Gavito and Duran sitting at a small table, with Gavito smoking as usual, and they discuss the dance, the intimacy and intention of it.


This last dance was a dance of intentions, a dance of a silent language, of movements that don't exist....

It's a way of moving from the heart...

This is for me, like trying to describe music, which is an abstract thing. It's extremely difficult to express, difficult to evoke, and I think, like I said in another conversation, if music is abstract, I think poetry gets at this, and there are some beautiful tango lyrics that say this poetically, so when we dance I think we're like painters that paint with the music.

We paint on the floor, with small brush strokes, what the music says to us.

What we just danced is an emotion. That exactly what we danced, an emotion. So these things are very difficult to teach and I think that really can't teach them. I think you can feel them, and express them.

I think it is the hardest thing in the tango to really let go.

If I did [outside] what I do here on the dance floor they might put me behind bars; maybe it's too strong. But what we really wanted to do is to give free reign to the emotions and express them just as the are. This doesn't mean you have to do it like that. But if it's honest, it's from within, it may be more reserved but you get to the same thing.

A girl said to me recently, "Maestro, so if I want to feel the tango, it would be better if I close my eyes and dance?" And I said, "No, it's the music, or it's your partner together with you and the music, that makes you close your eyes. It's exactly the same thing only backwards - it's not that I have to close my eyes to feel the music."

What we just did was a very intimate moment; the externalization of a feeling and maybe in a milonga you'll dance this same feeling but in a more internal way, without letting it out so much. But in order to believe in this moment of intimacy, there has to be a feeling of trust, a sense of trust with your partner. This "embrace without embracing" is not only a language of the torsos or the arms, it's a language of feet, of the eyes, of the glance.

And speaking of this same dance, the simplicity . . . Sometimes I talk about the simplicity of the movement. I think it's really beautiful when you dance a tango simply, listening to the music, the rhythm of the music, the lyrics, the poetry, the prose, because it's really there that you dance without worrying about remembering the movement or the step you want to do.

Sometimes, even if it isn't a choreography, the steps can be a little preconceived; you learn them, everyone learns the steps, and we dance them from A to Z, when it actually doesn't need to be that way. There's not a reason for it to be that way.