Definitely NOT the Last Tango or 48 Hours in Paris….
Sometimes you find yourself with a bit of free time on your hands for one reason or another. I may have used this time to write emails, funding applications or network (notice the WORK in network) or just plain sulk. But I decided to do something useful for a change. I decided to revisit my roots. Or rather, my tango roots. I started dancing Argentine tango more than 20 years ago. This seems like ancient history but it was a great time when tango culture flourished and hadn’t yet developed into the business it is today.
Paris is a stones throw from my current home in London, so I made a last minute decision to check out the Bailarinas tango festival with it’s milongas (tango dances) and classes. Although I haven’t taken a class for ages, I decided to go for womens’ technique. Quite specific to tango with it’s stilettos, pivots, ochos, and above all adornos…or little decorations women make with their feet.
Classes are like nourishment for the soul. They help me polish up on my technique, realize all the mistakes of my posture and help me look at the process of conveying info about movement through the eyes of a recipient/student. My feet were killing me and I was wondering whether it was due to the hard stone floor or just lack of practice. It also gave me a sense of nostalgia for Buenos Aires and my fabulous MAESTRA (yes, a tango teacher is a maestro or maestra) Aurora Lubiz, tango legend and queen of female technique.
Like a proper milonguera , I ignored the pain to come back to the former church venue at Pigalle for the evening milonga. The crowd was relatively small leaving enough space on the dance floor which proved to be insignificant as dance etiquette seems to be lacking these days. A huge bruise on my right leg being testimony to this. Despite that I had some good dances and managed to make my way back to my hotel on the last metro.
The Sunday milonga crowd was even smaller. Way smaller. As in …..really small. Never mind. There were empanadas and the wine was good. But the numbers didn’t grow and it was sad to see only a few people, some random drop in tourists among them, watching the performance of the most recent 2017 World Tango Escenario Champions Axel Arakaki and Agostina Tarchini.
They were truly wonderful, with great musicality, polished technique, a sense of humor and a panache in navigating the hard stone dance unfriendly floor. Which got me thinking. Why do brilliant dancers like these struggle to get an audience ? Tango is popular, right? Or do people prefer to watch hyperpassioned tango musical extravaganzas? Or could it be that all dance is equal but some is just more equal than others.
As a choreographer I have been thinking about this since my last commission (I threw in a little bit of tango) Why is a certain dance form or style considered superior? Did it deserve or acquire this status by virtue of some groundbreaking events or is it just plain and simple PR? I have some idea but don’t want to delve into deep waters just yet. So I will leave this bit of contemplation for another time.
In the meantime, next time you come across a milonga, a swing dance, a Bollywood class, just pop in. Just remember, every dance style needs practice. A lot of it if you want it to look good. And the fact that you don’t see it on the stage of a renowned opera house or theatre means absolutely nothing.
In the meantime Paris, a bientôt!