13 mar 2008

Forever Tango was one of the reasons I started taking regular classes. I remember that even as I was sitting in the audience watching the show I was thinking, these are the women I want to dance with, and this is the way I want to dance with them. Before that I had no couples dance experience whatsoever, with the exception of some very rare occasions engaging in the awkward social dances of high school (many of them MC Hammer-based--I know, I'm dating myself). Besides that, I had some b-boy experience when I was a kid but that is a completely different animal. Anyway, since that time when I was so profoundly affected by FT I have been curious as to how I would react to it now that I have studied tango for a while. I knew it wouldn't be the same, but would I still find something to inspire me?

Last night, I watched the broadcast on public television... and I was bored. I found myself paying more attention to the food I was eating than on the performances. Everything seemed stale, overwrought and mannered yet strangely apathetic. This is not to dis the skill of the performers. It was apparent they had strong technique and had worked hard to get to the level they were at. I have read that the audition process is extremely competitive so it's clear that these dancers beat a lot of others to be on that stage. I think I would be more curious to see how these dancers perform outside of the context of this show, as spotlight performers at a milonga or something where they didn't have to meet outside demands. Or, how they dance socially (if they do at all--some performers don't).

Granted, to see something on television is a lot different from seeing it live. I think that cameramen and editors often miss the point when filming tango. As a walking dance I think it's most effective to keep some distance from the performers and keep the camera fairly steady instead of following them around everywhere, to get a better sense of the way they are moving around the floor. Also, there is so much going on in the entire body with counter movements and the like that something is lost when focusing only on one part.

Anyway, as far as watching tango shows I feel that I've lost something that I can never recover. It's not that I can no longer feel exhilarated watching a performance. But the mystery, the exoticism, the rejuvenation of being in the presence of something I have never experienced, all this is gone. Watching these performances now, I can break them down into their component parts: parallel walk, cross system walk, giros with sacadas, gancho, barrida, etc... It reminds me of how a classmate in the writing program at SF State mentioned that after taking all these courses on lit theory and creative technique he could no longer read a story without being aware of all the mechanisms in place: setting, character development, foreshadowing, objective correlative... I remember watching these dancers and not having a clue as to what was going on with their bodies, their legs weaving in and out as I would shake my head in disbelief, astounded by the complexity of it all.

Still, all is not lost. I still scratch my head watching folks like Gustavo and Giselle doing their thang, and it's not uncommon that I cry "Eso!" when I see something surprising and delightful on the floor. This dance never loses its capacity for the unexpected, and that's one of the great joys of it. As for FT, well, I'll always appreciate how it seduced me into this world.

Side note: most of the performers were unknown to me but it was good to see Marcela Duran again. Her partner in the show was fine, but no substitute for the great Gavito. I seem to recall seeing Gavito and Duran when I saw the show live. I remember at the time not being that impressed by them even though I knew they were pretty much the headliners of the show. I was more into the athleticism and extroversion of the other young couples on the stage. Shows how little I knew. Acrobatics are fine, but no one--and I mean no one--could convey the kind of dramatic tension in moments of stillness that Gavito could. I never met the guy, but somehow I still feel his absence.


Frances R said...

I've seen Jorge Torres dance socially, and he looked great doing so. Also heard that he is a good teacher.
When I saw FT last year (being about 5 month into tango), I also liked Nora Witanowski and Juan Carlos Martinez. I don't know if they are still in the show, though.
All in all, I remember, it was a bit like watching porn. You realize it is not the real thing, but makes you wanna... eh... dance oh so badly :)

Malevito said...

Hi frances, how are you?

I'm sure these dancers have many facets they can't show in the context of FT. Although I'm not familiar with Jorge Torres I'm sure the creators of the show knew they had some big shoes to fill without Gavito so he must have come with some serious credentials.

The other couple you mention is unfamiliar to me, but that doesn't mean much. There are just so many great dancers out there.

The porn comparison is apt, isn't it? Of course there is the old connection that the dance always had with sex, all the variants of its seemingly contradictory verticality. But yeah, it's that sense of watching something private between a couple. I could take the comparison further and connect that with the idea I had about the camera angles and such... but I won't go there.

Anyway, thanks for the comment :)