Monday, 31 October 2011

European Milongueros and their Encuentros - a conclusion

In the last few months, I‘ve presented some of my friends. All of them share a vision of Tango as a social encounter, to be danced in a close embrace in deep connection with partner, music and the other dancers in the Ronda. They may not be living in Buenos Aires and most of them are fairly young - but they are real Milongueros. 
They are nevertheless not as lucky as a Milonguero in BA, who can find a traditional Milonga every evening in his barrio. All his friends will be close and he will never lack opportunities to dance with great partners. Plus: dancers from all over the world will come and visit. Buenos Aires is one big Encuentro Milonguero!
The European Milonguero‘s situation is totally different. He/she will find little opportunity to dance in his home town or region, because there are just not enough traditional Milongas - if at all. This is why most of them spend many hours in cars, trains and planes to travel to the next Milonga, Encuentro or Festivalito and meet friends who share their philosophy. This costs a lot of money, energy and time. At home, they try to build up Tango communities by teaching and organising Milongas or bigger events. But this is a work in progress - it takes years! Only few of them make a small income by teaching or DJing - most of them spend far more on Tango, than they could ever earn. And solely by their enthusiasm, traditional Tango has come that far outside of Argentina.
I only mentioned some of my closest friends, the ones that I know best and that I can tell authentic stories about. There are many more - some of them thousands of kilometres apart. But this lack of Milongas and friends nearby has been turned into an advantage: distances are crossed, international friendships are formed and great events for Milongueros have developed. Social Tango has become an European phenomenon of a very unique variety. And I‘m honoured to be a part of it!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

European Milongueros - Alja Ferme & Saso Zivanovic

And here I am again: Impruneta! This small town in the tuscan hills is the site of one of Italy‘s most respected events for Milongueros: The Raduno Milonguero organised by Tango Firenze. And it is the place where I am meeting two young dancers, who‘ve been crossing my path repeatedly in the last three years. 
The first time I met Saso and Alja at a Milonga in Paris, it was Céline, who pointed them out to me. It was September 2008. Céline had danced with Saso and liked it very much. And indeed: my first Tanda with the young Slovenian was very, very nice. He would not do anything fancy, basically just walk - but he had a great musicality and a cuddly embrace. Since then, we‘ve been dancing often as we share a highly compatible musicality, especially when it comes to rhythmic music like Biagi or Canaro. When we dance, it is, as if the music was leading us. You can really not tell, who‘s giving the impulses. Sometimes, we start laughing in mid-Tango, because we just had another magical moment. People must think that we‘re totally nuts!
As for Alja: she developed in no time to one of the favourite dancers of my male friends and I can very well understand them. Her soft embrace and calm attention make it a pleasure to dance with her. (I know by own experience.) Also, what I like a lot: Alja is a very understated and serious young lady. She wears almost no make-up or fancy dresses, neither does she use an overdose of decorations. She does not need that to attract dancers!
What more can I tell you about my friends?
Saso studied mathematics and is now a professor for linguistics at the university of Ljubljana. Alja is a linguist and teaches at Nova Gorica University. Both are highly analytic and you can tell by the questions they ask during class! 
They have discovered Tango in early 2004 and been taking classes with several teachers: Enrique & Judith, Maria Plazaola, Pascale Coquigny, Thierry Le Cocq, Pablo & Noelia, Jennifer Bratt & Ney Melo. But, like us, they developed most of their technique and ideas by starting to teach and trying to figure out what they do. When they first came to one of our workshops in Ferrara, Italy, they were very relieved to find that we had developed some similar principles concerning circular movements for the communication. This is why I love Tango: You can live in a totally different part of the world and still come to the same conclusions, if you try to analyse body-movements and interaction. Saso‘s and Alja‘s teaching principles are very comparable to ours: basic work on technique and musicality. They have been teaching in Slovenia, Hungary, Italy and Germany so far and I hope, they‘ll be invited to more places in the next years!
Apart from „normal“ work and teaching Tango, Saso and Alja travel all over Europe to meet their friends at the Encuentros Milongueros. A Festivalito without the "Slovenian gang" is just not complete! And they even organise one: The lovely and very international Festivalito Rural in Celje, Slovenia. The "embassadors of embrace" and their friends create an intimate event for Milongueros, that I have discussed in an earlier blog

By the way, Saso and Alja come with a group of friends: Blaz Demsar, another young Milonguero, who organizes the "Raduno Rural" in Slovenia. Francesco Bruno, an Italian, who just finished his Banoneon studies in Rotterdam and who co-operates with his friends in musicality classes. And several others, who share their and our view of social Tango. It's always great to meet them!
I am very proud to say, that we‘ve influenced the recent development of these two as dancers and teachers. In 2010 and 2011, Alja and Saso have taken several workshops with us, just recently during a week of intensive studies in the south of France. That‘s always a nice opportunity to dig deeper into Tango and friendship. But no matter how much we work with Saso and Alja, they will never simply imitate our ideas without questioning them. Whatever they see and feel, they will surely convert it into something of their own. And this is why we learn from them as well!
And now, please have a look at two videos:
- Video 1 shows them dancing at a Festivalito in Freiburg.
- Video 2 shows impressions of their Festivalito Rural 2011. (As we've been invited to teach  at this event, there are some short impressions of our demo as well. I cannot avoid that, sorry.)

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Too old to be cool?

My first article on this blog was about men‘s criteria for choosing a dance partner. I pointed out, that there seems to be a general tendency to select young, good looking women. But I also found, that there was a group young Milongueros, who go rather for dance experience and dance with women of all ages. The article caused strong negative reactions by some men and very affirmative reactions by women. 
Now I made some more observations on the topic „Tango & Age“.
One of the great advantages of Tango is, that it does not depend on being athletic or young. Tango is a social dance and people of all age groups can dance it. That‘s great and in my first Tango years, I used to praise the unifying effect of Tango events: young and old people, dancers of different social backgrounds would dance to the same music, visit the same Milongas, be friends, learn from each other... at least in the more „traditional“ Tango communities or Milongas. 
And even better: In Tango „old age“ seems to be connected to wisdom and dance skills. Maybe this is only a relic of an archaic model of society with all generations living together, but I like the idea.
It is nevertheless common knowledge, that young(er) dancers cluster in the big cities with universities and at Milongas that tend to be nuevo-ish. Also Tango Marathons do have a relatively young clientele. It is very understandable, that the „young and beautiful“ band together, sharing the same ideas about music, movement and interaction off the dancefloor. But so far, I only connected this phenomenon to the Nuevo environment.
Now I am surprised to find, that a similar process of differentiation seems to be happening in the „traditional“ setting as well.
A couple of months ago, a young Milonguera told me about her experiences at a Tango festival. She obviously did not like it a lot, because most of the dancers were using open embrace and focussing rather on big movements than on social dancing. Also Cabeceo and Mirada were difficult. She had heard about an off-festival Milonga organised by some visiting dancers and decided to check it out. But when she got there, she was disappointed: These people were obviously not very good dancers and they were so OLD! She said that last word with a tone of utter disgust that really shocked me.
I cannot blame her - she wants to be amongst people of her age. But what became of the unifying effect of Tango and respect of old age in Tango? Does that apply only to old Argentine Maestros and „old Milongueros“ in BA?
Since then, I‘ve been consciously watching the Milonguero/Salón scene and noticed, that „young and cool“ events develop all over Europe. Our „Festivalito con Amigos“ is no exception: the average age of this years event was definitely lower than in the last years. And most of the dancers came by personal invitation. Does that mean, that I also start choosing my Tango friends by age? Nah... I don‘t think so. There were still lots of dancers of all generations, embracing each other on the dancefloor. It's just that there were more people overall and the additional ones where younger. :-)
But there is a general tendency amongst the young people in the „traditional“ environment to cluster. You can clearly watch this phenomenon in Buenos Aires, where „young“ Milongas budded in the last years. There are so many dancers in their early 20‘s... They still meet the other generations at the „Sunderland“ or „Cachirulo“, but do many older dancers visit the new Milongas? And are they welcome? I haven‘t been to BA so often in the last years, that I could judge. 
Maybe there‘s no reason to worry: A „rejuvenation“ of the Milongas does not have to be a result of the „not-so-young-ones“ being rejected. It might just be due to the fact, that more young people like to dance in close embrace and that‘s good. And if they form their own clubs, that‘s totally normal as well!
But then again, I think of that young woman and wonder: When will I be „too old“ for the young people? Currently, Detlef and I can be described as middle-aged. We are accepted by people of all generations and are invited to dance or teach at the „cool“ Milonguero events. But what about 15 years from now - provided that we still dance and teach Tango? Will we then be respected as „old Maestros“ or merely be „uncool“? Will I be still able to choose my partners amongst men of all ages or will I dance in a senior residence with people of my age group?
Do not misunderstand me: I‘m not fishing for compliments or self-affirmation. A more radical age discrimination may still work out for me: When all my Tango friends are too old to move, we‘ll simply stand and embrace to the music! 
But it would be sad for Tango. Would it not?

Monday, 24 October 2011

European Milongueros - Francesca Bertelli & Antonio Martinez

It‘s been some time now since I wrote my last entry in the „European Milongueros“ series. There‘s been so much work plus the organisation of our Festivalito con Amigos, that kept me from blogging. Well, the workload has not decreased, but now I write anyway, whilst the day is dawning in Montecatini Terme, where we are teaching and intensive Tango seminar of one week.
And it is here, that you can find two of the finest of Europe‘s Milongueros - although only one of them is Italian, the other... but let me tell you a story in it‘s chronological order. And please forgive, if it sounds like fairy tale or if it sounds like bragging - but this is just what happened.
Francesca Bertelli is an Italian, who moved to the USA many years ago to finish her studies in „History of science“. This intelligent lady, who even knew Umberto Eco personally (how I envy her!) ended up in New York, where she fell in love with Tango after the new Millennium had started. I don‘t think, that she had ever planned to become a teacher, but she started organising workshops for travelling Tango teachers, often assisting them in their classes. 
In 2006, the first time we visited, New York was a great place to be and there where a lot of Milongas. But it was also a bit of a mess with too many cooks spoiling the broth. Each of the competing teachers (resident and visiting) pulled the dancers into another direction, very often not connected to social dancing. The result was quite some chaos on the dance floors!
Francesca decided to speak to the needs of social dancers and started organising classes with well-known Milongueros/as like Monica Paz, Gustavo Benzecry-Saba & Maria Olivera and Raul Cabral. And us. Actually, we‘ve been the first teachers, that she contacted actively. From that moment on, we never had to worry about work in New York - our new friend took care of everything. Francesca really is a talent when it comes to advertising and organising. And the New Yorkers soon appreciated her work. They knew: Any teacher who is organised by Francesca would give them valuable insight in the way how Tango is danced in a social and traditional setting. So the classes were always full and „her“ teachers invited to perform at all the important Milongas.
To us, Francesca became more than an organiser and student: she grew to be a friend, inviting us to stay with her or visiting us in Europe. We always wished, that she would live here, so that we could meet more often....
Change of scene: A traditional Milonga in Buenos Aires.
Antonio Martinez is a well known Milonguero at all the traditional places: Cachirulo and other organisers give him the best seats and he is appreciated as an excellent dancer by local Milongueras and those who visit from afar. As for example our friend Paule of Lyon. She spends half of the year in BA and this is where she met Antonio. When dancing with him, she was surprised: somehow he was different. His dance reminded her strongly of Detlef. The next time she met us in France, she told us about this Milonguero. This was in early 2009 and during this year, several other friends mentioned this guy. The last one was Francesca, who met Antonio and asked him, if he knew us. Indeed he did! He had spend hours and hours in front of the computer, watching our videos on Youtube, figuring out what we do. When he heard, that Francesca knew us personally, he was overjoyed and they started talking... and dancing... and fell in love... it was amazing and we could not believe it! 
Francesca just told me: The fact, that he - an Argentine Milonguero - was interested in our dance, showed her, that he was an open minded person. It was one of the main factors, that made her think: "That's a real cool guy!"
And from this moment on, everything went really fast: They decided to marry and move to Italy. Originally, They had thought about Antonio moving to New York, but - alas - the American immigration laws! And staying in BA was no option because of the economical situation. So, Europe was lucky!
When we met Antonio for the first time in November 2009 in BA, he was already preparing to leave Argentina. Dancing with him, I felt, what all of these women had been talking about: he really danced a little like Detlef, particularly owing to some typical movements, that we use a lot. Apart from these small similarities, he of course has a very personal style with a great embrace, always taking care of his partners on the dancefloor. A real Milonguero! 
In July 2010, the newlyweds moved to Montecatini Terme, a beautiful spa in the Tuscan mountains - Francesca‘s hometown. A week later they already visited our „Festivalito de los Angeles“ in Germany. This was the first occasion, that Antonio ever set foot into a non-argentine Milonga and we I even had the pleasure of performing a Tango with him.
Within the next months, Francesca‘s organising talents and connections proved to be priceless: in no time, the two set up classes in Montecatini and Florence, co-operating with the Italian Tango-clothes label Pepitango. Antonio started teaching and DJing in different Italian towns and even better: In April 2011, this year, they organised the first Montecatini Terme Tango Festivalito, that was visited by dancers from all over Europe. Since then, they‘ve been busy forming a community of Milongueros in their home region and travelling to Germany and the UK to teach workshops. Or just dancing at the Encuentros in Europe. They are really building up a reputation as excellent teachers, great dancers and reliable, warm-hearted people.
We are happy, because we get to meet our friends on a regular basis: A couple of weeks ago, Francesca organised our stay in Firenze, last week we met at our „Festivalito con Amigos“ and now we are staying in her hometown, working with a group of German, Austrian and American dancers. ... 
... and this evening, we‘re going to meet Antonio & Francesca at a Milonga. I‘m really looking forward to it and to many more occasions!

But now, let me show you a couple of videos:
- Antonio & Francesca at Impruneta, Italy
- Antonio & Monica Paz at Salon Canning, Buenos Aires
- Final dance of the "Amigos" during the FCA 2011, just acouple of days ago. Including Antonio & Francesca.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Alternative Reality

Whilst we've been dancing at our Festivalito con Amigos or discussing the outcome of it, the world kept on turning. Irish travellers are being repelled of their homes, Greece is in a state of total chaos, Serbia and Kosovo are on the verge of a new war, German government is using trojans to spy out people... and everywhere there's hunger, recession and suppression.
Tangueros tend to forget or ignore the reality around them. They get all revved up about a DJ, but walk past the beggar on the street. They fall in love with that magic last Tanda, but forget about their partner at home. Many Tangueros live in an alternative reality.
Unsually, I try to read the news online twice a day, but in the last week, I did not manage. That makes me feel weird. I know, that I cannot influence a lot, if at all, but at least, I don't want to be ignorant.
Tango is a very important part of our lives, it is a wonderful thing, but let's not forget, that it is only a dance. It is not salvation.