Thursday, 15 January 2009

Joaquín Amenábar - music for dancers

I took three of Joaquín's classes last weekend, and there is so much to say about them I just haven't been able to start. But I have just heard that he's giving the same course in Cheshire this weekend; so this is just to say, if you can still get into those, or he is coming to a town near you, GO if you possibly can.

The book and DVD that he's done cover much of the same material, and I've bought two copies because I just know I'll lend one and not get it back.

If you're in London, they'll have some copies of the book and DVD set behind the desk at Carablanca until they run out. It's £33, and included on the DVD - apparently just for completeness, since extracts from them are used in the exercises and demonstrations - are more than forty full-length tracks of tango, milonga, and vals in high quality MP3 format which you'd have to spend a lot more money to collect for yourself. At the end of the book are special chapters on choreography and teaching, and how to make the music the centre of both.

The rest of the book (with DVD in the back cover) is a teach-yourself course for tango dancers who want to hear and understand tango music, but have no musical training whatsoever. Joaquín starts by explaining and showing you what a rhythm is, then how to find it in the music; he shows you how the rhythm in tango music varies, and explains the overall form so that you understand when to expect changes and how to deal with them. He walks you through lots of carefully-structured examples, with exercises to do by yourself or with a partner, and videos of a couple doing them for you to watch. He covers vals and milonga, sets out the history and relationships, and explains why tango music is the way it is. Even for someone with lots of dance experience and musical training, it would still be illuminating. And the exercises are just plain fun.

In the classes - not sure about the book - there's also a discussion of what's happening, musically, in 'nuevo' music. But anyway, the skills you learn would be equally applicable to whatever music you personally like.

I'd recommend the course and the book for anyone who wants to understand what “dancing to the music” really means, and how to do it. Plus DJs.

Why am I saying all this - it would really make me happy if lots and lots of British dancers took the classes and read the book. They'll dance better.

[Read the comments on this one - it's not just me. Also more about the book and experience of using it here, and a list of all relevant posts here.]


Anonymous said...

I did his course a couple of years ago and again this year.

The courses are amazing.

Firstly, music is important - there are three of you dancing: leader, follower, music. And yet so many courses and classes neglect music and musicality. This makes this course a special rarity.

Second, his method is effective. He also enforces a rule by which the class don't get distracted by musicians using music terminology. The course introduces music using a system that is well thought out, accessible, and one that keeps working as you study more complex ideas. If you've got half a brain but no musical education - this works and makes sense.

Third is Joaquin himself. He's one of the few people on the planet with a deep and wide knowledge of music and tango music in particular. He plays the bandoneon - something described by Piazzolla as "devilishly difficult". He dances tango in the milongas so he knows what dancers do and feel. He is passionate and keen to give maximum benefit to his students. And he is authoritative on his subject - you'll find him explaining things that have always been confusing, reaslising that most "teachers" don't know and give out conflicting ideas.

I also liked his attitude in class - he told the chatterboxes to shut up (the courses are not cheap, and why should the rest of us suffer from disractions). And he has no need to impress anyone which means he'll happily disagree with clever-clogs and loudmouths in the class who very often just want to show how much data they have in their heads.

Can't recommend him and his courses enough. Many thanks to Jill Barrett for organising them too - she is one of the teachers in London who does know the importance of music.

Anonymous said...

I've just attended of these workshops and I have to agree with everything that's been said.... incredibly inspiring and extremely useful...and great no matter what level of dance experience you have.

msHedgehog said...

Really, seriously knowing exactly what you're on about is so good for class control. Joaquin also struck me as a considerate person who respects his students' questions, and who seriously wants to keep trying different things until he finds out how to make them understand.

I also thought Jill did a great job of organising it. The proper joining instructions with directions from the Tube, where to eat, where to park, where to go between classes, and how to get into the building, made it more like attending a professionally-run technical training course than a dance workshop.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
msHedgehog said...

@ ghost, please could you post the rest of your comment again, except for the first bit, since I have been asked NOT to give people the impression that that's an option. Sorry I had to delete it. (You could get the book at Carblanca without paying to get in, incidentally). There should be something on JA's site after a while.

Anonymous said...

Opps - sorry. I was surprised it wasn't on JA's site when I looked.

Does anyone know of any other dvds specifically focussed on tango musciality?

I was recommeded these two by a friend who does swing with the caveat that a lot of it won't directly correspond, though obviously it's not so bad with nuevo.

Musciology -

Secrets Of Improvisation
(about halfway down the page)

Anonymous said...

One small detail - you have to actually read the book.

(If you're reading this going well, obviously just accept that there are instructional dvds that come with books that you're supposed to read first, but frankly work fine if you just watch the dvd first and get around to reading the book later, at some point, maybe....)

Having said that the video clips that are on the dvd are remarkably clear. (Yeah, yeah, ok, I'll go and read the book now before I watch the rest)

msHedgehog said...

Yep. The book is the class. The DVD is the illustrations and exercises. The DVD makes no sense on its own.