Thursday 28 February 2013

Tango Face


I’ve often heard the phrase ‘tango face’ ... if a regular European social tango dancer was to use it they’d probably mean the display of zen-like awareness ... a kind of half-smile and a relaxed face ...The Strictly Come Dancing afficionado is more likely to mean the adoption of whatever expression the dancer most feels represents torrid passion. Quite apart from the cringeworthy cliche of such perceptions, the expressions themselves make me think of constipation rather than angst.

I think I said to Carole (DanceTog) at the weekend that someone I had seen in a performance the week before, had a beautiful tango face. I meant that her expression when she was dancing - both socially and in performance - was very nice to look at. It was absorbed, alert, and happy. A friend of mine has a tango face so warm and joyful that you want to bottle it and put it in a cupboard for when you're feeling depressed or cold. And I do look at men's tango faces when I decide about wanting to dance with them.

It never would have occurred to me to think of the other senses she mentions - artificial faces adopted to fit a convention.

I was chatting to another lady this weekend who had studied stage tango for a while but was now working on her social dance: she wondered about the expressions of people in the room. Well, to be fair, I said, some of them look like that because they're doing judo rather than tango. But when it works, you just look however you look when you're really, really into something.

People's tango face just expresses some mixture of concentration and whatever else they are feeling. It's pretty difficult to fake an expression when you're following in a totally improvised dance, because you need so much concentration. Whatever you're actually feeling is likely to show.

The tendency to giggle when anything goes wrong is a good one to cultivate.

People do work on their tango faces. They do look at someone and say "I want to dance like that girl - she's so blissful, I love her expression". But they don't mean by this that they are going to try to fake an expression. They mean that they are going to eliminate from their dance whatever prevents them feeling like that, and add whatever they think will help. They mean that 'that girl' looks as though she feels good to dance with and is getting the same from her partners.

I have been known to stick my tongue out at photographers going click, click click and trying to catch my tango face, they can be very annoying (Carole is very respectful), but mostly I don't pay them any attention. I'm glad I'm not so interesting that I have to go round deleting my YESYESARGH face off Facebook. That's a tedious task.

Monday 25 February 2013

And then ...

And then there are tandas that depend for their effect on everyone present being high as a kite.

Tango Immigrant hilariously illustrates the dilemmas of DJs. I say again, doing it properly is far too much work.

Tango Immigrant: Illustrated: wanting to be a DJ

But those 'high' tandas are when you really notice the good ones.

Sorry, my evenings seem awfully full at the moment!

Monday 11 February 2013

Tango Cabaret @ Gaucho Swallow Street

Tuesday: Press night at Gaucho Swallow Street.

What this place is actually about: The steaks are outstanding. My ends of fillet were delicious and almost as tender as icecream. I was there with Carole the Photographer, who once cycled her way around the vineyards of Argentina, and she selected an excellent wine; an oak aged  white Torrontes, made especially for Gaucho and apparently not available elsewhere. It was superb.

The DJ and  the cocktail bar at Gaucho Swallow Street
An exceedingly dapper young man came in with a suitcase, installed himself beside the cocktails, and acted as house DJ - fairly loud, but it was still possible to talk, with concentration. I certainly prefer it to pointless piped muzak. The place has some genuine style.

The performance, which began with our dessert, fitted the brief. The brief was apparently given by a restaurateur who was under some pretty bizarre impressions about tango, if the press release is anything to go by. The most surprising was that electrotango was in some sense new; as for the rest, I won't go into it. You could deduce what they were trying to do, which was bring an extra sparkle to a steak house, and I am not at all the intended audience for that sort of performance, far from it. Anyway, the electrotango followed seamlessly from what the DJ was playing before. An audience whose primary interest is their plates probably doesn't need to be startled with a drastic changed in sound, and the concept is enjoyable in the setting, a splendid room at the top of the building, full of mirrors and chandeliers. It really is a glamorous space.

Electrotango performance at Gaucho restaurant
The dancers were Martin Espindola with a lady I don't know, and Maral and Mariano. They are genuine tango dancers, and not generalists with just enough tango for an uninformed audience. That's good for the restaurant's concern with authenticity, and of course it would be an advantage that they can improvise spectacular-looking stuff in the space available without the need for a lot of rehearsals. I supposed that at least parts of the interactions between couples would have been choreographed, perhaps broadly, but Martin told us later that they improvise it all.

Carole has much better pictures here and here.

The cabaret is a regular thing, normally on Saturdays, and the deal is that if you mention ‘Milonga at 11pm’ when you make your Saturday night reservation, the table is yours until closing, if available. There is, obviously, no actual milonga, in any sense; just the electrotango cabaret. It was quite long - I didn't time it, but I think there were five or six electrotango tracks.

On this occasion the performance was followed by a Midnight Tango afterparty, which was meant to be the actual draw for the press night. We spent some time half way down the stairs with Carole photographing two Paparazzi photographing some-man-I-was-probably-supposed-to-recognise hugging Flavia Cacace, watched by me waving my cloakroom ticket and trying to get out of the way, all on a landing about four feet square. I learned a lot in those two minutes about professional journalism, none of which I think I am capable of using. Also, I learned that Vincent Simone is taller than I would have expected. That might be glamour. Or it might be bullshit. It depends what you're trying to do.

Gaucho Swallow Street. The staff are lovely, the steak is excellent, they have a tango nuevo cabaret on Saturdays, and they treated us. They definitely believe in steak. And also wine. The dulce de leche and malbec icecream was great too.  It's dark, take your glasses for the cocktail menu. I would have had a 'mordida' because it sounded nice and I liked the name, but the wine was enough. The authentic Argentinian bovine products on your plate are more than worth your full attention.

Monday 4 February 2013

Di Sarli Timeline @ Tango Immigrant

A new blog deserves your attention: Tango Immigrant.

Trud, a lovely Norwegian tanguera I have met several times, is discussing the details of tango recordings, and she has produced a beautiful and useful visual timeline of the recordings of Carlos di Sarli and his various singers. It's downloadable as a PDF, so you can tape it to the fridge.

I know a lot of you will love this! And besides, she talks sense.