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The 400 Club ISSUE 4 - Si Soy Asi

TANGO LONDON

NEW YEAR, NEW DEAL? HAPPY NEW YEAR, HAPPY... 2010!? But just how did that happen? Just where did the last ten years go? Just when did things start to slip, no speed, from the noughties into the teens? It seems only yesterday we were at the end of the nineties, looking forward to watching fireworks over Blackheath, Hampstead Heath, The Dome, The River of Fire, the Pub, etc. etc. etc... - all of which was, for the400Club at least, definitely PT, definitely Pre-Tango. Pre-tango, pre-obession, pre-one track mind. Maybe if we hadn’t spent our spare time searching out venues in darkly lit back streets, memorising the routes of countless London night buses, surfing the internet for details of were to buy shoes, watching that youtube video of Javier and Geraldine over and over again, and practising ochos at the kitchen sink, just maybe we’d have seen the years passing, seen the grey hairs appearing, heard the cries of children moving from childhood, through teenage years to adulthood. Maybe we’d have found a way to see our non-tango friends regularly, find time to clean the house and do the DIY properly, and maybe we would have made the effort to visit relatives who don’t live just a few minutes away from a really good local milonga.

But then, maybe we’d have missed meeting new and exciting tango friends, missed having danced ‘that dance’ at a milonga, watching countless beautiful performances, participating in workshops first with Geraldine and then later with Javier, watching Cafe de Los Maestros at the Barbican, Melingo at the Festival Hall, watching Argentina play football live on the big screen while dancing the tango at La Portenita, and first trying and then, still always, getting the Chacarera wrong. Maybe, we would have missed all these things and all the wonderful, strange and glorious things that the tango holds for us in the future. And so, for The400Club, the new year requires neither a succession of resolutions nor a new deal, but a re-stating, a re-affirmation of the commitments we all make as tango dancers. Commitments we make to our fellow dancers (to STAY IN LINE), to our teachers (to try harder, practice longer), to the organisers (to get out and about more often) and most of all to ourselves - TO ENJOY IT! Remember, any comments or news you would like us to feature, please drop us a line at: the400club@esharpstyle.co.uk

NEW YEAR 2010

IF I AM SO

Despite much evidence to the contrary, not all tango songs deal with the usual “she was beautiful and I left her”, “she was beautiful and she died”, “she was beautiful and left me and I killed her” story. There is also a strong tradition of the ‘brag’, the ‘big up’ and here at the400 club, we love ‘em! One of our favourites is Si Soy Asi, particularly the Francisco Lomuto version, the first two verses of which go something like: “Si soy así ¿qué voy a hacer? nací buen mozo y embalao para querer. Si soy así ¿qué voy a hacer? con las mujeres no me puedo contener. Por eso tengo la esperanza que algún día me toqués la sinfonía de que ha muerto tu ilusión... Si soy así ¿qué voy a hacer? es el destino

que me arrastra a serte infiel. Donde veo unas polleras no me fijo en el color; las viuditas, las casadas y solteras, para mí son todas peras en el árbol del amor; y si las miro coquetonas por la calle, con sus ojos tan porteños y su talle cimbreador, le’ acomodo el camuflaye de un piropo de mi flor.”

If I am so What am I going to do? I was born handsome And in a hurry to love. If I am so What am I going to do? With women I can’t restrain myself. For this reason I have the hope that someday I will play a symphony in which your illusion dies... If I am so What am I going to do? It is my destiny

that sexual attraction makes me unfaithful. Where I see skirts I don’t focus on their colour; married, widowed or single, For me all women are pears In the tree of love; And if I see you flirting in the street, With your porteno eyes and swiveling hips, I dress you in the camouflage of my compliment of my flower.”

words by Antonio Botta, music by Francisco Lomuto - thanks to Tango Chamuyo (http://jantango. wordpress.com) for the translation. And if you think you’ve got a better understanding of the last line, we’d love to hear from you. Now that’s what I’m talking about!

ADRIAN AND AMANDA COSTA Adrian and Amanda Costa visited London in October of last year and return this 30 January for Brigitte’s Fire and Flame Ball 2010 at The Carisbrooke Hall. The400Club caught up with them in October, after some fabulous workshops at Corrientes, to find out more about the couple having a big impact on the London Tango scene.

drink anything else!), put a CD on the music system, relax and just listen to the music. AM: Try to follow just one instrument. Try to listen just to the violins, or to the bass. See what happens to the melody, to the rhythm. Follow the music. The400Club: Would you say that there is a difference between the tango danced in Europe and that in Buenos Aires? AD: In Europe the tango has been imported as a ‘form’ (of dance). In Argentina, the tango exists as a culture. In Buenos Aires people know why they’re going to the milonga – they go for fun, to meet friends, to have a drink, relax and maybe a dance or two. They dance when they like the music. Sometimes you might go to a milonga and not dance, but have a great time with friends. It is not right to only take on some parts of the culture (of tango). In Europe people need to develop the respect of social dancing. Learn Tango, then practice – always with the spirit of social dancing. Dance in the line of dance at all times. Respect the other dancers. Find a way to enjoy the music just walking.

The400Club: Could you first explain just a little bit about where you’re from, how long you have been dancing and what got you started dancing the tango? ADrian: We’re both from La Rochelle in France. I have been dancing since I was 3 years old – that s 25 years now. It was in the family, with my Grandfather. There was always tango in the house; it was a part of life, part of growing up. AManda: I have been dancing six years, since I met Adrian. The400Club: Is there someone who you feel was particularly important in the development of your dancing? And what were the important things that they conveyed to you. AD: Our maestros are Jorge Dispari and Maria del Carmen Romero. I have travelled many times to Buenos Aires to learn from them. They gave us the musicality, the walk. AM: They gave us the understanding that it is better to do less, but with quality. And an understanding of ‘cadencia’. To ‘retain’ the step. AD: To walk like you are walking through mud. The400club: Could you also talk a little about precision? AD: This comes from Jorge and Maria. They come from the Villa Urquiza area of Buenos Aires, where the emphasis is on quality. AM: It is the quality of contact with the floor that is important - the ‘caress’ of the floor. Quality, and an understanding that to do things slowly and precisely is better, but of course, much more difficult. The400Club: As well as being beautiful and elegant, your dancing conveys a sense of absolute calmness. Could you talk a little about this serenity? Where it comes from? How you make use of it? AM: To be calm is essential. If you’re calm, you’re relaxed and you have no tension. It its much easier to be elegant. Elegance is not possible with tension. AD: The calmness and serenity gives me chance to hear the music. In a performance, once the music starts, there is just my partner, the music and me. I am not aware of the world outside this. If your not relaxed, you cannot hear the music and cannot improvise. The400Club: I was going to ask about performances and choreography – whether your performances always improvised? But I think that really I knew the answer to this question beforehand - from watching you dance… AD: We made a pact, when we started dancing together, never to choreograph performances. For me the tango is about improvising, about being in the moment. About the game of not knowing what is coming next – and the risk that this brings with it. This makes the tango not boring. The tango you dance should never be the same. It has to do with the way you wake in the morning, the way your day went. If we arrive at the milonga and people ask us to give a performance, and I’m just not in the mood for dancing to d’Arienzo, then we don’t dance to d’Arienzo. We choose the music we will dance to there and then, at the milonga. In fact, on this tour, there is private joke between us, where I don’t tell

Amanda the music I have chosen – she does not know what we will be dancing to until the music starts. The400Club: I feel that this absolutely shows in the way you dance. AD: It is this playing, with improvisation, with not knowing what might happen, with the music, that is for me the essence of tango. AD: I don’t like the word ‘exhibition’ or the word ‘show’; we are not exhibiting anything, or putting on a show. AM: With performance, we still dance in the circle exactly like in the milonga, in the line of dance. The performance is no different from social dancing; it’s just that we have more space. The400club: I think that we saw you at Corrientes several years ago now – social dancing, rather than teaching or performing. Do you still manage to get out dancing purely for enjoyment? And what do you enjoy most, social dancing, teaching or performing? AD: As I say, I dance because I cannot stop myself. For me it is all social dancing. The milonga is a sociable occasion to be enjoyed. An exhibition dance is the same, with just me my partner and the music. None of it is ‘work’. I stopped working to dance tango. If it ever were to become ‘working’, then I would stop dancing. The400club: I know this is going to sound cheesy, but as well as all of the above, your dancing seems to convey sincerity, a commitment of the heart. Could you talk a bit about ‘dancing from the heart’? AD: You need to understand why I dance. I dance

because when I hear the music it is impossible for me to stay sitting down. AM: It becomes like a frustration… AD: Like the frustration of being trapped in a box. And when we dance, it is like the heart trying to explain what words cannot. This is dancing from the heart… AD: For me, the tango has ‘duende’. AM: Yes, ‘duende’. The400Club: Duende? AD: Look, my absolute favourite milonga in Buenos Aires is Sin Rumbo Club. They have just celebrated 90 years of tango dancing at the club. And to me it seems, no, it is, impossible for anyone not to dance well here. The place has ‘duende’. The handprints of the ancients. It’s as if the spirit, the soul, of all the great dancers who have danced here over the years is captured, absorbed. And it takes hold of you. Say that I was dancing there, and I felt that I was going to fall, then I feel the hands, the support, of the ancients stopping me falling, putting me back upright. This is a special place. The400club: You seem to have been having a huge impact on dancers in London - from your time over the last two weeks, your summer courses and your earlier visits. Many dancers are full of enthusiasm not just for the regular lessons and workshops, but also for the sessions on musicality. Could you tell us a bit more about these classes? AD: It is most important to listen to the music, to hear the music. This is what we do in the classes. We listen to the music. Often the best practice that you can do after a tango class is to go back home, pour a glass of champagne (The400Club: Does one ever

The400Club: And how have you found the tango scene in the UK? AD: People need to do things more slowly but with better quality. We know this is more difficult. Dancers need to keep the spirit of BsAs at the milonga, to respect the rules, the line of dance. People need to understand that unsocial dancing is the enemy of tango. The tango needs new dancers and beginners need to feel welcome - and not be constantly kicked by unsocial dancers ‘free dancing’. We ‘re really pleased to see the Salon Room established at 33 Portland Place. A room for people to dance, in the line of dance, no overtaking, no big figures, respecting those in front and those behind. This is great, popular. This is wonderful for the lady, for the follower. It’s more enjoyable just to be able to walk in time to the music. AD: When you learn to tango, first you learn to walk, and then you should practice – till you can do it well. Then you can walk at the milonga. Then you learn to turn and then you practice – till you can do it well. Then you can do it at the milonga. The milonga is not the place for practice. It is better to strip things back. Have nothing that is unnecessary. Do less but do it well. The400Club: Agreed. The400Club: What are your plans for the future? Will you be taking part in any of the tango festivals that have sprung up across the world? Will you be returning to London soon? What are your plans for the school in La Rochelle? AM: We’re touring pretty non-stop through to next summer, back at La Rochelle in March for just 1 weekend. July and August will be happy times back in France. AD: In the mean time, we will be back in London for the Fire and Flame Ball on 30 January. The400Club: We look forward to it! Information & booking for the Fire and Flame Ball 2010, and associated workshops, or further news about A & A and their visits to UK can be obtained from brigitte@paris-tango.co.uk or found on her website www.paris-tango.co.uk. The400Club would like to thank to Brigitte for organising the interview with Adrian and Amanda, and Tina Baxter for suggesting it.


THE 400 CLUB ISSUE 4 - Si Soy Asi

NEW YEAR 2010

PAYING OUR DUES

Biographies of the masters part 1: CARLOS PEREZ Y ROSA FORTE Here we look into the history of these two great teachers and performers, maestros to our own Diomar Giraldo Escobar, who visited London during September last year. The history is almost entirely based on Carlos’s own response to ClaraUeki2009 at http://www. inheritingthetango.blogspot.com. Carlos Perez has “lived” tango since 1952 when, at age 13, he began to shadow the famous Milongueros of his day -- Jose Vasquez “Lampazo”, Gerardo Portalea y Eduardo Pareja “Parejita” (all maybe 10 to 15 years his senior). Later, he would dance and perform in the dozens of old neighbourhood/barrio clubs that were around Buenos Aires at that time – where the music of the tango was queen. Rosa started years later, in her home, practicing with her older brothers whom later took her out dancing on Saturdays. In interview, Carlos has described these times: “In the 1940’s the scene was created by Petroleo and el Negro Mansini two of the greatest Milongueros of that era, also known as the “Canyengue” era. With the passing of time, that same tango was danced more delicate and elegantly. A lot of emphasis was given to the elegance in Salon style tango. One would dance at house parties (without cortes or quebradas, very respectfully) in neighborhood/barrio clubs, generally on Saturdays or Sundays would be frequented by neighborhood girls always accompanied by a mother or older brother, because arriving alone was frowned upon. The music that was listened to during my time in the 50’s was music that was played by live orchestras. Di Sarli, D’Arienzo, Pugliese , Canaro , Troilo, Calo, and many more. The classic neighbourhoods/barrios were one would dance would be Saavedra, Urquiza, Villa Pueyrredon, Villa Devoto, Villa Real, Paternal, Villa Mitre and other all around the capital. South of the capital they would dance a different style much more brisk what they call Tango Orillero. In the 50’s the Tango was one of the alternatives a youth had for his enjoyment, just as much as looking for girl, because back then that was no easy task. The Tango was danced with a lot of feeling/emotion. The lyrics of the songs were things that happened to each of us in daily life, the street lights, the cobble stone streets, the love for the mother, love for the girl, a Buenos Aires lost in time. We all respected the codes inside the dance, we all stayed in the line of dance, even if they weren’t the great milongueros. The majority heard the music the same way, even though the floor was packed one could enjoy.” They stopped dancing tango around 1964, when they were married and decided to place all their energies on raising a family. At this time there were only few places left to go dancing in Buenos Aires as the vast majority had closed. Carlos and Rosa began dancing professionally again in 1994. They had, of course, continued to dance socially throughout this period at family gettogethers etc. But it was only then that Carlos’s first teacher, Jose “Lampazo” (a one time neighbour) revived their full interest in tango and they began

The English word ‘cadence’ seems to get a bit closer to what we need. Cadence in speech, ‘the fall of the voice’, refers to the rhythm, the pitch, and the emphasis – both the flow and the dynamic. This is what we mean when talk about the ‘Irish lilt’ or the ‘Scottish brogue’. Cadence in poetry again seems to describe more than just the rhythm. It can be used to describe an individual poet’s voice. And if cadence is the ‘measure’ and flow of verses, then it describes the timing of both the words and the pauses. Some definitions of the English word ‘cadence’ even go as far as: “In dancing, the correspondence of the motion of the body with the music. (f)”. But again this going to his classes for enjoyment. Shortly after this, Jose fell ill and after losing this great dancer and friend, they took over the classes he was teaching at “Sunderland Club” in Villa Urquiza and started to dedicate themselves to the teaching of tango.

does not quite seem to go far enough - in tango, we seem to be talking about something more subtle. Teachers often talk about the ‘suspension’ of the step (“like walking through mud”), and use the term cadencia in relation to both ‘the arrival of the weight’ and the start of the next movement – a kind of defining (or understanding) of the point between these two actions - a means of providing emphasis to the dance, without which, the tango would be ‘flat’. And when discussed further with Mina, “Yes, the last part probably gets closer to Cadencia… It is the quality (not in the context of technical precision, but rather in the way we play the body as if it were a musical instrument) of the movement when interpreting the music. Let’s remember, dancing can also be poetry.” And for Ella, “Isn’t the way we breathe also important to idea of cadencia? It can be equated with the way one breathes as we speak. It is the subtle intake of breath, the expansion of the chest, that leads the movement. It is as individual as fingerprints”. Thanks to Myriam (Mina) Ojeda-Patiño and Ella Sharp, for input on this article.

so much for the New Years Resolution...

The long period away from dancing has had the effect of maintaining their roots in the traditional tango. Their dance had not been contaminated by the milongas of the interveneing years and their approach reflects more directly the decade of the 50’s. This has been a great attraction to the youth (and not so young) of Buenos Aires and further afield who have taken to their classes with great enthusiasm. Since then Carlos and Rosa have been invited to teach and perform at the most famous milongas and venues, travelling widely in Europe and the rest of the world - Nino Bien; Salon Canning; La Baldosa; Torcuato Tasso; the Sunderland Club, Challiot Theater of Paris, Parco de la Musica Rome, Teatro Colon Buenos Aires, to name just a few. They have seen their students win in world competitions and have also been filmed for a few movies and documentaries for Television. “For us, Tango has always meant something very special, and in this chapter of our lives it gives us permission to move to the rhythm of its music, embrace one another and turn back time, enjoying its melody.” The 400Club would like to thank Carlos and Rosa very much for the beautiful, elegant and enjoyable performances, classes and workshops they gave Corrientes and Negracha in September.

Ella Sharp writes about the experience of designing clothes for dancers... There are times in one’s life when one absolutely has to ‘dress to kill’ and what better opportunity can a woman have than when going to a Milonga; the older I get the more reckless I become – subtly of course. The question of how to have shape without too much cling (my body does not bear close scrutiny just clever dressing!) whilst still being able to take the long steps required by our teachers can be tricky. When Mina and Giraldo first suggested a student dance at the final milonga of the year at Corrientes, dressing others for a performance (however short) presented many ‘diversions’ and opportunities. After deciding upon a 40s feel we felt we should use any other colour than black – radical I know but I have to confess colours are a passion and can flatter (and let us face the brutal truth most of us require flattery of one form or another) more effectively than black.

There is of course one thing I have failed to mention which is paramount in the extreme, well to us ladies at least - the shoes! Each Milonga is spent observing closely as to who has the most beautiful shoes. When deciding upon a pair the question as to

The subject of ‘cadencia’ has come up a great deal recently - in the workshops with Carlitos Perez & Rosa; over the weekend at Gallo Ciego in Birmingham with Javier Rodriguez & Andrea Misse; and in the lessons and interview with Adrian & Amanda Costa. In all cases it has been a difficult to translate - to fully understand what is intended. We set down here the essence of several conversations about this subtle concept. There are a number of English translations for the Spanish word ‘cadencia’ in dictionaries or on the internet, most of which refer to the word rhythm. But the word rhythm doesn’t really seem to convey the full intention.

Todo Trajeado (dressed to kill!)

So to flattery in the extreme! The rivers of silk jersey and acres of silk dupion – not I hasten to add did the outfits in themselves require vast quantities of fabric but the design development to arrive at the final outcome most certainly did. The hours spent in fittings, deciding the most becoming lines and colours for each of the dancers were truly great fun – for me at least – you might need to enquire of the long suffering clients as to their opinion.

Cadencia - the poetry of tango?

...say hello to the Tango Cocktail, fresh from ‘The Savoy Cocktail Book’ written by Harry Craddock, illustrated by Gilbert Rumbold and published by Constable & Company Ltd., London in 1930. The400Club would especially like to thank Myfanwy Johns for tempting us back off the wagon with this distinctly Woodhouse worthy concoction.

Milongas Regulares... (a non-comprehensive list) Mondays: Tuesdays:

Pablo Tango at The Square Pig, Procter Street, WC1 Dance Tango at Vino Latinos, Langham Court. Hotel W1 Abrazos at 9-13 Grape Street, WC2 Wednesdays: Zero hour at The Dome, Tufnel Park N19 Thursdays: Rojo y Negro’s Poema at Latvian House, Queensway W2 Milonga Sur at The Old Whitgiftians, Croyden Fridays: Negracha at The Wild Court, Holborn WC2 Carablanca at Conway Hall WC1 Midnight Milonga at The Tango Club, Covent Garden WC1 Tango at the Welsh at the Welsh Centre, Grays Inn Road, WC1 Saturdays: Corrientes Social Club at Haverstock School, Chalk Farm NW1 (two Saturdays a month) Dance Tango or El Once at The Crypt, St. James Church, Clerkenwell EC1 Tango Tea at the Tango Club, Covent Garden, WC2 (first Saturday of the month) Stardust Milonga at Chester House, Kennington, SW9 (last Saturday of the month) Sundays: El Portenito at The Bedford, Balham SW12 (every other week) Tangology at The Langley, Covent Garden, WC2 Tango at 33 Portland Place, W1 Tango South London at The Costitutional Club, Dulwich (last Sunday of the month) Milonga Sur and Corrientes Social Club at The Royston Club, Penge, SE20 La Mariposa at 1a St John’s Hill, Clapham Junction, SW11 Remember to always check times and dates with the organisers BEFORE you plan your trip.

And Finally... whether the strap in quite the right place to suit the ankle, will the colour or the trim match any of my clothes is of the utmost importance, they don’t? Oh well I’ll just have to buy a dress to match! So, back to the outfits; we naturally started with the shoes. Each outfit had to revolve around the shoes in the wardrobe, and lest you think this frivolous might I draw your attention to the lengths we women go to in pursuing the perfect pair, or five (on a restrained day). It was a pleasure to see such combinations of jewel like colours (here we have Fashion Speak) moving around the dance floor – we hope you liked it too.

The 400 Club is an irregularly produced, amateur newsletter for the London Tango scene. We do not intend to cause offence to any parties and take no responsibility for the accuracy of information, views or otherwise expressed in this newsletter. The next issue will arrive when and if we have sufficient time and inclination to get round to doing one. If in the meantime, if you have any comments or would like to contribute an item please contact us by email:

the400club@esharpstyle.co.uk


The400club Issue 4 - Si Soy Asi