« January 2008 | Main | April 2008 »

March 19, 2008

yvonne on tango styles 2

See also: Interview with Yvonne for El Once

Firenze ... KI DOJO ... Tango - Articles - Styles of Tango, Part I

Candombe e Canyengue

Interview with Yvonne Meissner

(translation E. Marsiglia)

 We asked the tango teacher Yvonne Meissner to tell us about the different Argentinian tango styles and terminologies which were discussed and published in 2000 on the "E-American List".

(Y = Yvonne, J = journalis)

J:     Yvonne we would like to know more about the history of tango, looking at it from the point of view of dancing in general.

Y:     I would like to begin by telling you about a dance called the candombe which preceded the tango and which was brought to Argentina by slaves from Africa. For a long time a substantial community of these black slaves existed in Buenos Aires until it was decimated by an epidemic of yellow fever in 1871. But the candombe survived and is still danced today in Montevideo in Uruguay (which is opposite Buenos Aires on the other side of the Rio Plata). In this dance people move the upper part of the body and remain separated from each other, as in the salsa.

J:     I remember at the beginning of the film "Historia de Tango", made in 1949, that the candombe was danced in some of the scenes. It seems that with its strong rhythms it has influenced the canyengue, which is a form of pre-tango.

Y:    Yes, the canyengue was developed by the children of candombe dancers. It was danced from the early part of last century until at least the end of the thirties, and retained, musically, much of its African roots. The canyengue or canyengue orillero is also known as the tango con cortes (y quebradas). For example, Carmencita Calderòn, the partner of the well-known ballerino Cachafàz, referred to her tango as tango con cortes rather than canyengue or canyengue orillero. But whether we are speaking about the childhood memories of my dancer friends aged between 60 and 90, or about researches made by historians, they both agree that the tango con cortes y quebradas forms a part of the canyengue, given that the typical repertory of the latter is based mainly on cortes and quebradas.

J:    Could you explain the terms cortes y quebradas in a bit more detail?

Y:    The word corte comes from "cortar", meaning to cut, and, as opposed to a step, or paso, indicates the beginning of a step but without complete transference of weight onto the new supporting leg. In the most exaggerated case at least 51% of the weight remains on the leg that began the step, with 49% transferred to the other leg. The movement is carried out using the front part of the foot onto which the weight is transferred by leaning into it and then quickly, the weight is transferred back to the initial leg.
The word quebrada comes from "quebrar", which means to break, and indicates a movement to the side and a twisting of the upper torso towards that side. These are not complicated steps. It is just that it is very difficult to describe movements in words even when, in reality, they are very simple to execute.
The tango with cortes y quebradas is a historical form of tango and is not normally danced today in the salons of Buenos Aires, especially as canyengue music is no longer played.

J:    Why is this?

Y:    The canyengue is an old form of tango which was danced by the black and mixed race populations that lived in the working class areas in towns such as La Boca and San Telmo (but also in other catchment areas of the Rio de la Plata, including Montevideo, in Uruguay). In fact, in Montevideo, very interesting forms and variations of it survive even to this day. In this dance, there are lots of quebradas and movements of the upper torso which are rooted in the African dances of the original slaves.
Towards the end of the twenties and the beginning of the thirties another social class, consisting mainly of the white population, began to be interested in this dance of the blacks, or 'morenos', and with them, slowly, the canyengue orillero evolved. It is called orillero because these descendants of European immigrants lived in the orillas, or outskirts, of the towns, where they came into close contact with the mixed race families who were mixtures of white and black, or of white and native peoples (indios). This process of being taken over by a higher social class was repeated many times in the social and formal development of the tango. During the forties (the golden age of tango), a new richer social class, the middle class, began to emerge that wanted to distinguish itself clearly from the other, lower, classes. As a result the music and dancing of the canyengue and the canyengue orillero began to disappear from the salons of Buenos Aires.
Even today, the older milongueros, aged 60-90, who form part of, or who come originally from this social class, refuse to dance the canyengue in a tango salon. It is only the interest shown by foreigners towards the end of the eighties which allowed its return and even so, it still only appears in shows for tourists or is danced in salons by newer generations of dancers, although many professional dancers have learned the steps, having seen it danced within the family when they were young. We shouldn't forget that the authentic dancers of the canyengue would today have to be between 95 and 110 years old, and those of the canyengue orillero between 85 and 90.
In summary then, both the canyengue and the canyengue orillero are essentially historical forms of tango which were danced separately by two different social groups. It was then abandoned for a long time and eventually revived by the interest and enthusiasm of outsiders.

J:       Thanks, Yvonne.

Posted by joegrohens at 02:28 AM

Yvonne Meissner on Tango Styles

Firenze ... KI DOJO ... Tango - Articles - Styles of Tango, Part II


Tango de Salon - Stile Milonguero - Stile Tango Apilado

Interview with Yvonne Meissner

(translation E. Marsiglia)

We continue the interview with tango teacher Yvonne Meissner concerning the different styles and terminologies of Argentine tango, which was published in 2000 on the “E-American List”.

(Y = Yvonne, J = giornalista)

J:        We’ve arrived at the term “Tango Salon”. I have heard different definitions of this, such as Club Style, Milonguero Style and others, but do these expressions always refer to the same style of tango?

Y:        The expression Tango Salon encompasses all the styles of tango which are danced in a social context where, collectively, it is necessary to consider the movements of other couples. The name itself derives from the kind of place in which it is danced. It was born in the 1940s, when the middle classes began to attend the milongas (dance halls), and has two particular characteristics: 1) that the couple keeps the front part of their bodies and their shoulders directly facing each other throughout the entire dance, and 2) that the couple respects the speed and direction of the “ronda” (the rotating movement of the entire group in the milonga). Also in this salon style the dancers keep their heels on or as close as possible to the ground and do not execute figures that might interfere with other couples on the dance floor. The essential feature is that the dancing remains within the physical space created by the couple.

Salon Tango can also be danced with a close embrace, as many tango tourists to Buenos Aires have noticed. This was, and remains, the practice in the centre of Buenos Aires, whereas in the Salon Tango of the barrios, or outer districts (Saavedra for example) the dancers keep a certain amount of space between the leader and the follower, while still maintaining the other features mentioned above. In the province of Buenos Aires (for example Avellaneda) the couples assume a horizontal V position with the apex at the right hand shoulder of the leader. Salon Tango uses steps that we can still define as “figures”, but these are not pre-determined and are not always danced from the beginning to the end of the sequence, as they can be interrupted according to the sense of the music and the available space in a salon.

J:        We can say then that the term Tango Salon refers to all the styles of tango that are danced socially, but how many of these styles exist?

Y:        There are a number of forms of Tango Salon: Tango Liso, for example, is a simple tango walk. At most, the follower is led into a cross, but there are no turns or other figures. This form of tango was born at the beginning of the forties, when a part of the middle class in Argentina became interested in the tango and began to frequent the milongas (the daughters always being accompanied by some member of the family). They wanted to experience the pleasures of the new dance without having to mix with the lower social classes, who had been dancing the tango since the end of the thirties. Some of their figures, the ‘gancho’ for example (which in the thirties was only performed by men) or other similar sequences, had a sexual connotation both for the dancers and for those watching. Because of this, Tango Liso became the only form of tango that the daughters of the ‘respectable’ classes were allowed to dance. Some milongueros today still dance the Tango Liso but only in the authentic milongas, which the tango tourists do not normally attend. Tango Confiteria and Club Style are also forms of Tango Salon which are danced socially in the milongas, either with a close embrace or with a certain distance between the leader and follower

J:        Tell me ’one last thing’: what differentiates Milonguero Style from Apilado Style?

Y:       The Milonguero or Close Embrace Style are terms which describe the tango danced by the milongueros of Buenos Aires in contrast to the Tango Fantasia which was introduced by Todaro, and is now danced throughout the greater part of Europe. In 1993, a performing group of authentic milongueros came to Holland and taught what they called the Milonguero Style, which, for them, was just a general term for Tango Salon, but because they danced with a close embrace, Milonguero Style became the term for this ‘Buenos Aires’ way of dancing. Tango Salon in the Apilado manner is the same as Milonguero Style i.e. with the couple dancing in a close embrace. The term Apilado can be interpreted loosely as “put yourself forward” for the leader or “lean towards the leader” for the follower, which describes the kind of close embrace used by the milongueros from the centre of Buenos Aires. As the dancers lean towards each other (more or less according to preference) they share a third axis, creating, vertically from the heels, a /\ formation in which the apex of the /\ corresponds to the upper part of both bodies where the couple are in contact. In addition the follower embraces the leader by putting her left arm around his neck towards his left shoulder. Since the 1990s, this style of tango, which historically was danced only in the centre of Buenos Aires, has become more and more widespread, especially in Holland.

J:        Thanks, Yvonne.

Posted by joegrohens at 02:24 AM