... asked Man Yung while he was dancing with me at last night's milonga.
I replied, "No, actually, this is a tanda of Pugliese."
Man Yung can't usually tell what orchestra he is dancing to, or what singer is singing. He certainly has no idea about the titles to the songs, what the lyrics say, or whether the particular track is from the 30's, 40's or 50's. Sometimes he even thinks the milonga or vals that is being played is tango.
I on the other hand, can usually play "Name that orchestra" or "Name that singer" pretty darn well (I was extremely deadly at Trivial Pursuit and Jeopardy in my youth). I even know enough Spanish to understand some tango lyrics and impress non-spanish speakers with my translations!
I used to feel it necessary to yell out to Man Yung whenever he would head out onto the dance floor to invite some other lady to dance that it was a "Vals!" or "Milonga!" or "Canyengue!" - because sometimes he would actually dance milonga like a tango or a tango like a milonga etc. - and when he came back to our table he would be quite perplexed if I told him that that he was dancing "wrong" to the music. I thought it was kind of bizarre that he could make these "errors" in recognizing the music, because he is one of the very few people I know who can dance D'Arienzo like it is D'Arienzo, Di Sarli like it is Di Sarli, and vals like a vals and not a "tango but faster". On top of this, we practically lived at the milonga on the weekends hearing the same music week after week. Couldn't he just make an effort to remember?
But then, as Man Yung and I talked about this more, I realized that something else was going on. He would listen to a tango, and without knowing a single word of Spanish, he could tell me quite accurately what the lyrics were saying just by the way the music FELT. I would put two tangos by Carlos Di Sarli with Jorge Duran singing on my playlist together because it seemed to me on cursory listen that they were similar in mood and the feeling they want to convey - and Man Yung would tell me that no, in fact while the first one was about a tragic romance, the second one was just about hard living. And when I checked the lyrics out he would be right.
And there were other things too. That vals that he danced to like it was tango? Well, if I listened to it closely, wasn't Armando Moreno not really swooning and reeling in the compas? How about that milonga? Didn't it sound like Angel Vargas was taking a nice leisurely walk on Corrientes rather than an all-out foot stomping jaunt to the conventillos?
So, Man Yung can recite entire passages from "The Dream of the Red Chamber" and Ming Dynasty lyrical poetry by heart, and remember how to do all of the Okinawa Goju-ryu katas including Suparimpei (I've forgotten all of them already except the first three) although it's been six years since he has stepped foot in a dojo - but why doesn't Man Yung remember the names of the orchestras or which tune is a vals?
He doesn't remember because he simply doesn't care. For him, Tango is completely, utterly wonderful. It isn't important for him to "know" because it isn't necessary for him to make any distinctions - ALL of Tango music is pleasure, and he wants to dance to ALL of it.
Not that I would suggest that people stop learning about the details of the music right now and just do what they feel - because in order to dance tango well, you have to go out there and learn as much as you can about the music. But at a certain point, knowledge can become a liability - when our pleasure in the music becomes contained or "boxed-in" by concerns about what we must do or should do like "Lomuto is danced by only the milonguero-style crowd but not by us tango salon people" or "Pugliese is only danced by wanna-be show dancers and not us milonguero devotees" or "Biagi's music is flat and shallow and people in-the-know will think less of me for dancing it".
How do you choose which tanda to dance to? How much of your dancing is dictated by your prejudices and preconceptions of what you think you should or should not do? Does your extensive tango education interfere with your pleasure and enjoyment in the music? I know it affects me - I've been known to turn my nose up at Fresedo and to sit resolutely through a tanda of De Angelis purely because it was Fresedo and De Angelis. But it shouldn't. I envy Man Yung.
While I was writing this post, I said to Man Yung, "So, your secret is that you allow the music to touch you."
To which he replied, "No. It's my heart that reaches out... to touch the music."
Martha's Apartment in Buenos Aires
A Non-exhaustive set of Tango links in Toronto
- La Cachila - weekly milonga
- Paradiso -- weekly milonga
- Practica El Beso
- WE Tango
- Tango Sur - classes, shows
- Rhythm and Motion - classes, milonga, practica, annual Toronto Tango Festival
- Tango Obsession - classes, weekly Practica La Coqueta
- Tango Lirico - classes, practica, weekly milonga
- Tango de Oro - classes, shows
- Tango Soul Productions - classes, weekly milonga, shows, El Congreso annual Tango Festival
- Vivatango - classes
- Tango Argentino - classes
- Club Milonga - classes, special events
- Alternatango - classes, weekly milonga
- University of Toronto Tango Club - classes, practica
- El Abrazo - classes
- Tangoloft - twice monthly milonga