Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Daniel Lapadula and the Thirty-Sixth Chamber of the Shaolin Temple

Yesterday, out of the blue, I realized that Man Yung had stopped doing this particular step that he found quite useful dancing in the crowded conditions of the milongas at Centro Region Leonesa back in March this year. Why hasn't he been doing it? Has he forgotten?

I tried to explain to Man Yung what it was, but being a follower, I can't speak in a "step language" that makes sense to a leader. I demonstrated at length what the follower would do in that step. But Man Yung just looked puzzled and scratched his head.

"You know, it's the step that B__________ asked me about when we were at the Sunday milonga at _____________ a couple of years ago!!!" I said in exasperation to Man Yung's blank expression. "The one that Dolores does when Daniel leads her to do back ochos!!!"*

Nevertheless, something clicked in Man Yung's head. "I still don't know what you are talking about, but I have a suggestion - let's watch Daniel's DVD again and you can POINT OUT to me what you are talking about!"

Hurrah for the miracle of modern technology! We rummaged through our extensive Tango collection, found Daniel Lapadula's "Tango Estilo del Centro" instructional DVD box, opened it, and found -




Luckily, in the highly-organized and thoroughly logical home of Irene and Man Yung, this means that Daniel's DVDs are securely lodged in the boxes for the aforementioned "The Thirty-Sixth Chamber of the Shaolin Temple" and "Return to the Thirty-Sixth Chamber of the Shaolin Temple". Which is kind of ironic, because the Tango instruction program in Daniel Lapadula's DVDs is just as comprehensive and effective for a budding Tanguero/Tanguera as the training received from Thirty-Six Chambers of the Shaolin Temple for a Shaolin novitiate.**

Hmmm..... So that's where we're keeping our Tango DVDs

"That seems somewhat high praise," you say. "Are you getting paid to promote this program?"

Let's explain by back-tracking to 2005. We've been learning Tango for about a year from some very elegant, young, energetic and supple local instructors. Since this was in the dark days before Youtube, we had never seen any other "real" Tango dancing except that of Pablo Veron (in Sally Potter's "The Tango Lesson"), Juan Carlos Copes (in Carlos Saura's "Tango"), and Osvaldo Zotto and Mora Godoy (in "Asi se Baila el Tango").

In other words, it was depressing to think that although we had devoted so much of our time and effort to Tango, there was no possible human way that our creaky old bodies would ever duplicate the athletic fanciness embodied by these examples of local and world-reknowned Argentine Tango glory (honestly, we don't think anyone over the age of 35 could). Not to mention that what we had learned so far from the resources available made us a navigational nightmare in the milonga. We were Tango Rejects.

We bought "Tango Estilo del Centro" out of curiosity, because firstly, this was one of the only Tango Instruction DVD choices available (apart from Copes and Zotto, which we already had). Secondly, it was ON SALE! And as everyone knows, anything ON SALE (at 50% off, no less!) is worth a try.

To be honest, we didn't have high hopes that we would be able to find anything useful in the DVDs. What's with the weird and confusing looking cover? The strange mirror image posing? Where were the ram-rod straight postures and eye-popping "Tango" costumes? Who are Daniel and Dolores anyway?

If you break out the magnifying glass, you will realize that the small print says:
"Tango Estilo del Centro" and "Dolores de Amo & Daniel Lapadula"

Ah, what a lesson in "Don't judge a book (or DVD) by it's cover" we got - because we found the DVDs to be priceless. Sure, Daniel and Dolores teach "steps" - but together, the "steps" form a formidable system of tango movement. Got someone blocking your left side? Several different ways to turn to the right. Got someone else blocking your right? Several different ways to turn to the left. Someone charging at you from the front and the rear or perhaps surrounded by bumper-car eight-directional bouncing danger? Several different ways to exit without a major collision.

Some instructors teach beautiful intricate step sequences. Some instructors teach nothing more than how to stand real straight or hug real tight, and some kind of so-called "authentic" "walk" and a few ocho cortados. However, no matter if you were taught to dance "fancy" or to dance "simple", if you are going to react in exactly the same way every time you are confronted with a navigational peril... you will end up colliding in exactly the same way, ad nauseum. So it's not only the fancy dancers, but the simple ones too who are causing total floor chaos. In fact, in Toronto, so-called "close-embrace" people still manage to be floor hazards despite squeezing their partner within an inch of suffocation and taking tiny midget steps.

Let's illustrate it this way: how can you have a real conversation with anyone when all you are doing is sprouting florid quotations from Shakespeare, or only grunting simple words like "a", "and", "the", "but", "yes" and "no"? "Estilo del Centro" by comparison, is language - with enough not only to keep the conversation interesting but also to let you deal with any situation that you can possibly encounter. On the dance floor, you need more than just the ability to execute step sequences or just the ability to walk and stop, marching-style, with your partner. You need the ability to walk, to turn and to combine your walks and turns - intelligently, as the situation demands. This is what Daniel and Dolores' "Tango Estilo del Centro" gave us. And guess what? We didn't need to be young and flexible or even particularly talented to absorb the material taught. We could dance like ourselves - and not look too bad at all!

We can't say that Daniel and Dolores are the best dancers in the world, or the best teachers, or that "Tango Estilo del Centro" is the best Tango instructional system. We can't even say that it would definitely work for you. All we can say, from our personal experience, is this:

- Learning this stuff took our dancing to a whole new level. We were dancing tango rather than regurgitating it.
- Watching Daniel and Dolores demonstrate on the DVDs, it was the first time we were confronted with the example of a Leader actually LEADING, and a Follower actually FOLLOWING. "I can't believe it, Dolores is following what Daniel is leading! So that's how it works," said Man Yung.
- After learning about half the material on the DVDs, not only were we navigating well in the Toronto milongas, someone actually remarked to us - "What have the two of you been up to? In just a few weeks, you have improved so much! It's like the Phoenix rising from the flames!"**

Daniel and Dolores dancing to D'Arienzo's "Mandria"

It's now 2009, and a lot of things we found fascinating and admirable in 2005 have kind of lost their appeal. However, we find that Daniel and Dolores' dancing is still groovy. No matter what kind of flaws you can point out, we can see and feel that they are DANCING - which is much more than you can say about some of the other examples you can find on Youtube or on the Tango teaching circuit these days.

Whenever we hear "Mandria" or "Raza Criolla" or "Lejos de Buenos Aires" or any of the other tangos that Daniel and Dolores demonstrate to in the DVDs, we look at each other, exclaim "Daniel!" and say a silent prayer of thanks to the help that "Tango Estilo del Centro" gave us in our Tango journey.

Daniel Lapadula's website "Tango Estilo del Centro" can be found here.

*Dear Reader: Unfortunately, many of our Tango conversations go something like this.

** A Coincidence? Daniel Lapadula used to be a professional wrestler!

***I kid you not, someone actually said this to us. Which unfortunately meant that before "Tango Estilo del Centro", we were kind of a "Crash and Burn" kind of couple.


Daniel Lapadula said...

Hey there! I read your post and I have no that much to say rather than THANK YOU!.
I hope that one day I can go visit your tango community,maybe when I go to Vancouver? :)
Kind regards to both and abrazos!!

Daniel Lapadula said...

Well...#th time i am trying to write smething to you!! :).
I read your coments and I can say nothing more than Thank you.
I am very glad that you have some light from our video.My intention is to pass what it work for me rather than teach it!.
My kind regards to booth and big abrazo.
I wish some day I can visit you city,maybe when I go to Vancouver or the USA.

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Daniel,

Thanks for commenting on our post and THANK YOU for creating Tango Estilo del Centro so we could learn so much from it!

We actually exchanged emails with you back in 2005 or 2006 to let you know how much we appreciate your instruction on your DVDs, and we even sent a friend of ours to Argentina to bring you a bottle of whiskey, we hope that this rings a bell! We think that this is the first time we have taken the opportunity to write about how grateful we are to you in public on the internet, hopefully many more tangueros and tangueras will benefit from your DVDs as we did, and the dancing around the world will continue to improve.

Un abrazo muy grande y MUCHAS GRACIAS otra vez!

Irene and Man Yung

Unknown said...

Could you imagine if Tango dancers went through the same training as the kung fu students in those movies!?

Watch Drunken Master with Jackie Chan and create a dance workout that incorporates squatting with candles under your butt in order to improve leg strength :)

Great post!
Pete | The Tango Notebook

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Pete,

I'm pretty sure that at the last "Women's Technique" workshop I attended, not only did they make us stand on one leg while balancing a stack of plates on rickety wooden stools to improve our balance, they also made us jump through flaming hoops with TNT strapped to our bodies so we would never again experience fear .... of embarrassing ourselves in public when we do ugly adornments!

They also made us do YOGA for FORTY-FIVE MINUTES. THE HORROR!

Thanks for your comment!


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