Sunday, February 14, 2010

Chacarera, Chacarera

Step into many of Toronto's milongas these days and it's almost like stepping into a milonga in Buenos Aires. We have lovely, traditional music. We have musical, traditional styles of dancing. We, of course, have milongueras. We even have milongueros. I know I make fun of "Toronto Milongueros" but really, Toronto leaders as a whole are getting better and better. The fancy-pants show-offs of yesterday, looking to burn a hole in the dance floor with their repertoire of fancy high falutin' moves - are seriously pass é. Instead, we have leaders who respect the dance floor and dance for their partners and for their love of tango. Que lindo - our milonguera friends report that it is heaven dancing with these leaders and melting in their embrace. Dancing with Man Yung, however, is still like taking a piggy-back ride on a whirling dervish. But I digress.

What I really wanted to say is that in Toronto, we also have the Chacarera. You know, the Argentinian folk dance that the Portenos frequently indulge in in the milongas of Buenos Aires, interrupting the tango experience of the gringos who were dead set on getting their entradas worth of dancing and dancing tango all night.

Seriously, we've seen gringo tango tourists sit on the side looking extremely sour whenever the portenos leap to the floor for a round of chacarera in Buenos Aires. But they shouldn't, because the chacarera is a wonderful thing. When it becomes a regular fixture, as we have seen at Toronto's La Cachila and Milonga Argentina - and when it is danced with the spirit and energy of Argentina - the chacerera enhances the milonga.

Let me give you an example of chacarera not done right. You don't dance the chacarera daintily or wimpily. You don't dance the chacerera like it was line dancing. And although you can take a million folklore dance lessons and become an expert, it looks extremely weird (to our eyes) for gringos to aim to dance the chacarera "correctly" like it was something out of a championship competition rulebook. When we were in Glorias Argentinas two years ago and people got up to dance chacarera, a tall, elegant asian couple leapt up to join them. They had been taking lots of lessons to learn how to dance chacarera "authentically", and indeed, they had really great, ram-rod straight posture and incredibly precise arm positions. But all the things that they did that they thought were making them "authentic" just made them look "off" and they stood out like sore thumbs.

I think that there are parallels to be made between a good tango and a good chacarera. Both dances have a structure, but should not be danced "academia" - by some academically set rule. Both the tango and the chacarera have to be danced from a feeling that comes from inside. Perhaps I'm just a romantic, but I think that this short video clip captures what I think chacarera's about:

The chacarera has something to do with joy, freedom, spontaneity, personality, and passion for life - and the natural expression of this feeling. The musicians have it, the kids have it - just look the expression in the girl's eyes and at how that little boy leaps and jumps! And you know what, Toronto tango is starting to have it too.


Unknown said...

I’m so happy to hear that Argentinean folk somehow is exposed to Torontonians.
There are more beautiful folk dances which are worth knowing together with chacarera, like zamba and chamame, cueca and malambo… I’m looking forward finding places in Toronto where Argentinean folk music and dance are presented. Unfortunately, I could not find any… Any help/recommendations would be appreciated!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tangocommuter said...

Thanks for the wonderful video! I always wanted to see what chacarera looked like outside the refined porteno milongas - and this is it! Beautiful!

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Luba,

We're not very familiar with the Argentine folklore scene in Toronto, but we've seen folklore troupes perform at some special tango events over the years. If you are in Toronto tango the best person to ask will be the tango and folklore teacher Ruben Bustamente - he's the folklore expert! He was the expert folklore performer in Juan Carlo's Copes show "A Rose for Mr. Tango" when it came to Toronto many many years ago". We understand that Ruben is teaching chacarera at La Cachila in March, so that would be a great opportunity to learn from him as well as ask him any questions you have about folklore!

Thanks for your comment,

Irene and Man Yung

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Tangocommuter,

We tend to see a more "sanitized" and "sleek" version of chacarera in the milongas, but what a treat it was at Sunday's La Cachila in Toronto when the chacarera was danced with such spirit, enthusiasm and joy the dancers almost blew off the roof of Dovercourt House with their energy! We wished we hadn't forgotten our camera!

Thank you for your comment (and we hope that the milongas in the UK also have chacarera like the ones here!)

Irene and Man Yung

Unknown said...

Dear Irene and Man Yung,
Thank you for the information!

BTW, the accordionist in this video is Chango Spasiuk. He is one of the best folk accordion players in Argentina, who is well known as chamamé performer.

Here is one example of the chamamé dance which also is danced at milongas in Argentina:

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Luba,

Thank you for the information on the accordion player and the chamame link! Hope to see you at the milonga soon!

Irene and Man Yung

Toronto Weather

Buenos Aires Weather