Thursday, July 29, 2010

Lady X

I will refrain from making sexual comparisons, but sometimes the first tanda you have with someone will be awkward and leaves something to be desired. This happened to me a few weeks ago at a festival I visited. I danced with a follwer, let's call her Lady X, who had really great balance and a good sense of following, but her embrace was too restricting and a little rigid. I had to switch from close embrace to open embrace and finished the tanda, which was, all things considered, a pretty good tanda.

However, after we were finished and I was walking her back to her seat, she actually asked me why I had switched to open embrace. I felt kind of bad, like I had hurt her feelings or something. So I gave a diplomatic yet honest reply. I told her that I thought she was uncomfortable with close embrace because she was squeezing me hard with her left arm, and that was that.

We met again at another festival recently, and this time around, the dances were simply amazing. Lady X's left arm did not choke me, but rested on my right arm and shoulder with just the right amount of pressure to achieve a wonderful connection. We had several fantastic tandas. A couple of things that deserve mention:

1. She apologized several times about tensing up slightly, adding that she felt a little nervous. This in turn made me feel bad. I am a passable dancer, not a very high caliber leader, and so I can only conclude that my previous comment about her embrace made her self-conscious. I apologize (anonymously) to this wonderful lady for making her doubt herself at all. That being said, I must acknowledge that my honest reply to her question, did result in her paying attention to the quality of her embrace. Conclusion: Leaders, please refrain from unsolicited comments to your dance partners at milongas, but if they ask you, by all means be honest, yet very nice about it. No doubt, some people will be upset if you point out specific shortcomings, but I have to assume that if I am directly asked, then the person asking me does have a genuine interest in hearing my input. And in my case, that input was taken into consideration, and made a great dancer even greater.

2. Among the leads in our community, I tend be one of the simpler dancers. I rarely lead ganchos, leg wraps or any of the flashier steps, even given the space at our more sparse milongas that makes these steps feasible without kicking other people. I was dancing with Lady X to 'El Adios' (can't remember if it was Donato's version or Canaro's), and during a couple of the phrases with the prominent wailing violins, I just walked and walked. I have something for wailing violins apparently, and I really walked from my heart. This did not go unnoticed by Lady X, who commented that she loves simple dances with lots of walking (Apprently she agrees with Jaimito that simple is beautiful), but that it's so rare for leaders to do that with her. My reply, and hopefully that reply undid whatever emotional damage I did with my previous comments, was that probably because she is such a wonderful dancer, all the other guys want to try out their "moves" on her. On my part, when I dance with such an exquisite dancer, I want to enjoy the dance, feeling the music and feeling my partner. If I wanted to do "moves", I'll go salsa.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Thoughts on my debut as a DJ

Last week, an organizer of a milonga I frequently go to invited me to DJ at his venue for Wednesday night (there is a milonga every Wednesday and Friday). We had previously had lengthy conversations regarding music and dance, so perhaps he felt I shared his vision on how milongas should be. Even though I had no previous experience, I felt that the Wednesday milonga was small enough and lenient enough to allow for newbie mistakes. This was not the case - I decided to announce my debut on Facebook, though I really did not expect that many people to show up! I was pleasantly surprised, and it added some more pressure to play good music (in addition to finding out that I'd be getting paid the equivalent of ~25 USD... the milonga entrance fee is ~6 USD). I made the playlist as the night went along depending on the mood and the flow, but I forgot to save it. Still, I remember most of it:
Canaro instrumental (Loca, Pampa, La Maleva, La melodía de nuestro adiós)
Lomuto (Son cosas del bandoneón, Madreselva, San Telmo, Por la vuelta)
Orquesta Típica Victor (El porteñito, Che papusa oi, Dominio, Cardos)
D'Arienzo instrumental (El flete, Retintín, El Cencerro, Ataniche)
Tanturi-Castillo (así se baila el tango, esta noche me emborracho and two more)
Biagi vals (Pájaro herido, Cuatro palabras, Lágrimas y sonrisas)
Caló-Iriarte (Marión and three more)
Troilo-Fiorentino (Yo soy el tango, toda mi vida, Pájaro ciego, Te aconsejo que me olvides)
Canaro instrumental milonga (La milonga de mis tiempos, Milongón, Reliquias porteñas)
Di Sarli-Podestá (Nido gaucho, Lloran las campanas, Vamos, La capilla blanca)
Fresedo-Ray (Siempre es carnaval, Como aquella princesa, Sollozos, No quiero verte llorar)
De Angelis vals (Soñar y nada más, A Magaldi, Pobre flor)
Donato (Mi serenata, Alas rotas?, El Adiós, Sinsabor)
Rodriguez con Moreno (Cómo has cambiado pebeta, Mirame de frente, un tropezón, Yo no sé por qué razón)
Villasboas milonga (La tierra gaucha, Papas calientes, El charo camaro)
Malerba con Medina (Remembranzas, Magdalena, Embrujamiento, Gitana Rusa)
Varela (Fueron tres años, Portero suba y diga, Muchacha, Fumando espero)
D'Agostino con Vargas (Caricias, ?, ?, No vendrá)
A few notes:
-Canaro tangos generally don't appeal to me, but the instrumental tanda I had at the beginning was very nice, and it was a real shame that there was nobody to dance to it. That's why for the following two tandas I played rather forgettable music (no offense to Lomuto and OTV fans). When people started showing up, probably there's nothing better than D'Arienzo to get people on their feet!
-The way I built the tandas, other than the almost mandatory same orchestra, same year (or at least spaced closely together), was to put 4 songs of similar mood, with the most recognizable one first to get people on their feet, and the best for last, to really enjoy that last song! It's rather subjective on what people consider to be the best and the most recognizable, but it's what I went for.
-The technical aspect of DJing is something that I had always taken for granted. Sure, every now and then, with an inattentive DJ you hear a scratchy, low quality recording, but no big deal, right? Well, big deal when I'm the DJ. I always listen to my songs on crappy computer speakers, so I hadn't realized how bad some of my sound files are. I was only worried about the scratchy ones, but at first the biggest issue was the inconsistent volume level, in general too low. This made me realize the value of not being a cheap ass and actually buying the albums. And if I really want to overdo it, maybe eventually go old school and DJ with only CDs!
-Looking back at the playlist, maybe it's true what people tell me... I'm indeed a hopeless romantic! Also I was worried that people might complain that there wasn't enough instrumental tandas. A mock playlist I made beforehand was composed of mostly sung tangos, and I think non-Spanish speakers may not have the same appreciation.
-Going back to the technical aspects, I didn't realize that my laptop makes the default system clicking noise when I navigate through the folders, which happened a lot when I was going through the music to choose... but didn't realize it till the day after! The organizer later told me he was aware of the little clicking sounds through the speakers, but let it slip because it was a common rookie mistake. You can imagine how embarrassed I was........
-An unusual thing I did for this milonga was to play a different cortina every time. People used to hearing one or at most two or three of the same cortinas all night and every week might have found it distracting, but I have two reasons for having done this: firstly, I am always unspeakably bored of hearing the same cortina throughout the milonga. Secondly, and more importantly, I wanted to give the crowd a hint of what was coming up. For example, before the rhythmic tandas or milonga tandas, I played heavy metal, capoeira, and techno. Before romantic tandas, I played some mellow ballads, and so on.
-I played an experimental milonga tanda, and by experimental I mean that it's not a tanda that I've ever heard being played in this community, although I consider it very danceable. Anyway, it was Villasboas milonga, and people were rather confused during the Papas Calientes song because of its abrupt and long pauses, perhaps thinking that I had accidentally stopped the music or that it was just how the song ended. I think I'll play some experimental tandas every now and then. For the precursor cortinas, Frank Zappa or The Doors would work wonders.
-Learning how to say no: As a man, it's hard to say no when a girl asks you to dance. I danced much less than I usually do, but still more than I would have liked to and definitely more than what's advisable for a serious DJ. Although it's against Buenos Aires code to even explicitly ask for a dance (even more scandalous when it's the woman asking for the dance... more on this later), people still do it, and it's hard for me to say no. But when DJing, I found that I can't even concentrate on my dancing, as I'm constantly thinking of what tanda to put next, how the flow and the mood is going, how the sound quality is, etc.

Overall, I think it was a successful debut. A milonguera friend who is currently taking it easy because of her pregnancy (she is due in a few weeks) showed up just to listen to my music and didn't even bring her dance shoes, but was up and dancing anyway, probably more so than was medically advisable, so she had people worried. But at least, I guess (or hope) that it was a good indicator of my performance. So it seems it was good enough, at least to impress the Friday milonga organizer at the same venue, so he invited me to DJ again. This second time, I made sure to turn off the system sounds, focus on sound quality through equalization, and actually save the playlist!

De Angelis Instrumental (Nueve de Julio - being 9th of July and all -, El entrerriano, El Chañar, El huracán)
D'Arienzo con Valdez (Hasta siempre amor, Adiós corazón, Andate por Dios!, Chirusa)
Donato con Lagos (Gato, Me voy a Baraja, Se va la vida, Alas rotas) - to get the milonga really started with some playful mood
Vals Biagi con Ibáñez (Lejos de tí, Loca de amor, Viejo portón)
Canaro instrumental (Lorenzo, La Maleva, La viruta, La melodía de nuestro adiós) - I wanted to make up for a similar tanda last time being wasted at the very beginning of the milonga
Rodríguez con Moreno (Cómo se pianta la vida, En la buena y en la mala, Llorar por una mujer, Danza maligna)
Milonga Di Sarli con Rufino (La mulateada, Yo soy de San Telmo, Zorzal)
Tanturi con Campos (Una emoción, Palomita mía, que nunca me falte, Oigo tu voz)
Fresedo con Ray (Vida mía, Araca la cana, Yo no sé llorar, Cordobesita)
Balcarce vals (Unitaria, La pulpería de Santa Lucía, Luna de arrabal)
Biagi instrumental (Re fa si, La marca de fuego, El yaguarón, El estribo)
Troilo instrumental (Cachirulo, Milongueando en el 40, El Tamango, Guapeando)
Milonga Donato con Lagos (Ella es así, Sacale punta, La milonga que faltaba)
Demare con Miranda (Malena, Pa mi es igual, Al compás de un tango, Mañana zarpa un barco)
D'Arienzo con Mauré (Dime mi amor, Infamia, Ya lo ves, Humillación)
Vals D'Agostino con Vargas (Esquinas porteñas, El espejo en tus ojos, Tristeza criolla)
Caló con Berón (La abandoné y no sabía, Entre sueños, Domingo a la noche, En tus ojos de cielo)
Laurenz con Podestá (Nunca tuvo novio, Como el hornero, Yo quiero cantar un tango, Todo)
Di Sarli 50s instrumental (A la gran muñeca, Organito de la tarde, El once, El amanecer)
Troilo con Fiorentino (Pa que bailen los muchachos, Percal, Colorao colorao, En esta tarde gris)
Gobbi instrumental (Independiente Club, El andariego, La viruta, Racing Club)
Canaro instrumental (Poema, El Adiós, Paciencia, La Cumparsita)

For this milonga, there was a lot of people visiting from abroad, so I didn't really know their taste. It seemed like they would dance to whatever I played, though.
Regarding the last tanda, I don't like playing Poema because it's such a recognizable song that the rest of the tanda doesn't have the same impact. But at that point in the night, I wanted to get the few people remaining on their feet, so I tried my best to make it a worthwhile tanda even after the first song. They later told me it was fine, but suggested I mix it with other recognizable songs by other orchestras that are hard to fit into tandas (Buscándote by Fresedo, Café Dominguez by D'Agostino, for instance). I've shown my playlists to friends in other communities, and they almost invariably ask why there's no Pugliese... for the first night, the milonga wasn't long enough to really fit in Pugliese; it would have seemed very forced to play it. For the second night, the mood didn't really seem to call for Pugliese. Maybe next time.
I have the next week and a half off from DJing duties! So I'll gather my thoughts further. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

Way to butcher one of my favorite songs

I normally am an advocate of "whatever floats your boat" as long as it respects the well being and reasonable interest of others, both on and off the dance floor. But this is just revolting......

Why???? Why???????? I won't be stating the obvious that there is no way you could ever use these kinds of movements at a milonga, unless it's a really really slow night..... but even if it's a performance, why would you do this? Whatever that is, it's plain ugly... They look like a very inelegant hybrid of half-assed splits and a few kicks here and there. And no need to get into semantics of what is tango and what is not, because that sequence on the video above is definitely not tango. From that, my biggest complaint: why would you disrespect such a beautiful, elegant song with such awful nonsense (no other word comes up to mind)? Associating "advanced revolt-cadas" with Nido Gaucho is travesty, and it makes me cringe. Di Sarli is rolling in his grave, and Podestá would probably cry.
Some people will no doubt say "oh quit living in the past, nuevo is the way forward!" I'm no one to say how tango should be danced, and I'm all for experimenting with weird things. But this is just plain disgusting, it doesn't even look pretty, no matter what your standards of beauty and elegance. People pay to learn this?????????? Really??????????