Friday, July 25, 2008

Argentine Tango on SYTYCD + the real thing

Argentine Tango on SYTYCD has proven to be popular, (although most people don't know the difference between the AT and Ballroom Tango). This season, ballroom competitor Chelsie Hightower was paired with Mark Kanemura as the dancers were cut from 20 to 10. For many people, their Argentine Tango was a highlight. I loved the performance: Chelsie is an accomplished partner dancer who has never danced AT, while Mark is a talented dancer with a gift for projecting a character. Even though there are some moments where she breaks out of his hold, he is completely focused on her and their partnership throughout, so the illusion fits the character of the dance.

Once the show began to mix up the couples, Chelsie was paired with Josh for another Argentine Tango. Josh has his moments of feline movement, and the choreographers love to exploit his strength for lifts, but he doesn't have enough of a sense of the character of the dance to unify the pieces of his performance. Chelsie is better in this one because she is less ballroomy, but because Josh doesn't know how to lead, she isn't able to create the illusion of attentive following that is so key to this dance.


Here's my very favorite movie scene of a tango exhibition style, from Carlos Saura's film Tango. Here, the old pro is supposedly inviting a young woman to dance,lead and follow, although in fact this dance was choreographed for the film. Gorgeous.

But THIS is the the real thing: tango tal como se baila en Buenos Aires, in which the man is leading, and the woman is following, WITHOUT choreography, only through the connection and their incredible skill and musicality.

10 comments:

fresca said...

Talk about the eroticism of working together!

The whole idea of leading and following without choreography intrigues me--it reminds me of improv acting.
Recently I saw 2 improvers doing this exercise where they try and say the same thing at the same time--sometimes they were so on the mark it seemed they were simply reciting together, but usually you could see the nanosecod lagtime, which in itself was cool. They took turns leading and following.

I don't know about dance, but I always love ballroom dancing movies! Starting with "Top Hat" when I was a kid.

Can you say anything about the dance in one of my favorites: "Strictly Ballroom"?
Do you know, is the flamenco at all "real," when the family dances it, or is it movie dance?
(Gee, I'm just assuming you've seen it.)

momo said...

I've seen it--in the theater and on dvd. I dont' really know about the flamenco parts, but I do know the director was a child ballroom competitor and dancer before he got into films, and that this is the world he knows. I like to imagine that he used good dancers for the flamenco part, but it's been a while since I've seen it.

fresca said...

Oh, I didn't know that about the director, but it makes sense. I mean, it feels real.

momo said...

Yeah, Baz Luhrmann--his mother is a ballroom dance teacher, and he grew up around that world. This article has some fun stories about shooting the film:
http://www.reel.com/reel.asp?node=features/interviews/luhrmann

demondoll said...

That last one especially is phenom!

momo said...

Hi, demondoll! Isn't it amazing? it's the cnnection between the two that is so exciting. They practically glow!

lillyelf said...

Fantastic post! I love dancing the Argentine Tango, but gave up going to milongas due to my severe bashfulness and embarrassment at always stomping on my partners' feet. I am terrible at following. >.< Watching Marksie at it made me miss it so much.

With regards to Strictly Ballroom, the actor playing Fran's father is flamenco dancer Antonio Vargas. The flamenco steps are authentic, and I loved the way they adapted it for the paso doble. The Spanish character became so much more defined, in my opinion.

momo said...

lillyelf, thanks for the info on the film. I assumed as much, so it's nice to have a name for the dancer. I haven't been to a milonga for a long time; I am not very proficient, and the local scene tends to be somewhat insular. I'd have to take some classes to catch up, and I don't have the time for it these days. But I love to watch!

lillyelf said...

You're very welcome! Strictly Ballroom (or specifically, the paso doble performance ^^) got me into ballroom dancing in the first place. When I realized I couldn't move higher without a partner, I started flamenco as a solo alternative. AT was the perfect fit in the middle, so all 3 dances are very dear to me though I don't dance any of them at the moment. Your post just brought back all the joy I had in learning them. I guess I should get myself back into classes too!

demondoll said...

Yes, they are so connected- sigh!

I loved Strictly Ballroom, too:-)
I don't dance, but I watch happily