Friday, June 25, 2010

Classical and baroque

What I'm about to write is probably heresy to some and tremendously obvious to others,* but still...

(The British Museum; image from the University of Texas at Austin, Department of English)

(Image from French baroque architecture)

I don't really like Geraldine Rojas's dancing--and not entirely on the grounds of "That's not something you should do at a milonga," because let's face it, everybody showboats to some degree in an exhibition dance. That's part of what exhibitions are for: demonstrating skill beyond what you might be able to do within the constraints of the milonga floor.

At best, I guess you could say I have conflicting feelings about her dancing: I think she's extraordinarily graceful and skilled. It's all the kicks and firuletes that make up so much of her distinctive style that I don't care for--not because she doesn't execute them beautifully, but simply because they're often so superfluous. Too often, they have nothing to do with the music. They don't seem to reflect it, or add to it... They just seem to be this thing she does maybe almost automatically.

And it's the more troubling to me because her fundamental technique can be so lovely, and Javier's leading, at their best as a couple, could be beautifully musical. All her adornments obscure that, when they aren't connected to the music, like the overly decorated facade of an otherwise elegant building.** She can hardly seem to take a step without kicking all around it. I wish she'd let the underlying lyricism shine through more on its own.

These videos sort of break my heart because of this--because I actually like so much what is going on underneath all those embellishments:

I would just about kill to be able to simply take a step as gracefully as she can. But she can't seem to just let that be enough. (Especially later in each video, when she really starts to slice 'n' dice.) I guess she performs this style of tango better than many, but the style itself still seems marred by too much ornament.

So here is what I take from this for my own dancing:

Not to try to be [what can only be] a pale imitation of Geraldine or anyone else, but always to try to be the best possible version of myself.

Always to stay connected to the music. Not to make adornments out of habit, as I have sometimes found myself doing, but only to use them to help me reflect and interpret the music.

To strive for classical grace in my dancing and let that speak for itself, rather than falling prey to the temptations of the baroque--and [a serious struggle lately] to stop trying to show off. It might be a question of what I really want in a dance: do I have exhibition goals in mind on the social floor? But excellent technique and musicality will speak loudly enough to the people whose opinion matters most to me; they've always done so in the past.

* I had a very dysfunctional computer for a long time, so I'm pretty sure this is old news to the rest of the world. I hear Geraldine hasn't even danced with Javier in years, so, I mean, there you go. But I'm only now getting to watch more of their videos and form my opinions about what I see.

** Not to say that baroque art forms can't be quite lovely in their way. Here is where my analogy breaks down, I guess, because I like a lot of what I've seen and read of various baroque art forms--but it can get to be too much. I guess the most I can say is that I don't care for a baroque tango style.


  1. yes keep up Miss Tangoiste! Geraldine's now married to Ezequiel Paludi. Poor Javier has had to console himself in some other woman's arms .. now what's her name? lol

    I was surprised how poor the dancing in video 1 was. Was it really Javier? They didnt seem to be on time with the music. In video 2 though I see what you mean - what a shame! Sublime in parts, but let down by over decoration. Still, I'm impressed - looked like she was dancing on 6in heels! hehe

    There's a post on the MovementInvitesMovement blog about having your own style. Not being a pale imitation of someone else. I like the idea - it's what at the end of the day provides colour and contrast to the dance floor.

  2. Ha! We'll see if I can't keep up better now that I have a fully functioning computer. :)

    I did know Geraldine was dancing with her new husband, some Not-Javier, but couldn't remember his name--thanks! "Poor Javier" indeed; I'll bet no pretty young things wanted to dance with him at all!

    I didn't think the dancing in the first video was so bad; I liked it best because I thought I was finally going to see them dance simply, unadorned--or as close to unadorned as Geraldine seems able get. But maybe that was actually it...

    "Sublime" is a good word for the second video--in parts, as you say. That's the one, of the two of them, that really kills me.

    I have been meditating on the "style" post on MIM. I actually like best what you say, that being oneself is what "at the end of the day provides colour and contrast to the dance floor." Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts!

  3. A pleasure. Thank you for writing such a provocative post :)


  4. You wrote what I've always thought about Geraldin's dancing, but didn't have the words. I keep my mouth shut when those around me praise her dancing. I don't see what they see. I see a simple dance performed with too many tricks and no feeling. She will improve with age and tone down her footwork. In the meantime, so many young dancers are copying her bad habits, i.e., not placing heel tips on the floor.

    I'm with you on being a first-rate version of myself!

  5. >She will improve with age

    That's a good point, Jan; I hope it will come true and we'll get to see some really wonderful things from her.

    Thanks for helping me put my finger on something that was eluding me about her dance--how the tops of her feet sometimes seem almost perfectly in line with her shins. If she's not putting her heels down when her body passes over them, that explains it. Well, that and the sky-high heels. ;)

    Yes, by all means, keep being your first-rate self! Thank you for sharing your thoughts, both here and on your own blog.

  6. We learned and understand the idea that the woman doesn't put her heels down if she doesn't want to. It was actually Javier's father who taught him that a man should never allow the woman's heels to touch the ground. The woman can choose to, but the man provides the opportunity for her not to. By inviting the woman into his embrace, the man takes the woman off her heels (this does not mean he takes her weight). As well, the man makes sure never to step in the woman's space and/or her axis.

    We loved (past tense) Geraldine's dancing - although we definitely can understand that her adorning could easily be over the top. That said, her adorning was always perfectly with the music and/or the feeling of the music. Now that Geraldine is dancing with her husband, her dancing has become less about Tango and more about show. Plus, she has simply lost the beauty in her dance that she had with Javier.

    This goes to show what few people realized about Javier & Geraldine. Everyone always saw her as the incredible dancer. Yet when she partnered her husband, all of sudden her dancing didn't look so good. It was and is Javier who brings out the beauty in his female dance partners. He takes care of the woman and knows how to give her the space to shine.

  7. >We learned and understand the idea that the woman doesn't put her heels down if she doesn't want to. [...] The woman can choose to, but the man provides the opportunity for her not to. By inviting the woman into his embrace, the man takes the woman off her heels [...]

    A new way to look at being swept off your feet, no? ;)

    >her adorning was always perfectly with the music and/or the feeling of the music.

    We're going to have to agree to disagree on this, for now; when I watch her dancing, I think it looks like she has restless leg syndrome! Hardly a step but she has to give at least a little miniature what-do-you-call-'em, a kick across the weight-bearing leg. What would that be, a mini-cuatro? Un cuarto? (Sorry, my morning caffeine has not hit my brain yet. ;)

    I definitely agree with your point about her change in partners, though. As I've looked at more videos of her with Ezequiel, since being reminded of his name by CJ up there, there is a definite loss of musicality. He seems to race from one showy move to the next without regard for the feeling of the music. Based solely on their performances that I've seen so far, I'd much rather dance with Javier; it looks like he knows how to listen to the music--and pause... As you say, he seems to take care of his partner.

    Thank you for reading and commenting! I hope you both are doing great today!

  8. @ MIM: "It was and is Javier who brings out the beauty in his female dance partners"

    I have to disagree with this - while Geraldin may not be dancing well with her husband, neither is Javier with Andrea. Given that the man has greater control of the dance I am actually more disappointed by Javier's dancing nowadays.

  9. If you watch closly to some videos you will see that it is Geraldine who is controlling and is actually leading the dance with Javier. This makes her look fab and lets be honest she is really great, but this is why they looked so good together. Ezequil now leads and she is not so much in control this is why they dont look the greatest. Having said that I saw them live a few weeks ago and they are getting better together.

  10. @ Accidental Tangoiste: could share with us who's dancing you do appreciate? I agree that Geraldine may be doing some unnecessary footwork. But with Javier there was magic in their dancing that is hard to find.

  11. Dear Anonymous,

    I have a feeling that you're asking more about followers whose dancing I admire, since it was Geraldine's dancing I was talking about more than Javier's. That's a rather challenging question to me; the list of leaders I admire comes to my mind very quickly, partly because many of the men whose dancing I admire most, I've actually gotten to dance with, and so I know firsthand how lovely they are in the way that matters most to me--actually in the dance, from the inside. Followers I have no firsthand knowledge of in this way.

    You can tell by this that I make a distinction between dazzling stage performances and demonstrations of dancing that might transition more easily onto the milonga floor. I'm sure there are many very impressive stage-y couples dancing all over the world, but my knowledge is far from encyclopedic, and my interest tends to focus on those who dance in or closer to the milonguero style--they are the ones I hope to learn most from, for my own dancing.

    Also, I notice that a lot of the women (and men too) that I like best seem to dance equally well with all the partners I've seen them with--or nearly so. I think that kind of consistency speaks highly of their skill.

    With all that said, here is a bit of a starter list. (And I'm sure that at about 3 AM I'll bolt awake, thinking "How could I have forgotten about her?!)

    Susana Miller
    Alicia Pons (She also can get a bit lost in adornments, but she does have a very graceful way of moving, and her classes augmented, I think, my own technical foundation when I was starting out.)
    Melina Sedo
    Sylvia, the young woman who frequently partnered the late Tete Rusconi (I think he got the lion's share of attention, as is probably only fitting for a man who had been dancing as long as he had, but she had to be good to follow him through everything he liked to do--and very gracefully too.)
    Jennifer Bratt
    Marcela Duran
    Nely Fernando

    Showier couples whom I've also enjoyed include:

    Gustavo Benzecry and Maria Olivera
    Silvina Vals and Oliver Kolker
    Julio Balmaceda and Corina de la Rosa

    And you, Anon? Who are some of your favorites?

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  12. Thanks AT, there are some names here I don't know and I look forward to having a look. At the moment my favourite couple from the older generation is probably Osvaldo and Coca - I like how she moves very much. My favourite young couple is Adrian and Amanda Costa. When I read this post I thought of Amanda because I think her decorations really express the music. I also like how Luna Palacios dances - she can dance well with a variety of partners. A young dancer that I think has a lot of potential is Ariadna Naveira. This is not an exhaustive list!

  13. Thank you for sharing your own list, Anon! I look forward to looking up the ones you name whom I don't yet know!