27 Aug 2007

El Beso: Part II

The next night, we were back at El Beso again.

At El Beso, the dancing level is generally high. El Beso has a different style of dancing compared to Salon Canning on Monday nights. Proportionally as many, or more great dancers. But in a different style. For want of a better description, more milonguero in nature. High boleos are led rarely. Adornos are done with quiet and sexy elegance, without the overtly “look at me!” flashiness that I personally don’t find too appealing. Explicitness usually don’t hold my attention for very long.

A likely reason for the difference in style is that El Beso is not very big, its dance floor is probably only a fifth the size of Salon Canning. Of course, as with other milonga venues in Buenos Aires, El Beso on different nights have a slightly different flavour and age group depending on the organizer for the night.

El Beso’s layout is squarish, which I find is more conducive for the cabaceo vs. a rectangular room. The lighting level is well adjusted, sufficient for eye contact but yet slightly muted to generate an air of coziness and calm.

Colin (and Loretta) is an El Beso enthusiast, ascribing the place as a temple where devotees can always return to reaffirm one’s faith☺ It is a favourite hangout of many milonguero dancers, ranging from “youngish” to middle age and those in their sixties. Salon-nuevo dancers who frequent the place tend to accommodate their dancing style to El Beso.

I was feeling slightly bolder tonight, having talked myself into a sense of conviction that the cabaceo will become easier night after night. After 2 or 3 decent tandas, I was more relaxed and decided to look with a tentative smile in the direction where the older milonguero dancers sat. One of the balding gentlemen smiled back and raised his glass in a friendly salute. I smiled back, and accepted his cabaceo invitation for a dance. “There, that went quite well” I thought to myself as I got up to dance. “That wasn’t so hard, was it?”

The balding gentleman was not very tall, around my height. To my relief, he spoke some English. In Buenos Aires, people usually chat during the pauses between songs within the tanda. It is part of the socialization ritual and offers an opportunity to get to know one another. My near non-existence Spanish made the break between songs a rather laborious experience, so it was good I could communicate with my current partner.

“ De donde sos? Japon? Corea?” he asked.
“ Ah, I see!” he nodded when I replied. “I know your country.”

I was surprised and rather pleased. Outside of Asia Pacific, most people have no idea the exact location of my small country and usually mistaken it for a city within China or India.

From our conversation over the next couple of songs, I discovered this gentleman not only knew my country is in tropical South East Asia, he also knew that we have a community of tango dancers. This was most unexpected. A niggling thought began to lurk in the deep recesses of my mind but I refused to even entertain it.

At the end of the tanda, I asked my partner the only question that I had not asked so far. You would have thought it would have been my first question.

“My name?” he repeated my question.

“Cacho” he replied with a jovial smile. “My name is Cacho Dante”.

Rendered speechless, my own smile now frozen, I returned to my seat under Cacho’s accompaniment. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

Cacho Dante is a well-known milonguero. About 15 or so years ago, Cacho Dante together with Susana Miller and Anna Maria Schapira began to promote the style of dancing tango the way it was danced socially in the milongas of Buenos. You could say this movement spearheaded the awareness of the milonguero style to communities outside of Argentina.

Cacho Dante’s article “The Tango and Trapeze Acts” was inspirational in the early days of my tango journey. His views, so eloquently expressed, were affirmation of my vision of tango, which remained largely unchanged until the present.

The reasons for my chagrin in the above encounter were 2-fold. Firstly, I was feeling rather self-congratulatory about my success with the cabaceo and how I accepted the dance with what I had thought was nonchalant confidence. Haha. H.a... Secondly, Cacho Dante is no stranger to dancers in my community who gravitate towards the close-embrace /milonguero style. My friends and teachers have taken many lessons from Cacho Dante. Not recognizing him is like an apprentice not recognizing the grandmaster, for the lack of a better comparison.

I confessed that for a couple of weeks afterwards, I studiously combed the pages of tango publications to look at photos of well-known dancers, taking pains to memorise what they look like!

P.S/ If you want to know what Cacho Dante looks like, see Page 14, August 2007 issue of El Tangauta. Full frontal, full colour, BIG photo.

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