Accueil/Welcome post

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photo: Francine Gagnon

English greeting below.

Premièrement un p’tit mot à mes amis québécois et « français de l’autre bord »… Vous le savez, dès que je suis arrivé au Québec j’ai tenu à respecter la langue d’usage et de travail d’ici. Nos programmes, affiches, dépliants, revues, etc. étaient exclusivement en français. J’ai tenu à mettre en vigueur cette politique dans le cadre professionnel de Graffiti Tango. J’aimerais VOUS remercier, du fond du coeur, toutes et tous qui m’ont encouragé à apprendre le français!! Je me souviens de la patience et de la grâce que vous m’avez accordées, et ce à travers les années!!!

Comprenez chers amis, que mon projet d’édition d’un site Web aurait représenté une tâche bien trop colossale si j’avais du le rédiger moi-même en français. De toute façon, c’est un site historique, et là, vous allez trouver votre langue bien représentée par la collaboration généreuse et précieuse de vos compatriotes, qui étaient les amis de Graffiti Tango à l’époque. Je me souviens. Je vous embrasse tous! Merci.

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There are so many people that contributed to the early development of the Montreal tango community! As one of the forerunners, Graffiti Tango engaged a fair number of these individuals in its activities. If you’re looking for a simple, documented presentation of some of the early history of Montreal tango, then I encourage you to review the sections “Sur les traces du tango”, “GT Show Programs” and “Press” in particular. There you will find unbiased documentation of the names of many fine collaborators and contributors to tango’s early development in Montreal. Graffiti Tango would not have been what it was without their precious contributions!!

Graffiti Tango (even its name) was born predominantly from my bias and disposition as a dance artist. I led the initiative that established the standards, protocols and pedagogy for its artists, teachers, collaborators and clients. Although, truth be told, I would not have been so inspired to define Graffiti Tango’s mandate if it were not for the allure of the city of Montreal, the extraordinary warmth and welcome that I sensed from cultured Montrealers, and certainly not without the intimate collaboration and support of my former co-director Danielle Sturk.

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Enjoy.

the war-mongers are back

“don’t tongue me this time …’k?”

five new wars started after George Bush – a 90% civilian kill rate from drone attacks in brown-skin countries – oh yeah, the USA is back to their “normal” ways

and they brought another crazed woman with them

“Bill taught Joe a cool trick with a cigar …just so’s ya know”

good gawd; heaven help the poor people in brown-skin countries, and heaven help the USA working/middle classes

Stephen Colbert has always used his mouth as a “cock holster” for the war-monger Obama. Hey Steve, you’re not funny; you stopped being funny when you started moralizing. You and Sam Bee, trying to copy the Jon Stewart formula…. sad. Give it up, you’re no fuckin’ good, particularly at moralizing, ya freakin’ twits.

Chris Hedges on voting for these criminals – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlk8c3_nIjk

And oh, that is such sweet karma

In 1990 my vision for the fledgling Montreal tango community was founded on creating multi-faceted employment for professional dancers. This grandiose initiative worked very well for several years, until it was undermined by the very professionals within the organization that had been trained to dance, perform and teach tango. Danielle, Carol and Bobby went their own way. For Carol & Bobby there was immediate success because they were recognized Graffiti Tango company dancers who remained in Montreal. As time went on though, and until this day, they never returned my generous gestures to offer me a single opportunity in tango, such as the multitude I had offered them for so many years. But let’s be realistic, those two never envisioned community development and artist employment like I did. Carol & Bobby simply wanted a studio to make money for two people. Nothin’ wrong with that.

And that’s life. However, the truth is that those two were never able to regain the artistic recognition realized for them as members of Graffiti Tango. That’s karma. (The one big chance that Bobby had with “Ils dansent”, he blew itBIGTIME!) It didn’t take long until Carol & Bobby became simple social dance studio operators like a hundred million others on the planet – nothin’ special there folks, let’s rotate the Argentines in and out because we’ve appropiated their culture, ‘we have no creativity ourselfish’ and ‘we don’t mind seeing the money go out of the community’.

In my opinion this is (and was) a short-sighted approach to artistic and business development within the community. One of the reasons QC never became a country is because of self-serving individuals like these two, and many others like them in Montreal tango. Another is because the PQistes never made friends with separatist Anglos (like me) found on both sides of Canada, who would like nothing better than to stick the fornicating monarchy right up the federalist’s ass! But that’s another story.

This website/blog was created in 2013. It was created because someone was trying to alter the true history of Montreal tango.  I looked after my 1992-95 client Daniel Saindon and his hysteric aspersions with my first post. But there had already been long-time ‘alterations’ of this history published in previous years for which I never reacted or responded.

By 2013 Carol & Bobby had falsely marketed themselves as choreographers of Graffiti Tango for 15 years. See for yourself. Did I complain publicly? No. I politely asked them to correct their Internet-marketing mendacity, but they contemptuously ignored my professional requests with an indifference that was breathtakingly unconscionable. Only after being exposed as liars by the creation of this blog did they reluctantly alter their website. I know why they lied for so many years about being choreographers for Graffiti Tango, my work was quite good, but that doesn’t make their actions and attitudes against me any less insidious.

For years I brought a plethora of Quebec/Montreal citizens to new heights of truly interesting accomplishments in their lives. And that was followed by years of them going along with the ‘Tangueria PQiste crowd’ treating me as some sort of (anglo) pariah!? Explain that please. Explain how a uni-lingual English-speaking person comes to Quebec, creates all sorts of employment and opportunities for all sorts of QC individuals in a super popular socio-cultural activity, launches the city into a cultural realm that it had not known previously, learns and then works in the language of the province, and yet somehow is the villain in all this. OUATE DE PHOQUE?! (This is a phonetic bi-lingual joke that = WAT DA FOOK?!)

Nope. I’m not ready to make nice.

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“Here’s lookin’ at you kid.”

“C’est bon d’avoir ton point de vue sur cette époque. Comme le dit André, ça ramène de nombreux souvenirs. Par contre tu finis ton historique au moment ou les Ateliers tango et Grafitti tango entraient dans leurs plus belles années. Ce serait un vrai cadeau si tu continuais ce travail.” RB

The similarities of tango community actors like Andrea S, Corinne K, Marika L, Elias N, Paul M, Laura S, Gabriel G, Jean-Sébastien V, Geraldo S, Allyson B\M, etc., etc., ad nauseam, is that they permit themselves to appropriate a foreign culture for their own financial objectives and then expect to be treated as some kind of ‘dance’ expert too! Huh?! How does that work? Mine was a different perspective because of my verified dance background: “We (Graffiti Tango) had no pretensions of trying to represent Argentine/Buenos Aires tango culture in any way“.

Yeah, I’ve lived through all the various disgruntled, jealousies and petty aspersions of self-made ‘tango experts’, nationalist QC’ers and wacked out Latinos. Many years ago I decided to not participate in their precious tango “community”. Yet it seems they all think that their “community” is on an equal footing as it was when the freaking “anglo” was involved. Well, it’s not. So get over it. Your pettiness, jealousies, lack of honesty, lack of talent/creativity and lack of respect have demeaned your own community to the point where no one will ever repeat or equal my accomplishments. And oh, that is such sweet karma!  ;-)  LMFAO

Thirty years later I’m happy and still successful here in Montreal. I’m quite content with my professional, personal and social accomplishments, which keep adding up, far beyond the period of time covered by this blog. I’m also happy with my transition out of the social dance industry. As you can well imagine, a man of my various talents, generosity, and distinctive work ethics is much appreciated by many people… in other fields. It’s good, and very rewarding.

The Quebec slogan “je me souviens” became the underlying motif for this website without my specific intent. Dans le passé je me suis toujours distingué comme Montréalais, et non Québecois. Mais là, je crois qu’il faut que ça change. Vive le Québec !

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The comments section is open to those with a real identity.

cheers

Improvised vs Choreographed Tango

There is an ongoing social debate in tango communities about whether or not improvised social dance tango is more faithful to the original spirit of this dance, implying that it is somehow ‘better’ than choreographed, show tango. The social dance side of the debate can become somewhat ‘tribal’ at times. Show dancers could care less. The ‘debate’ may have even begun before the decades of immensely important work achieved by Juan Carlos Copes and Maria Nieves (in particular) as they actualized steady employment for a long succession of professional dancers and musicians. They used the show/entertainment medium to share their beloved culture with millions of people around the globe, which contributed to its international appeal and monumental growth. So the first point in favour of choreographic work is that it creates employment and is a viable artistic outlet for professional dance artists.

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Certainly there were no social dance improvisations in the Copes/Nieves shows. An experienced tango show producer or director would never allow any individual the freedom to potentially destroy the entire show with an unknown (improvised) presentation. An improvisation is a performance that an actor, musician, dancer, etc. has not practiced or planned. So, by that definition, I conclude two things: 1) the pro-improv social tango ‘tribalists’ have never witnessed an improvisation by professional teaching couples touring their cities; what they witnessed was practiced demonstrations. And 2) I consider the social dance ‘improvisations’ done by teaching couples to have some dance hall event value, but they have no show production value whatsoever.

With the expansion of the Internet in the mid ’90s I found it interesting to view all manner of dancers in ‘improvisational’ and/or choreographed settings. In those days I was ‘selling’ tango, so it was part of my job and I liked it. However, it was the quality of improvised social dance tango (especially) that turned me off to the point where I rarely watch it anymore. This is what I saw (countless times) due to social dance ‘traditions’ in tango: before the improv even began, the man would indicate that the woman approaches him – viva el machismo latino! (It’s a joke… it can roll up die, for all I care.) The music starts and he stands there without moving for 20-45 seconds supposedly ‘feeling’ the music and transmitting his ‘feelings’ to his partner. Then with great determination and intense expression he leads a single step to the side. Wild applause ensues and the viewing public is completely enthralled… it’s another joke, sorry. The traditional music for social dance tangos lasts two or two and a half minutes; so this guy has used up almost 50% of the available music and he’s taken one step. Good gawd. And if the couple happen to be visiting teachers, they will inevitably ‘perform’ the 8-position learning configuration, which they have inevitably referred to in their lessons as “the basic step”. (It is not.)

I have a particular interest in how tango develops in Montreal because I live here. So where possible, I view video presentations of shows that I do not attend in person. There was a series of (four) improvisations in 2019 by Jean-Sébastien Viard and Veronica Toumanova that deserve special mention. (I should have written about them at the time.) The dances occurred at an event in Montreal called Tanguerafest and were recorded by Robert Verge for his YouTube channel. This was the first time I had seen Veronica dance. She’s delightful. Jean-Sébastien I have watched develop over several years here. He is a real gentleman, and now a fine dancer. These two were brought together for the event; Veronica lives in Paris, Jean-Sébastien in Montreal. I doubt that they ‘practiced’ much together before the event. As such, their (4) dances together were true improvisations. You can feel this about the dances, even through the two-dimensional medium of video.

For those that don’t know, I criticized Jean-Sébastien in the past for looking stiff in a performance. After watching these four improvs though, I realized that the ‘wooden’ characteristics I identified at the time of my observations were most likely the fault of the choreographer of the (amateur/community) show he was in at the time. It was either that or perhaps he has difficulty learning and executing a choreography. Either way, the on-stage product was recorded and there is no denying the result. In any event, left to his own innate talents J-S shows us in these improvs that he knows very well how to move in harmony with a woman and help to make her look fabulous! So let me clear the air here and apologize sincerely to Jean-Sébastien if I upset him with my comments at the time.

What was so impressive about these four improvs? First of all he walks his partner around the dance floor in all the improvs; after all, tango’s fundamental characteristic is that it is a walking dance. How many ‘improvs’ have you seen over the years where the man mostly stays on the spot doing complicated, leg-gyrations and who-knows-what?-figures for the entire musical piece? (The answer: too many!)

Jean-Sébastien adeptly listens to the music and presents musical opportunities to his partner FIRST and foremost!! He does not construct his improv with himself as the centre of attention (like so many of the so-called “masters” in tango). This he offers to his partner. What a gentleman! What a breath of fresh air!! You see this in their improvs, how he discreetly gestures to his partner, how he presents moments for her to shine, and that he allows the music to take its rightful place in their ephemeral intimacy. In this respect J-S was the perfect choice to present this particular guest artist at the event.

Veronica accentuated her partner’s graciousness by being totally present with him, enticing the viewing public with her sensuous femininity and sublime tango skills. Her sense of musicality and in-the-moment nuances are resplendent in these dances.

Beyond (those) wonderful improvisations, there is one other incontestable point about the value of choreographic tango that should be made: choreographic works can be preserved, repeated in their original state, and/or improved upon, as is often the case with repetition. There is no question that there’s a time and a place for both dance forms in the grand scheme of tango culture. Let’s enjoy them both, shall we?

Here’s a professional tango couple performing a single choreography of theirs, twice: once in 2015 then again in 2019. These performances occur in social dance milongas, but I can assure you, they would easily fit into a grand theatrical environment or show program.

 

I rest my case.

cheers

An Enlightening Experience for all!

First and foremost, a warm and hearty congratulations to all the competing participants of this auspicious new Montreal event! It was truly your talents and dedication to tango that carried the evenings. All the ladies were absolutely resplendent in their finest dresses, their ‘killer’ shoes, subtle interpretations and flawless technique. Gentlemen, you were a solid ‘second’ in the ‘attractiveness’ category, but very much equal to the ladies in your performance skills and graceful demeanor. I enjoyed myself immensely. Thank you!

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Next, I want to CONGRATULATE Santiago and his team of organizers… GREAT JOB!! It is hard to believe that in less than three months these people managed to pull off such an event. Although there was surely some help and experience coming from the TANGO BA people, it was clearly the goodwill and efforts of Santiago’s team that provided all the necessary logistics to make the event a Montreal opportunity where the dancers could succeed in the manner they did. Their success was your success Santiago. Cheers!

For me, the only weak aspect of the competition was the music selection; I believe this weakness came from the TANGO BA side (but I could be wrong). I’m not going to say much here, it’s their organization and they have a winning formula. And I’m sure they get enough opinions from their Bs. As. compatriots. In any case, leaders more skilled in musical nuances, such as Bernard, Bryant, and Jeremy, were able to put those particular talents on display. But we also appreciated the down-to-earth funky style of Francis (Pancho), the solid, confident flamboyance of Gabriel, the reflective understated Manu, the suave maturity of Carlos, among others. I wish there was more time to get to know them all, and better, but time constraints in such events left me at a disadvantage (since I no longer actively participate in the community).

Watching all these couples onstage circulate in the traditional dance floor etiquette, and seeing certain movement characteristics evolve from my vantage point on the balcony, it reminded me of some nuances of close embrace tango that I used to teach. (If you will indulge me, please…) One, is that combining a vertical movement with a horizontal movement is antithetical. Anyone that takes a deep-knee bend as they move in a horizontal direction is not only wasting energy, the aesthetic of this combination evokes a really weird visual (for me). Second, heads ‘soldered’ or ‘welded’ together… this topic deserves an entire separate blog entry, but let me simply say that there could be much more sensuality in the dance if the couple’s connection is made through vibrant, harmonizing bosoms, which then frees up the head, which then… (well, I’m not teaching here, so… ;-) And then of course there is this relatively new phenomenon of the man’s left thumb sticking up in the air like a big Facebook LIKE YA! promotion. Good gawd. (#bajesupulgar  ¡por favor!) Only about half the men had this ‘fault’ last weekend. (Take a look to the left from time to time boyz and you’ll know who you are. Just remember: this rigid thumb position is not a requirement in tango! And it’s certainly not an improvement of your overall dance aesthetic!)

1 – 2 – 3 Toronto! Before the results came in Sunday night, that was my prediction. It almost happened. Honestly, I thought Jeremy and Esther from Toronto were going to take first place away from my absolute favourite (Canadian) traditional tango couple, Bryant and Faye.

Bryant and Faye won the event. I’m happy for them.

Since 2004, when we performed on the same program at a La Tangueria event at Salle Lion d’Or, I knew Bryant and Faye were going to be stupendous. They are. And dammit if they haven’t managed to ‘clone’ themselves and win second place to boot! Desmond and Junko are very deserving in their placement.  Third place went to Laurier (Lorenzo) and Melina, from Montreal. I had an occasion to speak with Laurier; I like him. He seems to me to be a refreshing change from the usual (male) personality-type often found in these tango situations.

Next year I hope there is enough interest to establish a choreographic (escenario) category in this competition. That would really pique my interest!

“Polissez la Saucisse” Thumbs Up!

A few years back I found this hilarious translation:

polissez la saucisse_resized

I swear, I pissed my panties laughing!

Phonetics and translations… what fun! Polish Sausage as a noun, and then in French they use the verb form – in the (polite) imperative – polissez! la saucisse – polish the sausage – (phonetically in English it sounds like pawlish) If I were still on the scene teaching tango I would take it upon myself to ‘police’ what I view as an aberrant (& abhorrent ;-) physical deformation found pretty well everywhere in Argentine tango these days. This is the only partnered social dance where this deformation occurs with such ‘enthusiasm’. Gawd, it’s almost a virus; a pandemic! ;-)  As it is, I just amuse myselfish with the above phrase when I see pictures of Montreal tango teachers extending their ‘sausages’ in public in such a provocative manner as this. Check the look on Bobby’s face when a girl grabs his sausage! woot !!  ;-)

Originally I thought I could limit the backlash from this post to a few of the men teaching in Montreal (i.e. those pictured above, and a couple others). But no, as it turns out, I’m in deep shit. Here in Montreal, the protagonists presenting their perky pickles for polishing, by their potently passionate practitioners of digital-rub are extensive. Yep. After researching all of the boyz presently teaching tango in Montreal, I can confirm that there are only (four) three men in town that do not proffer their erectile digits for public postulation. These (four) three are: Paul Montpetit, Geraldo Sanchez, Clémont Lafond and Bernard Caron. Chez Coco_Thumbs Up

So congratulations to those (four) three gentlemen; it may not mean much to some, but to me this is a mark of sophistication in your embrace and (overall) poise in your dancing. Bravo!

I think I know where this pettish peter portrayal began: ‘the Coke Brothers’. The so-called fathers of neo-tango (Gustavo, Chicho, Fabian). Nowadays, those guys are more like atrophied grandfathers, wasted shadows of their former selves – check out their latest YouTube vids at recent events. (Aside: for decades people attempting to guess my age would miss by at least ten years. When asked what was my secret I told them “moderate abuse of recreational substances”. A word to the wise bro’, a bit late as it may be. ;-)

So this prodigious digit presentation is now world-wide. Even one of my favourite dancers is culpable in its propagation. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… Sebastian Arce.

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So it’s not just the boyz in Montreal. Clearly this peculiar pecker parade is simply a conspicuous ‘nuance’ that has little to do with marketing success. So be it. Hey, it’s just one of the first things I notice in a photo, improvisation or choreography; but that’s me (a freaking ballet dancer fer gawd sake).

Recently Endré Szeghalmi posted a short blog about the leader’s left arm in tango; she entitled it “The Dangerous Embrace“. In the blog she publishes a “good 4” photo where the man’s weathercock is in the wind, presumably assessing his evening’s portentous possibilities. In the article Endré mostly talks about comfort for the woman, and differentiates between show and salon tango dancers. She does not address the obvious… like, who teaches this shit?! And, is this ‘dumb-thumb’ craze the result of people’s downward gaze, endlessly fascinated by the fornicating figures they’re performing with their feet and legs, while neglecting the finer points of connection?!! You tell me.

Speaking of teaching, Andrea Shepherd recently wrote in her “Twenty tango lessons: Part Two: It’s all about that embrace” she writes: “On a technical level… what I tell my students these days: Use your hands more and your arms less.”

Yikes! Wat da fook is she talkin’ about? I don’t like this at all, because I’m certain she has beginner dancers that think ‘how do I make my hands more active? …after all, it was the first thing she mentioned’. (Andrea goes on to describe how she teaches the embrace. Disclaimer: it’s hard for me to read her blogs, she’s such a suburban wine-Mom (whine-Mom too) and kaka karen, cancel culture creature.)

For me, a teaching principle that I employed to auto-correct (i.e. improve & evolve) my own methods of teaching social dance came from Albert Einstein who speculated: “I never teach my pupils, I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” The initial elements and examples, both verbal and visual, that are given to beginning social dance students are exceptionally important.

Ernesto Carmona provided GT with a wonderful imagery that we gratefully passed on to our apprentice teachers and students. It is this: imagine that you are holding a tray of food (while standing); we all know how to walk and turn as needed in any direction while holding our tray, without spilling the contents. The forearms are raised to 90 degrees at waist-level and extend directly in front of the body. Holding our tray in this position requires a minimum of muscle tension to maintain. To squeeze the tray serves no purpose, neither does moving the elbows behind the torso.

To allow one hand to flay to the side that deforms the original support position makes the tray fall. This was our imagery for initial arm placement in tango (and it provides the basis for the dissociation of upper body and lower body that occurs as we advance into molinetes). Holding this tray position for the first time, we would ask our students to turn and face their partner and move until they were standing toe-to-toe in front of them. We would then exclaim “Ça fit!” (It fits!) Because it does. There were only minor adjustments and explanations of where and how to place the (four) hands for a comfortable, elegant position.

This ‘tray imagery’ allowed us a relaxed and purposeful initial embrace for arms, hands and upper body. Over time of course we advanced from there to get to the close embrace, but the ‘tray’ foundation is always viable and reinforced.

Here’s an article by two long-time tango proponents Valerie Hart and Alberto Paz that speaks to the new wave of female, or follower arm positions: “The Weird Hold

In my blog here, I’ve mostly limited my remarks to the presenters of this dirty digit phenomenon. It’s fairly evident in the photos provided that a leader’s lack of full awareness of his embrace “stands out like a sore thumb“. But in many other photo/video examples of tango couples there are countless followers who are effectively ‘grooming’ these projected ‘phalli’. It takes two to tango, as the saying goes; so ladies, when you “feel it” (your tango) make sure it encompasses the whole experience (visceral, emotional, mental & physical) and that you’re not made to succumb to an unintended symbolic pleasuring of a singular digital extremity. Cheers!

#bajesupulgar

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DS & JB 1996

There’s one special perpetrator of this aberration in Montreal. His clients/friends on FB even comment ‘there’s that thumb!’ Here’s a montage of Jean-Sébastien Viard’s ‘crimes against palm-manity’. ;-)

Inception Tango – Women as Midwives and Nurturers

The metaphoric adjective known as “chicken-and-egg” is used to describe situations where it is not clear what event came first, or what was its cause and effect. To me, this does not apply to tango. It is clear that the dance came first. Moreover, that women were (both) the cause and effect for the socio-artistic enigma that followed. Men of course were instrumental (pun intended) in tango’s future development, but men did not initiate or conceive tango.

Gustavo Benzecry Sabá recently published a book: “Los Legionarios del Abrazo. Historia del Tango Danza 1800 – 1983“. In English: “The Quest for the Embrace – The History of Tango Dance 1800-1983. (C’est déjà disponible en français aussi.) I have not read his book so I’m not sure what Gustavo’s claims are, as to the origins that date back to 1800. His chosen date for tango’s inception precedes (by 50 years) any other renditon I’ve encountered, yet it is in line with the proposition I present here.

If we accept the long-held premise that tango was first revealed in the brothels of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, then there is only one feasible conclusion: women conceived this dance in brothels where they were (both) the proprietors and operators. Over time, those midwives and nurturers subsequently encouraged men to participate in its further development.

Obviously men were sufficiently stimulated by their initial encounters with these women that they enthusiastically sought to repeat and (then) romanticize the events. Men contributed effusively to the music, poetry, song, dance and its general culture (for example Lunfardo). Tango didn’t have a name at the time of its inception; I believe it got its moniker in the early 1900’s. Recording devices in the early 1800’s were limited to cerebral memory, word-of-mouth, urban ‘folk tales’, artist renderings and the written word. (Photography began to be available after 1850.) Imagine this: if Benzecry is accurate in his origins timeline, Carlos Gardel was more than a hundred years away and the “Golden Age” of the great dance orchestras was even further.

Let’s examine another fairly obvious fact, although I’ve never seen it proposed anywhere: women spawned tango in brothels operated by women. Their ‘nouveau pas de deux’ was purposefully conceived in order that their brood learn how to treat women with respect and dignity, specifically during the time (before-and-after) the available services were tendered. I imagine that as the operators of a brothel women related to their service providers on an instinctual basis. Effectively, all the women involved in this enterprise wanted to realize two objectives: 1) making money, and 2) achieving the #1 goal in a pleasing, cultivated environment. That’s herstory; simple yet multi-faceted, elegant yet entrepreneurial, adaptable yet goal-oriented. (Also mindful, compassionate, generous and prescient.)

History shows us that in brothels operated by men women are demeaned, derided and degraded. Women are treated as chattel, sex slaves, and made to suffer the most primal impulses of the (male) clientele in a debasing, often abusive manner. I imagine that the entire ‘services’ aspect of brothels run by men is simply based on a ‘get-in, get-out’ premise. That’s history (in this case). Forceful and self-serving, uninventive and obsessive, undignified and short-sighted. (Also contemptible, ignoble, amoral and intolerant.)

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THE PROPOSITION

The proposition here is that we accept there were specific elements at play during tango’s inception: men and women, desire and need, enterprise and sociology, music and dance. Other elements, the most romantic and nostalgic of all, progressed in alignment with women’s directives of the era; hence its prose, poetry, art and song that, combined with the music and dance, formed the socio-cultural roots of tango that many hold so dear today.

Please note that I am not a historian or sociologist of any kind, and I don’t pretend to be. And I imagine that tango’s original setting is not the first time in the human experience when women devised this music and dance prelude to ‘the sale of goods’. After all, it has been one of the roles of women throughout time and across the globe to inspire men to behave in a civilized, refined manner, at least while they are in the company of women. It’s simply the nature of things.

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THE SEED – let there be music!

What is the most cultivating element or endeavour ever conceived by humans? After language, I would suggest that it’s music.

Many of us have musicians as friends or family members. Sometimes we witness them exploring new hybrid rhythmic forms while they’re just ‘playing around’ in search of a new avenue of inspiration or discovery. Tango musicologists will likely tell us that this was part of the process (of human curiosity and creativity) that developed  into the form of music we now know as tango. The original inspiration came from somewhere though, and that inspiration was surely the new movement and etiquette quest that was playing out before their eyes.

Tango music is written in 4/4 time. But so is blues, salsa, swing, tons of jazz, a mountain of classical, as well as many other styles/forms of music. I invite you to ask a tango musician what makes a tango tango.

In any case, dance and music are undeniable primal forces within us.

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A FERTILE COUPLING, THE NEED – embrace the moment!

Before it was given a name and evolved into a socio-cultural entity, the tango was mothered by ‘professional’ women of Buenos Aires and Montevideo. Apparently the ratio of men to women in those cities (for a certain period of time in the latter half of the 1800’s) was astoundingly lop-sided, something like 8 to 1. So women were a precious ‘commodity’ (if you’ll excuse the term) and were purposefully treated as such. And I’m certain they would insist upon this respect and recognition in an environment or enterprise of their own making.

Social partner ‘touch dancing’ is relatively new in the human experience. It first became known to peasants in Germanic countries around 1750, via variants of the waltz. So it’s feasible that as early as 1800 knowledge of how to approximate a physical movement relationship with a woman in a social setting arrived in Buenos Aires and Montevideo during the first half of that century. But the big economic and building boom of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, where we see the influences of the great cities and cultures of Europe taking form in the architecture, fashion, music, industry and business developments, took place much later in the 1800’s. The overall energy within these emerging cities must have been tremendously exciting, despite the political and economic turmoil of the first part of the century.

The fundamental elements of the dance tango are to move in elegant harmony with someone, in a close embrace. To be sure, the men being inspired in these settings were not aristocratic dandies. They were companions of the diverse tradesmen building the cities of Buenos Aires and Montevideo. Imagine the natural gait of those men; it had a characteristic purpose specific to their lot in life, their trade. Elegance in movement was not a quality innate in them. However it became a learned and sought-after skill when a woman showed them why, how and when this ability would be useful to them. Women introduced them to a sophisticated ‘ritual’ that could touch upon their basic needs and indeed their very souls!

Such is the power of tango, its embrace. Such was the vision of the midwives and nurturers of the dance that became tango.

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THE FRUITS OF LABOUR – romance me ’till the end of time!

Many women seem to possess an inherent aptitude for movement in dance. They also possess an intrinsic ability to recognize the needs of men and how to couple those needs with their own. So it’s not surprising that they would create a social dance activity that is overtly intimate and sensual. One that, in the grand scheme of things, responds to women’s needs first, and then  acknowledges the needs of men in its enactment. Brilliant!

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BIRTHRIGHT, IDENTITY, AUTHENTICITY

Milena Plebs gave me and Danielle Sturk one of our most cherished compliments: “You have a very authentic tango”. The year was 1995; we were in a private session with her, and following her and Miguel Zotto in a public tango congress in Evanston, Illinois (just outside of Chicago).

We understood what Milena meant with her comment. She meant that we were true to our individual selves while dancing together. We had connection and communication without pretensions or distractions. We had respect for the general form of dancing tango, as well as individual and combined creativity that complimented our dance artist backgrounds.

Not everyone in tango is as thoughtful, talented or open-minded as Milena. For some, “authenticity” means that you must be a) Argentine; or b) imitate a particular style, or era; or c) that you categorically fit in with their particular definitions of what is “real tango”. Some Argentines view it as their birthright to impose a tango identity on others. OK. I won’t deny them their point of view. I have my own.

Over time however, when reflecting on authenticity in tango as a dance in the actual, physical sense, as opposed to the literal cultural sense that some are consumed with, I considered at length what it must have been like when tango music and dance were spawned in the brothels of Buenos Aires and Montevideo. The above text represents some of my thoughts on this matter. If you got this far, I thank you for allowing me to share those thoughts with you.

cheers

Charity

In the physical sense… “The voluntary giving of help, typically in the form of money, to those in need.”

In a thoughtful sense… “Kindness and tolerance in judging others.”

There’s a ‘charitable’ campaign going on at this time, using FB via its Montreal Tango event page, to raise some money for a tango entrepreneur who lost a gamble on an event she organized. The organizer was Mylène Pelletier using her enterprise Air de Tango. Her event was “Montreal Loves Tango“. This is the second year she ran this event. Apparently she lost money in 2015 too.

I first became involved organizing tango evenings and events in Montreal in 1991. I have never witnessed such a ‘charitable’ scheme before. No one ever suggested to me (Graffiti Tango) that when I lost money on an event, that we should go to the “community” and ask for charitable support to relieve my financial suffering. No one ever did it for other significant organizers over the years either; here I’m remembering serious, continuous investors in the community: La Tangueria and Tango Libre. Has Studio Tango ever suffered a financial loss? You can count on it. Has Carol ever asked for charity? You tell me.

To date (and to my knowledge) no organizer/entrepreneur in the past has ever asked for ‘charity’ after a financial loss of an event. Nor has any individual ever come forward, as did Robert Blais on Mylène’s behalf, in order to ask for charity from the community. It’s a unique situation.

If you want to be charitable to Mylène in the physical sense, then by all means, feel free to open your wallet and give whatever you feel she deserves. If you want to be charitable in a thoughtful sense, maybe you’ll be kind enough to advise her not to try this event a third time. That would be charitable. (Let’s not forget that Mylène tried two years of ‘tango competitions’… to not much avail. At least she may be prone to leave things at two strikes.)

But hey! Weren’t Bernard Caron and Gabriel Gaumond co-organizers of this event with Mylène? If so, and if we are charitable to Mylène, are we also (by default) being charitable to those two guys? Is that why Bernard is partially leading this charity campaign??! Or were those two boys smart enough to finagle the entire onus of financial responsibility onto a mother of two children?!! …I’m just asking.

Many of the comments on the FB ‘charity’ post came from women. These women, that continue to participate in the tango scene, made mention of a plethora of other women who are now gone from the scene, and as such, voiceless in this discussion/situation. However, the remaining women brought some of their former colleagues perceptions to the discussion on FB. Essentially, many women felt that they had already invested in Mylène: her studio classes, her dance evenings/events and her tango accessories. To be sure, these women also recognized that they were investing in their own recreational pursuit. It didn’t pay off for them. They left. A huge discussion on this FB post remains as to how to get them back. Good luck. The women (in particular) that choose tango as a recreational activity are generally very intelligent and multi-talented. Very likely they easily saw how Air de Tango was being directed, by a woman. I would wager that the women lost in the fray of studio/enterprise mis-direction won’t be enticed back.

As to the other posts, postulating about an “association”, overseeing… what??! Good gawd! Save your breath and keyboard strokes; it’s absolute nonsense. Elsewhere on this blog I make reference to “the community of the hamburger”. Think about it, please. The hamburger is a culinary cultural entity in the same manner that the tango is a recreational cultural entity. Imagine an association dedicated to the refinement of the perfect “community” ‘Montreal Burger’; an association that brings all the burger entrepreneurs together to produce an acceptable burger that is worthy to be designated quintessential ‘Montreal’. Fuck. Are you freaking kidding?!?!! For those of you that don’t know, this ‘community tango/burger’ discussion/comparison dates back to 1993. Stop it; fer rice cakes!!! (I know you all mean well by your thoughtful, respectful, generous comments on FB; and thank you for that.) (You see? I can be kind and charitable in a thoughtful sense too –  LMFAO ;-)

I have been charitable to Mylène in the past. In the physical sense, I could calculate the financial value of the 2.5 years of time that I put into her development (free-of-charge) as a social tango dancer, a performance tango dancer, a teacher of tango, and an organizer of dance hall evenings. This value would far exceed the total expenses columns (only) for both of her “Montreal Loves Tango” events, combined. So I’m good with my donation to her in that charitable sense.

I have been charitable to her in a thoughtful sense sense too. FYI (and as only one example) I wrote a stellar letter of recommendation to a professional dance colleague who was (at the time) the Director of the Concordia University dance program, in order for her to enter into a university Masters dance program. Beyond that, I was charitably tolerant of her public disrespect of my contributions to her development in dance, for about fifteen years. So I’m good in the tolerance calculation too.

Has Mylène been charitable, kind, grateful and gracious in acknowledging me as a dance professional and my charitable contributions to her ‘career’ in tango? You decide.

Is Mylène a charitable person in general, worthy of specific financial charity in return for her entrepreneurial miscalculations? You decide.

I’m good.

The Lone Ranger, and criticizing critics

Victor Swoboda is a dance critic for the Montreal Gazette for many years now. He is an astute observer with an open mind and a sincere, direct writing style. I believe Victor is at least tri-lingual. He possesses a natural, practiced reserve and equanimity, in public. He has been an active participant in social partner dancing for decades and he knows his journalist trade well. Victor is highly respected in the overall dance scene in Montreal. Still, because of his position as a ‘critic’, he’s a bit of a “Lone Ranger”; he can’t get too close and retain the objectivity that is central to his work.

Very likely, someone over the years has not liked what Victor has wrote. I’m certain that he would take any criticism in stride, because after all, critics know the nature of criticism, just as anyone who holds an opinion knows the nature of opinions. We exchange, discuss, debate, argue, come to an agreement, or go to war (in the extreme). (Heaven forbid!)

In his Montreal Gazette article for FITM 2013 (Aug. 9) Victor wrote: “El Abrazo includes a local pair, Sanchez and his latest partner, Elyse Dagesse, who last year managed to inspire a little sparkle in his performance.” Victor clearly credits Elyse for the “little sparkle” that (very likely) he’s been looking for in Gerardo’s dancing for 20-odd years.

Or maybe not… it could be that Gerardo’s history as a service provider colours Victor’s opinions because of previous experiences he’s had at Tango Libre. I don’t know. Most of us seek to say something positive about others, but at the end of the day, we all have to deal with our sense of honesty and self-esteem where opinions, criticisms, and/or personal experiences are concerned.

The tradition in newspapers has been that editorial pages allow for opinions, or counter-criticisms on their content. In 1994 Camilla Malashenko wrote occasionally on dance for the Gazette. But she wrote a piece on Les grands ballets Canadiens at the time that was so reckless, the Artistic Director of Les grands felt obliged to challenge her clearly disturbed perspective in an editorial retort. I believe that she never wrote for the Gazette afterwards.

Here’s an article that Madame Malashenko wrote on the Tango Libre show “Amurado” (which was published just prior to the afore-mentioned incident). In her article she describes Gerardo Sanchez as such: “five years ago his love took him to Buenos Aires () where he studied tango to perfection”; and then “(he) is a playwright, an actor, and has directed theatre since 1982.” For those of you doing the calculations, it’s now 2013, 19 years “since perfection”, and finally Gerardo receives a sideways-positive comment from a qualified, respected dance critic that “a little sparkle” was in evidence the previous year, due to his partner.

Camilla-Malashenko-TL--94

Despite the “Master” qualifier that Sylvi Belleau’s marketing strategies over all these years claim that he is, Gerardo is NOT a natural dancer, nor a fast-learner in this domain. He is not a natural performer either. But he never quit.  He has worked consistently to improve his dance and performance skills, so we can presume that he’s going to continue to improve in his chosen profession.

As to his character and skills as a service provider… TL’s (non-cumulative) numbers over 20 years speak to that conundrum themselves. As a teacher of dance? Well, if he’s not a fast-learner as a dancer, it just makes sense that he’s not a fast-learner as a dance teacher. Which begs the question: what the hell has he been ‘selling’ to his clientele all these years?

Gerardo’s first teachers in Montreal plagued him with a fault that I describe as “running to the fifth” on my page “Teaching tango as dance” (http://wp.me/P3uFFE-8A). He was not aware at the time that this ‘dance’ characteristic was even a fault. It is almost out of his body-memory system now, after twenty-some years of more selective, refined influences from real, qualified practitioners and teachers of tango. However, there’s a 2012 improvisational video out there where this body-memory fault is still recurring (albeit faintly).

Still, there’s something positive to say. Several years ago when I was renting space at Tango Libre for a swing initiative, I saw a few minutes of Gerardo practicing with a partner. He was relaxed, unpretentious, fluid, grounded, creative and very much at ease in his own environment. I noticed immediately how much he had improved since the previous time I had seen him dance (live or on video).

Victor Swoboda’s remark as a critic is up for interpretation by the reader and/or the local community that have seen Gerardo in performance and have their own experiences with him at Tango Libre. Truth to tell, I have never gone to see a Theatre Outrement show of FITM. So if he doesn’t get “his latest partner” pregnant and then subsequently dump her for the ‘next one’, maybe I’ll go and see them dance next year.

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In the 1990’s in Montreal, Graffiti Tango got the ‘lion’s share’ of tango press (in three languages). Most of it was good; but not all. What was said about us in print has been posted on this site. What is remarkable is that many of those articles were critiques (or announcements) of our theatrical artistic works. We received some ‘fluff press’ too, of course. ‘Fluff’ is what I call articles that are marketing pieces at their root. The print media reserves space for this type of social-interest reporting on an occasional, or casual basis. These articles describe the social phenomenon that is tango, in the moment.

I think that where Graffiti Tango left its mark in the ’90s was in the (actual) artistic critique arena. Since then, pretty well all the press received by everyone here, including Graffiti Tango progeny, is social-marketing fluff. If there’s anything out there (that I may have missed) about eXtempore danse’s creations, then that would fall into the same artistic category as Graffiti Tango (as do the rare tango pieces by modern dance choreographer Marie-Claude Rodrigue). Make me aware of those critiques and I’ll put them up online. My own take on eXtempore danse’s previous creations performed here is that those two people are unique in Montreal tango, in that (while struggling to make a living in tango) Pablo Pugliese and Noel Strazza continue to pursue paths as true dance artists! (https://www.facebook.com/groups/177669150364)

Don’t get me wrong; ‘social marketing fluff’ occurs all around the world and it promotes social tango in a wonderful way. It gets people interested and INVOLVED! And tango, much more than swing, salsa or ballroom promotes a significant feeling of artistry in the participant.

But there’s a HUGE difference when critiquing a performance by the artistic-minded (and capable!) eXtempore danse or perhaps a show by the inimitable Milena Plebs (for examples), and then having to offer an opinion on a ‘Barbie and Ken’/”Tango Por Export” couple like Fabian and Roxana, or just about any ‘studio-Tango-studio’ staff demo/representation, posted online from Anytown, Anywhere. There are simply very few similarities. And not simply due to the contrasting environments, or atmospheres: dance hall vs theatre; the discipline to achieve a specific quality of product is the difference maker. To me, there are three types of tango shows out there: social dance demos, entertainment pieces (sometimes referred to in the industry as production dance), and artistic endeavours. Think about it. (please ;-)

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Last year I got wind of a “25 years” (?) celebration here in Montreal and I decided to put up this site with all its historical (did I say hysterical? ;-) data, and of course a few opinions of mine. I did this for two reasons: 1) to show the quantity and quality of the tangible contributions that Graffiti Tango made helping to grow the early Montreal tango community, both socially and artistically, and 2) to keep some folks honest – because God knows there’s some DISHONEST people out there, and He ain’t talkin’!!! (God that is ;-)

The blog post before this one that I wrote about “25 years of tango” in Montreal garnered me some criticism because I pointed out the dishonesty of the “25 years” limitation. In pointing out the foibles of the group behind that effort I was told that I have no “class”, that I should be “respectful”, that I’m “hostile”, “hateful” and “bitter”. Phew! and that was me just havin’ some fun! Imagine if I said what I really think??!  ;-)))

For the “25 years” blog I did receive comments other than ‘hate-mail’ – “I love your writing style. It is hugely entertaining. And there are comments you make that I would never make publicly but that I agree with. You are the Lone Ranger, Batman and Dr Evil all melted into one person.” and this: “c’est l’histoire du tango à Montréal la plus honnête et la plus véridique que j’ai lu jusqu’à présent… Tu as l’honnêteté de nommer et de souligner de la contribution de tout les protagonistes de la “communauté” Tango. Bravo.”

I was polite and silent for many, many years. But times change. (I’m old and cranky now. ;-))) And I’ve seen and heard a lot of crap over my time in tango here, in addition to all the wonderful moments that I lived and shared. Now it’s time for me to voice a few opinions and critiques. Please note: there are places on this site for people to leave comments and/or criticisms, as they wish. Please be my guest. I happen to know the moderator of this site. He is a fair and honest man that is open to (self-) criticism, as is clearly indicated in the “Best of Mtl tango (fails)” page here. (http://wp.me/P3uFFE-5y)

signing off for now as…

The Lone Ranger

“25 years of tango”, and one rare gem

Gavito was a magnanimous ambassador for tango. Beyond his inspirational stage performances and milonga presentations, he was always generous in his gratitude to the tango communities that invited him as a guest teacher, speaker and representative of his beloved culture. More than any other travelling tango professional that I ever encountered, Gavito voiced his appreciation, again and again, to those individuals and communities (beyond his homeland) that foster the growth of tango as social art. Gavito chose to see the BIG inclusive picture of tango. And when he spoke of his gratitude it seemed that he was speaking on behalf of all of his travelling tango contemporaries who enjoy a livelihood doing what they love. Professional gratitude voiced with grace and sincerity; Gavito was a rare gem.
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Next to Gavito, those people (Argentinian or otherwise) that seek to define for others what is “real”, “genuine” or “authentic” tango seem small indeed. Those people seem to want to reduce the growth of tango communities, by using exclusive definitions of “authenticity”. (Reality check: is Uruguay ever mentioned by these people?? I’m humming La Cumparsita at this moment for some reason. lol!)
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Daniel Saindon has convened a round table discussion on 25 years of dancing “ARGENTINIAN” tango in Montreal. He has also indicated on his Facebook page that one of the talking points he wishes to explore is ‘what are the elements that go into building a tango community’. Daniel is going to hold his event at Tango Libre’s premises. Apparently the discussion will be broadcast on Daniel’s radio program – Radio Tango de mi flor / Montréal Buenos Aires  Montevideo vice-versa . (https://www.facebook.com/events/544249758963382/)
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I was here in Montreal as tango was taking root. I was among people who could see the tango ‘bandwagon’ approaching by virtue of the travelling show “Tango Argentino” and the music of Astor Piazzolla. I was among people like Ramon Pelinski, Richard Hunt and Quartango, Denis Beauchamp, Pierre Monette, Mecha Gomez, Jose Maria Gianelli, Karen Simon, Paul DeStrooper, “El Bruga y la Susana”, to name some of the most earnest and honest tango fans of the era.
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I value honesty and truthfulness.
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Twenty-SEVEN years ago in 1986 in Vancouver I saw Argentinian tango danced by the Montreal performance couple Robert-Philippe Babin and Francine Riopel. They were dancing with the newly formed Montreal music quartet Quartango. It was an excellent presentation, in music and in dance. Robert-Philippe told me that he taught Argentinian tango in Montreal as part of his repertoire as a professional in dance at the time. This simple truth does not serve Daniel Saindon’s round table ‘hug-fest’ that Argentinian tango did not arrive here until Lily Palmer. The fact of the matter is that over the past 27+ years of tango here in Montreal the tangible contributions by Lily Palmer to the tango scene here amount to the same value as a fart in a wind-storm. But she’s got a piece of paper now, from a present-day politician, no less. Can we expect to see/hear any accolades from Montreal Argentinians from “25 years” ago, or even now? After all, she did it ALL FOR THEM, n’est-ce pas?!
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I don’t mind congratulating Lily for being a Montrealer for 25 years. It’s a great city! However, I take issue with her dismissive, mendacious position that she brought “authentic” “Argentinian in mind” tango to Montreal. Here’s a promise: the day that Lily Palmer admits in a public forum that Argentinian tango was alive and well in Montreal long before she arrived here, I’ll seriously redact this post.
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Let’s move on to another talking point: “community” building. I don’t remember the word “community” being used much until 1993 or ’94. And when I first heard it in the context used, I immediately likened the concept to ‘the community of the hamburger‘; meaning that MacDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, et al, have no sense of common purpose among them. They just happen to do the same thing. They make hamburgers. Those companies singularly go about their business as best they know how. And that’s the way I see it with the business of tango. Please realize that most people in tango are hobbyists. Very few make a living from it. Still, the rules of business apply to hobbyists.
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But let’s not explore Lily Palmer’s tangible accomplishments as a hobbyist in tango; that might be too revealing for this ‘hug-fest’. I remember going to Lily Palmer’s evenings in restaurants, at Centro Gallego, at Angels nightclub, at the Argentinian banquet hall on St-Laurent near Beaubien, and at the flamenco studio on Mont-Royal. It may sound like a lot of activity, but I assure you, we used to joke about how often she had to move; plus these evenings (for the most part) were exceptionally un-attended, even though tango was quite popular and very much in the spotlight. I also remember never seeing Lily at anyone else’s evenings. Imagine this, actually you don’t have to imagine it, you can check it out yourself right now: to this very day her Tango Nuestro webpage on milonga.ca refuses to acknowledge that her evenings are at La Tangueria! She simply gives an address. (http://www.milonga.ca/tangonuestro/intro.html) That’s the kind of person Lily is; she acknowledges no one but herself. What a sad, forlorn creature she can be. If she had not gone out of her way for so many years to diminish the work and actual contributions of SO MANY people in the tango scene here, I could have been kinder to her. Such is not the case.
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At the beginning of tango in Montreal Lily never went to a Cercle Tango de Montréal evening or event, and Le Cercle was the first-ever registered tango entity in Montreal, with the first-ever milonga (dance evening)! Did she ever perform at the Argentinian Club? You tell me. She never came to Graffiti Tango events or milongas when we were in the basement of 4848 St-Laurent from 1991-95. And from 1995-99 I think she maybe came once (in 1998) when GT occupied the second floor ballroom at 4848.
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Moving on in the “builder” category… Gerardo Sanchez never stepped foot in a Graffiti Tango dance hall. Not ever. I believe that he never went to see any of Graffiti Tango theatrical productions either.
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For the record, I went to see several of Tango Libre’s productions and to dance in their dance halls, and to participate (to a lesser extent) later on in their festivals. I saw Denis Plante’s first-ever show at TL as a bandoneonist. Bravo! The Tango Libre theatrical productions I remember seeing were: a piece on the writings of Discepolo (yes Sylvie, I remember you on stage!), Amurado, Deux-ports-deux villes-un tango, and I went to see their show Sens. (In this age of YouTube, Vimeo, etc., one could expect posted videos of these productions… n’est-ce pas?!)
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In speaking with a friend of mine (and former Tango Libre client in the mid-90’s) about me going to see TL productions and how Gerardo never came to any Graffiti Tango events, she said to me: ‘You two are fundamentally different. Gerardo is a Chilean immigrant who struggled with a job at a CLSC and was looking for any kind of supplementary entrepreneurial outlet to help him survive in his newly adopted country. He thought tango might do it for him; and he guessed right. He’s a business-first person and is more akin to your ‘community of the hamburger’ descriptor. You on the other hand are an artist. It’s in your nature to explore, to seek out and appreciate what’s going on around you . You want to be involved, and to seek inspiration from a variety of sources.’
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This person left Tango Libre as a client years ago because Gerardo (then, and even now it seems) insists that his clients DO NOT go to other tango venues in Montreal. I have heard this same story from countless people over all these years. And (from my perspective) that is one big reason why TL’s numbers never seem to grow at the rate they should, in direct defiance of the (annual) Herculean marketing efforts of Sylvi Belleau. (btw, Lily used to say she would allow her adepts to frequent events that she sanctioned. Although I have never encountered a Lily Palmer tango ‘adept’ on any dance floor, ever.)
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I truly admire Gerardo that he never gave a shit about anyone else in the “community”. He simply did not want to know, or see first-hand, what was going on around him; and he certainly didn’t want his efforts compared with others, on stage, video or otherwise! I admire the fact that he just went about his business as best he could, putting aside the “politics” of the so-called “community”.
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Oddly enough, Graffiti Tango started out with a sense of community. GT’s first theatrical show in June of 1991 was in fact a community effort. And since we were dance professionals with specific aspirations, we invited the Canada Arts Council to adjudicate our first production . We knew that it took three adjudications (of three full productions) before a professional company could even apply for funding. The CAC representative who came to that show told us afterwards that (although she enjoyed the show) there were far too many non-professionals in the cast. She advised us to retract our request for adjudication of that show because the “community” aspect would not work in our favour. We did as she advised. And from that moment on the tango “community” deemed us as snobs. That ‘moniker’ (per se) persisted in certain circles for decades. Good grief.
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It ended up that Graffiti Tango did lots of shows that involved our studio clients over the years. However in 1996 Graffiti Tango once again reached out to the “community” at large. The first was a Milonga Kings show that involved Paul Montpetit from La Tangueria and Antoine Latte from SCQAC. (I have the program but not the video of this show.) The second effort was “La soirée de la Cumparsita” where we invited every tango entity in Montreal to present an improvisation or a choreography on a version of that famous tune. Neither Gerardo or Lily responded to our invitation.
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I should mention that Tango Libre has participated in a few “community” evenings in the past; although (in my time) Gerardo sent others to represent his studio. Lily of course is still a beginner dancer (even after her “25 years”) and I have never seen her in any kind of demonstration at a “community” event. (Hey, here’s an idea! Wouldn’t it be perfect for this “25-years community” hug-fest if Lily Palmer and Victor Hernandez performed at a Tango Libre festival evening? It would be like “two peas in a pod”. Man, the place would be packed!! LMAO!!!).
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So what does it take to build a tango community Daniel Saindon? Well Mr. Moderator of this auspicious event, let me (first) congratulate you on your past and present contributions to the “community”. And allow me to say how impressed I am that you state on your Facebook page that you seek to find value in everyone in tango here, and to avoid confrontations, in direct contrast to your stated ‘economics’ personality type.
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Daniel Saindon launched a Montreal tango “community” website in 1996. When he was preparing to launch, Daniel generously invited me and Danielle Sturk into his home to present his concept: he wanted to collate by popular vote the ten most favoured tangos in Montreal. So he proposed that each Montreal tango entity render him a list of their ten favourite tangos. Upon leaving his place, Danielle and I said to each other ‘it sounds like a high-school project’. As it turned out, if you did not submit a list to Daniel, then your Montreal tango entity DID NOT EXIST on his site. I didn’t and don’t have a problem with that; it’s just business. The only problem I see is pretending (now, or then) that it was “community” building. After all, by taking on the all-inclusive Internet call-sign “tango.Montreal”, one could argue that there’s some sort of community, commercial or social responsibility with that type of expansive advertising. Apparently not. It was just false, or at the very least mis-leading marketing on his part.
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In July 1996 I was put in a tenuous position with Graffiti Tango. Subsequently I never got around to submitting to Daniel a list of Graffiti Tango’s ‘ten most-ever favourite tangos’. So from 1996 to 1999, even though he came to my milonga most Sunday nights, Graffiti Tango had no value and did not exist… according to Daniel Saindon and his website ‘www.tango.montreal.qc.ca’.
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In the new century Daniel chose radio broadcasts as his contribution to his “community”. I don’t know when he took on the current host, but I have a problem with her. First of all, her voice IS NOT suited for this medium. But that’s just me. Secondly Daniel, you allowed this host to bring on Victor Hernandez for a show to speak about tango dance-floor etiquette… are you freaking kidding me!!! Well Daniel, I’m here to tell you that you lost MAXIMUM credibility with that directorial oversight. Hernandez is the ORIGINAL CREEP of the entire Montreal tango scene. This is the guy who ‘devised’ punching men in the back on the dance floor while he hides behind a skirt. And in case you missed it, he passed on his creepy trait to the necessarily-medicated Pierre Charbonneau. (Thank you Pancho and Joseph Vignalou for putting FREAKING CREEP #2 in his place!!!) In any event Daniel, that particular show notification completely turned me off your radio initiatives FOREVER… with one exception. My friend Manuel Soto asked me to listen to his interview with your host and I obliged. During that show I couldn’t help but notice how Manuel’s second language (French) was FAR SUPERIOR to your host’s first language (also French). Go figure. Manuel sounded polite and educated, your host sounded clownish.
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Good luck with your hug-fest, one and all!
And rest in peace Gavito. You set a fine example in your time.