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Natalie Laruccia
Anton Gazenbeek
Invitation to the Dance - Reflections
Dance History
Argentine Tangos
Buenos Aires, OT (Argentina)

Historic Styles of Tango

by Natalie Laruccia, Anton Gazenbeek
March 7, 2005
Buenos Aires, OT (Argentina)

Historic Styles of Tango

Anton Gazenbeek and Natalie Laruccia
March 7, 2005


For Anton Gazenbeek and Natalie Laruccia, professional tango dancers, teachers and choreographers the preservation of old tango styles is very important. They specialize in the historic styles of tango, the popular milonguero tango of the 1940s and 1950s but teach all forms of tango, milonga, and vals. In their classes they teach with an emphasis on strong, powerful, figures, speed, accuracy, and clean technique. They also specialize in a almost extinct tango style called Tango al Reves (Tango Doble Frente), as well as jumps, lifts and choreography, but they can however, teach basic, clean social Salon Tango starting with the basics of balance, walking, posture, proper leading for the men and effective following for the ladies.

Anton's passion for the search and preservation of the authentic way tango was originally danced has led him to spend over 7 years doing intensive research and investigation into the history and background of tango dance and music. He has researched and analyzed in detail how tango has evolved from its origins and been converted into what it is today. This research has been conducted over thousands of hours of collecting and reading old books, newspapers, conducting personal interviews with old milongueros, dancers, and musicians (many of whom are no longer with us), and studying rare films of milongueros filmed in the 1940s in Buenos Aires. He has spoken with all of the most important and influential individuals who have made this dance and music what it is.

Anton gives lectures/demonstrations at universities discussing the truth behind the real milongueros of Buenos Aires, the true styles of tango, milonga and vals, and the historic styles of the tango. He also explains the history of tango music, its authors and composers using a vast collection of materials he' s compiled over many years including old photographs, videos, rare films, music, interviews, etc.

TANGO BALLET is a style of Tango which was conceived and invented by Juan Carlos Copes and Maria Nieves in the 1950s. It was a stage version of tango which incorporated elements from other dances such as ballet, modern, jazz, contemporary, and acrobatics. The term "ballet" was used because multiple couples performed the same choreography at the same time on stage. This style was also sometimes called "Tango For Export", because many non-traditional elements were added to the dance such as jumps, lifts, flips, tricks, etc. Often the woman ended with her head on the floor. There were, and are many couples who were famous for this style mainly Gloria y Eduardo, Nelida y Nelson, Monica y Luciano, Graciela y Jose Luis Cabrera, and in general all the couples that danced tango on television and on the stage in the 1980s.

TANGO AL REVES (TANGO DOBLE FRENTE) This is a style of tango in which both dancers face the front. The woman has her back to the man, and the man embraces her around the waist. Many people do not know that this is a very historical style of tango invented by the popular milongueros of the 1940s. Also many people do not know that ALL steps that one dances in the regular, or "derecho" position, can be danced al reves. All steps. One of the most skilled dancers of this style and a man who added much to its vocabulary was Antonio Todaro. Raul Bravo, Miguel Angel Zotto, Pablo Veron, Carolina Iotti, and Milena Plebs were all others who were very skilled in Tango Doble Frente. Although many may not believe it, Tango Doble Frente can be improvised with a good leader and a very good follower. Tango can be danced al reves as well as vals criollo and milonga con traspie (Although it is very tricky).

Antonio Todaro dances al reves

JUMPS AND TRICKS IN TANGO There is often much confusion regarding acrobatic steps in Argentine Tango. It is not known by many people that jumps (saltos) and lifts/tricks (trucos) have a very traditional role in tango dance. They can be traced as far back as to the 1920s and el Cachafaz. There are many tricks and lifts that are associated with tango, however it should be noted that traditionaly the height of the lifts never went above the man's shoulders. The milongueros Virulazo and Elvira were the creators of many acrobatics in tango. Although sometimes Virulazo's acrobatics did not always look great, we have him to thank for many creative ideas! An old milonguero named "el Loco Marquez" was also famous for his acrobatics in the 1930s and 1940s. He lost many of his partners from dropping them on their heads giving them injuries from which they did not recover! (This story is true) he was a man without much training, but with a lot of creativity! His most famous trick was known as "the Roasted Chicken" in which he rolled the woman's body to resemble a chicken being barbequed in a rotisserie.

The ANTONIO TODARA/RAUL BRAVO SYSTEM school included: Miguel Angel Zotto and Milena Plebs, Guillermina and Roberto Reis, Vanina Bilous and Roberto Herrera, Pablo Veron and Carolina Iotti, Carlos Copello and Alicia Monti, Alejandro Aquino, Gustavo Russo and Alejandra Martinan, and many, many others. Antonio Todaro was a great inventor/creator of tango figures and steps. His style of tango was strong, masculine, fast, and powerful. It was not a slow, soft, romantic tango like many people dance today. In Todaro's style, the man was very powerful and so was the woman. He was little concerned with the basic walk of a social tango. Antonio once remarked that he was going to Europe to teach "his" tango, he was very proud of the speed, agility, and acrobatics of his technique. Todaro often practiced and invented new steps with other men like Raul Bravo. One man led and the other followed, and then they switched. Out of these practices evolved a very strong, one could say almost "A-sexual" style of tango in which there was no masculine and no feminine. Both partners were equally strong. A man could do a woman's step, and a woman could do a man's step. It was a very creative, free style of dancing Tango. Often it was customary that women did not go to practicas. The men went, invented figures, and went back to their wives, girlfriends, etc. and taught them what they had seen. As a result of this, the milongueras of before danced in a very un-feminine way. They were doing movements invented for and by men. This is why many milongueras like Elvira (Virulazo's partner), Nelly Balmaceda, La Rusa, Margarita, Ofelia, etc. were very strong dancers. According to many older milongueros and dancers, the tango is a dance made by and for men. Some say there is no room in tango for the woman (although I do not agree with this). For the authentic milongueros and dancers of Buenos Aires, Tango is not a sexual or sensual dance at all. For them it is a fun, creative, expressive dance with no sexual or romantic connections whatsoever.

INTERESTING HISTORIC FACTS ABOUT STAGE TANGO Stage dancers in Argentina have historically rehearsed in small rooms, and performed on small stages. The basic walk to the cross (cruzada) developed as a common way to get started into the practice of turns in the center of a rehearsal area or under a spotlight. The habit was passed around a lot with the figures taught and shared between dancers (like Los Dinzel, Nelida y Nelson, Gloria y Eduardo Arquimbau, etc.). These same stage dancers from the show Tango Argentino were the first to teach tango overseas. They were asked by their new students to give the counts. The habit of counting was then brought back to Argentina, where it has been both adopted and scorned. There is a scene in the film "Tango, Our Dance" in which Fino, Miguel Balmaceda, Nelly, Victor and La Rusa, discuss the perversion of "their" tango, that is salon tango, by the stage dancers, and their fear that the salon will die with their generation. And unfortunately, it IS dying.

There are many people who do not respect the original stage tango performers of the 1980s, which really is silly since most of them studied with more milongueros than the younger dancers of today. If you think about it, the milongueros were the only ones around who danced tango, so there was no other choice but to go study with them. However, if one analyses the way these original show dancers dance, what they do looks nothing like the milongueros. This is because they were professional dancers with training in folkloric or modern or jazz dance, and they often danced tango with their "own" technique. However the figures they were using on stage were invented by milongueros and social dancers from the milongas. The professional dancers would learn choreographies from the milongueros and adapt what they had learned to their own style. They added creative, artistic, theatrical elements which often changed the way the danced looked. The four most influential "Maestros Milongueros" were: Virulazo, Antonio Todaro, Juan Carlos Copes, and a folkloric master named Norberto Guichanduc. Guichanduc taught countless young dancers "his style" of tango, which if you look at it today, is very unusual. He taught many great dancers like Jorge Torres, Edith Paez, Gabriel Bordon, and many others.

Upon their two month tour to Japan and Asia they will be passing through the United States and are available for teaching, performing and lectures. For more information about them and more articles about tango history are available at the following address: http://natalieyantontango.9k.com. They can be reached at: antontango@yahoo.com, nataliemlaruccia@yahoo.com.

Anton Gazenbeek and Natalie Laruccia
Photo courtesy of Natalie Laruccia

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