“No Me Extraña”
I used to think the English translation for this tango was “She doesn’t miss me”—but it actually means “It doesn’t surprise me” (which surprises me). The words could be translated either way, but in the context of this tango, it has the second meaning. Here's the music:
NO ME EXTRAÑA, Pedro Laurenz con Juan Carlos Casas
You loved me… then you left me.
How can I blame you?
Now we’re like we were before...
back where we started.
Your leaving didn’t surprise me,
and neither did my pain.
That’s the way life is…
today it takes away
what it gave us yesterday.
Me quisiste… me dejaste.
Que te puedo reprochar?
Hoy, estamos como antes...
volveremos a empezar.
No me extraña tu partida,
ni me asombra mi dolor.
Eso es cosa de la vida…
que hoy nos quita
lo que ayer nos dio.
This one says everything in a few short sentences: “Boy gets girl… boy loses girl. Love fades… that’s life.” This is a nice example of the De Caro style of melodic tangos. It begins with a haunting melody, and then the brief lyrics are woven in at just the right time. Finally, Laurenz finishes it personally with his sharp, complex bandoneon playing (an ending that's common to many of the picado tangos by D’Arienzo, Rodriquez, and Biaggi as well).
Notice how beautiful the words are in castellano, and how they fit the music. This is a good one for trying to get beyond the English translation, and experiencing the meaning directly from the castellano. Before continuing to the video, you might think about the music for a minute. Listen again, and think about how you would dance to it. Think about what it's telling you.
At the beginning of Chapter 4, I mentioned that it was hard to decide which tango to start with in our music discussion, because there were so many good ones choose from. Now, as we select our first video for the website, we’re facing a similar decision. We’ve been filming for more than five years, and we have almost 100 hours of videotape. For every dance we decide to film, we pass up thousands of others—but we still have almost 2,000 dances to pick from, and they are all by the best milongueros and milongueras. It’s a difficult decision, especially since I’ve watched some of these video clips so many times that they’ve become like old friends… and most of the people dancing in them have literally become personal friends as well.
But we need to pick one, so here we go. We’ve chosen a short clip of Ismael El Jalil that we took about four years ago in an afternoon milonga. In many ways it’s an ordinary video—but it’s also truly extraordinary. It’s ordinary because, like millions of other dances that take place in the afternoon in BsAs, Ismael and his partner aren’t dressed up, and they aren’t trying to dance perfectly or to perform. In fact, because we’ve filmed so much around the place, they probably weren't even aware of the camera. And although the floor isn’t especially crowded, they are still dealing with all the things that people in the milongas have to put up with every time they dance: they accept whatever music comes along, they adjust for partners of all different shapes, sizes, and styles (you can see that Ismael has a partner who’s quite a bit taller than he is), and they have all of the distractions caused by dancing close to other couples.
So, in many ways, it’s ordinary... but what makes it extraordinary? Well, that's not really for me to say. Everyone sees and feels tango differently, so we'll let you decide. Here's Ismael dancing to No Me Extraña:
I’ve watched this clip a lot of times, so I’d like to make a couple of comments. You may notice that Ismael is dancing simply—at least on the surface. Like most milongueros, he knows dozens of steps and figures, but he doesn’t use them. In fact, I don’t even see a real giro or a corrida. If I had to give names to anything the dancers do in this film, all I could say is that I see one pause, and I think Ismael's partner does half an ocho. That’s about it. But that doesn't mean there isn't a lot here. Notice how Ismael waits for the music, and builds his energy for the first step. And about 20 seconds into the video, when Laurenz puts in a short riff with the piano, Ismael takes his partner around, right with the pianist's fingers as they run up the five keys. As you watch it, think about all of the technical aspects of tango we’ve discussed—things like posture, step, balance, connection, and compás.
Here are a couple of things I use to decide how well someone is dancing. Generally speaking, good tango dancers will express the compás from the waist down (with the feet), and the melody and sentiment of the music from the waist up. One way to watch this video is to hold up your hand and block your view of either the upper or lower half of the couple. Isolating the lower half (although in this clip the feet are hard to see) will give you a good idea of how Ismael uses the compás. The upper half is very interesting here, and it should give you an insight into how he expresses the sentiment of the music. You should notice how the bodies flow together around the floor. This is especially important for a woman, because by isolating the part of the video that shows how Ismael’s upper body connects to his partner, a woman can get a good idea of what it feels like to dance with him just by watching this video.
Finally, I’d suggest watching the clip several times. Then, wait a bit, and watch it again in a few days. Get used to the music, and then, imagine you could get everyone who created this tango together in one place—the composer, the author of the lyrics, the conductor, the singer and all the musicians—everybody. And suppose you asked them: “Okay, all of you have created a great tango here. It's your tango... but it’s a dance tango. We need to find someone to dance to it. We need a couple that can understand what you are trying to say with this music. We want people who move in the right way. What do you think about this couple? Is this what you had in mind?”