Training the Eye

We should remember that this dancing is not necessarily meant to be aesthetically pleasing (although it is to me), and that Alej and Pocho aren't trying to demonstrate anything. They are simply riding the music together… or maybe riding the entrega of the music. What we want to do is to take a look inside. We're trying to "see" what it feels like to dance with a good milonguero. We want to understand what Alej means when she says that milongueros “feel the music with their whole body”.

In this video, Pocho is only using three or four variations of the basic elements of tango—but he uses them in exactly the right way, and at just the right time. Here's something that may help: In the video you can see the feet and legs of some of the other people on the floor. They’re not bad dancers, but they’re not at Pocho’s level. Throughout this short clip Pocho hesitates, and waits for surges in the music—but notice the feet of the other dancers in the background. Their feet have a sort of nervous movement that’s not really in the music. If you watch this video a lot and become aware of their movement in relation to Pocho's, their dancing begins to seem like background static. I pointed this out to Alej, and she looked for a minute and said, "Yes! The others are just doing... whatever."


But it’s not only that Pocho waits while the others move. The opposite is also true. Look at the corridita he takes when the slider reaches the part between the two arrows in the window above. First, he and Alej pause, and then Pocho steps to the right. Then, as the bandoneon takes on a harsher, more urgent pitch, Pocho follows it. It's very clear that both Alej and Pocho know what's coming—and notice how well they respond: Pocho takes a surging, emphatic step into the two heaviest bandoneon hits, and then he slows for a moment to mark the quick notes at the end of the phrase. You might also note how Alej's right leg sweeps around behind her as Pocho steps to his right, just before the corrida. What a beautiful step! At this point, she’s completely in sync with Pocho's music, and then she uses a long reaching back step to help him through his little run. Like their slight hesitation in the cross on the previous page, you can see an almost perfect partnership in their musical expression.

The point is that not only does Pocho wait when he should, but he also moves when he should. All you have to do is compare Pocho and Alej's surging movement during this corridita to the other dancers. Most of them are still fooling around doing steps, and the music passes them by. They miss the opportunity because they're not connected to the music. If you can’t hear it, you can’t dance it.

Over time, as I watched this video, it began to look like Pocho and Alej were the only ones dancing, and the others were just practicing steps. There's a huge lesson here for every tango dancer:



   1.   Know  the music.

   2.   Listen  to the music.

   3.   Move  to the music.



Let's look at Pocho again, this time performing in 2003 with Nelly:



This is as nice an exhibition of milonga traspie as you’ll ever see. Taken together, these two videos show why Pocho is so respected. Like any good performer, he knows how to communicate with his audience... and in this case, it's a pretty knowledgeable group. In fact after I watched it a few times, I began to enjoy the reaction of the crowd almost as much as the dancing. Listen closely toward the end of the clip, where some guy yells "Eeypaaa..." as Pocho and Nelly do a neat double giro with traspie. This is a very porteño exclamation that everyone in the room understands (and it's one of the first things our 16 month old Martina learned to say). Pocho knows how to use tango one way on the floor of a milonga, and in a very different way to entertain—which makes him one of only a handful of people on the planet who have mastered both worlds of tango.

A note about Nelly: What great feet! Light and heavy at the same time. Look how she steps into the floor, and how she uses a slight traspie to match Pocho's lead.

A note about the music: The music in the first video is Corazon No le Hagas Caso—a Calo/Berón tango about a man talking to his heart, trying to convince himself to get over the loss of a woman. It's a beautiful tango... but I think the milonga in the second video is really more Pocho's music.