World renowned Argentine tango master, Gabriel Missé and his accomplished partner Analia Centurión visited Chicago this month for ten days. Six workshops and one practica were organized by Paola Bordon at Dance Center Chicago. Although I felt extremely fortunate to have participated in the classes, he left, it seems, leaving me and others with more questions than answers. Here are the five questions left in my mind after these intense workshops:
1. Missé talked about real tango as a culture, a dance, a way of life. It is also a business, a social event, a form of exercise, an enjoyment, a challenge and more. Is his tango the only real Argentine tango?
2. Tango is deeply rooted in history, music and language. What am I missing by not choosing to explore these elements?
3. Tango is the embrace. Embrace with the arms. On your own axis. Within the embrace is balance, connection and function. Does my embrace always look and feel good to my partner and myself?
4. Tango is based on technique like ballet. There is beauty in the lines provided by technique. Is my technique striving for this higher standard?
5. To reach a higher level of accomplishment in my dancing, how hard do I want to work?
Missé lectured as much as he explained the sequences and concepts. One Chicago blogger, Fabrizio LeNoir, questions how any culture can stay true to it’s roots after it travels across it’s boarders. Read Fabrizio’s full post here.
Reprinted here is a review by Baran Kovuk posted on FB group page “Misse in Chicago”:
Last week Gabriel Misse was in Chicago.
Private classes were sold out and people bought a total of 200 workshop classes. In one week Gabriel and Analia danced in four different milongas each with a distinct character, electrifying with elegance and impeccable precision. Each performance was completely improvised to a set of different themes bringing out tango at its best. The comments were unanimous about the elegance and beauty of the art presented. A soccer professional commented: “the greatest thing I ever saw coming from Argentina since Maradona.”
The tango that Gabriel Misse presented to us was possible because of the brilliant technique at its core. Gabriel has this technique through 26 years of rigorous training starting from early childhood. Learning from the legendary milongueros who have formalized the dance, his life has been entirely dedicated to tango. That’s why his enrosques, agujas, lapises and all the other beautiful personal details and embellishments in his footwork have the brilliance they have.
I sincerely hope that tango danced by Gabriel Misse as an art form stays with us generation after generation. There are many difficulties though. One difficulty is that it is rare that talented kids starting at age six dedicate their entire lives to tango. That is why there are only a handful of tango dancers that have mastered tango at the level of Misse. Although it is still very rare, there is a place in the world that a kid at the age of six might have the opportunity to dedicate an entire life to tango. This unique place is Buenos Aires.
Stories about Misse are everywhere. In one private class we met a peculiar situation. One person who came for a two hour private class said that he never danced or took a tango lesson in his life. He explained his interest in tango coming from a story about Misse in one of the recent books he was reading. Roughly, it is the story of a man, never having danced tango, going on to secure a third position in Tango Mundial after continuously training with Misse for four months. Clearly the man was intrigued. Then there were all the newspaper articles about Misse that he wanted to meet Misse and try his lessons. (For every year in the last ten years Misse appeared in the cover of New York Times Arts Section promoting Argentine Tango.) So when he found out Misse was in town, he ran to take lessons from the master of tango.
After private classes and workshops were concluded people were very happy about the immense value that Misse added to their technique. Many local teachers of tango have taken private classes and participated in the workshops. Overall people are left content and perhaps a bit overwhelmed. I am personally very proud of having him in Chicago.
Misse fiercely defends the core technique and tradition of tango. That is what he stands for and he and his family’s life. Perhaps it is necessary to have people like Misse to keep tango going with its beautiful technique. As Misse said it was through one hundred years of hard work that today tango became a dance form that has a structure, technique, character and heritage.
During the classes some people felt their tango pride hurt. They should respect what the teacher says and work on their technique and become better or at least try. Gabriel is an opportunity for us and an aspiration for future generations through his dance.
One person commented “To me his delivery was one of the best. A tango lesson is not a place for hand holding, excessive cheering, and other forms of political correctness. If you’ve come to learn, leave your pride and prejudice at the door and show some humility. Gabriel was one of the nicest, approachable, friendly, and respectful teachers I ever had a pleasure to study with. And his wealth of knowledge is immense”. I would add milonga is the place where people go for having fun.
I have taken private classes with Misse as well. From my personal experience of almost ten years in tango, I can say that without the right technique it is impossible to dance tango. The technique that Misse teaches is the technique of tango. And like all good things it takes hard work. If one masters that, certainly the possibilities are limitless. Any interpretation of tango needs to have the technique of tango at its core.
Over and over again Misse said: “Please do not copy me or dance like me. Learn the technique and create your own tango.”
There are great violinists. Heifetz, Milstein, Kogan to name a few. Each one of these masters of violin when playing the same notes has a different sound. We call this interpretation. When a student of violin plays the same piece the sound would be different compared to the masters. Then we don’t go along and say that the student created his own interpretation of playing the violin. We say that the student must practice. It is preposterous to imagine telling Heifetz, Milstein or Kogan what they should respect about violin or music.
It is commendable that Gabriel Misse stays true to his art. And again I sincerely hope that tango precisely the way danced by Misse stays with us forever just like any other classical art. It goes without saying that every artist must master the necessary technique to their art. After that where they take their art is up to them. Misse has earned the place in tango where he can say what is tango and what is not. What people do with it is up to them.
Today tango has sufficient structure and a base for technique comparable to classical dances. It is very clear when one thinks of ballet. Tango is actually that clear. Yet it is very hard to find a good teacher who can teach the right technique from the beginning.
One of the great suggestions of Misse is: “When you take a class from someone watch carefully their footwork, balance, precision, elegance. Make sure the teacher knows and understands the technique and has the balance required, has precise and elegant footwork. These are the bare minimums.”
If I were to take a tango class from someone, the first thing I would check out is their pivots and enrosques. A pivot is as basic as it gets and enrosque is one of the ancient tango steps. An elegant, clean and effortless enrosque requires some training and technique.
Tango is a very marketable commodity. Many teachers compromise technique for fun to attract people. Some market their tango classes with wild claims. Lots of people are having fun dancing tango. It’s great. Then once in a while when there is a great teacher it is OK to put oneself back to the student seat and try to learn and practice. Everyone does not have to be at the same level of technical proficiency. However, the higher the technique the more fun the dance becomes.
Several times during the workshops Misse talked about tango in general. He said if you don’t understand the lyrics you don’t understand what you are dancing to. It is true that if one understands the lyrics of a song the experience will be more complete.
I started dancing tango in 2003 in Chicago. After dancing and practicing continuously for four years, the first time I ever heard anything about a technique in tango was in 2007 from Paola. She has put an enormous effort to promote tango. I thank Paola for introducing Gabriel Misse to Chicago and being a great host. It was a pleasure to have one of the greatest tango couples Gabriel Misse and Analia Centurion.
They will surely be back.
contact Paola Bordon for more information on Missé’s technique and future workshops at http://www.paolabordon.com/