Archive for the ‘Fabian Salas’ Tag

Reasons to be thankful   Leave a comment

Reasons to be thankful

By Alberto Paz
November 1997

November is turning out to be a banner month for Argentine tango in this country. Take for example the successful run of Forever Tango on Broadway which has already been extended until March 1998. Or look at the sensational US Tour of Tango x 2 through many cities across the nation crowned by a first class stop in New York City for the US premiere of Una Noche de Tango, a brilliant production that pays homage to the generation of milongueros that kept the tango alive through years of fierce competition with rock and roll and a frail economy that almost brought Argentina to its knees.
This month a constellation of Tango dance stars are shining bright in the USA tango firmament. Add to that the opening of Sally Potter’s The Tango Lesson starring Pablo Veron, Gustavo Naveira, Fabian Salas, Carlos Copello and Alicia Monti, and the soon to be released documentary Tango: the Obsession by Adam Boucher, a young San Franciscan who spent two and half years capturing the sights and sounds of the men and women of Buenos Aires tango.

That’s plentiful enough to be thankful for when the turkey comes to the table at dinner on Thanksgiving day.

But, in terms of giving thanks, nothing comes first but our own deepest and heartfelt appreciation to you, who subscribe to our passion and who share our emotions. Month to month, without realizing it, we have crossed the three year mark and we are already one fourth of the way to our fourth anniversary of publication. It all happened because of you, who grew fond of El Firulete, (sometimes you may have gotten jilted by controversy and heated debate, but you recognized our commitment to excellence). In either case, with your support you told us to keep it up, you praised our work many times, you supported our events, and above all you opened your arms to us on every occasion that we had the chance to see each other.

So it is proper and fulfilling to say “thanks” to you.

This is also a good time to thank all of those who have provided a place so we could all dance and to those who played the music while we danced. Thanks to those who danced with us and to those who danced for us and to those for whom we danced.

This issue is very special because it came about across three time zones, from the sunny Golden State to the nippy North East. We are always obsessed with and dedicated to the tango and everything that, and everyone who surrounds it. We believe that the Argentine tango is a living experience and that both young and old have something to contribute. Wherever you might be, we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving and many good tangos to you and those with whom you share them.


A testimony by Jean-Pierre Sighé
April 2, 2006

I met Alberto and Valorie during the Winter of 1998, in California . I had just made the decision to learn Argentine Tango, after going to the show “Forever Tango” twice in San Francisco and watching the movie “The Tango Lesson” by Sally Potter. I needed someone from the Culture of Argentina to teach me Tango, as I had intuitively sensed how deep Tango seemed to touch the different delicate layers of the human emotions.

Someone had given me their phone number. I called and during the preliminary introduction, I explained the reason of my call: “I needed someone to teach me Tango, but more than the steps. I wanted to understand the “Culture” behind the moves”. After his delighting usual chuckle, he said: “Well…you found me. I think I can teach you what you’re looking for”. These words marked the opening of a marvelous door to my quest.

The first lesson consisted in Walking and… Walking, with no reference to any figure. I had to learn how to keep my partner in front of me, therefore, learn how to “negotiate” curving and straight paths. “Tango is a walking danceAlberto said. Little did I understand at the time all the profound implications of that comment. Confident I was, sensing I was studying with someone who knew what he was doing.

After several months of private and semi-private lessons, Alberto and Valorie encouraged me to start going to the milongas to dance. The dance floor is the place where my many lessons taken, would show, they kept saying.

About 6 months later, as I signed up for the Nora’s Tango week-end (a major Tango event in the San Francisco Bay Area in July) I began to realize how fortunate I had been to study with Alberto and Valorie. I had been very well prepared to understand the instructions of other great tango Masters such as Fabian Salas, Carlos Gavito, Tito…etc. that I encountered at the event and later on, studied with.

I had NEVER had to go back and unlearn or correct anything Alberto and Valorie have taught me. For that I will be forever grateful to them. In the world where many delve and stagnate in so much fantasies and half information dispensed by people who have not yet studied long enough and yet want to be “teachers”, it means a lot to find the right Master Teachers such as Alberto and Valorie, from the very first neophyte’s steps.

To Teach is also to express Love. It is a gift and a talent. I was very impressed with Alberto’s ability to go into my mind and explain to me a difficulty I was experiencing. He was thus able to help me identify the problem and therefore put me in a better position to correct it. Infinitely patient, Alberto and Valorie NEVER looked at their watch to “check the time” of the lesson. I remember one day where I was so enthusiastic about a subject we were studying, that I kept working on it and asking questions, over and over. At some point, Valorie went to the kitchen for a quick brake. I continued with Alberto for a while. Then, Alberto walked toward the couch, slumped onto it with his hands resting on his head. At that moment, Valorie came out of the kitchen and Alberto, looking at her said with a very calmed and exhausted voice : “I think we’ve created a monster!” She burst out laughing. I quickly realized…checked my watch and (Oh my God!) we had been working for over two hours already, for a lesson that was meant to last one hour. I too laughed, apologized for my “stubborn focus” and departed shortly after to allow my teachers some rest.

That availability of a Teacher, that Love expressed tirelessly for the student, has marked me forever. There is an indescribable joy in helping a student receive the information and to see that information take shape in his/her mind. The length of time it takes to accomplish the goal does not matter anymore. That is the modus operandi of Alberto and Valorie.

Very attached to the historical accuracies, Alberto opened my eyes to many facts about Argentine Tango. He is the one who made me realize the contribution that the African descents in Buenos Aires , along with the Italian, Spanish and Indian, had brought to the birth of Tango. After the class, it was customary to sip a cup of tea, graciously offered by Valorie, in the kitchen of their wonderful house (I called it ‘The Temple of Tango”, because everything in that house was breathing Tango). During that special time, casual comments often helped me open my heart more to the Argentinean spirit.

Alberto and Valorie gave me a gift of a priceless value, an added life lasting joy to my existence: the experience of Tango. They opened a window on the garden of my soul to let more rays of the sun and more warmth of Love rush in. Thank you!

The tango chose me   Leave a comment

The Tango Chose Me
by Valorie Hart
Copyright (c) 2000, Planet Tango. All Rights Reserved

Every relationship, whether personal or professional, goes through the “honeymoon” phase, that special window of time where everything is new and fresh and interesting, filtered through the warmth of enthusiasm and a willingness to share and to receive. In the first part of the film “The Tango Lesson” Pablo Veron and Sally Potter are having a wonderful honeymoon period.

After a picture perfect cinematic dance in Paris along the banks of the Seine, they are caught in the afterglow and the dialogue goes something along the lines of Sally: “How did you choose the Tango Pablo?” Pablo: “The Tango chose me.”

The word “me” reverberates throughout this vanity piece of a valentine to Argentine tango in general, and Pablo Veron in particular. For a minute I felt like I was watching an old Bugs Bunny cartoon when Bugs decided to make a movie, and the credits roll: Starring Bugs Bunny; Written by Bugs Bunny; Music by Bugs Bunny; Idea by Bugs; Directed by Bugs Bunny in a fabulous story all about Bugs Bunny. Just insert the name Sally Potter for Bugs Bunny.

Now there’s nothing wrong with vanity or with valentines. But both are kind of skin deep and a little flimsy.

As another person that tango has chosen, I long for and embrace any attention that promotes Argentine tango. Sally Potter’s film is a first rate product. I like many things about it starting with the black and white photography, the story (that unfortunately never develops with any depth – but how deep are the sentiments written on valentines anyway?), the players, the locations, the music (Argentine tangos and the soundtrack written by Sally), the cinematography, the dancing. In fact I was excited to palpable emotion the first time I saw the film.

It was exciting to see Pablo Veron on the screen. The camera loves him, and he loves the camera. He’s a natural. His acting is creditable, even though his (and the other) character(s) are one dimensional. His dancing scenes are flawless. A glimmer of what he might do with his acting ability surfaced briefly in the backstage scene after his professional dance performance with Sally. His anger had the inner monologue intensity of other method actors well known to movie goers (Brando, Clift, De Niro, Pacino, Walken, Spacey). I hope other film offers come his way.

Sally Potter fared less well as an actor. Although in both cases Pablo and Sally are playing themselves, Pablo was playing a part, and Sally was being herself for the camera. Madonna did it more dynamically in her film debut “Desperately Seeking Susan”, (and never recaptured the success of that film performance again, until possibly in “Evita”). Sally’s serenity and Mona Lisa smile are at first charming, but ultimately lack energy and become stilted and self conscious. I think she was going for something more natural, and became confused in the process.

Her character seems interesting: successful; older woman; attractive (thin, interesting looking, Hepburn like style); an artist. The premise seemed interesting too: non -Argentine woman discovers the tango and it changes her life. The older woman/younger man love interest seemed equally promising. However, nothing ever happens with any of these interesting ideas. They simply don’t go anywhere.

A surreal scene happens when Pablo stands up Sally on New Year’s Eve, and later turns up at her hotel room, where they decide (at his suggestion) to “sublimate” their sexual feelings into their dancing. Right! Cut to the next scene where Pablo and Sally are rehearsing for their upcoming performance. Of course she’s hurt by his rejection of her as a woman, so she can’t give herself to him in the dance. He becomes frustrated with her for withholding herself as a dancer and feels guilty for rejecting her as a woman who he cares for and who cares for him. Perhaps if his character could really have been a scoundrel of complex and mythic proportions (think Michael Caine in “Alfie”) or a man fully in love with Sally something might have happened between these characters.

The real star of the film is the city of Buenos Aires (co starring a lovely Paris), looking breathtaking in the black and white cinematography used in this film. The real dancers of the milongas fare exceptionally well as actors too. Notable are Carlos Copello and Alicia Monti. Gustavo Naveira and Olga Bessio, and Fabian Salas do well too. Talented dancers Cacho Dante, David Derman, Omar Vega and Chicho all look great on film.

As for the dancing, Pablo Veron is a dancer of incredible and memorable talent. We of the tango world already know this. It’s wonderful that the rest of the world can appreciate this. Gustavo and Fabian and Pablo make up a good team that personifies the vanguard of the new tango dancers. It’s great to watch them dance and horse around. It’s a shame that Sally has to be in every scene of this movie (except for the fantasy scenes about her failed screenplay), so that we can’t see these characters let their hair down without their benefactress in tow. Pablo’s partner, Carolina Iotti is first rate, and it’s a shame we don’t get to see her dance more. As for Sally Potter’s dancing, it’s pleasant enough. Any of the men she dances with could make a paper bag move and look good. If you saw her at a milonga (or danced with her at a milonga) she would be classified as a good dancer. To carry a two hour film about the tango is another thing. I am sympathetic up to a point about her character’s daunting and exhilarating dilemma of learning to dance with the “big boys” of the tango world, and ultimately having to share the stage with the serious talent of Pablo Veron. To say she’s out of her element is an understatement, but I give her credit for even being able to perform any of his choreographic demands. As we all know learning and dancing Argentine tango ain’t easy. I wonder how easy it was for the vanity that propelled Sally to present herself as Pablo Veron’s dancing co-star.

“The Tango Lesson” won the first prize at the Mar de Plata Film Festival, and has gotten it’s fair share of respectable reviews. It is a good product for the tango, but the definitive film about the deep myriad of images, the elements that conjure up strong opinions and provoke emotions that everyone of us who the tango has chosen knows well, has yet to find it’s place on the screen.

THE PROFESSOR   Leave a comment

Copy of the March/April 1999 issue of Danzarin courtesy of Judit Lentijo

Shortly before the successful Congreso Internacional de Tango Argentino held in Buenos Aires at the end of March 1999, Fabian Salas, one of the organizers of the event was interviewed by the underground publication DANZARIN. In the March/April issue of the eight-page publication, Fabian was featured on the cover in a Tango pose with Lucia. The tongue-in-cheek headline reads EL CATEDRATICO, (the professor). Inside, along with the interview, the same photo is framed behind lines, triangles and circles to emphasize the title being conferred to Salas on the cover.

There is no name anywhere to identify who publishes DANZARIN or who’s the interviewer. A phony website URL promises English versions of the interview. The chat with Fabian Salas proves to be candid and revealing.

Asked if he always dances with Lucia, the girl on the cover, Fabian says, “No, but she is one of those who accompany me the most when we train.

To the interviewer, the word “train” sounds like it refers to sports instead of dancing.

What happens is that for us the tango is gymnastics,” Salas explains. “We get together to work on movements that allow us to improvise continuously. Above all, we dance fully aware of what we do, like a research that leads us to specific results.”

What we have generated in the tango until now, comes from a process of many years working together with the intention to apply a reason to the movements.

We consider the tango as a dancing technique and as such having a theory and certain tactical questions that make it a science and not a pastime.

It sounds extravagant but there are mathematical questions in the tango that deal with the logic of the bodies. Besides, I feel that rational knowledge, can’t take away from the emotional aspect.

The interviewer is concerned about Salas projection towards an excessively specialized society.

One thing is to talk about professionalism,” Fabian says, “and another is to talk about mediocrity. Soccer continues to be very popular, yet it is more and more professional.”

The interviewer says that doing what Salas proposes will generate some resistance from the people who base the tango on feelings.

That’s anecdotal,” Fabian says. “The tango was born in the neighborhood, I’m a product of the neighborhood and I like that twist, but I can’t help recognize the value that technique has on the most advanced couple’s dance in the world.

What’s fundamental about the renaissance of the tango is not a feeling that somebody who lives abroad can’t feel. Why do they dance in the USA for example? They dance because the tango represents the universal man/woman relationship. Today we analyze the dance as language. Most people speaking a language know nothing about grammatical rules, however they speak. Here (in Buenos Aires) it is the same; we dedicate ourselves to do the grammar of the dance.

Fabian Salas began to dance i 1988 and he learned like everybody else with things that later he realized didn’t work.

The first time I went to Almagro, they kicked me off the dance floor; it was a time when they danced a style with very short steps,” he says. “I tried to do what I had learned from Copes: ‘one-two-three and ocho,’ and in the ocho they systematically pushed me away, until I had to leave.”

Fabian Salas in the beginning had very few options.

Yes,” he confirms, “and they pushed you around everywhere. If you went to a milonga right away somebody would come close to intimidate you, or if you were lucky to be like,” here the interviewer uses the letters NN to hide the name of a well known show dancer who according to Salas is the mama’s boy of the milongas.

He sat at the table with the milongueros and they adored him; he could screw up at will and all was cool, but if you just screwed up once, they would push you, kick you and hit you. I’m not complaining, but that is the way it was.

Mingo Pugliese would tell me, ‘if you take classes with me, you can’t take classes with anyone else,’ and he was the kindest of all. The rest would tell me, ‘if you are going to see so and so you are not allowed to set foot here anymore.’ Antonio Todaro was the only one nobody would badmouth. Everybody else was at each other’s throat. I was in that quandary when I met Gustavo Naveira. I thought I was number one and he slapped me to reality. I realized that he was on the same road as I was, but he had been traveling longer. We became friends and began to hang out together in spite of the fact that until very recently we continued to work separately.

The interviewer expresses a wide accepted impression that Salas is Gustavo’s lieutenant.

Sometimes they refer to me in a derogatory way as a clone, but the truth is that I never took a class with Gustavo. Long ago he helped me with some choreography and I worked next to him as an assistant, but never as a student. Notwithstanding, it is not an offense because for me he is the best dancer in the world.”

The interviewer wants to know if Gustavo and Fabian transmit how to reach the foundations or do they convey a sequence of steps derived from the foundations.

Our wrongly called ‘clones’ understand the functioning of the system. They come from a different direction because they learn to dance the way we teach them (sic). We mix in the teaching what we do now and what we used to do before, so they don’t really know how to distinguish what is traditional and what is not.

To have a guy who in three years can dance, like Chicho for example, is something that didn’t happen before. So they chastise us and they say that we have ‘clones.’ But, look at Zotto and tell me if he doesn’t have ‘clones.’ You enter a milonga and see a kid dressed in a suit, stiff looking, his dancing looks refined, and a look of consternation on his face, and you say, ‘this guy took classes with Osvaldo or with Miguel.’ Their ‘clone seal’ is more evident than ours. To me, dancing brings me happiness, not sadness. I can have a look of concentration, but I’m not suffering and my heart is not broken.”

The interviewer points out that Fabian seems to find pleasure in making things difficult. For example he rotates his hip 270 degrees when a move may require only 90 degrees.

Yes, of course, but as a dancer I’m still in the formation period. As a teacher I am clear about what I teach and one of my tasks is to find all the possibilities.”

So what’s the idea?

Every change produces resistance. We are beginning to value some elements as techniques for dancing, which is not to say that you dance better or worse. It means that they are elements, essential knowledge that make the dance what it is.”

So what are those elements?

As a technique of motion between two persons, it is handled as a system of axis. The possibility of motion of two bodies in general is handled in a circle, that is, the dance is designed to flow in a circular trajectory. From the moment that an axis appears, there is circular motion around that axis. This is changing constantly and the dance is built rotating, not in the limited sense of turning around the same axis but in the sense of moving the axis. The axis can be in the man, in the woman, or be external to them. Always one of these elements is the axis and they represent the concrete motion possibilities between two bodies with four legs. This is an important element too. When you walk, you go from a position of balance to a position off balance constantly. Between two legs and another one you get a logic of pizza slices, that’s the reason of the triangle.”

The interviewer wants to know if it is mandatory to step inside the pizza slice.

When you mark with your body, you don’t need your hands because the dance is handled in space. When you occupy a space, the woman cannot occupy the same space unless you slap her into it. She goes to the space that you generated with your body, that’s why she is inscribing a triangle into where the motion has dynamics. If you are standing in the center and the woman approaches the center, you fall unless you look for the centrifugal force. We don’t mark with our hands. We use the hands for containment. We use our bodies very much.”

Is Fabian worried about polemics created by C.I.T.A.?

They are useless. We are beyond the anecdotal. We are doing something for the tango, good or bad we have clear intentions. For C.I.T.A. we convoked all the teachers. Many are not here because they didn’t want to be here, or because they couldn’t be here. The problem is that it takes a whole lot of money to organize something like this and that is the reason for the high prices. We would like to do something that is very good and has lots of popular support.”

How can the locals participate at about $700 a head?

We are looking at the possibility of offering grants so the cost of the whole week would be around $200. We are working with the people of New Direction in Culture. Those interested in grants can come to see us everyday from 2-6 PM at Cochabamba 444.”