Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Names to conjure with

Here are some pictures that I wanted to post soon after I took them, but never got round to. I wonder if anyone can guess where they're from? Shouldn't be a problem for my friend V ...

Bellona, a Roman personification of war, with a feathered helmet and magnificent blue eyes. In painted wood, some European hardwood, I would guess oak.

Bellona, a Roman personification of war

A superb sculpture of Hercules, the skin of the Nemean Lion clearly visible over his shoulder.


Another Hercules, opposite. The fact that they made two of these - almost, but not quite, mirroring each other - may give you a clue about what they were for.

A second Hercules

This man, in bronze, is one of the most famous in the history of Europe, and might be recognisable from portraits. He is rather often portrayed in fiction - in French, Spanish, English, and probably other languages.

Name to conjour with

Answers to who he is and where I was in the comments, please.

Update: Maya named the bust, and Tangocommuter got the location. Answers, and a bit more, in white ink below, which may not work in the RSS feed, so close your eyes now! (Select with your mouse to read it, obviously.)
The bust is Armand-Jean du Plessis, cardinal, duc de Richelieu, arguably one of the most important people in the history of Europe, and also the 'veritable fondateur' (true founder), according to his caption, of the French Navy. The location is the Musée Maritime in Toulon, where I was last May for Les Cigales. Bellone is a figurehead, this one actually a complete standing figure. The two Hercules figures would have gone on either side of the stern of a ship. The wooden figures were made there in Toulon, at the atelier de sculpture,  Bellone by the master Hubac, 1775-1830.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

El Huracán

Another brilliant tango tone-poem. An instrumental, no words, but you get the title - "Hurricane".

Listen to to the slowly rising wind - whipping up the sea, blowing the branches from side to side, then trees, then there's heavy rain (plucked strings), and it starts to whistle, turning and wailing, with bigger and bigger things flying around over longer and longer distances:

Alfredo de Angelis y su orquesta – El Huracán*

Notice at 02:09. There's an eye in the storm! The pause is only tiny, but the cadence before it makes you think that it's the end. And when this was played, almost everybody stopped there and started talking (not my partner - he was wise to it) - and it seems to me that after the eye, the arrangement differs so that the wind is going the other way, until it's really all over. There are several versions of El Huracán by different orchestras, but this is the only one I've heard with such a pronounced, catch-you-out eye.


*Note: You'll need Spotify, an advertising-supported music streaming service, to play this link. I gather it will  not work in the USA, but the De Angelis version of El Huracán is also available on iTunes. I don't think US'ers will be able to stream it legally from anywhere without paying, you'd have to buy and download, but I don't know.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Diego Amado and Valérie Lafore: a Valentine's Card

Here are two little videos of Diego Amado and Valérie Lafore: I've seen him around at European festivals but haven't actually met either of them (I would love to!). I'm interested in these videos because of the contrast of style. There are quite a few dancers who vary how they dance very markedly depending on context, partner, inspiration, mood, their current thinking, whatever. I find this a convincing illustration of just how misleading the concept of 'style' can be if you try to put people in categories based on it.

I love this one:

Love it! It's totally absorbing, I'd be (discreetly - well, ish) watching it work its way around the dancefloor with pure delight. This is the kind of dance where I'd be wondering "what are we doing and how come it's legal? Does anyone even realise how much fun I am having here?"

Now here's another one, a joint demo with Jorge and Maria Dispari, who some of you know. Same man, same woman, different and darker music, different context, noticeably different so-called-style in my view, perhaps coming mostly from a different pattern of choosing what to use in the music (more in the vein of what Jorge Dispari does, to be exact, which I perceive as dancing to less of it - as a style choice).

This dance is great looking, and very well-dressed, but I'm not gonna rip its tie off, or even give it a Valentine's card, and it probably wouldn't fancy me either. Nothing wrong with it, great quality, but it's  different and not quite my type. I know some regular readers may well prefer this one to the other. It's all good.

But what I find fascinating is that there are quite a lot of people who can technically deliver quite a variety of so-called 'styles', in different contexts, at different times, to different music or with different ideas in mind, to very high standards. I know at least a few myself. I'm not saying there's any reason why you would want to achieve that, beyond insatiable curiosity or sheer bloody-mindedness. It's up to you. But people do it all the time, and it's often a mistake to think about people in such terms.

Anyway you can catch them at Carrément Tango, Marseille.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Fun and Food

Ahhh I had so much fun at the tea dance in the middle of nowhere (see link on right) - lots of lovely dancers, lovely atmosphere, lovely space, good flow, quite crowded, about ninety people there, buzzing. It's getting popular so there's not a lot of space, you need your milonguerotrousers. Quite a few people you'd otherwise see at Eton or maybe Bramshaw.

Tip: the empañadas are very good and as soon as they are announced everybody makes a beeline for them (instant chaos, gannets) and they disappear in seconds. So if you want to eat more than one, try to spot their progress through the oven when you get yourself a cuppa so you can kidnap them as they come out. Alternatively, while everyone else is trying to get one is a great time to have about two-thirds of the floor to yourself and stretch your legs a bit.

I like that it's quite long so you don't feel you have to chase dances; and that also means I'm happier taking risks with people I don't know, especially early on, which is good too 'cause it spreads the love around.

Now I'm going to watch France v Ireland. You never know what either of them are going to do.

[Update: they've thought up a system. Now you get a little card as you come in the door, and you swap it later for your empañada. That way, everybody who wants one, gets one, and nobody gets to waylay them on the way from oven to table. Much more orderly and fair-play. You can have another later if there are any left.]

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The problem with chewing gum ...

... which some people do to freshen the breath, is:

Given an appropriate height difference, it makes a revolting YhakYhakYhak noise right by your ear


there's only two ways it can go:

it's oYHAKn the bYHAKeat,


it's not onYHAK thYHAKe beat.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

The pursuit of Elegance - or not

I've always deliberately disregarded any instruction in a dance class that justifies itself based on making something look better, because I just find that such instructions are totally useless to me.

If you get good at something that has a form and function seperate from its looks, you're going to look pretty good doing it, automatically. Making efforts to make a thing look a certain way, before getting actually good at it, just doesn't make any sense at all to me as an approach. It distracts me from the function of what I'm doing, confuses me and leaves me not knowing what the hell I'm trying to do. And the results whenever I've attempted it have been awkward, artificial, and in bad taste.

It doesn't achieve the goal, and most of all, trying to implement arbitary rules of movement based on looks immediately messes up my following, which is far too big a sacrifice to make even for five minutes.

Form follows function: people who dance efficiently, with balance, stability, comfort, ease, precision, speed, without straining or wasted effort or artificiality or exaggeration or pretension, expressively, musically, softly, feelingly, considerately, enjoyably, look wonderful. And they look good directly because of those things, without any need for ornament or arbitrary rules that serve only looks. When I see "elegance" in someone else's dance, I'm seeing the same sort of elegance I see in an "elegant solution" when I'm looking at software, or the cut of a dress, or the design of a bridge. A sincere and perfect fulfilment of purpose.

I need to let my body find its elegant solution. It has to come from the inside.

And also, I find a focus on 'elegance' alienating and depressing. That's not what I'm dancing for. It's what I'm dressing for. I'm right behind the idea of looking great while dancing, and an outfit that perfectly fulfils its social and practical goals with the perfect economy of effort, is as automatically elegant as a dance that does the same. But I can put an outfit on anytime. I'm dancing because it feels great, for the same sort of reason that some people play golf or climb rocks. Looking good, if I do, is a bonus, but it's not the goal.

I guess I take the same approach with my knitted animals. They generally don't have any features or surface decoration that don't contribute to the form, and the more successful ones are more that way than the less successful ones.

I'm sure the elegance-approach makes some people graceful, if it inspires you and motivates you and helps you grasp what you're trying to do, then go to it, but it doesn't work for me.

Andreas and Lynn are on the radio tomorrow

My friends Andreas Wichter and Lynn Collins are on Radio Devon's Interactive Lunch programme tomorrow (Monday) at about 2pmish. For some reason I find this idea amusing, so I'm telling you about it.

I don't know what they'll be talking about, it goes out live, but probably the Abrazos Festival, I expect. Which I'm really looking forward to - they have some brilliant DJs lined up, and with a bit of luck all those lovely snuggly euromilongueros will turn up as well, or some of them, so I'm planning to dance till I can't feel my feet.

Anyway, if you're a fan of theirs and you fancy startling BBC Radio Devon, you can listen here and contact the programme here. You probably won't be able to stream the programme if you're outside the UK - I won't be able to stream it at work, because our proxy server is somewhere in mainland Europe, so sadly I don't think I'll be able to send in any banter.

Update: you can hear it here, probably for [at least] the next seven days. As it's local radio, you actually might be able to get it abroad, have a try. It's nice, it's from about 00:51. (I like Lynn's voice on the radio, I don't know if you'd still be able to hear her continuous background laugh if you didn't know her, but I can hear it clearly. Also - Lego stones. Haha. Actually it turns out to be all about tango as such, and not about the festival at all.)

Update2: I spoke to someone at work who knows a lot, for technical reasons, about how iPlayer actually operates. Because there's no sport in the programme to complicate the rights, region restrictions probably won't apply, so you can hear it anywhere. It might also hang around for years rather than days, although I think the chances are it will eventually be deleted to save storage space.

Saturday, 5 February 2011


This mascara is a disaster! I look like a Goth chick!

myface.cosmetics - not suitable for close embrace in a warm room. No memory of where or why I thought buying it was a good idea