Seeing Music: D'Arienzo and Canaro

Two of the first orchestras that I began to recognize were D'Arienzo and Canaro which trigger very different emotions and quality of movement. Being a very visual person, my learning always thrives when I am able to process something through seeing it and this is what led me to spend a lot of time watching tango performances. On average I spend two to three hours a week watching and rewatching the same performances over and over. After some time, there have been certain performances that stand the test of time and no matter how many times I have seen them, I can't get enough. 

The following two performances have been my favorite for juxtopozing the musicality of D'Arienzo and Canaro. 

Juan D'Arienzo

D'Arienzo's music never ceases to fascinate me. No matter how much it gets played, it never gets old, nobody every complains about too much D'Arienzo (at least not to me). If someone is about to leave, they will frequently put their stuff down and get back on the dance floor if La Bruja comes on. It is enjoyed by both beginners and advanced dancers and is the go-to orchestra when the DJ wants to wake people up. It is not uncommon to hear multiple D'Arienzo tandas in one night (which can only be said about a few other orchestras). The beautiful and maddening challenge of pulling off a good D'Arienzo for me is to achieve phenomenal speed without losing stillness (or your partner), to move dynamically with the rhythm but with complete ease. In this state (which I sometimes feel vals induces as well), there is a strange physical sensation of moving in slow motion. It's truly remarkable! To see the music of D'Arienzo I usually turn to Chicho Frumboli and Juana Supelveda. I have been watching Chicho and Juana the longest. I love the variety of music they choose to perform. Sometimes it works and other times it doesn't, but of all the dancers they seem to push the envelope the most, often choosing difficult orchestras or unusual contemporary tracks. 

 

 

In this performance I particularly enjoy the moments of dissociated lead at 1:32 and 2:13/2:16 that made me gasp the first time I watched this. There is a percussive quality to their movements and a sense that Chicho's feet land on the ground like a magnets on metal. At the same time the upper body is very calm and doesn't distract away from the clarity of the edges drawn by the feet. The beginning and end of phrases is marked precisely with small but decisive movements conveying the overall feel of the rhythmic perfection that D'Arienzo offers. Juana is absolutely masterful at switching from short staccato movements that mark the rhythm to smooth legato movements to convey the melody, all while retaining an air of absolute ease. Her skill and precision of alignment is especially obvious in moments like 3:19, which I sometimes watch in slow motion to study alignment of axis. The final part of El Flete which begins at 3:30 is especially satisfying to watch. They kick it into high gear to show the rapid firing of the bandañon, but at the same time remaining totally calm. To me, this is the mastery that I appreciate about them. In their dance I see D'Arienzo as a combination of unstoppable, driving momentum and absolute stillness. 

Francisco Canaro

When it comes to the music of Francisco Canaro, my favorite dancers to watch are Pablo Inza and Sofia Saborido. Everything from their embrace to the careful placement of the feet serves to show Canaro's sweetness and even temper. The music of Canaro a lot of times sounds to me like a festive but lazy march. The rhythm dominates but whereas with D'Arienzo I can't help but bounce off the ground the way a marble would bounce off a stone floor, with Canaro I can't help but feel the density of my limbs, each step landing heavily as if I my body is suddenly very heavy. This quality is beautifully rendered by Pablo and Sofia in this performance. 

 

 

Pablo and Sofia keep a close embrace for the whole performance and their vocabulary is very simple, prioritizing showing the music over fancy figures. As the song develops they draw clearer distinctions between the different phrases and instruments and in this way making Canaro's logic visible. There are times like at 00:47 where Pablo articulates a double time while Sofia walks the slow beat that give me a clear visual illustration of how the instruments are interacting. At 2:18-2:34 they lay out a section of the song showing beautifully the call-and-response play happening between the instruments. Their quality of movement, the way they articulate the pauses, the speed of their pivots, all contribute to the feeling of a simple, elegant, satisfying game (like chess or something like that). Canaro brings me into a place of quiet introspection, nostalgia, and even sadness which is the opposite of D'Arienzo's rhythmic mania that is the fuel we need to make it to 6am.

To me this is the greatness of truly experiencing tango music - to allow oneself to occupy the very different emotional and physical states, one after another, like traveling through infinite dimensions and possibilities, registering and expressing with the body what we encounter on the way.