Snippets (grainy) from Guanabara, Brazilian nightclub in the heart of London:
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Tango's passion reaches far and wide. As if you'd need proof, Finland hosts The Seinäjoki Tango Festival with over 100,000 attendees for the 5 day festival.
From their website, a little history on the Finnish Tango:
There are few phenomena that have travelled so far and yet managed to root themselves so deeply into the Finnish soil as the tango. Not only was the original tango welcomed and fostered in Finland, but over the years it has also developed a new identity and become part of our way of life.
The Finnish tango is one of the few genuinely original things in Finnish music and popular entertainment. We may forget this ourselves every once in a while, but visitors to our shores cannot help but notice it, and fall in love with it.
The first Finnish tangos, classics since their birth, date back to the 1930s. Both the form and the spirit of tango in the Finnish manner were crystallized during the Second World War. As people were brought apart, sometimes for good, feelings of longing and loneliness grew more intensified.
However, there is a lot of hope and buoyancy in the tango; in fact, it is made up of the same ingredients as life itself.
Great Finnish composers, led by the two masters Toivo Kärki and Unto Mononen, have created many tango experiences for us all to share. Similarly, many singers are chiefly remembered for their tango interpretations. First Olavi Virta, Henry Theel, and Veikko Tuomi in the 1940s and 50s, and later Eino Grön, Reijo Taipale, Taisto Tammi, Markus Allan, Esko Rahkonen and many others, including the younger crop fostered by the Tango Festival.
At the turn of the 1960s the word was that the tango is passé. This was followed by a period characterized by some as the "comeback" of the tango.
However, singers and musicians who had continued to perform tangos, and particularly the Finnish folk which had continued to dance and listen to them, knew well that the tango was never out of fashion. On the contrary, some of the fads supposedly ousting the tango actually vanished as suddenly as they had appeared.
Neither would the Seinäjoki Tango Festival have experienced such a huge success without the intimate relationship of the Finns with the tango.
-Written by Ilpo Hakasalo-
Image courtesy of Martti Hautamäki for Tangomarkkinat
Finalists of Tango Singing Contest 2000: Erkki Räsänen, Antti Raiski, Esa Nummela, Mira Kunnasluoto, Hanne Kannasharju and Jaana Pöllänen
Part II of Sophie Schouwenaar's journey into the world of Sabar.
time when I climbed on stage to dance during Viviane Ndour’s
concert, I was noticed my somebody know in his turn informed one of
Senegal’s best dancers: Papa Ndiaye Thiou. He called me and we
would meet at Yengoulène (Center of African Culture in Senegal, a home for dancing, singing, for music and all other traditional African arts in Dakar) where Alioune Mbaye Nder was to
evening. I had seen him in practically all video clips
back in Holland and I had even secretly told myself that if I was to
meet him, one of my dreams would come true.
I arrived in a taxi wearing impossible Senegalese high heels and a new combination of the few clothes a took with me to Senegal. As elegant as possible I tried to approach the group of boys standing on the other side of Yengoulène (probably not to be seen since Pape Ndiaye’s presence evokes screaming masses). Seeing someone in a video clip is definitely very different. On top of that, Pape Ndiaye cut his dreadlocks. Thank God I guessed right when one of them asked me to point Pape Ndiaye. I figured he would be the one with the biggest chain around his neck and the most expensive jeans from Europe. I was right. When we went in, we were immediately accompanied to the VIP room, up the stairs.
Everybody was looking up since rumours spread
that Pape Ndiaye would be there. Alioune called forward
and Pape Ndiaye took the mike after making some spectacular dance
steps with his one best dancer Pape Ndiaye Gambie (named after Pape
Ndiaye and from Gambian origin). Writing this down, I can still feel
the adrenaline when Pape Ndiaye would call me forward. This was my
audition, was I to mess it up, then I would never dance with Pape
Ndiaye and his group. But everything went well, everybody told me
that “toigna fi!” (more or less meaning you were the best, you
broke it down). That it how it happened that I rehearsed with Pape
Ndiaye and his group every day.
I would wake up (bathing in sweat),
exercise on the roof terrace, take my shower, walk over the beach to
my family in law, eat thieboudien for lunch, take two car rapides to
Pikine, rehearse till about 8 pm, chat afterwards having a Fanta
cocktail and one or two cigarettes, go back with another two car
rapides to Yoff. Eat, if there was something left, otherwise write
down my field notes from the day, maybe go out if Pape Ndiaye would
come to pick me up. Go to sleep between 2 and 6 in the morning. And
that for a period of four months. I would feel very guilty at first
because I thought I was messing up my research because I was only
dancing. But later on I told myself that my research was about
festivities, so it was very logical that my time in Dakar had plenty
In between rehearsals, performances, and the making of our two video clips, I would get to know a lot about these dancers, their problems, family ties, thoughts and feelings and the role dancing plays in their lives. Not to speak of the immense experience I had from being in Senegal for four months surrounded by only Senegalese. My basic research questions were founded upon my general thesis which poses the question of how, in relation to modernization and globalization, gender relations are being challenged and changed and how these processes are clearly visible in the scene of sabar events. Basically that meant talking to a whole range of people about the way they perceive sabar, and the degree of acception of a the phenomenon of sabar. It also meant talking to dancers about the problems they have concerning their reputation, the choices they sometimes have to make between religion and dancing and the (non)acceptation of their profession.
Me, as a female sabar dancer, had some of the same problems I spoke about with my informants. For example, where I lived in Yoff, my landlady and the others living in and around the house, posed lots of questions around me going out at all given hours a day, with about seven male dancers who’d pick me up in a big car. What kind of married woman would do that? I explained to them that for my ‘work’ I had to know everything about sabar. After a while they got used to it and the rumours of me going out with Pape Ndiaye slipped to the background. Other things to gossip about became more interesting and important, apparently.
Also, since the western concept of privacy was not very well applicable in Senegalese society, I could hardly close my door behind me. My housemates would ask me whether I was ill or sad. So every time I needed some privacy, I would take my laptop and make a show it of in the living room so that everybody would know I would be working.
Besides the lack of privacy, I had a lot of problems making appointments and actually getting to see people. For example: rehearsal would take place at 3 pm. During the four months I spent in Senegal, we never started rehearsing before 5 or even 6 pm. Also, since Pape Ndiaye is a celebrity in Senegal, he would come as he pleased. I don’t mean this in a bad way, because he would also arrange everything from ghetto blasters for our rehearsals to contracts for performances on stage or in video clips. But it did mean hours of waiting for me and his dancers. In general, there was a lot of waiting in Senegal. Waiting for electricity to come back so I could write on my laptop, waiting for the thieboudien to be ready, waiting for the rehearsal to take place and most of all waiting for nothing. I developed a great sense of patience in Senegal. I learned not to pose too many questions, but just to be there. I developed the same kind of passiveness in waiting as I saw Senegalese do. In fact I became kind of Senegalese. I adjusted the same kind of walk I’d always envy from Senegalese women. I didn’t hurry anymore, I thought of today only and I discovered that the only way to experience anything was just to be out there. Not to wait at home for something to happen. In Senegal, according to me, there is an energy law: if you reach out, it’s a party every single night. So despite all earthy inconveniences (heat, thirst, crowdedness, smog) I was out there.
Right now, I am back in Holland. I wrote my thesis in incredible speed and graduated in January of this year. I have now started my own dance course and I am trying to find a job in which I can do something with my expertise. I still keep in touch with Pape Ndiaye and his dancers. Inshallah (God willing), I will go back this summer to make some nice performances!
I thank all the people who helped me during my research and beyond.
Ba bènen joon! (see you next time!)
Sophie Schouwenaar is a 24 year old Netherlands native. She started dancing sabar three years ago, after being a salsa dance instructor and a djembe dancer. She has traveled all over the world to dance. Her experiences finally came together during her research period in Dakar, where she spent 4 months researching sabar. She is now a master in anthropology and graduated from the Universiteit van Amsterdam in January 2007.
You may reach Sophie via email: email@example.com
Rhythm & Culture in Dakar
By Sophie Schouwenaar
The first time I went to Senegal, I didn’t know anything about sabar dancing nor drumming. So when my teacher in the second week of our dance workshop proposed we dance sabar, I was not very enthusiastic. A typical Dutch saying is what the farmer doesn’t know, he doesn’t like. I remember quite well the drummers who started playing and my teacher telling me to ‘just respond to your inner dance impulse’. I didn’t know how to dance on these rhythms. The only thing I heard was a lot of uncoordinated noise. Later on that week we were invited to a baptème (a baptism ceremony). I was dressed up by my teacher’s wife in an yellow grand boubou in which I felt incredibly uncomfortable. The other Dutch lady who participated in the workshop felt much more at ease. I was stuck to my chair, intimidated and amazed by the women who seemed so passive would jump up out of their chairs and give an amazing, acrobatic performance. Everyone would start to scream and giggle when the other Dutch lady would jump in as well, apparently very much at ease in the setting. Another reason why I clung to my chair and during the whole baptème I wouldn’t get off it.
About two years later, after having danced in Mali and Burkina Faso where I would always miss the sabar drums and the explosiveness of its dances, I went back to Senegal. This time fully equipped with a lot of experience in sabar-dancing. During my stay in Toubab Dialaw (on the coast just south of Dakar) where I took classes with one of Africa’s most renounced choreographers Germaine Acogny, I got to know her dancers very well. At the same time I entered my master’s phase in which I would have to make decisions concerning my research. I already wrote my bachelor’s thesis on dance, but in a very theoretical way. Now I decided that this would be my year, in which everything would come together. So on the third of May 2006, almost a year later, I went to Senegal to do my master’s research on sabar dancing after preparing my research proposal for months. Arriving at the airport, inhaling Senegal’s air, being surrounded my Wolof speaking people… The first thing that went through my mind was: home!
I stayed in Yoff, kind of a suburb on which Dakar is in fact founded, where I rented a small room with a tiny window with only a mattress. Only months later I bought myself an air conditioner. I still don’t understand why I let myself suffer by waking up every day bathing in sweat. I chose Yoff because my family in law lives there. I thought that at the same time as my research, I might as well take the opportunity of really getting to know these lovely people. Also, Yoff is a relatively quiet place (compared to Pikine for example) and I knew it already from last year’s visit when I met this family. My eventual plan of doing my research in Toubab Dialaw changed completely. I figured that I already knew the people and the village, and that it would be an interesting place since it is a fishermen’s village where traditional gender-patterns are clearly observable. But I discovered while being there that first of all there were no sabar events taking place in Toubab Dialaw. Second, nothing happened, except for preparing thieboudien (Senegal's national dish - a rice & fish stew) every single day. Bottom end is that I got very homesick (that is to Dakar) and I couldn’t wait to go back there in the weekends to dance in the tanebeers (nightly sabar events) and nightclubs. Plans are made to change I was told during my preparation courses on the University of Amsterdam.
.... Stay tuned next week for Part II.....
About the author:
Sophie Schouwenaar is a 24 year old Netherlands native. She started dancing sabar three
years ago, after being a salsa dance instructor and a djembe dancer. She has traveled
all over the world to dance. Her experiences finally came together during her
research period in Dakar, where she spent 4 months researching sabar.
She is now a master in anthropology and graduated from the Universiteit
van Amsterdam in January 2007.
Her documentary about Sabar can be viewed by following this link in Root: Sabar Dancing
You may reach Sophie via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Portrait of Germaine Agogny by Antoine Tempé
Images courtesy of L'Ecole des Sables & Sophie Schouwenaar
Celebrate Carnaval 2007 with the Caipirinha Appreciation Society
Brazilian journalist MdC Suingue (Portuguese for "Swing") & Kika Serra bring you Brazilian music without the cliches. Special for Carnaval, the CAS kicks off with part one of a three part series.
The idea is to create an environment open to the appreciation of this diversity that Brazil has to offer. The Caipirinha Appreciation Society is an introduction to a different Brazil, in opposition to the clichés presented in the infamous samba-for-tourists shows. We skip the feathers, sequins and fixed fake smiles for a more grassroots approach.
The policy of our djs is to play GOOD Brazilian music, from old gems to the most cutting-edge underground stuff. The dance-floor code is to move as you feel like with no "samba class" to spoil that freedom.
But our intention is to take Brazilian music out of the ghetto and place it in a universal context, so even if our output is 90% Brazilian, we play anything good that we come across, whatever nationality.
So let your hair down and try out our musical caipirinha. It can be addictive, we're told.
Editor's Pick - I am already addicted to the Caipirinha Appreciation Society
JELLY’S: CHEERS WITH A CHA CHA BEAT
A man in a Panama hat raced from a Super Shuttle van toward a dinky Kleenex- box shaped building, his overnight bag bumping over the rough cement behind him. He dropped the bag at the door and disappeared into a hard hot wind of smashing cymbals, wailing trumpets and clinking beer bottles. He had arrived at Jelly’s, a salsa club wedged between the AT&T ballpark and the weather-beaten warehouses on the San Francisco waterfront. There’ll be other shuttles along in a minute—he’s not alone in coming straight from the airport to the “Club Havana” Sunday afternoon event at Jelly’s. With its sagging neon sign in front and rusty tugboat moored in the back, Jelly’s looks more like a Hell’s Angels hangout than a salsa club. On the inside, it’s jammed wall to wall with salsa junkies and savvy tourists.
Jelly’s afternoon bashes come from a long- standing Bay Area tradition of Sunday afternoon dances called “tardeadas” that started in the 1950s at clubs such as Sweets Ballroom in Oakland. Today out of the more than twenty clubs that make up the jumping Bay Area salsa scene, only Jelly’s and El Rio across town in the warm Mission District still have Sunday afternoon dancing. El Rio’s dancing is outdoors on cement, and the Latin events draw a mostly gay crowd.
Here it’s different. The shuttle passenger in his cream guayabera (the formal linen overshirt popular among Latino men) can already wrapped his arms around a busty Latino woman with big hair and frosted highlights and drawn her onto a wooden dance floor sticky at the edges from spilled drinks. Live bands will come on later, but the afternoon begins with the D.J.s like Luis Medina whose rich mix of hard- driving new music from Cuba and vintage salsa from New York and Puerto Rico whips the crowd into such a frenzy that the dancers forget to drink(to the sorrow of the club owner), eat or even pee. Many are regulars who have been coming here every week to show off their double turns and cross-body leads for decades. Some are Latino, some black, some suburban-looking blondes. Everybody knows everybody: it’s Cheers with a cha cha beat. One dancer downing a Dos Equis at the bar said, “Jelly’s has the old-school Latin spirit. It has a down-home feel.” They all agree that the patrons at Jelly’s don’t have the snooty airs and competitiveness on the dance floor one finds at the upscale clubs such as Café Cocomo, a couple of miles to the north on Potrero Hill and The Glass Kat in the South of Market district, where the better dancers take over one area of the floor and keep out those not up to their standards. A dancer who said his name was Lenny said, “Jelly’s is where you can dance, connect with your partner, be playful and flirtatious. It’s a wonderful place to shed your inhibitions, if only for just a few minutes.”
Much of the energy comes from the live bands that come on about five-thirty. Today Anthony Blea Y Su Charanga, a 9 piece salsa band, pumps out speaker-rattling trombone and trumpet riffs from an elevated stage.
Hours of dancing force many to succumb to the aroma of charred onions and green peppers that spills in from the concrete patio out back above the green waters of the bay. Today six lanky AfroCubans, wearing XXL orange and black 49niner t-shirts have buried their faces in steamy plates piled with black beans and rice, grilled onions, salsa and barbeque chicken, a bargain at $9.
Even someone wholly new to salsa, who doesn’t know Tito Puentes from Ricky Ricardo, will be swept up in the joy and energy from the dancers. Some will try to fake the steps on the edges of the dance floor. Many will leave determined to take salsa lessons as soon as they arrange it. For a first hand look at Jelly’s and the rest of Bay Area Salsa scene check the Fifth Annual San Francisco International Salsa Congress taking place November 16-19 at the Oakland Marriott City Convention Center and Hotel.
Jelly's - A Dance Cafe
295 TERRY FRANCOIS BLVD.
PIER 50, SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94158
Images courtesy of Jelly's Cafe, El Rio, and Anthony Blea
From a New York Times review on salsa dancing in Miami:
While many visit Miami to soak up some sun, others come here for something far hotter -- the steamy salsa clubs. From Latin nights at hotel bars and spicy salsa-only nightclubs in Miami Beach to ranch-like settings inland that attract hordes of hard-core salseros (salsa dancers), Miami's vibrant salsa clubs are a terrific experience, if only to watch or be watched.
Miami's salsa, called Rueda or Casino-style salsa, is unique. Debbie Ohanian -- a Miami transplant who started one of the city's foremost salsa clubs, Starfish -- describes it as a sort of choreographed line dancing, like a Latin square dance, that started in Cuba's social clubs in the 1950s. Traditionally there are 180 different turns that people learn, and there's a caller. Unlike some other forms of salsa, there's not a lot of eye contact, and, also like a square dance, partners are exchanged. At many clubs, where a Casino Rueda typically begins the evening, the circles of dancers get so large, smaller circles form within. Having over 100 people in a Rueda is typical.
Beginners can get an overview of the salsa experience at . You'll find out about the differences in big-city styles, and anything else you want to know about salsa, from music to moves to movies.
Salsa novices should consider a salsa lesson, which are offered by several Miami nightclubs before the crowds turn out. Some lessons are free, while others are part of the cover charge. Alcazaba (50 Alhambra Plaza, Coral Gables, FL, USA. 305/569-4614), in the Hyatt Regency Coral Gables, has basic salsa lessons on Saturday. Bermuda Bar & Grille (3509 N.E. 163rd St., North Miami Beach, FL, USA. 305/945-0196) gives salsa lessons on Thursday night. Gloria and Emilio Estefan's restaurant, Bongos Cuban Cafe (601 Biscayne Blvd., Downtown, Miami, FL, USA. 786/777-2100), at the AmericanAirlines Arena, turns into a Latin-flavored dance club on Friday and Saturday nights, with lessons on Thursday. Café Mystique (7250 N.W. 11th St., Miami, FL, USA. 305/262-9500), at the Days Inn Miami International Airport Hotel, offers live Latin music four nights a week and Thursday-night salsa lessons. Other clubs may offer special salsa nights; check the weekly New Times.
Ready to try out your salsa skills? Get out on the floor and don't be shy to ask someone better than you to dance. (Just ask if they wouldn't mind showing you a couple of turns if you're still new at it.) In addition to the clubs with classes, there are other nightspots with salsa nights (call first). Perhaps the most authentic salsa experience in Miami can be had at La Covacha (10730 N.W. 25th St., West Miami-Dade, Miami, FL, USA. 305/594-3717), an open-air dance hall in West Miami-Dade County where you can hear not only salsa, but merengue, samba, soca, and Spanish-flavored rock. La Covacha attracts the young and old, Hispanics and Anglos, beginning dancers and seasoned salseros. Quench (2801 Florida Ave., Coconut Grove, Miami, FL, USA. 305/448-8150) is a hot spot for Saturday-night salseros, with two dance floors and plenty of space for trying out new moves. Saturday night is salsa night at Paradis (7707 N.W. 103rd St., Hialeah Gardens, FL, USA. 305/825-1000), the nightclub at the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel-Miami Airport. Señor Frog's (3480 Main Hwy., Coconut Grove, Miami, FL, USA. 305/448-0999, 616 Collins Ave., South Beach, Miami Beach, 305/673-5262) sheds its Mexican restaurant mode on Saturday and becomes a hot Latin music nightspot.
and Puerto Rico:
SALSA music may have originated in New York City, but San Juan, P.R., is its spiritual home. From gilded casinos to packed nightclubs, the infectious rhythm of salsa has hips swiveling and shoulders shaking until daybreak in this Caribbean capital. Dance lessons are available at places throughout the city, including Miguel Rodríguez's studio on Tuesday and Friday nights (211 Avenida José de Diego, 787-717-1255). Private lessons start at $25.
Afterward, show off your new moves at Rumba in Old San Juan (152 Calle San Sebastián, 787-725-4407) and the Nuyorican Café (312 Calle San Francisco, 787-977-1276), where bands play until 4 a.m. on weekend nights. If that's past your bedtime, swing by the Condado Plaza Hotel and Casino (999 Ashford Avenue, 787-721-1000), where live orchestras start at 5 p.m. and wind things up a little after midnight. End the weekend at the Oyster Bar (6000 Avenida Isla Verde, 787-726-2161). The salsa classes are free and start at 8 p.m. on Sundays. Or you can sit and sip rum.
Image courtesy of Nuyorican Cafe website
Deirdre Towers (Dancer/Choreographer) has danced and choreographed in a wide spectrum of styles for decades, performing
at venues ranging from the Plaza Hotel for private parties to
Washington Square Church with the late gypsy singer Rafael Fajardo, as
produced by World Music Institute, to La Cueva de Luna Mora in
Andalucia, as filmed by the BBC.
A teaching artist for City Center since 2003, she taught flamenco history/rhythms for Maria Benitez at her Institute of Spanish Arts in New Mexico for seven summers. American Ballet Theater employed Deirdre as a teacher of dance for the camera for their Summer Intensive for four years and at Frederick Douglass Academy for two years.
Currently the Executive Director of Dance Films Association, Ms. Towers directs the internationally touring Dance On Camera Festival in collaboration with The Film Society of Lincoln Center. Trained in multiple dance studios in New York, Sevilla, and Accra, Ghana, she holds a BA from Hamilton College, and a MA from New York University.
Ms Towers will be contributing another piece for Root about her trip to this year's Flamenco Bienal in Spain.