Archive for January, 2007

Why do I love Cortina?

Posted in Dance, Music, Norms on January 9th, 2007

Cortina – you can definitely live without it when you don’t know what it is, but once you get used to it and appreciate it, you can’t live without it.

I remembered I had a discussion with a DJ in Europe. He didn’t use cortina when he DJed. I asked him why. Then he said when he played cortina, everybody left the dance floor at the same time and that created traffic congestion to the exit of the dance floor (in that milonga, there’s only one not-so-big exit from the dance floor to the sitting area). And they preferred dancers changed partner whenever they want and not at the same time. Then I asked him, “How do you separate the tandas then?” He said, in that case he used a short silent pause to separate the tandas. Although I’m a fan of cortina, I found he had a good reason of not using it. However, he didn’t change my belief in cortina. For me, cortina’s function is more than just clearing the dance floor and separating the tandas. I believe cortina can do more than that.

The primary function of cortinas in Buenos Aires is to clear the dance floor and encourage people to change partners. It is a very practical reason. Cortina is a code of behavior in a milonga. When dancers hear the cortina, everybody will leave the dance floor. If there’s someone who doesn’t know this rule and waits for the next tanda to start on the dance floor, then they will find themselves extremely embarrassed, it happens quite often to the milonga first timer. Then after the cortina finishes, dancers know that they can go back to the dance floor again. So it’s pretty much like the way police control the traffic – there’s moment to leave the dance floor and there’s also moment to enter the dance floor. But in milonga, the traffic light is the cortina.

Then in Buenos Aires, cortina usually lasts around 1 minute, sometimes longer sometimes shorter, depends on different DJs and different milongas. If the dance floor is big and there’re lots of dancers, of course it takes more time to clear the dance floor, hence DJ plays longer cortina, and vice versa. During the cortina, gentlemen will bring their partners back to their seats, and then maybe having a drink or chit-chat with friends. Then once the new tanda starts, they invite another persons to dance. It is an unspoken rule to change partner after each tanda. Since each tanda is followed by a cortina, it provides a chance for the dancers to break from their current partner. It is extremely useful when you don’t like to dance with someone, once cortina arrives, then you can say “bye-bye” easily to your partner without embarrassing him or her. : P

But for me, cortina means more than that. I’m so much into the music that, I need a “break” in-between tandas or something to make me forget about the previous tanda. Otherwise, I will have a hard time to pull my emotion out from what has been played, then I cannot dance the next set of music. In a nutshell, I cannot immediately jump from Di Sarli to Donato, I need something to “wash away” my Di Sarli mood so that I can change myself into Donato mode, and that’s what cortina means to me. I don’t need a very long cortina, a 20 second or 30 second cortina is good enough. I don’t know if you feel the same, but I know I’m not alone to feel this way. I noticed how much I appreciate having cortinas in-between tandas after dancing in milongas where there were no tandas and cortinas. For example the music could be like this – a Pugliese’s vals “Desde el alma” -> a Canaro’s milonga “Milonga Brava” -> a Di Sarli’s tango “Bahia Blanca” -> a De Angelis’s tango “Pavadita”… It felt like a big “rojak” (a mix salad in Singapore). I know many people don’t mind and may even like it, but to dance on all these pieces one after the other and be true to each of them with my heart, no I can’t.

Cortina can set the mood of the milonga, I noticed that when I was in Buenos Aires. I remembered I went to La Ideal on a Monday afternoon and also to El Arranque on a Tuesday afternoon. The DJs in these two places played very rhythmic cortinas, everybody shook their body or walked to the rhythm of the cortina whenever it was played. I noticed that although the milongas were long (from 3pm to almost 10pm), the energy of the crowd never cooled down. And I found myself always in a good mood to dance in those two milongas. My conclusion was that because of the music, and that included a good cortina, I always felt excited and energized. That’s why when I DJ myself, I always choose rhythmic cortinas (lively or jazzy), they keep people’s dancing spirit up. And I also found out that when people love the cortina, they might appreciate the DJ and his/her music more. :) In fact, for many dancers, the first thing they remember about your DJing may not be the tango you play but the cortina you use. Cortina can become the “trademark” of a tango DJ.