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Friday, January 11, 2008

Chacarera, Anyone?

I always use the break at a milonga (it's usually salsa at the milongas I go to) to rest my feet. I don't know how to salsa, anyway. And if I'm lucky, I do need a chance to rest before the next tanda.

But if it was a Chacarera break, then it would be a different story. That is one of the other things I will miss when Roberto leaves for Argentina. He is the only teacher I know who teaches Chacarera, and always has that dance as his break instead of salsa.

The Chacarera is the folkloric dance of Argentina. It's lively and earthy and it makes you smile. You get to stomp your feet and clap your hands. And if you are a lady, you get to swoosh your skirt, too (if there's something to swoosh). It's really a lot of fun, and it's one of the things I always looked forward to at Roberto's milongas (if I could find a partner--not everyone knows or wants to do it because I think it's more of a performance as many people sit it out and watch.)

I know it's probably very common to have the Chacarera break in Argentina (duh) but here it is not. But I'm curious...do any of you go to milongas where the Chacarera is played regularly? Do your teachers give classes in it?

There really is no opportunity here to dance it here that I'm aware of except for Roberto's milongas. I'm sad I won't have a chance to do the Chacarera anymore unless I get back down to BA, which means that I'm probably going to forget how to do it sooner than later.

Below are some of the better videos I found of Chacarera, to give you an idea of what it looks like if you haven't seen it before. Unlike tango, there aren't a lot of great examples on youtube. These all are folkloric groups, not regular people at milongas, and I think you'll enjoy their dancing.


Malena January 12, 2008 at 8:43 AM  

Another great post, TB! I have been fascinated with chacarera ever since I first watched it - it was at a tango festival though and most of the people who danced it then were teachers and performers, so for some time I though you have to be in the know to be included. Then Eva and I saw a great deal of chacarera in BsAs and realized it was fairly simple to learn. Unfortunately, I have yet to see it danced at a milonga here or taught by any of the teachers. What a pity! It is not only beatiful, but a very happy dance that brings a feeling of lightness and also bonds a bigger group of people together. Thanks for posting these great videos! Xoxo,

Elizabeth Brinton January 12, 2008 at 9:05 AM  

I love the chacarera, but no one teaches it here. In Portland Alex Krebs teaches it. We enjoyed seeing it in BA. It looks like so much fun.

Anonymous January 12, 2008 at 9:09 AM  

Actually, is not very common that here a milonga have chacarera breaks. Tango and folklore have very different roots. One is from the countryside, from the gauchos, if you want, and the other is from the city, so not every tanguero know how to dance folklore, actually is quite the oposite. But Chacarera have a choreography that is easy to learn and even to follow (except for the "zapateo")if you don't know nothing about it, so a lot of people dance it, but not well.
One more thing: Folklore is not the folkloric dance of Argentine but just the most popular of many. In fact, even in the milongas people dance "gatos", "chacarera dobles", "escondidos", that look very much the same but have different choreography.
What is very different, is Zamba (with "z", the Samba is brazilian), the other very popular folklorical rithm, and that you have to know how to dance, or it looks terrible.
That dance, well, is beatifull, elegant, delicate, a tale of love between a man and a women.

tangobaby January 12, 2008 at 10:52 AM  

Hi Malena,

I'm with you...the first time I saw the dance at one of Roberto's milongas, I was captivated. I wanted so badly to try it but had no idea what it was. Once he taught me, I had such a great time dancing it. You're right--it's such a happy dance and even if you just end up watching the others, you can't help enjoying yourself.

xo to you, too!

Hi Elizabeth,

Maybe we can figure out a way to get our teachers to spend a little bit of time incorporating chacarera into a lesson or a milonga? It's like the Field of Dreams theory: if you build it, they will come. Meaning that if more people knew about and learned Chacarera, it wouldn't be so random and rare to see it at a milonga. It's too bad that most of us don't get an opportunity to see and dance something that's really a lot of fun.

Hi Tanguillo,

Thank you for visiting my blog. I really appreciate your wisdom on this topic and the added information. But now I have some questions for you, if you don't mind:

1. How do people commonly learn the chacarera? In schools, when they are kids? In the US, it used to be common to learn a folklore dance (square dancing) in school when I was a kid (although I don't think they do that anymore).

When I was in BA, a young Argentine man told me (kindly) that tango was for "old people and tourists" and that he and his friends would never want to dance tango. That makes me wonder who also dances chacarera regularly.

2. If one was visiting BA, are there teachers and dances you could go to learn it?

3. Do you have any other videos your could share with us so we could learn the difference between the "gatos", "chacarera dobles", "escondidos"?

Thank you!

Tina January 12, 2008 at 11:39 AM  

Patricio and Eva taught it here in Seattle back in the day, and Patricio tried to get an interest in it, but nobody in Seattle seemed to want to. Which make me sad.

In Perugia where I lived last year, everybody LOVES the chacarera and they do it every chance they get.

I guess I could teach it I suppose, but I'm not very good at the zapateo that the men do, so I'm not sure I'd be very effective without a teaching partner.

Maybe I'll teach it at the next morning milonga that Elizabeth and I have - what a way to start the day!

Malevito January 12, 2008 at 2:48 PM  

Hi TB,

Here in the Bay Area Andrea Coría teaches chacarera and other folkloric dances, and I think you can find her info at La Pista. Otherwise, from what I've seen most of the tango teachers from Argentina have at least a rudimentary knowledge of the folk dances and can give lessons. Unfortunately, from what I've seen it's not that popular, and when the tango teachers try to start something with it the interest just isn't strong enough.

In Argentina, it's not difficult to find teachers. Last time I was there they had weekly classes at 1331 Scalabrini Ortiz (Salon Canning). And I think you can find ads in the tango mags.

As for videos, I'm sure they're out there but I haven't dug too deep. I know there is a pretty amazing video on youtube of a kind of "duel" between Pablo Veron doing modern tap vs. Roberto Herrera doing traditional Argentine zapateos. Also, I've seen a nice zamba performed by Natacha Poberaj and Fabian Peralta at El Beso. Disfruta!

Anonymous January 12, 2008 at 10:31 PM  

This looks like great fun. I had not heard of it, so thanks for sharing. It kind of reminds me of mexican folklorico dancing, but only sort of. It looks like it's influence by everything from flamenco, to the minuet, to the tarantella.

Good to know they have salsa during the breaks. Is this common practice at milongas and do people dance during the break? If I learn to tango it would give me something to feel competent at every now and then :)

tangobaby January 13, 2008 at 9:56 PM  

Hi Malevito,

I knew I could count on your for some excellent information. I am not familiar with Andrea, but I will keep her mind. I guess I wish that a teacher or two might incorporate a bit of the chacarera into the end of a class. It doesn't have to be a whole class devoted to it. I think if more people had the exposure and the opportunity, they would enjoy it and look forward to it being offered as an alternative to the ubiquitous salsa break.

If you find any interesting youtube videos, or the ones you were mentioning, that you'll send me the links.

Hi Maria,

My knowledge of folkloric dances is as minimal as can be, but I wouldn't be surprised if other countries have similar dances. You're right, the chacarera does remind me of flamenco, too.

There are two types of breaks you'll see at a milonga: the cortina, which is a short break (maybe 30 seconds or more) between tandas, where dancers can move on to other partners, get a sip of water, have a chat, etc. and then there is typically a longer break where another kind of music is played that is not tango.

The cortina is generally not danced to but is an interlude between one tanda and the next. I'm not sure what the function of the other kind of break is, except to throw in a little something different for a few minutes.

However, from what I've read on your blog, I'm sure you would pick up tango easily and you would love it very much. I've met quite a few people who came to tango from salsa...and never went back!


Anonymous January 14, 2008 at 10:39 AM  

You're welcome tangobaby. Here are the answers:
1) First, we have to distinguish between the situation in Capital federal and the "provincias", where Folclore is most popular, a better danced.
Is very unusual to learn folklore in the school, but maybe some teach it.
There are a lot of "ballets folcloricos" and schools, where take up to 7 or 9 years to master all the dances and knowledge to be a Folklore teacher (yes there is a lot of types of dances and techniques). There is where the folklore really lives, there and in the "peñas" the milongas of the folklore. Here you will find the people who like to listen and dance folklore.
But as I say, is easy to imitate the choreography of chacarera, so a lot of people dance it in other places.

2) Yes, there is courses, seminars, etc. For women is easy to learn, because don't have to do "Zapateo" (see videos of malambo in youtube). That requires some serious skill to make it right.
You can learn to dance the basics in ten or twelve classes, maybe less.

3) You see, the choreography is based in vueltas (turn), media vueltas (half turn), giros (turn too?), giro final, zarandeo for the woman, zapateo for the men. In a lot of dances, the only difference is the order and the number of those steps, so if you don't pay attention to the choreography, they look the same.
Here are some videos:
Gatos Chacarera Doble
The escondido, is a little different:
And here is the zamba, that is probably the most beautiful dances, and I mean of the world:


Tina January 14, 2008 at 11:41 AM  

Hey, for something different, would you like to see some Italian folklore?
Here is the Pizzica! My favorite dance in Italy! It's an ancient dance from the south... :-)


Watch the whole thing, there are different versions in it :-)

Tina January 14, 2008 at 11:42 AM  

P.S. the music might seem a little wild, but if you can listen to a pizzica band, it is sooooo enchanting and beautiful. There are qualities to the singing that are almost Arabic in nature...

tangobaby January 14, 2008 at 2:11 PM  

Dear Tanguillo,

Again, I truly appreciate your wisdom and the links. I will have to enjoy them later (unfortunately can only watch them, but not listen to the music at work)! Your email makes me realize that there are so many beautiful dances in the world that I would like to learn, if only I had the time. So for now I must stay with one thing: tango.

I loved the Zamba with the floating scarves. Beautiful. I would never have known about it if not for you. Thank you for enlightening me.

Dear Tina,

Do you dance the Pizzica as well? It would not surprise me at all. I am going to share that with my Italy-adoring friend at work. I know she will love the video too (and she has headphones so she can hear the music).


Anonymous January 14, 2008 at 4:11 PM  

Tangobaby: Again, you're welcome. My pleasure to see a girl from another country so interested in things of our culture.
I would love to see dancing chacarera soon...

Tina: I have to say it, as a dance is not very impressive in technique or choreography... What it make Pizzica great are girls who dance it! What a display of sensuality and energy! Probably you have to be italian to dance it like that. Guys dance Pizzica? Do you dance it?

tangobaby January 14, 2008 at 8:14 PM  

Dear Tanguillo,

Your culture has a lot of beautiful and interesting things for all of us to appreciate. Perhaps someday you'll come to the US and teach us how to do the Chacarera properly! We would love it!


Tina January 15, 2008 at 2:10 PM  

Me? Dance the Pizzica? ha ha I look so funny when I do. I'm Tuscan, it's from Puglia. So I don't have the south in me to make it right. ;-)
But it is sensual isn't it! :-)

I'm in love with the Zamba as well by the way, thank you for sharing those links with us, tanguillo!

tangocherie January 17, 2008 at 2:19 PM  

Hola Tango Baby!

Here's Ruben dancing the Chacarera at Los Consagrados, where one tanda of folklore is played every Saturday.


It's a good example of La Chacarera in a Buenos Aires milonga.

BTW, regarding young people and folklore, I'll never forget one night at a big party of mixed ages, no one was dancing to any of the tango music, and then Ruben slipped on a CD of folklore (he always carries music), and the 20- somethings jumped up and danced the whole CD! And they danced great!