Later I went to my first Vintage Dance Week in Cincinnati, where, on disco night, CATS (the Cincinnati Argentine Tango Society) came to the dance. The men wore those close-fitting Italian suits with dark shirts and no ties and the women wore short, tight black dresses and impossibly high heels. Even before they started doing the beautiful, leggy geometries of the Argentine tango, I knew I had to learn this dance. Hey, the clothes alone were reason enough.
Of course, the real hook (as with any dance form) is the music. With its roots in the shady cafes and brothels of the immigrant populations of Buenos Aires, the tango is particularly passionate and sultry. Guitar, piano, violins, and the tango’s most characteristic instrument, the bandoneon (a kind of accordion) accompany the tough sad songs of an underclass trying to cope with city life.
The tango exploded in popularity in Europe and America in 1913-1914, and continued to be popular for another 40 years. Valentino danced the first “Hollywood tango” in the movie The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in 1917, and the most famous singer of tango music, Carlos Gardel, died in a plane crash in 1935, marking the beginning of the end of the early tango era.
A second explosion of interest began after the wild success of the stage show Tango Argentino, which opened in Paris in 1983, and toured the USA, Europe and Japan. Tangos in recent movies (True Lies, Scent of a Woman, Addams Family Values) show a man to be worldly, in control, and that a woman is adored, desired. Today, there are large groups of dedicated tangueros all over the world, in Buenos Aires, San Francisco, Montreal, Stockholm, Paris, and Tokyo, and smaller but enthusiastic groups everywhere, even here. If you want to find out more, post a message to the FolkFire Hotline, and I'll tell you how to get in touch with the amazing global tango world, or let you know when we'll next be learning a few steps ourselves.
Currently, folk dance cruises are being formed for New Zealand, The Danube River in Europe, and the Alaska Inside Passage (see the ad on page 5.) Also, there’s a dancing week forming for the Virgin Islands (see ad on page 7.) And these are just the ones I have flyers for at press time! New information is available all the time. In future issues, we will try to list the current trips (those we’re aware of) in FolkFire. If you hear of an upcoming dance trip and think our FolkFire readers would like to know about it too, please call our hotline or e-mail us with the information.
Gee, I'll bet it's warm in St. Croix right now...
Ted Sannella’s name evokes the image of an adept caller, standing erect at the head of the hall, band behind him, quickly and effortlessly teaching traditional and newly-composed New England dances. As a professional caller, his demeanor was serious, but he radiated a warmth, a love for the dance, and an encouragement for all to share in this love. And sometimes he would double over in laughter. I saw this happen several times at “Winter in the Woods,” when Marnen Laibow-Koser would play a fantastic piano flourish, on-the-spot, whenever Ted announced he was calling one of his triplets. The crowd would go wild.
But Ted Sannella was more-he left many ripples in the pond of life. He taught many, including myself, how to call. The last night of the Winter in the Woods dance camp, I told him, "I don’t know if you remember, but you are the person from whom I learned to call." A wisp of a smile came to his lips. "No, I didn’t remember that."
I was privileged to provide music for Ted at a week-long dance camp in 1994 at Winter in the Woods. Imagine the self-made pressure I felt, playing for the great Ted Sannella! I wanted the music to be perfect, but it wasn’t, of course, but I never received even a trace of disapproval from Ted for those instances when it wasn’t. "That was fine," would be his response to my apology.
For me, Ted is a sequence of pleasant memories: he complimented me, “I’m glad you’re a caller,” when I selected a good tempo for a dance he’d just taught; he offered to make photocopies for me when he could see that the burden of organizing a band on the spot was getting to me, as well as lack of sleep. I appreciated his humor at my predicament when I found myself trying to play President Garfield’s Hornpipe, without a chance to warm-up, or even learn it. And then there were all the wonderful dance experiences he orchestrated. Contradancers from New England, able to enjoy him and his abilities year-round, were indeed fortunate; the rest of us were limited to an occasional dance camp or weekend. But we will always have his legacy of dances to remind us of him.
As a caller, dance choreographer, and contradance book author, his influence has been felt throughout the world. But for me, he was both mentor and legend; a gentle, caring fellow, who gave of himself, which is just about all anyone can ask of another. He was aware of his influence, I think, so he was generous with his praise. After calling a dance (Beneficial Tradition), Carol Luer told me that he came up to her and said, "Good job. And that’s not an easy one." That’s the way he was.
Memorial donations may be made to:
Ralph Page Memorial Fund
c/o Ralph Jones
103 Riverview Ave.
Waltham, MA 02154.
Decorated in true '50s style, the dining room has old-style booths, an old fashion jukebox with hundreds of CDs you can play for free, selectors for the jukebox located in each of the booths, and completes the picture with a dance floor which will accommodate about 12 couples at a time. There’s even a 1957 Chevy in the dining room for effect. If you’d like to buy souvenirs of your visit, they’ll even sell you a t-shirt or mug from the trunk of the car!
The dance area can be reserved for parties, free of charge, but make your reservations early. According to Manager, Barbara Yocks, they also have birthday cakes available for parties needing them. To make your reservations, call 205-2088 and tell them FolkFire sent you!
"Country dances! Jigs and Reels! A minuet I could have forgiven But country dances! Zounds! To be monkey-led for a night to run the gauntlet through a string of amorous palming puppies to show paces like a managed filly! There never can be but one man in the world whom a truly modest and delicate woman ought to pair with in a country dance; and even then, the rest of the couples should be her great uncles and aunts! If there be but one vicious mind in the set, it will spread like a contagion-the action of their pulse beats to the lascivious movements of the jig their quivering, warm-breathed sighs impregnate the air the atmosphere becomes electrical to love, and each amorous spark darts through every link of the chain!"
Doesn't that sound like fun? Come to the contra dances sponsored by Childgrove Country Dancers and see for yourself!