Tuesday, 9 July 2013

The story of Voodoo Café

Voodoo Café Milonga Club arises from the story of Tango a Trois and Café Banlieue.

One July, three musicians met by chance in Café Banlieue. Peter Ludwig, pianist, was playing tango in the café bar, whilst celist Peter Wopke and violinist Arben Spanhiu, both professional musicians in the Bavarian State Orchestra, stood at the bar and listened with wrapped attention. What they heard, they loved. Tentatively they took out their precious violin and cello and improvised. The music they played was tango.

After that night, each week the three met at Café Banlieue to play together when the café closed to customers. Some regulars asked to stay behind, sitting in the darkened shadows to listen. One, Nellie, started to dance. Thus Tango a Trois and Café Banlieue ascended into tango folklore - and our concept of the Voodoo Café Milonga Club was born from it's memory.

At Voodoo Café we have a small floor, contained but not surrounded by tables. For us, the floor is a resource rather than a focus. We dance, and encourage those who have never before danced - to try tango. Leaders are invited to forget their feet, and to concentrate on leading their partner through a soft embrace. This is how we learn dissociation - leading by the torso, allowing our feet to follow where we have led. First 'steps' are not steps at all, but leads. New followers simply to walk with the lead and beat, advancing to the giro (a turn), and the keystone - the ocho.

Part of our concept is to introduce people to Argentine tango without having to go through the too challenging process that can come with learning it. Those with established skills tend to be insecure when trying something new. For many men, dancing can be daunting - but dancing tango is beyond belief. So our focus is on the value of the embrace and the way it works to create direction and 'feeling' in tango.

Prominent is the importance of embrace and connection. Leaders are taught to 'invite' a change of direction or pace. The style owes more to Juan Carlos Copes and his daughter Johana than to a more modern and technical style. By learning this way we develop an affinity with Argentine tango, a dance where 'attitude' and 'feeling' is more important than 'steps'.

Of course, some come not to dance, but to watch, or simply listen to tango music. Here we capture the essence of the Buenos Aires milongas which accommodate everyone of every age, interest and ability.

On Thursday night, as the softening summer night closed in around Voodoo Café windows, I looked around the room. Lights were dimmed, and small candles flickered on the tables. Tangueras draped themselves across high stools, and tangueros cabeceod across the room to secure the next tanda of dances. I had an overwhelming thought - this was the moment of which memories are made - a snapshot in time to a feeling of pleasure, friendship - and tango.