Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Me encanta el Tango!

Tango... Tango, or the inviting and yet, exclusive art of walking (caminando) in the perfect harmony of a close embrace (abrazo)!
If I remember well, I took my first tango lesson when I was 13. It was at a small-town dance school in France. Ballroom tango was part of the ballroom dancing classes that my sister, my younger brother and I would attend once a week for about 6 months -my parents wanted us to learn the bare necessities of classic ballroom dancing. I enjoyed it. My favourite at that time was the waltz...

Ballroom tango illustration, 1914.

Years later, I got a sample introduction to Argentinian tango, I was 22 or so, it was in Paris at La Flèche d’Or. En plein coeur! The lesson was offered by the cultural café as a complimentary gift, the perfect conclusion to a sunny, laid-back Sunday brunch that we had enjoyed there!

La Flèche d'Or in Paris

Argentinian tango...but what made it so different from ballroom tango? I had to learn more about it.
'Although it has come to epitomize the glamour and elegance of high society, with women in sleek glittering evening gowns and men in tuxedos, the Argentine Tango originated in society's underbelly, the brothels. As immigrants from Europe, Africa, and ports unknown streamed into the outskirts of Buenos Aires during the 1880's, many came toward the houses of ill repute. The tango dance originated as an "acting out" of the relationship between the prostitute and her pimp. In fact, the titles of the first tangos referred to characters in the world of prostitution and were considered very obscene by society.' (from argentina-tango.com)

Men dancing tango in Buenos Aires, 1930s

I eventually started taking Argentinian tango lessons with a couple of friends. I was 26, it was in Lyon. I was just back from a three-year stay at the University of Reading, England, and was looking forward to discovering new horizons. I discovered a whole new world of intricacies and wild delicacies, and I must admit it was a bit daunting. I attended these lessons at La Condition des Soies for a year and stopped, don't ask me why!
Today I am in Toronto and tango is back - again. My partner in life and I have decided to resume tango lessons together, and perhaps to get ready to dance a tango on our big day. Oulala!

"Tango" by René Gruau, 1990

To get back into tango mood and warm up our rusty feet, here is what we have done so far:
-we read an interview by Noel Strazza, the great Montreal-based tango dancer. Enlightening. Intention, invitation, execution.

Detail of The Annunciation by Sandro Botticelli, 1489-90

-we watched Sally Potter’s The Tango Lesson again and again, which we realized we had each seen when it was first released in 1997. I saw it in Lyon and he saw it in Paris when he lived there, coincidentally doing the tango circuit.
I am in awe when Pablo Veron dances with Sally Potter, not to forget the stunning male duos performed by Gustavo Naveira & Fabian Salas.

As for Tango , the 1998 film by Carlos Saura, it works on a bigger scale, on a more historical approach of the dance and its evolution through time as seen by Saura; very gripping too but on a different mode, really.
Not to forget the classics, we might watch again Il Conformista (1970) and Last Tango in Paris (1972), both directed by Bernardo Bertolucci...
-we got started with a series of basic step-by-step lessons on You Tube and practice in front of our computer screen in the office, at home. It is a lot of fun with Osvaldo and Mora , believe me...We have just reached the 6th lesson: Cambio de Frente... and still have 16 more to go!
- we have also been listening intensively to various Argentinian tango songs; ranging from Horacio A. Salgan, Oscar Guidi, Carlos Gardel, Julian Plaza, Matos Rodriguez, via Astor Piazzolla's Tango Nuevo to the Gotan Project, to name but a few.
Now...what is next to come? Probably a few lessons with a professional teacher but, above all, I will have to put on my tango shoes to spend a series of nights out in Toronto, practising tango with my partner.
Shoes with criss-cross laces became known as Tango shoes in the 1910s and early 1920s when the Tango was popular. They were best displayed when a woman extended her ankle while being dipped by her partner.

Who knows, at the end, I might end up dancing a decent tango...I will certainly not fly into the air and swirl on Piazzolla's Liber Tango like Sally Potter and Pablo Veron but I keep on dreaming.

Aren't we "such stuff/As dreams are made on (...)" (The Tempest, 4.I,v.155, Shakespeare). Hush! Me encanta el tango!
PS(1): Pardon my Spanish. I promise I will soon learn it properly; I have to. My future in-laws are Peruvian.
PS(2): Researching the subject, I learnt that Tango Day is celebrated in Buenos Aires on December 11th.

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