Watered down tango - really?

Argentine Tango is more than dance, it is more than the music… it is a culture. It has a rich history and it takes a lifetime just to scratch the surface of the great musicians and dancers that gave it the credibility to be named by Unesco as part of the world's cultural heritage in 2009.
So why would you want to water it down? Why would you want to dance the movements of tango to pop music, or classical music? Why do some people think they can 'improve' on tango by dancing a form of the dance to Mozart, or folk singers, and say they are dancing tango. Don't get me wrong I have no objection to people dancing to Monty Python, George MIchael, Bruce Springsteen or Beethoven - on the contrary I think it is great…but I am at a loss to understand why they would call it 'tango'…. or tango fusion or anything else with tango as the adjective or noun.
The tango music that was created at the height of the great composers, musicians and orchestras from Gerardo Matos Rodriguez who was born in 1897 and wrote 'La Cumparsita' to the great Pugliese, is the essence of Argentine tango.
So please by all means dance to the music you love, but please don't call it tango. It isn't. And apart from that how confusing is it to those who are just discovering the treasure trove that is Argentine tango to be told that there are those who dance this dance to Tom Waites???


Anonymous said…
But with respect, I think you're confusing things too. You start out by saying "Argentine Tango" is more than a dance yada yada and then go on to knock anything with "tango" in its name that isn't "Argentine Tango".

That's a bit like saying you can't call anything "tea" unless it's "English Breakfast Tea" because of the long history and culture associated it and everyone's going to get confused if someone wants to drink "green tea" because tea isn't green!

Don't get me wrong, I try to dance something that I understand to be "Argentine Tango", and other flavours of tango are a bit alien to me. At this point, at least. And I don't think I'll be racing to the new local "tango" session you allude to in your post, because so far I prefer the traditional music.
That said, I have on occasions danced in a tango style (close and open embrace, improvised lead/follow) to non traditional music ... and, shock, enjoyed it!

So to say that nothing else is allowed to be called "tango" is, surely, a tad elitist?

Unless, of course, the word "tango" on its own has one undisputed meaning. But I'm not sure it has. Care to define it?
Anonymous said…
And, further to my previous post, what evidence is there that anyone is trying to "improve" tango by dancing to different music? Certainly no-one is calling it "Argentine Tango".

It seems to me that if people are merely using some of the the common physical elements of "Argentine tango", and probably some "cultural" ones as well (cabeceo? lead/follow? close embrace?) with music that moves them, what else would you call it, if it looks and feels like tango?

Sorry I don't get the analogy with tea.
And I don't believe I was 'knocking anything with tango in it's name that isn't Argentine tango".
I was trying to express my disappointment that some folk want to dance to other music, call it tango and promote it to the Argentine tango crowd. The ballroom tango people do not do this. I wouldn't have a problem with it if it was kept separate.
Apart from that I do not understand why anyone would want to promote this to the tango crowd when there is so much fabulous 'Argentine' tango music out there.
And what else would I call it? - anything but tango...wango?
Anonymous said…
But what IS your problem with it? It's not even competing with your events, is it? If anything, it might expose more people to the magic of tango!

The organisers dance traditional Argentine tango too, so they are part of the Argentine tango crowd and entitled, I would have thought, to share and promote their love of dance with other tango dancers? I can accept that some people like to dance in the tango style to other music.

The Argentine Tango crowd will just ignore it, if they don't like it.

If they do like it, that's fine too.

I dance where the music is good and where the vibe is good and where the crowd is friendly and the advanced and "beautiful" people are generous towards newcomers and beginners alike.

I avoid venues where the "cliques" form and where you can feel the tango snobbishness in the air. It's quite common.

John said…
The basic rhythm of tango is a 4 beat rhythm. It is possible to dance Tango to any 4 beat rhythm; foxtrot is a good example. When dancing at a non-Tango event any foxtrot or quickstep can double for a Tango. The problem is, it gets boring! Why is this? because Tango is polyphonic and foxtrot is not; there is no interplay between the base rhythm and the melodic rhythm, so it can feel monotonous because there is no melodic rhythm for the dancers to interpret. Tango is never monotonous (if you understand it), for the opposite reason. A lot of fusion music is categorised as Nuevo Tango because there is a bandoneon playing, but there is often a strong Latin rhythm that is difficult or impossible to dance to. DJ's must be careful not to confuse Tango & Latin rhythms. It does not work. Otherwise, there is some reasonable "Nuevo" but again, it tends to be more monotonous because it is mostly backed with a strong regular rhythm (i.e.., not polyphonic). Joaquin Amenabar's book, "Dance Tango to the Music" is an excellent reference. Dancers will never reach the heights / depths of Tango without a deep understanding of the music. The music is not ancillary to the dance; it is central. But then, there are plenty who see Tango as no different from cha-cha or jive. If you only want to dance a set of learned figures, anything music do, but it's not Tango......
Thanks John.
And to Anonymous (I wish you had a name - I presume you are the same Anonymous)
my 'problem' (probably the wrong word should have been issue) has nothing to do with competition. I think the current competition in tango in Sydney is healthy despite the rivalry - and we frequently promote events that compete with our own.
My issue is with advertising the dancing of Argentine tango to non-tango music - I guess is it the issue of a purist.
I think the issue of cliques in tango is a separate one - and maybe worth a separate post/discussion.
Anonymous said…
yeh, same anonymous :-/

"My issue is with advertising the dancing of Argentine tango to non-tango music - I guess is it the issue of a purist."

So exactly where does anyone advertise the dancing of Argentine tango to non-tango music? The word "Argentine" doesn't appear anywhere I can see on the worriesome website ...

John, if you understand and can hear the layers and form of Argentine Tango music, and/or understand the lyrics, then you can get more out of the stuff, agreed.

But I'm guessing there are some who don't have all those skills, and/or perhaps hear and feel different music on a level that perhaps you don't? If for example Tom Waits or Lhasa de Sela can move you to great melancholy as much as Gardel or Canaro, and you can feel and dance tango forms to that music, why not do it? And heck, why not call it some kinda tango?


Yoshi said…
pSArgentine Tango is very addictive. Once you were trapped you can not escape from it.
After the WW2, there was a tango boom in Japan. Tango musicians who survived and returned from the war front started to play tango. Orquesta Tipica Tokyo led by a bandoneonista Shinpei Hayakawa was established in 1947(-71) with a prominent singer Ranko Fujisawa.
I started to listen to the tango in 1949 when I was a high school boy. During my Uni. student life I often visited a tango café “Milonga” near by Uni. campus in the down town of Tokyo. I make a point to visit to the café always when I go home town even after immigrated to Sydney. The café is still running there.
This is not only my experience but many other tango lovers are as well in Japan.
Setty, one of the Japanese female dancer in Sydney was a long time member of a sort of fun club of Mitsuo Ikeda a bandoneonista and a leader of Orquesta Tipica San Telmo(1950-)who was also a survivor of WW2.
I had no idea about tango dancing until I saw a couple of middle aged portenos on the street of Bs As in 1989. They were passing by a bandoneonista who were playing tango side of the street. They dropped their shopping bags and stepped ochos, ganchos lightly less than a minute. It was amazing. When I visited Japan later I bought a lesson tape of Gloria and Eduardo in Tokyo. I tried to practice dancing but I knew no body dancing tango in Sydney at the time.
Now I dance tango to enjoy tango.
My favourite Orquestas are D’Arienzo, Biagi, Troilo, Salgan, Tanturi, D’Agostino etc. All tangos are not necessary good for dancing. Many tangos are rather good for listening
than dancing. I some times dance with a Nuevo music. I am not enjoying tango but just taking a opportunity to brush up my Orillero figures. Some one who loves Beethoven could dance Symphony No.9 using tango steps. I don’t think this is a tango but Beethoven.
In May next year I will turn to 80 year old. How long can I continue to dance tango? I really do not worry about it. If I have to give up dancing tango still I can listen to the tango. Never stop tangoing.
If you love tango, dance with tango. If not, who cares.
Alistair said…
Hello, this is Alistair and I am the organiser of Liquid Tango. Firstly, thanks for the free advertising :)

There are lots of points I could make, but it's all a bit ridiculous on a blog. Most importantly...

I'm not harming tango. In Sydney or anywhere else.

I've created a service that some people don't want, and some people do. Which is at it should be.

I agree wholeheartedly with John's points about musical complexity. I don't believe Tchaikovsky or Dvorak can be accused of embracing minimalism.

If anybody wants to talk with me in person rather than via a pseudonym on a blog then see me at a milonga. I do go to them, and enjoy them a lot.
Thank you for the comments. I wrote this post because I wanted to say what I thought and I wanted to hear what others thought. At the moment there is only one other forum in Australia, or more specifically Sydney, where people post their opinions, and this has been mostly highjacked by announcements.
Alistair I am sorry that you did not make more of your points...it is difficult to have an indepth conversation at a milonga when it is easily interrupted by a dance.
Alistair said…
Hi there, it's Alistair again. I've finished writing my response, and it's on:


Feel free to read and comment.


Popular posts from this blog

There's a big change afoot in Sydney Tango

Vale Julio Balmaceda