Has tango changed for the worse? - Part 1
Post date: Apr 13, 2014 1:29:18 AM
It's a very loose question isn't it, like asking 'how long is a piece of string'? And one wonders what time frame is being considered in the comparison. From the early 1900s, 1960s, 1980s or later? Are we talking about tango salon (social tango) or escenario (stage tango) or both? Nonetheless, I have heard many tango aficionados lament a perceived general demise of tango.
It's certainly true that the style of tango danced fifty years ago in exhibitions is very different to that which is danced by leading dancers in Buenos Aires today. As a case in point, have a look at this performance (a real piece of tango history) by Maria Nieves and Juan Carlos Copes dancing back in the 1960s!
Contrast this with an exhibition to the same song by Claudio Gonzalez and Melina Brufman dancing some fifty years later...
What comes to mind from watching these two performances is that tango goes through fashions, and reflects who we are and the times we live in.
Maria and Juan Carlos
To quote Luciana Valle:
"We cannot dance the same way that we used to dance fifty years ago because we are not the same human beings. The relationship between men and women is not the same as it was fifty years ago, and the relationship of every human being with their own body is not the same...the health, the sports, the yoga, everything that people do now was something that people (didn't) do fifty years ago, so how can we dance the same? It's impossible"1
Today's tango has been greatly influenced by the entry of dancers from contemporary dance, ballet and different movement disciplines that include contact improvisation and martial arts. Many of today's performers spend hours at the gym, pilates or yoga class to increase their flexibility, improve their postural alignment and to keep up with the the demands of a tango that is becoming increasingly more sophisticated, complex and physically challenging.
Choice of music for exhibitions has also changed. I had difficulty finding footage of the leading dancers of today dancing to La Cumparsita. It seems to have gone out of fashion for exhibitions, and is considered a bit too cliche. I was therefore thrilled to find footage of the amazing Claudio and Melina dancing to it, and there is certainly nothing cliche about their performance.
Both displays are enjoyable to watch, entertaining and right for their times! Maria and Juan Carlos are amazingly nimble on their feet and their joie de vivre is infectious! I similarly love Melina and Claudio's musicality, their quality of movement, flexibility of embrace and Melina's funky outfit!
Let's celebrate the changing fashions of tango that authentically express who we are as people at a particular point in time, and help to keep the dance interesting!
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1: Tango Nuevo by Carolyn Merritt