This is an article published by Meta Fierro magazine, written in 2003. Which I think is really interesting to read.
Las clases sociales (social classes)
Certainly, today we could talk about a new tango.
Historically, tango has surprised analysts with its effects on social classes. So much that it has been said that for example in Buenos Aires, tango has emerged in the lower classes, then making its ascent to the upper or aristocratic classes. Fact that for many has been transcendental for tango. It has also been said that on the contrary in Europe tango made its appearance in the upper classes and then descended towards the bourgeoisie.
Although this game of ascents and descents could be true, it is much more interesting to note that precisely what happens today with tango throughout the world has no relationship with any type of movement between social classes.
And this fact is remarkable precisely because nowadays people from all kinds of social extraction has access to tango, even more so, people of all kinds. There are no restrictions. We find rich, poor, intellectuals, neophytes, prestigious, despicable, famous, unknown, intelligent, gross, fat, skinny, executives, workers, cute, ugly, VIP class, economic class, big businessmen, street vendors, public officials, unemployed, aristocrats and anyone. What really matters is that you dance well. This would then be one of the first important elements that would be demonstrating the presence of a “new tango”.
La vida moderna (modern life)
On the other hand, we must bear in mind that today’s world presents very different needs from those of yesteryear when tango reached its peak in the 40s. And even greater is the difference compared to the time of the birth of tango in the early twentieth century. Today, people live under much greater pressure generated mainly by technological advancement, computer bombardment and the unusual growth of communications. Faced with this situation, tango usually appears as a great revelation, refreshing and renovating, effectively capable of alleviating these pressures.
In order to summarize the analysis, given its complexity, and also to induce the reader to reflect, I would like to point out here some attractions of today’s tango, which in many cases turn out to be solutions to the problems of modern life:
The possibility of direct personal participation. You are not just a spectator or listener.
The encounter with the opposite sex. The endless game of indirection in the meeting of man and woman.
The relocation of the roles in the couple, through the game given in the dance.
The development of perception about the other, necessary and essential to dance.
Remedy for loneliness.
The possibility of escaping in the game of improvisation.
The feeling of infinity of choreographic possibilities (infinity that is also real)
The sense of power that comes from the ability to master such complexity in dance.
The ability to stand out in a real way. The impossibility of lying about the capacity of each one.
Remedy for stress.
The possibility of social relationship and the feeling of belonging resulting from meeting in specific activity groups.
The possibility of fun, distraction and entertainment, full of content.
The pleasure of the rare, the different, the new, the exotic.
Entering a world that is outside the control of the State and large corporations, and the pressures that these usually exert on the population. The milonga is always a somewhat hidden event, which happens in the most unusual places, any day of the week and at any time.
Los años cuarenta (The 1940’s)
Other important elements for the analysis arise from observing all (or the majority) of the couple’s dances of yesteryear. We immediately detect that this was a worldwide movement that had its heyday in the 1940s and 1950s and ended in the 1960s.
When we refer to the boom of the forties and fifties, we are talking about a phenomenon fundamentally related to music. Dancing was just one way of expressing the passion and fervor brought about by music. It was not the essential motive. The whole atmosphere of that time generated a great breeding ground from which composers, performers and singers with genius and unrepeatable characteristics emerged, which gave music works of incalculable value.
That decade was a cultural, artistic and social explosion, which, as has already been said, also had similar reaches throughout the Western world, remember jazz in North America, the valse musette in France, son in Cuba, samba in Brazil, etc. . .
Today everything is very different, today it is only about dancing. Today this phenomenon of dance cannot even be attributed to a musical event like in the 40’s as we dance to old music. Today there is no music that can produce an impact like the one that occurred at that time, causing such adherence in people and the consequent need for expression through dance. Today there is a need to dance but it has other motivations. And then old music is danced, simply because there is no better one, which is showing that the emphasis is exclusively on dance. We seek to dance the tango well, the best possible, and for that the best music is used. Therefore, even when dancing the same or with the same steps, the reasons that push people to dance are different.
El estilo (The style)
From the point of view of the way of dancing, call it technique, form, style, etc. there is great confusion. A style of dance is called Tango Nuevo, or is considered that way, which is a mistake.
Tango nuevo is actually everything that happened with tango from the eighties. It is not about style.
It happens on many occasions that some mediocre dancers hopelessly clinging to a simple and sad tango, given the logical impossibility of standing out, call themselves “traditional tango”, in order to give themselves some kind of category. At the same time, when they are faced with good dancers, dedicated to the development of the dance, and showing ability, they try to pigeonhole them by giving them some silly name such as “new tango”, in order to give themselves a comparable status, confronting traditional and new. Creating with this an infinite confusion. Nothing further from reality.
The words “tango nuevo” are not even a particular name or title (with the exception of Piazzolla’s theme song). It is simply about the use of our language. Thus, these words express directly through their literal meaning what is happening with danced tango in general, that is, it is evolving. The new tango is not just another style, but it simply happens that danced tango is growing, improving, developing, enriching itself, and therefore we are going towards a “new” dimension of danced tango.
El abrazo (the imbrace)…
Lately it is frequently discussed, within the community of tango dancers, about the problem of the embrace, dividing the dance into open or closed style, which is also a great confusion. Open embrace or close embrace, dancing from afar or dancing up close, these are all old names. It is an old way of thinking resulting from the logical lack of knowledge of the early days. This simple and clumsy division between open and closed is often the way in which those who seek to obscure the evolution of dance generally express themselves, in order to avoid exposing their lack of knowledge. Today we know perfectly well that distances in dance have a much greater complexity than a simple “open” or “closed”, the distances are multiple and also constantly interact with other factors. So the structure on which the dance is built is permanently determining and regulating the distances that are handled. In other words, what is happening today is that we are in a position to use “all” and “each one” of those distances simply when we want.
That division is fine for beginners or for ordinary dancers who generally have little or not serious dedication, and as a consequence, they generally dance with only one distance, because it is the only one they can handle. But for truly dedicated dancers, those interested in real and true deepening, this simple division between closed embrace and open embrace is not in the least enough.
So it is no longer about this or that style, but it is about dancing well. We have learned, and we have developed our knowledge. With which we are obtaining a dance of greater possibilities, of great technical richness and virtuosity, and also of much more artistic quality, since this greater scope and technical mastery, allow the approach to music and dance in a much more deep.
Buenos Aires y el mundo (Bs As and the world)
It happens that like all things that develop, danced tango has obviously undergone changes every time it is compared to that of the forties. And there still exist today some representatives of those generations, it is naively claimed that that tango was and is the “correct one”. Perhaps the aforementioned fact that old music is danced, that of the “original” tango, also helps. With which the field of tango of that time is put back into operation, the milonga is the same, the music is the same, the living room is the same, the tables are the same … and logically, why shouldn’t you dance the same. And of course, also logically, these representatives of that original tango become in a totally unforeseen way “those who know”, even when they do not remember well what it was like and are not even capable of clearly identifying at least one of the the few movements that are remembered.
However all this “revival” is only apparent.
The same “milongueros” (a term with which the representatives of those generations are identified, generally people over 70 years of age, who paradoxically do not accept the supposed new popular forms of danced tango, but are very happy to be called “Milongueros”, a totally new popular fact since formerly “milonguero” was something else) they have changed their way of dancing, incorporating many elements of the tango that is danced today (they probably don’t quite remember how it was before and then they take something look around them) and some even dare to say that they think they remember having seen these new steps already back then … All this without counting those who present themselves as “old milongueros” (because of their age) and actually learned to dance the tango 4 or 5 years ago …
This very picturesque and even a bit comical situation occurs only in Buenos Aires because Argentine tango was born here, and it is here where all these people who lived the history of tango can be found. But in all the big cities and many other smaller cities around the world, tango is danced today without having any relationship with Argentine culture, without knowing the history of tango, without knowing the music, and without the presence of any of these “milongueras authorities”. In all the towns of the world today there are associations of people who get together to do practices, classes, milongas, shows, festivals, congresses, etc., of the danced tango, just because people are attracted to this special dance that has very different characteristics. individuals. They are passionate and even fanatical of tango and do not have a cultural background. And frankly, they do not care much if the tango they dance is or is not exactly the original, they do not depend on any supervision of any gentleman milonguero. The quality of the dance is sought, and in some places it has reached very high levels. They seek the development of dance for the pleasure of dancing, since the tango danced in itself is interesting, whether it comes from Argentina or anywhere else.
And this is a totally new situation. Never in history had something like this happened, not with tango or anything else. Nor is it about the dissemination of Argentine culture (capital nonsense): neither Argentine politicians nor journalists are even aware of what is happening with tango in the world. Nobody has been specifically in charge of any diffusion, the danced tango is a reality, it spreads alone, by itself, in a genuine way without the intervention of publicists.
In other words, this presence of tango in the world is not connected with the history of Argentine tango, which occurred in Buenos Aires. Tango in the world is a completely separate event from history, unique, new, extremely powerful, and it is also just beginning. It is not a “revival”, it is not the “return” of that original tango.
For all that has been said, today we can talk about a really new tango.
About the author
Gustavo Naveira (Comodoro Rivadavia – 1960) is one of the most influential tango dancers of the 20th century.
A reference to a new way of understanding this popular dance, he has expanded and enriched the possibilities of movement and the structural understanding of dance like never before.