Sunday, October 15, 2006


As tango is a true passion play, a tangodance ends quite often with a falling woman. In fact, the falling has become the archetypal icon of tango. It seems that the melodramatic portraying of falling women is embodied in it. Stories of tango can be about the lives of women who are 'fallen' according to the conventional morality of their societies. Sometimes, reaching back to the Old Testament, the lyrics put forward the archetypical pattern of a false woman falls. A great part of the tango letters speaks of women who leave a man, often poor, by another man, in general of high class, and el guapo takes revenge by killing the woman, se venga con la muerte de la traidora. According to the universal codes of love and betrayal, she must be thrown away. Sometimes, the tango lyrics talk about longing, loss and death. After falling in love, she dies. The portraituring of death in dance can, especially in tangoshow performances with high dramatic intensiveness, be nearly religious. Resembling an icon, incarnating Michelangelo's La Pietà.

A duel is the most frequent cause of death in tango stories. A man of honor has to stand strong always, he needs defending his honour by obliging to duel. Duels are often associated with the guapo personage. El guapo with his white, silk neckchief
, "fungi"-hat and, above all... the knife, the symbol of masculinity. He incarnates anger and prestige, kept up by his knife fighting skills. In his relations with women, he never mixed feelings because he did not want that a love or the family, made him hesitate in the middle of a confrontation. He knew that his life could finish in any moment.

The word duel has Latin origin, and it comes from the same root of the word bellum: war, battle. In spanish however, the word duel has 2 meanings: fight between two, and mourning. A man in mourning feels grief and sorrow inside. The confrontation is not done outside, but deep down his soul. A person needs to express inner grief, to let it come out of the soul, into the soul of tango. Enrique Santos Discépolo's phrase - El tango es un pensamiento triste que se baila -, refers to this impact.

Unlike most "popular music", in tango it is not about setting your mind on other thoughts and forget the sad things. Even more strange is that death is such a popular theme. Today, death reminders are rather repressed than allowed. The activity of death instinct produces fear, pain and feeling of guilt in the self that wants to live and remain intact. Many Hispanic authors have noted that mortality concerns are expressed openly in Latin American cultures. Death themes have been staples of Hispanic written and oral traditions for centuries. Latin Americans are remarkable for the degree to which they appear to have normalized death.

However, among Latin Americans of different nationalities, Argentines are the ones who have generated the most number of cultural myths. The country is also known for cosmetic surgery and psychotherapy. Argentina has more psychologists and psychoanalysts per head of population than anywhere else in the world. In Buenos Aires alone there are more than 70,000 psychologists, with the great majority of them Freudian, Kleinian or Lacanian psychoanalysts. Psychoanalysis in Argentina has become the dominant theory, one neighbourhood in Buenos Aires has so many Freudians it's called "Villa Freud". Nearly everyone, especially those from the middle and upper classes, is doing therapy, it is a normal part of every day’s life. Cosmetic surgery became a thriving industry in Argentina in the 1990's. The country imported more silicon implants per capita than any other. The obsession with looks made relationships problematic, not only in Buenos Aires. In fact, the more one rises in a social hierarchy, the more a seductive appearance becomes a nessesity.

When trying to crack the cycle of life and stay eternally young and beautiful, the reaction towards the shadow side of our the experience of living, which is a part of the bodily contact in couple dance, will not be the same. In order to maintain a more idealized image of ourselves, people and their relations change. The reaction towards personal dark signs such as ageing, can be anxiety and stress. The ageing is not the issue, it is the perception of one's body and bodily behaviour, in comparison with an ideality, and all its mismatches. Test results consistently reveal a sex difference in this area, with women exhibiting greater disgust sensitivity, a stronger drive to label "threating things" as disgusting. Men however, are catching on fast. It has an effect on relations. Contact, especially intimacy, becomes more threating. As contamination is everywhere, distance is needed everywhere. Experiences of closeness become in some way, acted.

A strong word like repulsion, reflects a zero tolerance mentality which is very alive today, leaving no space for differences or dualities between people. Disgust is much used for motivating people into a direction. It works because "finding something disgusting or degenerating" is an important means of combating paralytic anxiety. It derives from an intense need to avoid recognition signs of one's own mortality, and that humans have biologically, an animal side too. That duality is inside tango, as it is in Mozart and Modern Art.

A close embrace is not a virtual reality, the face can show the difference.

Recognition of La Mortalidad makes the passion real. Without it, there is no depth. It is nice to see stylish dancers, using that inner experience which is evoked by the music and its lyrics. Their personal feeling asking for a stylishness based on elegance and sobriety, using their silhouettes to express that poetry is fluent silence. Other poets are more rough.

From Mario Soto's Pasional Lyrics:

Te quiero siempre así...
estás clavada en mí
como una daga en la carne
ardiente y pasional
y temblando de ansiedad
quiero en tus brazos morir.

I love you always this way
you are embedded in me
like a dagger in flesh

ardent and passional
and trembling of anxiety
I want to die in your arms.

Passion is in some way, a duel between Eros and Thanatos, sex drive and refusal, a conflict between the instincts of life and death. It is a recognition of sexual passion as a power in itself, something both animal and spiritual. It is an inner duel.

Balanced movement is based on such an inner duel. It is a search for a graceful, chemical equilibrium. Balanced movement in dancing is like sculpturing. The richness of Auguste Rodin's sculptures is found in this inner space of bodies. Their interior feelings make their exterior appearance meaningful and significant. The space with which Rodin wants the viewer to be concerned is inside the figures, as the poet's own imagined monument. They reflect their interior feelings with a severity of introspection and from this, the composition derives its sense of motion as a whole. The sense that figures are going somewhere, together. Without it, their outward appearance would be empty. In his sexual drawings, Rodin gradually moved from depicting highly erotic, almost pornographic sketches toward dynamic compositions of volumes and spaces, trying to see the figure as a mass, as volume. It is this voluminousness that he tries to understand.

Dancing is like drawing. The origin of the word dance is: Danser, Dansn , to draw; akin to dinsan to draw, the act of drawing spatially closer. Drawing can exist on two levels: action drawing and gesture drawing. Gesture drawing is related to action drawing, both involve the principle of movement, but it goes further than action drawing. Action drawing only deals with physical movement: the action line, the axis. When you do a drawing of what a figure looks like, your drawing can be correct and competent but it will only be what the figure looks like, its appearance without a deeper emotional content. Physical movement however, has a nonphysical counterpart: its essence, its movement identity. Gesture drawing involves not only physical movement, but a deeper concept of essential identity, a search for the internal, a deeper spiritual meaning of things. When you do a gesture drawing of a figure, when you strive to capture the essence, its energy of being, the figure becomes alive. Carlos Gavito's dancing is such a way of gesture drawing. The music is touching him emotionally and he puts that nonphysical content into his movements. Through use of his own sensory and perceptual experience of the music, he is telling an emotional, narrative story. Such inner liveliness is needed to give dance a soul. It is the active, introspective process that gives content to act of dancing together. One can only make contact if an appearance has a deeper emotional substance. Being drawn to each other, relates to a metaphysical real.

What is Gesture? Gestures are contrasts of character within a composition. The musical performer allows the articulation, the accentuation, even the tempo to be different on every few notes if that is the natural shape of the lines. The performers' gesture has to make it into the sound. Good musical gesture comes through in the sound, and in the way it holds one's attention. It is like the syllables of speech as they are emphasized in sentences. A well-delivered phrase (gesturally) is as variegated as a spoken sentence. It's all like speech. A dance is a speech in movement. If a dancer's visual showmanship relates directly to a musical interpretation, then he lets you see the music. What he shows is not a set of visual stimuli, it's the content of the sound. The gestural delivery draws attention to the music's colorful variety, not attention to the performers. The gestures arise naturally from the music. Gestural performance is related to spontaneity, but not limited to it. Much of this can be planned. The performance gives the appearance that it is making itself up as it goes along, or that it is organic, like a living animal.

Gestural performance style is the art of differentiation: recognizing that not all notes have equal weight in the structure of the composition, and bringing out all sorts of hierarchies among them. Through introspection, a performer should figure out as much as possible what's going on at every moment in the music, and bring out all those details clearly. The point is to make things exquisite and different from one another, so one can pick up the contrasts immediately. Communication is clearer when there's not too much regularity. Too much sameness loses the attention, variety engages. Passion dies when it is too predictable. It needs a willingness to go against expectations. A willingness to be not a completely smooth appearance. It is in service of letting the music be more immediately perceptible through the irregularity. The guessing must stay alive. People still want to be surprised.
being drawn out of ourselves toward the other, goes beyond the physical act of coming closer.

Severity of introspection... some are drawn to it, others seek another ideal. Life is hard enough. Compassion however, is passion too. Borges said, the infinite tango takes to me towards everything. Y desde él construye la eternidad apoyado en sus tigres y sus espejos, que el tigre es el guapo elegante y ágil que mantiene la muerte a mano. Y los espejos, esto que somos aunque lo disfracemos. ...and the mirrors, reflect what we are although we disguise it. It means, we can never reach the ideal. Argentine tango is always about wanting that which you can't have. And the disguising act, is very much porteño. To achieve a seductive appearance, specific beauty rituals and agonizing strategies are needed.

Article from Tango-E-Vita

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