Tuesday, February 26, 2008

On Tango :: Traditional vs. Nuevo Debate

I've deliberately tried to stay away from this subject (I think), because ultimately I think the debate is going nowhere. As such, it (the debate) is counter-productive to the dance.

But...Ron of the Tango Society of Central Illinois Tango a great one on Tango-L - a lucid explanation of the differences and the conflicts between the two forms.

Message: 16
Date: Fri, 22 Feb 2008 22:45:26 -0600
From: "Tango Society of Central Illinois"
Subject: Re: [Tango-L] Posting & open discussion on Tango-
To: "thorn-inside@hotmail.com"
Cc: tango-l

Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1

On 2/22/08, thorn-inside@hotmail.com wrote:
> It appears to me that there is a strongly held opinion among many on this
> list that tango music from the golden age is the only acceptable dance
> music, and that "milonguero" style is the only acceptable social dance
> style, and that any other style of either music or dance is not tango.

The situation is a bit more complex. Porten~os recognize a type of
tango that is danced at milongas (generally called 'tango de salon')
and another type of tango that is danced for exhibition, either on the
stage or as a preformance that might occur at an intermission during a
milonga. These are recognized as separate, just as Carlos Gardel's
tangos (and later Piazzolla's) were recognized as not for dancing
(because of their musical qualities), and D'arienzo, Di Sarli, Canaro,
etc. were for dancing. Tango has expressed itself over time in several
different ways that are all recognized as 'tango', as part of an
intertwined culture with a common origin.

At milongas in Buenos Aires today, virtually all porten~os dance in a
close embrace.The actual form of the embrace varies somewhat in
orientation (directly in front vs. somewhat offset, with various
angles of 'lean' of the partners' frames). What has been called
'milonguero style', with an 'apilado' posture, represents one
variation of this embrace. There are some neighborhood differences in
the proportion of dancers who assume a particular embrace, but in
reality there is a continuum of characteristics of the embrace in the
dancing population rather than 2 distinct 'styles', with some of the
variation due to anatomy, experience, and skill level.

The tango music played at Buenos Aires milongas is almost always
classic tango from the 30s, 40s, and possibly 50s. The only exception
I have ever experienced is La Viruta, which is a very different kind
of gathering of young people lacking many of the qualities of
traditional milongas, which predominate. A porten~a with a lot of
dance experience told me La Viruta is considered an 'entry level
milonga', from which dancers graduate to more traditional milongas if
they are serious about tango. The practicas such as those at Villa
Malcolm and Practica X are different. They are not considered
milongas. Read what Andres Amarilla, an instructor of 'tango nuevo'
says about the difference between nuevo practicas and milongas in
Buenos Aires. In Buenos Aires, these are distinct.


There is a difference outside of Argentina, where 'tango de salon' and
some variations of tango for exhibition may both be danced at events
that are called 'milongas'. In addition there are 'alternative
milongas' where non-tango music is played for dancing. The
estblishment of performance oriented tango at milongas outside
Argentina had its start because the first instructors of tango outside
Argentina were usually from stage performance companies. Only after
non-Argentines went to Buenos Aires to visit milongas did they see
that the manner of dancing tango at milongas in Buenos Aires is
different. This led to several non-Argentines and later Argentines
teaching 'tango milonguero' or 'tango de salon' outside Argentina.

Thus, the transmission of Buenos Aires tango culture to foreign
nations has been inaccurate. The separation of tango for exhibiiton
and tango for social dancing was lost. Both types of dancing are
'tango', but in Buenos Aires only the close emrbace 'tango de salon'
is danced at milongas.

Cultures outside Argentina are free to adapt tango for their own
cultural tastes. Apparently the most prominent example of this
worldwide is Finnish tango.

The conflict that often occurs is between those who want to create a
Buenos Aires tango de salon environment at milongas outside Argentina,
and other people from within these non-Argentina cultures who want to
adapt tango to their cultural preferences.

In my opinion, those who wish to adapt tango to their own cultural
preferences should try to understand those of us who would like to
adopt the Argentine characteristics of tango as closely as is possible
in our milongas. We are trying to connect with the Argentine tango
culture. I fail to see why such frequent and intense criticism is
directed at those of us who have this preference.

My complaint with the predominant tango culture (performance oriented)
outside Argentina is not that it exists, that that it often fails to
respect the atmosphere social tango dancers wish to create, both on
and off the floor.


End of Tango-L Post

My only issue with nuevo is that it is not tango....(grin)...kidding...

My only issue with nuevo is the respect issue - ~~R E S P E C T~~ - respect for the music/musicality; respect for your partner, her axis, her safety; respect for the line of dance/ronda, his space on the floor, the dancers around you, floorcraft, dancefloor etiquette; respect for technique and hard work; and lastly, respect for the origins, traditions and history of tango.

Many (not all) nuevo dancers are oblivious to these concepts - and are out there dancing a "performance" - and endangering the rest of us.

There is a place for nuevo...but I, like Ron in his post, believe it should be a separate place.


Elizabeth said...

I have some thoughts about this . About 100 men have taken classes here in nuevo style moves, and they all want to try them out on the floor. Only about three of these guys are actually athletic, coordinated, graceful and musical enough to do these things at all, let alone on a dance floor full of innocent people. I admire those who can dance this way, but most of them (the ones I admire) are real performers and very much in shape. Lately I have big problems with guys wanting to open up on the floor and do things that they DO NOT really understand in the way of understanding in the body memory, and do not know how to do with a partner. They all want to argue when I tell them I don't dance that style, they say it is more fun and "don't you want to look so fantastic and show off etc." Well...no, I want you to take me in your arms and make me FEEL great. What is wrong with this picture? I am in good shape, and somewhat athletic myself, and that is part of why I get preyed on for this wrestling match. I stay in shape to have a strong core, endurance, health etc. Not to do a big ol show with you Nuevo freaks on the floor. Oh, I've probably said too much, as usual.

koolricky said...

Hi there:
We are probably mistaking dancing tango nuevo with people-that-want-to-show-off-dancing-tango -nuevo-and-don't-really-know-what-they-are-doing. This is really unfair for those who do know what they are doing and for those very talented musicians that are trying to make new things in tango.
I think most of the antibodies generated against tango nuevo are really due to this confusion, as I posted here .
Tango Nuevo is not show off style. Tango Nuevo is a style that includes a number of moves that were created in order to fit the trend that tango music is adopting. If those moves are correctly interpreted respecting the other dancers and the line of dance I don't think it should be a problem. Again, maybe the problem is in those who teach tango nuevo moves. I can give you a great example of two fantastic couple taught me: Juan Capriotti y Graciana Romero (Lisbon - Portugal) and Ricardo Oria y Jenny Frances (Edinburgh -Scotland). They teach some "neotanguish" moves but they ALWAYS teach the move with less exacerbated forms and figures so that they can be fit in a milonga without disrupting the line of dance!
With neotango as with, for example, abstract paintings is not what you have, is what you do with it that matters.

koolricky said...

By the way, let me just add that my style (if I can ever say that I dance A style) is not neotango. Just for the record.

Elizabeth said...

Koolricky, I totally agree with you. I really admire the style, as I said, but here where I live, there are very few people who can pull it off.
There are some wonderful dancers and musicians in the genre, and tango is a richer and more living form because of them. It is just that it is a challenging dance and I think some of my problems with it come from guys who really haven't worked at it, or have been taught incorrectly, or just want to "show off".

koolricky said...

Hi Elizabeth!
Exactly, the problem is not with the style itself is with the people that don't execute it properly! Is just like with tango salon or tango milonguero, if you can't transmit your flow to your partner is just a 10 minute torture!

Alex said...

Hi guys! Thanks for all the comments.

I also like nuevo, well executed (not by me), with good floorcraft and navigation, but not necessarily at a traditional milonga. If the floor is not crowded, the "good" nuevo-istos should feel free to dance estilo nuevo, but then dial it back to salon or milonguero when the floor is crowded. That's my only beef.

Elizabeth said...

WE all agree, but don't you wish some hotshot nuevo kid would chime in and we could argue with them?

Alex said...

Did you guys notice the debate raging on this very subject on Tango-L? The topic is "bad nuevo tango"....

Alex said...

Here's a lucid post from Tango-L today:

Message: 7
Date: Thu, 28 Feb 2008 23:49:34 +0000
From: Heather Whitehead heatherwhite3@hotmail.com
Subject: [Tango-L] bad Nuevo
To: tango-l@mit.edu

The source of Nuevo's inferiority is that it is a movement based Movement. It is motivated by the biomechanic possibilities. This can be an intellectual pursuit of physical dexterity that in the end takes precedence over the music. The aesthetics produced from movements inspired first from the music, TANGO music, have the lasting power and beauty of something truer. You will notice many Nuevo dancers find no contradiction at all in dancing tango to non-tango music. This is why.