1 May 2014

Dancing the hidden drama

My feelings for tango nuevo is best described as mixed: I think some of it is quite cool - it's very rock'n roll, very emotional in a high-octane way. This is music with no filter; a water cannon of emotions.

Even if I like some of it, I also often end up feeling a bit frustrated by it. I just don't know what to do with all this sound, except for a bit of random headbanging in my chair. It doesn't particularly make me want to dance. And I've been curious as to why. This music really wears its heart on its sleeve - it should make anybody want to move, to express these emotions.

"Yes, but nuevo wasn't made for dancing, so it's not danceable."

This is a common argument, but it's not quite good enough. If nuevo is undanceable, I want to understand why. Personally, I think it leaves me frustrated because it does all the work for me. Everything is spelled out in capital letters, and there's no need for me to look any further. However I dance, the music will somehow feel bigger than my movements. 

In comparison, the Guardia Vieja and Golden Age music uses a much more controlled way of describing big emotions. No raw feelings will be put on display here. "My fiancé, the light of my life, was murdered by her jealous secret lover, and I found her lifeless body. My life has been laid in ruins. What can I possibly do to make the world understand this unbearable pain? Yes, now I know - I'll sing a little refrain about it in my most velvety crooning voice."

So shouldn't this suffering in sublime dignity leave us dancers feeling even more frustrated?

What I love about the older, quieter tango music is that it contains the possibility for dynamic variation. First and foremost, it (obviously) allows us to do the quiet parts really quiet. When the intensity in the music increases and I want to reflect this with dynamic changes in my dance, there's room to make these changes relatively big - enough to really make them noticeable. The dancer becomes an amplifier for the music: each note is a spark that ignites a movement. It's like following, only the music is the leader.

The emotions are just as big. You only have to listen harder, because no one is going to yell at you to get their message through.


Live music: two old films of orchestra leaders, musicians and singers.

Nuevo: Remembranzas - Juan D'Arienzo with Osvaldo Ramos 1964

Golden Age: Tres esquinas - Ángel D'Agostino with Ángel Vargas. The music starts at 0:52. This is the best version I could find, even if it has been cross-clipped. Does anyone know anything about this?