Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tango in Argentina

How do you ask a woman?
By Ken Haas, Chicago

The old dancer sat before me in Cafe Tortoni. Quiet years in the sun had bleached his hair a yellow-gray and made a dry red river bed of the back of his neck. I had to imagine how he looked in 1940, a nocturnal youth, with a pencil thin moustache and raven hair shiny with Gomina. He was telling me about the tango.

"Because things are the way they are,
things will not stay the way they are."

Carlos Gardel
He told me about Carlos Gardel, tango's famous hero/singer, who sang of revenge, the vagaries of love, tango's profound melancholy, and the brooding sense that life exists on in a Promise Land. He described the fights, the feuds, the spiked heels, who danced the best and how the great ballrooms looked.

Finally he shared the secret of how to ask a woman to tango. It seems the men would line up on one side of the hall and the woman on the other, like gladiators. The man would fold his arms or push his hands in his pockets and scan the room, trying to look as unconcerned as possible.

"Cuesta Abajo" By Carlos Gardel

When he finally saw a woman he fancied, he signaled by the slightest raising of an eyebrow. If the woman was not interested, she would ignore it, it was gentle but unmistakable. If, on the other hand, she was receptive, she would respond with a lift of her eyebrow, flutter her eyelashes, or the sudden brightening of her eyes.

"And then you went over to escort her to the floor?"

"Gracious, no," he replied, "Then you took a firm and careful look around. You see, this is a subtle art, and you didn't want to cross that floor only to find that she was calling the man beside you. The walk back, my friend, is the longest you will ever take."


The ancient Indian Milonga was, is and should remain as a constant beat without any accent at all. And it was from several ancient Cat dances in the Southern part of South America. Nowadays if it has a syncopation either at the beginning or at the end of a measure, it should be quite permissable.

"Volver" By Libertad Lamarque

However, the quick, quick, slow and the more often syncopation during the song is definitely Tango. And some very beautiful music has evolved throughout the years.

Not many people in the dancing world understand this because it is not the music but the dance that they are interested in. Much, much different view point.