|Please don't attempt this at home (or anywhere else)!|
video clip, she said in Spanish:
"This is NOT tango!"
I looked at her in disbelief. She looked at the computer screen in horror.
I did not understand her statement for about a year. You see, I only knew about tango from the perspective of it being an awesome way of dancing and doing cool moves. I can never know what she saw in that video, but I think she was culturally nauseated, like a French connoisseur of art observing a group of American art students making poor renditions of Vincent van Gogh's art, while speaking English in a French accent and drinking blueberry wine with a straw -- all the while proclaiming to be protagonists of post-impressionist painting. That's what I mean by "culturally nauseated."
Eventually, I knew the essence of tango was that is an artful expression, framed in a social context. Great art requires a great frame. The art itself is the expression of what I call the essential Three M's of tango:
Music, Movement, eMbrace
(1) A common unity of inspiration by listening to the genre of music that has inspired this art form and way of moving.
(2) Tandem movement of two souls.
(3) A warm eMbrace of two people.
I am at times inspired by performances, but often I cringe at the applause for the move most removed from tango (acrobatics and ballet, for example). Perhaps my Argentine work colleague also saw the grace of the video I showed her long ago, but I think the horrific effect that the video above has on me is what she saw. More and more, even the most graceful pseudo-tango acrobatics create this feeling of nausea as the above video clip does because the graceful dancers are inspiring anti-social tango on the social dance floor. The graceful ones are gracefully bad examples for dancers who dance socially. I believe they unwittingly motivate people to see tango as a competition or sport. Tango is not a race, a time trial, a performance. It is the three Ms, framed in a social context.
Important revision note:
An earlier version of this post had a video clip that was pointed out by a friend as being a couple that were not professional and in a contest for people at their level. A tango teacher narrated in the background, which I did not understand was rather cruel. I was under the impression, falsely, that the man himself was narrating.
Also it is fair to say that many performers are doing great things for tango to keep it alive with fresh ideas. Tango, like a language, will change with vocabulary and syntax and rhetoric. Perhaps the most valuable contribution of performers, is that it makes it possible for talented teachers to make a living at helping people to be more graceful in their tango expression, and they link tango with gracefulness and aesthetic expression.