Tuesday, January 1, 2013

We Dance the Body Electric

Steel Engraving of Walt Whitman
by Samuel Hollyer (1854)
Walt Whitman (1819-1892) was not a tanguero.

He was an iconoclast poet.  In his poems, he spoke of the beauty of the male and female body in a way that shook conventions of his time -- and perhaps still today.  I think he knew something that tangueros and tangueras know about the distinct roles of tango.

In a time in which the practical use of electricity was rare, he wrote the poem "I Sing the Body Electric."   In this poem, he provided remarkable glimpses of men and women.  Tangueros and tangueras describe these differences in the rol masculino and the rol femenino.

An excerpt from this poem says this so well:

The female contains all qualities, and tempers them—she is in her place,
    and moves with perfect balance;
 She is all things duly veil’d—she is both passive and active...

...The male is not less the soul, nor more—he too is in his place;
 He too is all qualities—he is action and power;
The flush of the known universe is in him..."

If Walt Wittman had danced tango, perhaps he would have written something like this:

We Dance the Body Electric
  by Mark Word

We hear the music and it charges us fully.
We come to the milonga, seeking to recharge
Our body's need of touch, of human warmth.
The music magnetizes the room,
Filling each pour of our bodies.
Her charge and my charge are different
But together we are Yin and Yang --
Polar opposites creating a me that becomes we.
Without her energy, I am isolated, half of what was before.
I hear the music through her body and she, through mine.
We dance the Body Electric.

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