Ron from Illinois recently posted on Tango-L about young dancers. I am only going to include the relevant part of his email here:
Some said to me once “Tango is wasted on the young. They don’t understand it. That’s why they dance nuevo.”
While that may be an over-generalization, it does point out something I’ve observed. You find few people over 40 dancing nuevo. Why is this? Some of it is due to physical limitations. Nuevo is a dance exploring movements, often rapid, sometimes at angles uncomfortable for aging bodies. This isn’t a statement about Darwinian fitness, i.e., that nuevo will survive because it is the dance of the fit; no, in contrast aging is inevitable and the young, if they want to continue to dance, will switch to tango.
However, there is something more in this statement about ‘understanding tango’. Tango involves a close physical connection between man and woman. In the Midwest US at least, I have found that young dancers are more squeamish about close physical contact than are older dancers. It may be the result of some perception of political correctness, but it is definitely also about your level of comfort with your own body. Young people, even with fit figures. may not be comfortable with close physical contact with the opposite sex. Older people, often showing the need for rather than results of a regular workout at the gym, are more comfortable with their bodies. It’s part of maturity, accepting who you are and not worrying about what others think about it.
But it’s more than that. Tango elicits an emotional response. The sadness and sometimes romanticism it evokes speaks of life experience. The more times you’ve been around the block, the more you can connect with the emotions evoked by tango. Tango music speaks to you in ways no other music does. The tango dance allows you to connect with the emotions evoked by the music. You share it with someone else whom your trust. There’s an emotional connection that may go with the physical connection. Not everyone is comfortable with that. They feel vulnerable with that emotion exposed.
In contrast, nuevo is exciting. It involves using your energy and expressing it in movement. Young people have more energy, in addition to greater flexibility of movement. So nuevo appeals to young people.
I am glad that Ron acknowledged the potential for over-generalization at the outset of his message, but I think that by the end he had forgotten. By most standards (such as, well, age) I am considered a young tanguera. And yes, I do enjoy dancing nuevo. But heck if you don’t find me dancing in close embrace – and probably more often than not! I’ll dance apilado, salon, nuevo … whatever the situation (i.e. atmosphere, music, surroundings, partner, etc) calls for.
I don’t shy away from physical closeness; I love it! I look for the connection that happens with my partner on a physical level as well as emotionally. I bring a wealth of emotions to the dance – I may not have lived as long as some dancers, but I have lived deeply. I also have trouble imagining why Ron thinks that only nuevo “involves using your energy and expressing it in movement.” I want to run down his list of reasons why he sees young people embracing only nuevo and just scream, “That is NOT ME!”
I don’t know if this is simply another example of ageism, a denial that young people can also be mature and understanding of tango. I don’t know if it’s just a matter of the dancers who Ron (and other tanguer@s who have expressed similar opinions) has met. But I want to stand up and identify myself as someone who – as far as I can tell – defies the aforementioned description of young people dancing tango. And if you don’t believe just me, I can point you to a number of young people in my community who also defy Ron’s description – and a number of older dancers to stand as counterexamples to his argument.