Ser una tanguera jóven

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.

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11 thoughts on “Ser una tanguera jóven

  1. I’ve < HREF="http://tangowithwings.blogspot.com/2008/04/linguistic-peculiarity.html" REL="nofollow">said it before<> and I’ll keep saying it till everyone’s heard it – ‘nuevo’ does not equal ‘open embrace’. It seems to be a linguistic confusion which exists only in the US, where the two terms are used as though they’re synonymous. They’re not. Nuevo is a style, not a type of embrace. Us nuevo types dance most of the time in close embrace, but we’re still dancing tango nuevo when we do that. Most of us only open the embrace if it’s required to do some particular move, then we move straight back into close when it’s finished. I deeply resent Ron’s implication that tango nuevo involves less feeling than milonguero or salon. And I even more resent his using the word ‘nuevo’ in contrast to the word ‘tango’, as though tango nuevo is not tango at all./rant 🙂But I agree with you 100% about young people liking the more ‘traditional’ stuff too. I know tons of very young dancers who much prefer milonguero or salon style – actually, those who prefer nuevo are vastly in the minority in my experience, both here and in BA. Even I, a hardcore nuevo girl, will be very happy dancing with anyone of any style who’s musical and clear and considerate.I think perhaps you can make a case for generalising that the young are more experimental than the old, and the old have learnt what they like and stick with that. A teacher friend of mine (with quite a milonguero style, incidentally) once told me that *his* teacher, who was very elderly when he taught him, and had learnt to dance during the golden age, said that all the things that the ‘young people’ were doing now – all the ganchos and boleos and tricks – he and his friends had done themselves, back in the golden age, when they were young. I’ve seen photos of very classic milongueros when they were young that suggest this was indeed the case. El Pibe Palermo, for example, was admired when he was a young man, *by the old guard*, for his unusual and creative tricks. < HREF="http://www.todotango.com/english/Creadores/ppalermo.asp" REL="nofollow">Source here<>.In other words, there’s nothing nuevo about tango nuevo. When people get in a huff about tango nuevo, it’s just like when people get in a huff about declining moral standards in the youth of today – people were saying the exact same thing 2,000 years ago. O tempora! O mores!

  2. Hope the nuevo/open rant didn’t come across too shouty. I’m not trying to flame! It’s just something I feel very passionate about.

  3. No worries about sounding too shouty – I was struggling with the terminology as I wrote my response, because I don’t like conflating nuevo/open embrace. But because Ron set up his post that way, I felt like I had to respond in those confines. I agree with your rant – both the embrace issue and the issue of feeling – but I think that merits another post entirely. 😉 (I was trying to limit myself to the age question and not get into his attack on nuevo itself.)Thanks for the info on El Pibe Palermo! I love the tradition/nostalgia phenomenon – where things have *always* been a certain way and they were *better* that way and darn these new changes that are happening!

  4. There can never be a “correct” answer when it comes to matters of taste. One thing is “better” than the other for those who prefer it, but not because it has qualities that are superior to the other. For me, steps are steps. How we mix them up is part of the fun.On the other hand, not all music is created equal…. I know that had I discovered tango through “nuevo”, “alternate” music, I would never have been hooked. I have nothing against the new guard music per se – it is interesting and fun at times. But (<><>IMHO<><>) it lacks the depth and complexity of the traditional sounds.I expect many people to disagree. And that is the beauty of personal preferences. We can each enjoy ours.

  5. Johanna, I agree – I can’t argue with matters of personal taste, and I think that the style of dance one prefers is definitely a matter of taste. What got my feathers all ruffled was Ron’s idea that my age precludes me from understanding what tango is all about – even if I were to agree with him about what tango *is* all about!

  6. “I expect many people to disagree.”I do! Predictably. 🙂I think the problem is not that alternative music is inherently worse – it’s that it hasn’t been filtered. I reckon that for any given style of music (or indeed any artistic area) there is a small proportion of brilliance. Let’s say 80% of any genre is crap-to-mediocre, and 20% is good-to-brilliant. The longer a genre has been in existence, the more filtered the body of work is: we keep the good stuff, we stop playing the bad stuff. So, it sometimes seems like classical music was just better than modern music – but actually, that’s only because these days we only play the Beethovens and the Chopins and the Mozarts. We never hear the bad stuff. But there was just as much of it as there is bad modern music. If we come back to, say, 60s music in a hundred years time, I reckon people will be going ‘Ooh, 60s music, it was so great, you had the Beatles and the Stones and everyone was a genius and what a creative time it was.’ Because nobody will be playing ‘La La La’ any more, so we’ll all have forgotten there were some godawful turkeys in there too.With classic tango we’ve had, say, 80 years for this filtering process to occur. If you go to five milongas, chances are you’ll hear a lot of music repeated. Because we’re playing the good stuff, the stuff that generations of dancers have proved moves them. But I reckon there was a lot of bloody awful stuff created that we just never hear these days. A lot of it probably wasn’t even recorded.So, the problem with alternative stuff, for me, is not that it’s inherently inferior; it’s just that it’s so new that this filtering process hasn’t occurred. If you go to an alternative milonga, often you’ll find they’re playing the most awful bollocks. There isn’t a big enough body of work, there just isn’t enough of the stuff, to only play the stuff that works, the stuff that moves us.Personally, I’m generally happier when people are playing the traditional stuff, but I reckon it’s only for the reason I’ve just described. There is some alternative stuff that I absolutely love. Just not much of it. And of course even the great stuff will be qualitatively different – the flavour of anything is related to the time and place it was created, so naturally alternative tango has a different flavour from traditional tango. Not worse – just different.I realy ought to put this stuff on my blog, rather than just ranting about it on other peoples.

  7. Psyche, I couldn’t agree more that there is simply not enough of it to have an adequate supply of brilliance. When we look back at the music from any past era, it is at a highly distilled list. But if you’ll note, none of us have qualified nuevo music as “worse”. Simply as preferring something else. I don’t think of the music as “good” or “bad” (I actually do enjoy a lot of the nuevo tango offerings) I just don’t enjoy it as much for dancing tango. The combination of the sound and the embrace, while fun (just like dancing tango to swing and/or other “alternative” music) simply does not produce the same chemical reaction in me that traditional music does. For me, either the beat is too regular (like disco), and thus too “predictable”, or it is too “esoteric” and lacks sufficient rhythmic dynamics (again, in the context of dancing to it).There was a movie called A Knight’s Tale, which set a medieval story to modern rock music. The soundtrack was great, the movie was fun, but together they detracted from each other.

  8. You may not have said it was intrinsically worse, but you have said that, for you, it’s ‘worse’ for dancing tango to – which is the only kind of ‘worse’ that matters in this context!The thing about the over-regular beat and lack of dynamics is the usual criticism of alternative music. But I disagree even with this. This may be the case for the less-good alternative stuff, but it’s not the case intrinsically.The chemical reaction thing – well, fair enough. That’s part personal make-up and partly that, as I was saying, alternative tango can’t possibly have an identical emotional effect on us, any more than the Beatles affect us in the same way as Beethoven, because it’s from a different place and time. But it can move us equally strongly, just with slightly different emotions.Any new musical form is initially rejected by fans of an older form. It was the same for tango, too, when it was born.

  9. Psyche, perhaps you would care to educate an old-schooler and point out some nuevo songs you feel represent the best of that genre?

  10. Psyche – I came across < HREF="http://tango-videos.blogspot.com/2008/07/lucas-bittencourt-and-silvia-senra.html" REL="nofollow">this video<>. How would you characterize this new/alternative tango, both in terms of music and dance content?

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