In this day and age, the term “globalization” is familiar to many of us. It conjures up images of interconnectedness, the idea that our sphere of influence is no longer limited to a single, proximal community. Institutions are spreading to encompass many regions and people, and in turn they have diverse influences (sociocultural, economic, political) from those regions and people. We lived in a globalized age.
But is tango a globalized phenomenon? It certainly has spread throughout many parts of the world, but at the same time it remains a very localized activity. Many individual communities, albeit connected by traveling dancers and festivals with a wider reach, still maintain a local means of organizing themselves and a separate identity. Tango, I would argue, is translocal. The concept of translocality has been used in anthropology (and, I am sure, other disciplines) to describe something that occurs in a local context but is spread across many different locations. (This is a very rough definition that I just pulled together now – don’t treat it as set in stone or comprehensive.)
What is interesting to me about the translocality of tango is that we each have our own communities, and these communities may be very different (functionally, stylistically, etc), but due to a large amount of travel and the wonders of YouTube we are very connected. We mingle – many dancers meet in Buenos Aires, or in various festivals, or as teachers travel. We share ideas both in person and online. But that communication and interconnectedness also creates unique challenges.
To what extent is tango a recognizable dance that we can define and recognize in all of these local communities? Isn’t this the source of so many arguments about Real Argentine Tango v. Nuevo Tango (often scoffed at by those proponents of the Real thing)? Or about traditional v. alternative music? Or when talking about WWBAD (“What Would Buenos Aires Do?”)? It seems to me that we deal with a lot of questions about authenticity, about defining/delineating tango, about our identities as tango dancers, etc. And many of these questions seem to arise from comparison, from this translocal phenomenon.
(A lot of other issues arise within this debate: The issue of gender roles and dancers who flout the traditional leader/follower roles in different ways; ways that dancers gain power/influence within the translocal community, through travel, identity, etc; translocality as a means for creativity and innovation; the role of online communication – blogs, YouTube, Facebook – in expanding/reinforcing/furthering the translocality of tango communities …)
Watch out … if I ever get myself to Buenos Aires I may come back with some clearer thoughts about these issues and launch myself back into academia. That is, if I could ever get myself to move past the interest I have in the specifics of tango and connect my curiosity back to the larger anthropological community. 😉