A rose by any other name …

I am going to pause my discussion of tango for moment (don’t worry, I will talk about the Homer/Cristina weekend at some point) to discuss something else: Ballet.

What does this:


have in common with this:


? The answer: They are both ballet.

So what is ballet? If it has changed this much, is the true ballet dead? Is contemporary ballet invalid? Is even classical ballet real? Are ballet dancers now learning something that isn’t really ballet from teachers who aren’t really qualified to say what is and is not proper ballet technique? Are only French (or Russian, or …) ballerinas doing the real thing?

Of course, I am mirroring some of the discussion that continues to go on in tango. Is a dance form only valid or authentic if it is done in a certain way, or by certain people, or according to certain people’s techniques? My answer, if you couldn’t clearly see it coming, is no. Of course not. Dances change. If a highly codified, restricted art form such as ballet has evolved over the years, why not a social dance like tango? Sure, historians have come up with nice labels like Romantic Ballet, Classical Ballet, Contemporary Ballet … but they are all still ballet. It isn’t thrown out for being innovative. (If that were the case, Marie Taglioni probably would have been told to take those crazy newfangled pointe shoes of hers and get out!)

But more to the point, where does that fear of change originate? Where does that need for an authentic tango come from? And who gets to decide what is or is not authentic?