Publication Year: 2012
The Argentine tango is one of the world’s best-known partner dances. Though tango is much admired and discussed, very little has been written on its ongoing evolution. In this innovative work, Carolyn Merritt surveys tango history while focusing on the most recent iteration of the dance, tango Nuevo, and the práctica scene that has exploded in Buenos Aires since the early 2000s.
After starting with an overview of tango, Merritt leads readers on a great adventure through the traditional dance halls and the less formal prácticas of Buenos Aires to tango communities on both coasts of the United States. Along the way, Merritt’s personal observations show the dance’s emotional depth and the challenges dancers face in tango venues old and new. Her investigation also demonstrates how innovation, globalization, and fusion, which many associate with nuevo, have always been at work in tango.
Combining sensuous prose, provocative images, and often heartbreaking stories, this book takes an unflinching look at the complex motivations driving the pursuit to master this intricate dance. Throughout, Merritt questions the "newness" of Nuevo through portraits of machismo, violence, and elitism in contemporary tango. The result is a volume that highlights the tensions between preservation and evolution of this--or any--cultural art form.
Members of the global tango community as well as students of dance, folklore, anthropology, and the social sciences will embrace this book. For those who are devoted to Argentine tango as dance, this book will be indispensable to understanding its most recent transformations.
Published by: University Press of Florida
Table of Contents
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This book is my attempt to give voice to the many, varied, and contradictory experiences described to me and lived myself in the pursuit of Argentine tango. Because I want to understand the hold it has over me and so many others, I write in the hope of giving tango an existence independent...
Prologue: Travels in Tango
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In the summer of 2004, I took a road trip with a tango friend down the west coast of the United States. From a tango festival in Seattle, we drove to Portland, stopping to dance for two nights in the milongas (tango social dances) before heading east to hike and camp. We left Bend, Oregon,...
1. There is No New Tango
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Why do dancers in Argentina insist that there is “no such thing as tango nuevo?” How is it that outside Argentina, flying limbs, gender-bending, electronica, and bell-bottoms are all cited as evidence—for good or ill— of something new, yet inside Argentina defended as simply part of an...
2. Finding Tango: From the Golden Age to the Twenty-First Century
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The history of tango is well-covered territory, and the subject of many deft analyses.1 Still, a precise history is impossible for the simple fact that the form itself and the populations who created it were considered so undesirable...
3. What’s So New about Tango Nuevo?
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For all the argument that it’s an empty term, that there is no new tango, que no existe (it doesn’t exist), nuevo has sneaked its way into existence by generating all this debate in the first place. By and large, the Argentines I spoke with rejected the term as an inappropriate modifier for...
4. Manejame Como un Auto (Drive Me Like a Car)
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During our interview, Xavier confessed to being exasperated, at times even angry, when he first went abroad to teach and was asked time and again to explain why the man leads and the woman follows. Surely, he said, this most basic principle of tango, of social dance in general, is only...
5. ¿Droga o terapia? (Drug or Therapy?)
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A recent study at McGill University highlights the healing capacities of Argentine tango, noting that elderly participants demonstrate improved balance, posture, motor coordination, and cognitive performance after a ten-week tango course.1 Researchers at the Washington University School...
6. Locating the Tango
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Midway through my time in Argentina, I meet Carla, an Argentine folklorist, who like many of her generation now resides outside her home country, at Las Violetas, the most beautiful café in all of Buenos Aires. Recently restored to its old grandeur, Las Violetas boasts imported marble...
Epilogue: Las vueltas de la vida (Life’s Twists and Turns)
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Contemporary tango continues to evolve. In the brief span of time between my return to the United States in late 2007 and a monthlong stay in Buenos Aires in mid-2010, evidence of a backlash, a turning inward from experimentation and expansion, has slowly accumulated. From the...
Appendix 1. Law 130: Tango as Cultural Patrimony
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Appendix 2. Evaluation Criteria, Tango World Championship, Salon Tango Competition
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It aims at a worldwide promotion of this social dance as an authentically Río de la Plata popular practice. Evaluation criteria will comprise good taste and popular dance guidelines, i.e., an unbroken embrace, style, movement around the floor, closeness to the floor, cadence and rhythm....
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Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 44 color photos,
Publication Year: 2012