More Than Two to Tango
Argentine Tango Immigrants in New York City
Publication Year: 2013
The world of Argentine tango presents a glamorous façade of music and movement. Yet the immigrant artists whose livelihoods depend on the US tango industry receive little attention beyond their enigmatic public personas. More Than Two to Tango offers a detailed portrait of Argentine immigrants for whom tango is both an art form and a means of survival.
Based on a highly visible group of performers within the almost hidden population of Argentines in the United States, More than Two to Tango addresses broader questions on the understudied role of informal webs in the entertainment field. Through the voices of both early generations of immigrants and the latest wave of newcomers, Anahí Viladrich explores how the dancers, musicians, and singers utilize their complex social networks to survive as artists and immigrants. She reveals a diverse community navigating issues of identity, class, and race as they struggle with practical concerns, such as the high cost of living in New York City and affordable health care.
Argentina’s social history serves as the compelling backdrop for understanding the trajectory of tango performers, and Viladrich uses these foundations to explore their current unified front to keep tango as their own “authentic” expression. Yet social ties are no panacea for struggling immigrants. Even as More Than Two to Tango offers the notion that each person is truly conceived and transformed by their journeys around the globe, it challenges rosy portraits of Argentine tango artists by uncovering how their glamorous representations veil their difficulties to make ends meet in the global entertainment industry. In the end, the portrait of Argentine tango performers’ diverse career paths contributes to our larger understanding of who may attain the “American Dream,” and redefines what that means for tango artists.
Published by: University of Arizona Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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List of Illustrations
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The title of the poem above speaks to both my personal and professional journeys, which, for more than a decade now, have steered the research project that ultimately led to this book. My initial interest in tango was spearheaded by my own migratory path from Argentina to the United States in the mid-1990s, which was followed by my research on migration ...
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...“You cannot live this way forever,” Manuela grumbled in a low-pitched voice, almost whispering to herself. Manuela, a gorgeous Argentine tango instructor in her late twenties, had been in job-hopping mode for the past couple of years, eager to pay the symbolic dues that global cities like New York charge newcomers in the artistic field.1 She was fighting a cold on ...
1. The Tango’s Social History in a White-Imagined Argentina
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I was probably four or five years old when I had the opportunity to recite, in front of the audience at my primary school in Buenos Aires, the above poem by Germán Berdiales. The occasion was the first of the many patri-otic celebrations in which I would take part, as an impromptu actress, in the years to come. On that cold Friday morning, the event was set to honor ...
2. Welcome to the Argentine Tango World: From the Study Design to My Field Experience
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Many of the tangos that my compatriots and I hardly knew back in Argen-tina, such as “Mi Buenos Aires querido,” became part of our migratory emotional repertoire after living abroad for a while. This tango, written by Carlos Gardel and Alfredo Le Pera during their long stay in New York City, was broadcast directly from NBC Studios to Argentina on the day of ...
3. Argentine Tango Artists: The Craft of Marketing Authenticity
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The milongueras have never been as happy as they are today. After a century of dancing tango, they have never been looked at and admired as much as they are today. They have never had so much work; never did they have a passport to travel around the world as artists and masters. In a country such as Argentina with a high unemployment rate, where people over forty get ex-...
4. Elderly Newcomers and the Tango’s Vulnerable Image
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At the beginning, it was hard to sell my discos [compact disks, CDs] here and there. But with Manolo’s help [an Argentine musician] and the extra money I now make selling them, I finally got into it. Just the other day, I sold thirty-five CDs at a tango party! A guy there [the organizer] was touched by the way I sang, and he came up to my table after the show and said: “Just ...
5. Legal Trajectories and the Elusive American Dream
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As I rushed to open the door of my apartment on a chilly Saturday morn-ing to let Carmela in, I felt that something was wrong. Carmela, a gor-geous female tango dancer in her early thirties, looked pale and anxious, with dark circles under her big, beautiful eyes. Clearly, I thought, she had not slept well the previous night. I was wrong. I soon learned that she had ...
6. The Social Geography of New York’s Tango
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The milongas continue to be very popular here, and people from every place, age, country, and employment field are dancing it. However, there is a classed and racial issue here. I have hardly seen any African Americans there ever, and I wonder: who can come after nine-thirty or ten o’clock in the eve-ning, on a weekday, to pay $15 just to get in, for the sake of enjoyment? ...
7. Paradoxical Solidarities in the Tango Field
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Argentines, by nature, are not a gregarious type; there is not solidarity among them or formal networks. You may have a friend [from Argentina], and that is the end of it. There is neither organization nor mutual help, in the sense that there is not like “today for you, tomorrow for me.” This is both good and bad, because in the same way in which nobody responds for you, you don’t ...
8. Finding the Cure Through the Grapevine: Tango Brokers and Alternative Sources of Help
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I got hurt and nobody [in the dance company] took responsibility for it. I ended up in the emergency room on my own, bleeding terribly. . . . So I asked myself, what kind of job is this? You are supposed to use your hands, arms, and legs to make a living but if something happens to you, you are dumped. You may lose your job right away. And on top of all of this, I had to pay for ...
9. Conclusions: From Bonding to Bridging Ties
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It was just a matter of time before the renewed international interest in tango dancing, which timidly began to arise by the early 1980s, would spur a second tangomania that soon enchanted tango aficionados around the globe. This time around, however, the tango craze embraced its Argentine roots through a complex process in which performers, from all over the ...
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About the Author
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Anahí Viladrich’s early research career on gender and reproductive health in Argentina, her home country, led to her first book on adolescent moth-erhood in 1991. A graduate in sociology from the University of Buenos Aires, once in the United States, she received a master’s degree in sociol-ogy with honors from The New School University in 1999; a master’s de-...
Page Count: 248
Illustrations: 21 photos, 1 illustration, 1 table
Publication Year: 2013
Series Editor Byline: John Smith, Will Wordsworth