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...
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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...
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 patriotic celebrations in which I would take part, as an impromptu actress, in...
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 Argentina, 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...
3. Argentine Tango Artists: The Craft of Marketing Authenticity
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“Tango immigrants” is the term I have chosen for a diverse group of talented and struggling tango performers (dancers, musicians, and singers) as well as tango entrepreneurs from Argentina who, for more than a decade now, have been seeking to fulfill a dream of success in the United States....
4. Elderly Newcomers and the Tango’s Vulnerable Image
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Bartolo’s remarks poignantly illustrate the efforts of many Argentine artists, young and old, who creatively utilize their resourceful tango portfolios to make ends meet. Hitherto, when thinking about tango artists, the picture that frequently comes to mind is that of a sensual young tango dancer who...
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 morning to let Carmela in, I felt that something was wrong. Carmela, a gorgeous female tango dancer in her early thirties, looked pale and anxious, with dark circles under her big, beautiful eyes. Clearly, I thought, she had...
6. The Social Geography of New York’s Tango
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Although the notes above were jotted down in 2002, they could have been written today. Milongas are rich social fields where individuals from different nationalities, occupations, and professions get together for the sake of socializing while throwing themselves into a tango embrace. While in...
7. Paradoxical Solidarities in the Tango Field
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The quotes above illustrate one of the main challenges I faced during fieldwork, which revolved around how to make sense of the intricate ways in which tango artists’ discourses and practices of intragroup solidarity conflicted with generalized assumptions about their national collective....
8. Finding the Cure Through the Grapevine: Tango Brokers and Alternative Sources of Help
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The excerpt above did not come from either an unauthorized immigrant or an artist working off the books in the informal service economy. Rather, this is just one of the several remarks conveyed by tango artists who had no choice but to learn about the vulnerability of their trade the hard way....
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...
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About the Author
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Page Count: 248
Illustrations: 21 photos, 1 illustration, 1 table
Publication Year: 2013