20 March 2007

Tangueros de Buenos Aires

The origin of tango along the docks of Buenos Aires in full expansion in the 19th century is somewhat mythical, and I have not immersed myself in any of the many histories of the art. Certainly it was danced by men among themselves, cuchilleros and compadritos, in caf├ęs and gatherings in San Telmo before the scandalous dance was discovered and adopted by high society in Argentina and Europe after World War I.

Tango is still much danced in its city of origin, and taught in many schools, though now more of a cult activity for aficionados and dance tourists.

I did get to see a show in the Centro Cultural Borges that I very much enjoyed, with six young dancers accompanied by the Carla Algeri Trio, all winners in national competition. Small of stature, Algeri is an intense, wonderful bandoneonista. At Zival’s record shop on Avenida Corrientes I purchased records in traditional style by orchestras I learned about for the first time: Carlos DiSarli, Juan D’Arienzo, and Osvaldo Pugliese, all pre-dating the changes that occurred with Astor Piazzolla and other modernists who introduced jazz and other elements that quite transformed the genre.

In contrast to other milonga dance, tango has a sad, sometimes sinister quality, charged with intense sexuality. Most of that is lost when it is put on the stage to entertain.