I was invited to teach at the Australia NeoTango Rage 2020, which after being cancelled got resurrected as an online open event with themes for posting through the weekend.
And which turned out to be uncannily well-named.
I have attended many neotango events, but the wording attached to the themes of this event forces me in a way that I don’t like.
NeoTango is beautiful, but it only exists because we have been made to feel unwelcome in Tango. I do not accept being excluded and I certainly do not revel in it.
I believe I should be admired for my iconoclastic fashion and style, for my ability to dance both roles and every embrace, for my execution of the whole repertoire of traditional tango movements with contemporary dynamics, strength, flexibility, and sensibility, for my courage to express so many different musics, including traditional tango music of which my body knows every note.
The fact that I am constrained, restrained, repressed, censored, and either disregarded or insulted at public tango events does not result in my accepting that anything I do is NOT Argentine Tango. And I do not need another word for it. It is fucked up that because we have been thrown out, a whole bunch of people like Ron Fenton, DJ Elio, Thanos Kasidis, Tanguerilla, Andreas Lange, Sonja Armisen and so many others have volunteered so much time, energy, and financial risk to create a whole separate scene of neotango so that we feel comfortable to dance.
Meanwhile conventional events go bankrupt on their bile, refusing to update their marketing or ambiance for 2020.
Argentine Tango is mine by having mastered it as a dancer and a teacher, and I do not accept exile. While I do sometimes use the term ‘altertango’ when I want to make a particular point, and I do encourage people to attend ‘neotango’ events, I do not like my work to be contained and exiled by others as neotango, nuevo or any other term. Likewise I do not feel entitled to apply these terms to other people who may not use it about themselves. I do not like the way the stated neotango themes of this event force me to self-exile. I feel I’m in a trap in which joyful participation in this event signifies capitulation to exclusion, bullying, and disrespect.
I ended up re-wording the themes so that I could get past the anger and prepare for the event. Here are my contributions.
I chose this photo neither because we are smiling nor because we are in a soltada, but because this photo is about partnership in all its complex radiance.
Of course dancers look forward to ecstasy in spontaneity with strangers. Of which we also suffer unreliable supply.
Entering partnerships is the best way to take control over the quality of our tango lives. Meeting partners to practice in milonga thwarts vulnerability and disappointments. And witnessing and contributing to the development of your partners is deeply meaningful. There is a profound joy there quite different than the gift of a stranger.
More about partnership.
Photo Thomas Conte documenting the first months of Vio y Roberto.
Berlin January 2015.
Improvised music for an improvised dance
TRYST XII, AlterTango event hosted by TangoForge
Orquesta TRYST is Ibon Goitia, Alan Nguyen, Antoine Gallix, Gábor Hartyáni, and Ika Ko. They use Santiago Vasquez’ system for coordinating improvised musicians.
AlterTango is TangoForge’s project to get Tango out of Milongas
and into inspiring musical contexts…
Lotus Loft, Berlin
For the TangoForge community, a key is to Get Tango Out of Milongas.
When we heard Abisko Lights in a jazz club, we immediately wanted to dance to their music. We asked if at their next concert some tango dancers could have some space to dance (to the side, so as not to disturb or distract the audience). This was the first time any of us had danced to their music and most of the dancers had never heard it before.
Afterward, Roberto spoke to DIrk Flatau, the composer and pianist: “Usually when I dance I have to think about what I’m going to do. With your music the dance comes straight out of my heart.”
Dirk said “We can feel you dancing.”
1.December 2017, Wabe Berlin
Fritz y Yoko
Swan y Franz
Roberto y Vio
My teachers, Pedro Farias y Julieta Falivene.
I shot this film at DNI in Buenos Aires in February 2010. It was a very tender moment. Cristian y Carolina had already broken. We couldn’t imagine what was to come. Pablo y Dana and Pedro y Juli themselves would separate within months and even Duro y Vio. None of these partners turned out to be replaceable.
If you want more Pedro y Julieta, I made this playlist from their performance at the same time at El Motivo, Villa Malcolm, which we watched in person. I think the date on these youtube videos isn’t the performance date. I was there in October 2011, but I’m pretty sure this performance was also February or March 2010.
I recommend the playlist because it very clearly demonstrates the state of dancing before Fundamentalism took over. It was ambitious, used the entire lexicon of tango, and did not draw lines between “traditional” and “alternative”. It did not separate close and open embrace, or any of the distinctions naïvely purveyed today. Also note during song 3/4, the use of back sacadas in Milonga… This is the dancing I ask my students to aspire to, without encampments.
Note … Pedro & Julieta probably do not use the term ‘neotango’ to describe themselves. Please be respectful.
Besides the intensity of this song and the lyrics, what is most romantic for us (and the audience) is trust – which becomes palpable when we take risks – or they take us.
MOVEMENT TOGETHER through this dance…
Easy is not the agenda. Learning about connection is the agenda. And Art, whatever that is.
I don’t believe we need to fuse tango with other dances. Our inheritance of vocabulary from the Golden Age already contains everything we need to express and communicate. We also don’t need to fuse other musics because the music of world history is already ours.
I do believe we need to fuse subcultures if we are going to keep this dance popular. Here’s a guide for that. I made this film to reach out to yogis and martial artists, encouraging them to connect their movement practices with another person, through tango. Thank you to the crew of 18 people who traveled from 6 countries to make this gift to our tango.
In the context of my discussion of exile above, you may want to read this.