[Tango-L] What is tango

Sergio Vandekier sergiovandekier990 at hotmail.com
Thu Feb 21 10:31:41 EST 2008

Doug says "Defining the dance strictly by the music creates a very slippery slope.
Tell me - what is tango? Is it only OT Victor and the Old Guard? "... he continues to give as examples different tango orchestras with very different style.
IMO the answer is very simple.  The human brain has the capacity to recognize and distinguish an infinite number of elements: Faces for instance, cars, clothing, pieces of art, etc, etc, and of course music and dance.   
When you hear the very first few beats of a musical composition you immediately recognize if the music is popular or classical, if it is a foxtrot, a cha-cha or a tango, etc, and also you recognize who wrote that particular piece of music and who the singer is.
This is a process that is unconscious.  It has to do, in great part, with previous education and training.
At the very least you have to know how a foxtrot, a cha-cha or a tango sound, by prior experience in order to be able to distinguish them.  Experts can tell just by looking at a piece of art, if it is genuine or fake. This has to do with prior education as well.
Argentine Tango is a musical and a dancing form, very unique, a hybrid of blurred roots, born in an urban milieu, created by the people, 
in Rio de la Plata area. It has a very sensuous and complex choreography, it is played by the "orquesta tipica", it has a bandoneon as a distinctive instrument. Its lyrics deal with sadness, love, frustration, pain, despair, it is written using a slang called lunfardo. It is danced in a very unique embrace, with intense feeling, it is improvised, etc, etc, etc. The music notation may be 2/4 or 4/4.
I could give you many more characteristics but this note is supposed to be brief as per regulations of the list.
Summary: you recognize a tango the same as you recognize a face, unconsciously. There is no need to explain at a conscious level what the particularities of each face you recognize are. As I explained before: (no critic intended) ignorance (not always) could be the reason people use non-tango music to dance the tango choreography.  Everyone has the right to dance as he wishes, to any music that he chooses.
Mar del Plata - Argentina
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