Many beginning Argentine tango students in the U.S. complain, But there is no beat! American dancers are used to drums and percussion telling them how to move their bodies. There are no drums in tango, only the wail of the bandoneon and the cry of the strings. But the rhythm is strong -— one only has to listen for it. Beginners learn to hear the pulse of the bandoneon, and when they become more sophisticated to the tango sound, they dance to the melody, perhaps of the violin or the piano.
I grew up with the tango, only I never understood what it was, only that it spoke to me. When I was very young there were a few popular songs which I loved that almost were played as parodies—Hernando’s Hideaway, Jealousy, Kiss of Fire, La Cumparsita. The pianist at my ballet school chose to play tangos for the grand battements at the barre, inspiring me to kick higher and with more passion.
I love all kinds of music but prefer to dance differently to each genre -- blues, latin, rock, classical, country, zydeco, and Arabic music. I have no interest in dancing tango to “alternative” music, other than as a lark. But if others want to, fine with me. I'll just carry on boogying to the boogie-woogie. And dance the tango to tango music.
Buenos Aires DJ’s take their job seriously; the dancers know the music and what they want. The music spinners become stars in their own right, as without the proper music, there can be no perfect tango. (That's Damian Boggio to the left.)
People in the U.S. don’t know it’s bad luck to dance to Adios Muchachos and they certainly don’t grab their crotches or breasts when it is played to ward off the yeta. Dancers in the U.S. don’t know (or care) that other Carlos Gardel songs aren’t danced to either at milongas, or women singers, or Piazzola. At American milongas the DJ’s don’t usually play tandas or cortinas.
There is no strict American Code of Tango where we know the rules and follow them. We’re like energetic kids, throwing ourselves into whatever we try, without a clue as to the history, culture, code of conduct, whys or wherefores of something with a past, with tradition. All over the world, wherever we go and whatever we do, Americans feel they can do what they want.
Several years ago, I saw Margaret Spore in Denver performing a one-woman tango show, TangoNova, and there is a company of women in New York who perform Tango Mujer. Why do these women do it, perform tango without men? Is it because they don’t want to follow, or because there aren’t enough men?
They do it because they can. This is America.