After eleven years living, dancing, teaching tango, and writing in Buenos Aires, I came home to L.A. in 2014, where I'm reconstructing my life.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Passion of Music and Dance

Recently my tanguera friend from Sweden and I exchanged tango books. I loaned her Long After Midnight at the Nino Bien, and she loaned me The Passion of Music and Dance: Body Gender and Sexuality, a collection of essays edited by William Washabaugh (Oxford, 1998).

While at first glance, it might appear academic and dry, in fact it is extremely interesting to anyone connected to tango and therefore its social/anthropological roots. Or for anyone who dances in a milonga. The book also treats flamenco and rebetika, the "blues" of Greece, which can be considered kin to tango.

The three chapters about tango are:

Carlos Gardel and the Argentine Tango: the Lyric of Social Irresponsibility and Male Inadequacy;

Tango and the Scandal of Homosocial Desire;

From Wallflowers to Femmes Fatales: Tango and the Performance of Passionate Femininity.

Very well-written, thought-provoking and accessible, unfortunately it is out of print, but many used copies are available on the internet.

Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from the book (these from the essay by Jeffrey Tobin):

The primary relation in tango is not between the heterosexual dance partners, but is between the man who dances with a woman and the other men who watch.

...the male lead in tango has the phallus while the female follower is the phallus.

(Oh gosh, am I going to get a million crazy midnight hits now?)

And, another from the essay by Marta E. Savigliano;

...all women who approach the milonga scene must learn, sooner or later, that every time they enter a milonga, they will do so as a wallflower. A woman's wallflower position will be tested every single night at the milonga, no matter how good a dancer she is.

So you see? It's not about you and me at all--it's just sociology!


n a n c y said...

Please out this on my list to borrow. Am glad to see more mileage on Long After....

Elizabeth said...

I found a used copy, looking forward to reading it. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.