The Impossibility of Re-Creating the Tango of Times Gone By

First Impressionism by OldOnliner, on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  OldOnliner 

There is a paradox concerning my relationship with tango, and maybe with tango itself. On one hand, I want to learn from the sources, learn the ‘true’ tango.  If that even exists. On the other hand, I want to see progress, to move on, and to find or invent ‘my own’ tango. Which may not exist, either. This tension between a certain nostalgia and  the Sisyphean quest for the authentic, and the longing for progress, a rational approach, the tension between being controlled by the tango and taking control over the tango is at once frustrating and tantalizing.

We are, inescapably, products of our time. The way we dress, the way we talk and the way we move has changed in numerous ways over the years, not to mention growing up on a different continent. How the times we live in manifest themselves in people was beautifully captured by this interesting reflection upon the remake of the classic movie ‘Psycho’  in an article in The NewYorker:

The way that people carry themselves—their posture, their gestures, and even the micro-gestures, the sense of sharpness or tremulousness, the brusqueness or smoothness of movements, the pointedness or curves of joints, the decisive rapidity or easy offhandedness with which they move, and the precision or meander of speech—conveys more about their personality and their times than the overt signifiers of fashion or vocabulary.

I mentioned once before how I was fascinated by the refined, elegant movements  of’El Flaco’ Dany when he lit a cigarette. This fascination is despite me generally finding the the habit of smoking despicable. Still there was something about about his way, the micro-gestures, the way he carried himself that stays with me. I would never be able to make his way of lighting a cigarette my own, even if I tried. Even if I worked hard, the best I could hope to achieve would be a superficial resemblance, a bleak copy. A fraud.

We may learn from the best, the ones that lived during the golden age of tango, or at least from those few who remain.  We may keep trying, but we will never dance their tango. We are left to find our own.

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