11 jun 2008

Wow... did that choreographer on SYTYCD just say it took *weeks* to learn tango?

Well, uh, with all due respect I'm afraid I have to dis-- oh wait. You mean that "tango." Okay, never mind.

Kidding aside, it can be really easy for us aficionados to take these things to heart and get all huffy and defensive about it, but I figure that the tango we know and love doesn't really need to be defended. It's been around a lot longer than any of us have so I'm pretty sure it can take care of itself.

Still, it got me to thinking about people who just don't seem to "get it," and in particular people who do run in tango circles, are a part of the community and are no strangers to milongas or prácticas yet still somehow come across as missing the point somehow.

My immediate thought is that perhaps many of these people mistakenly limit their perception of tango as a dance and approach it with that strict focus in mind, rather than taking into account that tango is, in fact, an entire culture, and the dance is ultimately a projection of how the culture affects the dancer. In other words, if a dancer doesn't have the culture embedded inside of them, the dance will be a hollow expression rooted in nothing. I posit that this is why even dancers of great skill can somehow seem incongruous, while dancers with lesser techniques can project a sense of belonging. And why a show like SYTYCD can't possibly portray anything that will ring true to any milonguero or tanguero.

(No disrespect intended, but given the constraints of the show there's just no time for tango immersion.)


Frances R said...

I have a feeling that the show has done a good job portraying the culture surrounding some other dance styles (I am immediately familiar with very few, and not in depth, though; it would be really interesting to hear an insider's point of view), but no such luck for salsa or tango, so far.

tangobaby said...

The problem with television as a medium is that it's not possible to really convey depth and something of real educational value within a scant few allotted minutes' presentation.

Everything must be boiled down to its most simplistic form in order to be palatable to a wide, general audience. So the beautiful sublety of tango cannot come across this way. It's hard enough to get filmmakers to accomplish this.

But that's true of most television. Funny enough, Farnsworth (the guy who invented television) had the dream that tv would revolutionize education and bring learning to everyone. Sadly, his invention did not live up to his dreams, and he knew that early on.

Okay, jumping off the tv-bashing soapbox now... You've said the main point, that true tango lovers know that a little television won't spoil the dance we love.

Malevito said...

Hi guys, how are you?

Frances: I really have no authority to say whether or not they show the cultures of other dances--tango is my one and only. (I grew up in hip hop and was a b-boy many years ago, before some of the contestants were born--man, am I old--but pretty much fell out of that scene in the early nineties and don't know much about what's current, although I still love it).

TB: I recall a quick bit that was on the Daily Show where they skewered CNN or one of those networks for advertising a fast-paced news broadcast that fit more news in an hour than any other show. Of course, Stewart commented that was just what we wanted in our news broadcasts--rapid fire headlines with no in depth coverage or examination of the issues.

Farnsworth, eh? So that's where the Futurama guy got his name. Well, there are some who think that the internet has the same potential that Farnsworth thought of television, although there are others who argue that the internet is dumbing us down. I haven't read the argument in depth, though... perhaps thereby confirming it? But my take right now is that a lot of the dumbing down going on online may be more a symptom than a source.

At any rate, I didn't necessarily mean to make the tv show the focus of my post, but it was just the catalyst for the random thought I had about the somewhat intangible quality that is projected when something seems "right" about the dance and when something seems "off".

Thanks for your comments :)