2009/05/23

Consequences of globalization?



I watched this video last night and, aside from marveling at the beautiful performance, I was particularly struck by the audience reaction at the end. Back in those days, it seems that Javier and Geraldine were the torchbearers for the new generation of dancers who were carrying the traditional ideals of the dance, in particular the dance of Villa Urquiza. You can see it in the way the crowd praises them. That's not merely appreciation for a great performance, that's pride. Pride for a couple who are representing their culture with excellence.

But with their subsequent success, the flavor of Villa Urquiza has now spread throughout the world (thanks, in a large part, to the universal posting of videos such as the one above), and given that it has become more commonly seen I wonder if perhaps the flavor has become less of a treat in a sense. Not that it's become bland or banal, but that it has lost some of its freshness. And it just makes me wonder if it's possible nowadays to sincerely elicit the kind of reaction the Sunderland crowd gave their native son and daughter in this video.

I am just using the Villa Urquiza style as an example, since the video captures it so well in its own neighborhood. I could just as well be speaking of all tango, in its various incarnations. As the globalization of tango marches on, does the idea of tango as representative of the cultures of the various barrios of Buenos Aires, or of Buenos Aires and Argentina itself, become increasingly moot or dated?

To this day, one of the highest compliments I receive is when I am told I dance like a porteño. While that still gives me pride, I wonder about the implications of what is said. As if what is of highest value is to be true to the manner of dance in BsAs. From a personal level, I don't question that. I would not second guess the hundred years of development that the culture underwent in its homeland, and quite frankly it's the approach that makes sense to me and which I like the best. But then, does that somehow limit the possibility for the dance to take on the flavors of some of its adopted places? That there's somehow less value in a tango with a San Francisco flavor, or Berlin, Toronto, Paris, Taipei, or that being tainted by these cultural influences makes it less truly "tango"? Is it traitorous to expand the definition of tango from being an "Argentine" dance to being a "World" dance?

Or is it a matter of degree? For example, no offense to the ballroom dancers but I don't consider what they call "tango" to be anywhere near what I call tango. Though I surmise that their tango is somehow based on it.

Also, I think about the effect that a singularly exceptional dancer or couple has on tango. How, as they develop fame, their style ripples outward and attracts adherents, and soon you see more and more people dancing with their particular signature. Does that somehow make the originators less special? And though understandable, is it ultimately a good thing that people want to emulate an example of excellence rather than trying to come up with their own example?

I feel that when I ponder these things my line of questioning becomes tautological, only feeding on itself as I go on. And on. Perhaps it's best to keep in mind what Geraldine and Javier say in this video at 0:33, which is an observation that I like to fall back on whenever I get too thinky about anything in tango:

4 comments:

Alex said...

"If you start analyzing it too much you get lost. You get lost because it's endless. You start looking at it as a dance, not a feeling that can be danced."

You know me... I get too thinky and lost in the "feeling that can be danced" aspect of tango...so I am doubly screwed.

Sometimes I feel alone out here in the middle of Texas - the 'Lone Ranger' of traditional tango. The white-hat-not-white-boots tango cowboy. Just like the rare (here) summer tanager I saw the other day resting on a wire, I wish I would see someone dancing traditional/villa urquiza inflected tango here.

Globalization of anything reaches far and wide, but thanks to good 'ol entropy, it most often gets lost in translation. Oh well...at least there is tango in some form here. Better that than none at all.

Great post once again Malevito - thanks for making me think.

"The globalization of tango" - good one - I might have to quote you on that one sometime.

Have a great weekend! Dance a few for me...

Henry (@knowtango.com) said...

Hey virtualapiz,

I see your point, but I'm not sure that I exactly agree. Frankly, I've been dancing for 3 years and I always push back to "styles" or other sorts of classification of movement. The fact of the matter is that many elements that certain dancers would use to describe one style, other dancers would use (perhaps in different terms) to describe a different style.

In short, I think there is such a significant degree of overlap and, simultaneously, breadth within the concept of any particular style that what little differences exist are exaggerated for marketing purposes.

Anyways, cool blog and thanks for posting.

-h

Malevito said...

Hi guys, how are you?

Alex: It's a little surprising to me that there is a dearth of tango with more traditional leanings where you are, considering that the wonderful Jennifer Bratt was once an Austin fixture and that she and Ney seem to travel there and to Houston from time to time. Speaking of Jennifer, I had the good fortune of catching a tanda with her this past weekend after what seemed like a long time without crossing paths. And yeah, it was good :)

Henry: I'm not exactly sure what you mean insofar as a response to my post--actually, I'm not sure I even had a point to agree or disagree with :P But thanks anyway for the reply :)

Alex said...

Hola Malevito!

Yes, Ney and Jennifer were just here (I missed them) for a workshop - they come in once a year that I can tell. I heard a rumor they were looking at moving to Houston, which doesn't make sense, unless their studio in SFO isn't doing so well.

A local teacher is bringing in Oliver Kolker and Silvina Valz in a few weeks. I don't think Oliver has been tempted to the dark side of white shoes dancing.

Otherwise, I'm my comments are based on what I see and hear - lots of folks enamored and gushing about the steady stream of traveling white shoes teaching couples - Austin, Dallas, Houston. The vast majority of dancers here with no interest (nor experience, hence no ability) in close embrace - which is what I consider 'traditional' argentine tango - perhaps a narrow view.

The Festival lineups are also largely white shoes - with a nominal trad couple. When the local teachers/organizers are enamored with and aspire to white shoes dancing, and dance some variant of it on the dry texas pistas, they bring in the folks they admire and want to learn from. They bring in what sells apparently. I can't say I blame them - they don't want to invest their own money in promoting trad.

The exception would be the Fandango de Tango and new Fiesta de Tango - organized by non-tango dancers (ballroom folks). They bring in primarily fantasia/stage folks - excepting Julio & Corina last year and Diego de Falco and Carolina.

Anyway, I'll finally (after an almost 4 month dry spell) be going out to dance Friday night, perhaps again on Sunday. I'll make another assessment - for all I know trad could be growing. I've heard there is a new milonguero couple teaching here now - I forget their names - older couple - which is good news for Austin.

Later...have a great weekend!