What follows is a loose interpretation of the beautiful article by Ramiro Gigliotti that was published in the Argentine newspaper Clarin on June 8, 2011. While translating the content, unfortunately, many nuances and references that are common knowledge to the reader from Buenos Aires have been lost. I agree with Ramiro that tango must accommodate the breathing and perspiration of bodies that claim it. I myself sometimes feel distant to the tango culture after 20 years of claiming my Angelino status. However, I do not forget playgrounds with tango music in the background, taxis and coffee shops with pictures of Carlos Gardel, my ballet school years dancing to Piazzolla, seclusions in the Cochabamba 444 bathroom to avoid refusing avid milongueros, La Catedral, and finally my ancestors who owned the tango for decades-- they are still whispering in my ears what tango is supposed to be about.
CONTEXT – Controversy was generated because foreign residents of Buenos Aires claimed the right to participate, win, and represent the city in the contest (Campeonato Metropolitano) that will select who will represent Buenos Aires in the World Tango Championship. This happened on the anniversary of the 1810 revolution, which resulted in our first Argentine national government.
“…It has been a long time since the tango transitioned from a domestic expression to a phenomenon that is practiced around the world. Tango has been danced in other bodies, breathed into other languages, interpreted in other fibers. Tango is ultimately intervened by the actors involved and the circumstances that it passes through. When it returns to its hometown, it flashes novel nuances that it did not have before, details that attack the tradition. The surprised tanguero is astonished first and then he is worried, “they have changed it on us”
It should be noted that the transnational dissemination of any local cultural expression is not a new phenomenon or a prerogative of the locals, much less an exception reserved for the tango. There are countless human manifestations that have transcended the boundaries of the site from where they originated. Suffice it to mention that jazz, communism, pasta a la marinara, Catholicism and the language in which these lines are written verify that ideas go all kinds of distances, and through all kinds of change.
Often the creation of a city, a neighborhood or even a person circulates on the planet and gets mixed into cultures other than its own. The causes that push the ideas to move and vehicles involved in the tour are multiple and often interact among each other: migration, invasions (with or without weapons), great marketing strategies, the fascination with beauty, the universality of existential problems; violence and pure chance are at the top of the list. There is then a mirror effect because in the same way that artistic/cultural expressions change the places they visit, new scenarios are not passive or indifferent to them. On the contrary, they question, transform, and fight them, and they reverse them. The logical and invariable result is a new interpretation of the original product.
These are the tensions that tango is undergoing. While traveling around the world, tango has discovered that the world also turned it around. Exposure to changes—with their advantages and disadvantages—is a fact of life (the tango knows this very well, since it has dealt with renovations and diversity since its inception). It is likely that our cry for the tango is not from just our greed or chauvinism, but from the love of the dance and fear that we’ll lose it. If so, the cry would not be an issue of nationalism but a more primal and visceral protest: you may borrow it from me, but please do not break it.
Fortunately, although it is always good to demand respect, only that which has truth in its essence is destined to endure. “
Loose translation by Makela Tango - Proofreading in English by Amy Nielsson
Ramiro Gigliotti is a professional tango dancer, teacher and writer who lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is the author of Tango Venom, excellent book that captures the hidden milonga life of Buenos Aires of the last 10 years.
Thank you Ramiro!