Is Tango Nuevo the Evolutionary Descendent of Tango Estilo del Barrio (Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza)?

   

In a previous post, Tango Nuevo and Tango Milonguero were compared and their distinguishing characteristics identified. Compared to Tango Milonguero with its maintained closed embrace in an apilado posture, small steps, and limited use of decorative elements, Tango Nuevo employs an upright posture with a flexible embrace that typically opens during turns, uses larger movements in general, and has more extensive use of embellishments. In these respects, Tango Nuevo resembles more closely the style of tango that was danced in the northern barrios of Buenos Aires during the 40s and 50s – ‘Tango Estilo del Barrio’ – frequently labeled as ‘Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza’.

Fabian Salas, a leading proponent of Tango Nuevo, has stated that he and Gustavo Naveira, in their study of tango, came to the conclusion that the turn is part of the basic structure of tango (interview). However, it was Carlos Alberto Estevez (Petroleo) who invented the characteristic turns (with sacadas) in tango that are part of the basic structure of Tango Estilo del Barrio (often labeled as ‘Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza’). Tango Milonguero also incorporates turns with sacadas, although to a more limited degree and without opening the embrace. Thus, Tango Nuevo and Tango Estilo del Barrio have similar characteristics that would appear to represent a common evolutionary origin.

Tango Estilo del Barrio is a socially acceptable stylistic variation of Tango de Salon, the general term for the range of variation of tango danced in the milongas of Buenos Aires. Tango Estilo del Barrio was popular during the 1940s and 50s and although one can occasionally still see elements of this style among dancers in the milongas of Buenos Aires today, it is much less common than stylistic variations of tango that maintain a closed embrace throughout the dance and use turns with sacadas sparingly – that is, Tango Milonguero, broadly defined, and individual stylistic variations that resemble more closely Tango Milonguero than Tango Estilo del Barrio (as discussed in a previous post).

The question that is addressed here is whether Tango Nuevo, which developed during the early 1990s, has stylistic characteristics similar enough to Tango Estilo del Barrio to be considered a close evolutionary descendant and thus falls within the realm of acceptable stylistic variation defined as Tango de Salon. In other words, does Tango Nuevo meet the criteria of acceptability for dancing in the milongas of Buenos Aires?

As a guideline for classifying a dance as Tango de Salon, the criteria used at the 2010 World Championship of Tango (Campeonato Mundial de Tango) will be employed here as well:

  • CONTEST (EVALUATION CRITERIA)
  • 1. Salon Tango (unrestricted entry, amateurs and professionals)
  • The Couple, once formed, may not be separated while the music plays. This means that they may not be break the embrace, considered as the tango dance position.
  • For the position to be considered correct, the body of one of the members of the couple must be contained all the time by the arm of the other member. It is understood that, in certain figures, this may be flexible; but not throughout the duration of the dance.
  • All movements must be made within the space allowed by the embrace between the members of the couple.
  • The Jury will take into account the couple’s musicality and walking style as fundamental to the score.
  • Within these observation parameters, the couple may carry out all the popular figures, including barridas (sweeps), sacadas al piso (drawn to the floor), enrosques (twists), etc.
  • All other figures typical of stage tango such as ganchos (hooks), saltos (jumps) and trepadas (climbs) are completely excluded.
  • Couples, as in a dance hall, must constantly move counterclockwise, and may not stay in the same point of the choreographic space as this would obstruct the movement of the other dancers in the dance floor.
  • None of the members of the couple may lift his/her legs beyond the line of the knees.

This evaluation of Tango Nuevo as conforming to the standards for dancing in the milonga (Tango de Salon), and its relationship to Tango Estilo del Barrio will be addressed by examining video recordings of demonstrations by recognized representatives of Tango Nuevo and Tango Estilo del Barrio (the latter also identified by their association with the advertising label ‘Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza’). Demonstrations using the same music will be compared to identify similarities and differences. Since Tango Estilo del Barrio is represented by two distinct generations, representatives of both generations will be used in these comparisons whenever possible. This will allow the evaluation of whether younger contemporary dancers employing the label ‘Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza’ are continuing the traditions of the previous generation or, similar to Tango Nuevo, represent a new evolutionary development.

Comparison of Recorded Demonstrations

(1) Carlos Di Sarli: Bahia Blanca

(a) Alberto & Ester

Alberto & Ester are representatives of Tango Estilo del Barrio as danced in Villa Urquiza during the 1950s. This video is from Ney Melo’s YouTube ‘Origins of Villa Urquiza Style’ collection. The demonstration was at the milonga Glorias Argentinas in the outer (southwestern) barrio of Mataderos. Alberto’s dance displays many movements characteristic of Tango Estilo del Barrio – low sacadas, barridas, the sandwich, enrosques with dibujos, as well as other commonly used embellishments such as toe taps and amagues – used to decorate forward ocho series and giros. In contrast to Alberto, Ester’s dance contains fewer decorative elements. Both dancers keep their feet close to the floor. Despite its richness in movement using decorative elements, much of the dance consists of walking and pausing, sometimes progressing to the cruzada, sometimes just stopping with feet collected. Since the camera focuses most of the time on the feet, it is not possible to evaluate the constant and changing aspects of the embrace in detail, although where it can be seen it moves from a loose closed embrace (with Ester placing her left hand on Alberto’s upper right arm and Alberto holding Ester with his right hand to the left of her midline near the left shoulder blade) to a more extended hold during forward ochos and turns.

(b) Fabian Salas & Carolina del Rivero

Fabian Salas is considered to be one of the early architects of the Tango Nuevo Style (Tango Nuevo: Definition of the Dance). In this demonstration, obviously a stage exhibition, Fabian starts the dance with a blind backward-moving off-axis sweeping turn before even settling into the embrace with Carolina. This is followed in rapid succession by numerous back sacadas, sacadas of the woman to the man, numerous swinging colgadas, ganchos and enganches, and high boleos in various directions, several lifts and jumps (saltadas), at least one volcada, and several partial (one hand) and complete separations of the partners in turning sequences. Except for a short forward ocho series and some short giro sequences, the demonstration has almost no characteristics of Tango de Salon. In contrast to the walking, collecting and pausing that forms the foundation of Alberto & Ester’s dance, Fabian & Carolina’s exhibition has few pauses, instead being a dance in almost constant motion. In general, Fabian & Carolina’s dance pays little attention to the rhythm and phrasing of the music; there are too many steps (weight changes) for the tempo of the music. With respect to their physical connection, throughout the dance Fabian and Carolina are shifting around at arm’s length, mostly laterally but even vertically, letting go with one hand several times during underarm turns and completely breaking contact several times during spins. With respect to the movements used, it is a mostly a demonstration of the numerous elements that have been added to the tango repertoire during the evolution of Tango Nuevo rather than a representative of whatever evolutionary origins this style of dancing has.

(2) Carlos Di Sarli: Indio Manso

(a) Gerardo Portalea & Susanna

Gerardo Portalea was a highly regarded dancer of the style of tango often labeled as ‘Estilo Villa Urquiza’. Alberto’s relatively simple dance is characterized by an alternation of walking (often to the cruzada) and pausing at collection points. He frequently uses the vai-ven. He leads Susanna through forward and back ochos and some limited giros. Susanna uses embellishments sparingly. Both Gerardo and Susanna keep their feet close to the floor. There are no off axis movements. As much as can be seen of the embrace, it moves from a loose closed position (Gerardo extends his arm only to Susana’s midline and Susanna keeps her arm loosely on Gerardo’s right shoulder) to a slightly opened position (about 10-15 cm) for forward ochos, turns, and outside partner left movements.

(b) Gustavo Naveira & Giselle Anne

Gustavo and Giselle’s dance is characterized by a constantly changing embrace, from closed to open to a one-arm only hold to complete separation with no contact in the partnership. There is some pausing in the dance that is connected to the changing tempo of the music, and the dance is connected to the rhythm most of the time, but there is much more fluidity than in Gerardo & Susanna’s dance. Gustavo uses numerous sacadas, including displacements at the level of the thigh, which typically lead Giselle to high boleos; thus, there are numerous instances where Giselle lifts her feet high off the floor. Gustavo employs the barrida, sandwich, some enrosques, and close to the ground embellishments that are characteristic of Tango Estilo del Barrio. However, there are also several ganchos and enganches in their dance, a few off axis movements, an underarm turn, and an ending corte and quebrada, all of which are not part of the movement repertoire of Tango Estilo del Barrio, or of Tango de Salon in any of its stylistic manifestations.

(3) Juan D’Arienzo: Amarras

(a) Jorge Dispari & Maria del Carmen

Jorge Dispari and Maria del Carmen (Bio) are one of a few couples dancing and teaching tango today who learned tango with the Golden Age masters of Tango Estilo del Barrio who danced in Villa Urquiza. Their dance is classic Tango Estilo del Barrio, with its smooth walking in parallel and crossed feet, punctuated by the cruzada or a pause with weight change with the feet together. There is some use of the side step from the collection point (salida). There are turns, some with enrosques and/or sacadas, some interrupted by a foot block (parada). Even though the music has a driving energetic rhythm characteristic of D’Arienso, there is frequent pausing. At points of pausing, there is liberal use of decorative foot movements on the floor. The embrace is mostly closed, although with a loose hold – Jorge has his right hand on the left side of Maria’s midline, held slightly above the waist and Maria holds her left hand on Jorge’s right shoulder blade. In some of the turns there is visible separation of the embrace, although in others there appears to be little or no separation. Their posture remains upright (no off axis movement) throughout the demonstration.

(b) Javier Rodriguez & Andrea Misse (first 3:50)

Javier Rodriguez and Andrea Misse are one of the more prominent contemporary younger couples teaching under the label of ‘Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza’. Their demonstration contains many elements of Tango de Salon, such as a considerable amount of walking in parallel and crossed feet, giros with sacadas and foot stops (paradas). However, there is considerably less pausing than used by the older representatives of Tango Estilo del Barrio represented here; at times, the dance is rushed. Both Javier and Andrea use some embellishments with the feet close to the ground, but Andrea’s decoration is nearly constant and rapid, unlike the low key embellishments used by Maria del Carmen. The embrace is also different from the ancestral style. Throughout the dance Javier maintains a tight hold with his hand clasped on Andrea’s right shoulder blade, which is more characteristic of Tango Estilo Milonguero. On the other hand, Andrea maintains a constant arm-pinching hold around Javier’s right arm, with her hand on his lower back, a style which is somewhat popular among younger women in the milongas of Buenos Aires today. Andrea also frequently uses a ‘tap hammer’ walk, consisting of bending the leg above the knee and rapidly dropping it forward onto the floor in her forward walks. This walk is also used by some younger women in Buenos Aires milongas, usually with less elevation. Neither the ‘arm-pinch’ embrace nor the ‘tap-hammer’ walk is characteristic of Golden Age Tango Estilo del Barrio. However, the greatest deviation from Tango de Salon in this demonstration is that Andrea frequently lifts her legs high off the floor in her boleos. Thus, although there are numerous elements of Tango Estilo del Barrio in this demonstration, and it lacks the flexible constantly shifting ‘embrace’, off axis movements and leg-wrapping ganchos and enganches of Tango Nuevo, it is significantly different from the classic so-called ‘Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza’ whose name it uses so that perhaps it needs a different appellation.

(c) Pablo Inza & Moira Castellano

Pablo and Moira are recognized dancers of the Tango Nuevo style. This demonstration provides a good example of the shifting connection between partners characteristic of Tango Nuevo. Pablo and Moira start with a closed embrace, with Moira draping her left arm high over Pablo’s shoulder, reaching below his left shoulder blade, although later she has the same high reach over the shoulder but with her left arm above Pablo’s shoulder blade. At some points she drops her left arm to the arm-pinching hold lower on Pablo’s back on the right side. In the closed embrace Moira shifts from a direct frontal orientation to offset to the right. All of these variations are seen in the milongas of Buenos Aires, although the shifting from one variant of closed embrace to another within a dance is rare if close to non-existent. However, this dance moves from variations on the closed embrace to various opened orientations between partners, including a canyengue like side-by-side walk and even a close resemblance to the ‘al reves’ position which is used in Tango Escenario. There is also use of the planeo, which is characteristic of Tango Escenario. Although there are some elements of Tango Estilo del Barrio in the walking and even rocking movements that occur throughout the dance, as well as a socially acceptable barrida, there are many movements such as high boleos in various directions, rapid space consuming calesitas, ganchos and volcadas that are inconsistent with the repertoire of Tango Estilo del Barrio (and thus Tango de Salon in general).

(4) Francisco Canaro: Poema

(a) Carlos Perez & Rosa Forte

Carlos first learned tango during the 1950s with some of the milongueros active in the barrio of Villa Urquiza. He and Rosa currently teach classes at Sunderland Club in Villa Urquiza. In this demonstration, Carlos & Rosa have the characteristic looser hold of Tango Estilo de Barrio, with Carlos placing his right hand on Rosa’s left shoulder blade and Rosa placing her left hand on Carlos’s right shoulder blade. Rosa has an upright posture, but Carlos has a forward lean that is more characteristic of Tango Estilo Milonguero. Their dance begins with walking and collecting with weight changes characteristic of Tango Estilo del Barrio. There are alternating inside – outside partner caminadas and corridas, mostly linear but some circular, with frequent alternation between parallel and crossed feet systems. There is a series of Carlos walking backwards with ochos and Rosa forward with ochos that both decorate. In the few turns they execute, they do not separate from the closed embrace. Their rhythmic interpretation of Poema has more in common with that of Ricardo Vidort – typical ‘milonguero style’ – than it does with other demonstrations classified as ‘Tango Villa Urquiza’ in this post. However, there is a video of another Carlos and Rosa demonstration (to La Cumparsita) that is more in the classic ‘Villa Urquiza’ style (Tango Estilo del Barrio). Nevertheless, except for a stray high boleo on the first turn, this dance is classic Tango de Salon.

(b) Fabian Peralta & Natacha Poberaj

Fabian & Natacha are younger dancers who were finalists in the Tango de Salon division of the Campeonato Mundial de Tango in 2006. They have been identified as representing ‘Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza’. Their demonstration has many elements of Tango Estilo del Barrio – a considerable amount of walking in parallel in crossed feet inside and outside partner, occasionally to the cruzada, some corridas, some pauses, some rocking steps, plus forward ochos and giros with sacadas and paradas. There is an ocho cortado (1:10) that was not a characteristic of traditional Tango Estilo del Barrio, but rather of Tango Estilo Milonguero. The embrace is also standard Tango Milonguero throughout, with Fabian maintaining his hand on Natacha’s right shoulder blade and Natcha reaching over Fabian’s shoulder to grasp his left shoulder blade. Natacha uses some subtle embellishments during pauses. All of this is characteristic of Tango Estilo del Barrio. Elements of their dance that are not characteristic of Tango Estilo del Barrio are Fabian’s rapid foot movements, both as embellishments and in weight changes both in place and shifting position slightly. Also, Natacha lifts her feet above the knee in a walking series and there is a ‘tap hammer’ forward walk and a stray high boleo near the end of the demonstration.

(c) Mariano ‘Chicho’ Frumboli & Eugenia Parrilla

Chicho & Eugenia are recognized as representatives of Tango Nuevo. This dance has many characteristics of Tango Estilo del Barrio – caminadas and corridas, an occasional cruzada, rock steps, forward and back ochos, giros, sacadas, barridas, and paradas. There are some simple adornments close to the floor that are characteristic of Tango Estilo del Barrio, both while pausing and while walking. A closed embrace with a constant hold appears to be maintained throughout, mostly with Eugenia offset to Chicho’s right side with her head facing inward; Chicho holds Eugenia with his right hand on her right shoulder blade and she reaches over his shoulder with her left arm to grasp his left shoulder blade. There is some lateral shifting of the embrace maintained in the closed position, but except for the walk in the promenade position that is more characteristic of canyengue, each position in the embrace is within the range of variation of Tango de Salon, although lateral shifting, except for moving into and out of the outside partner left position, is uncharacteristic of Tango de Salon. Although this demonstration has many elements of Tango de Salon, some Tango Nuevo movements are used in the dance, particularly volcadas and a few back sacadas. Eugenia also occasionally violates Tango de Salon etiquette in lifting her feet high off the floor in walking (‘tap hammer’ forward walk) and in high boleos.

(5) Osvaldo Pugliese: Gallo Ciego

(a) Puppy Castello & Luciana Valle

Puppy Castello is not typically associated with the ‘Villa Urquiza Style’ by contemporary promoters using this label, but his style of tango has many characteristics of the Tango Estilo del Barrio which evolved in the outer barrios of Buenos Aires during the Golden Age. Luciana Valle is a tango instructor with an identified association with Tango Nuevo. This demonstration has many characteristics of Tango Estilo del Barrio – sequences with forward ochos or giros incorporating sacadas, dibujos, and paradas and some pauses in movement that complement the changing tempo of the music. However, there are some elements of Tango Escenario – ganchos, high boleos, planeos, and an extended calesita with an off-axis puente. The embrace is flexible both frontally and laterally. In some respects this demonstration of a dancer from the classic tango era of the 1950s is closer to Tango Escenario than it is to Tango Estilo del Barrio.

(b) Octavio Fernandez & Samantha Dispari

Samantha Dispari is the daughter of Jorge Dispari and Maria del Carmen. Her current tango partner is Octavio Fernandez. This young couple has been classified as representing ‘Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza’ (Tango Estilo del Barrio). This demonstration was at the opening milonga of “la escuela de tango de salón con estilo villa urquiza” in Brussels. The basic structure of the dance is walking – to a cruzada or feet collected with a weight change – plus giros with enrosques and dibujos, sacadas, and paradas – which is a common basic structure in Tango Estilo del Barrio. The embrace is maintained mostly in the closed position, opening for turns. When in the closed position, Octavio reaches to Samantha’s right shoulder blade for connection, which is characteristic of Tango Estilo Milonguero. Samantha maintains the currently fashionable ‘pinch-arm’ hold connecting below Octavio’s right shoulder blade during most of the time the embrace is closed. There are some aspects of the dance that are uncharacteristic of the Tango Estilo del Barrio danced in Villa Urquiza in the 1950s. Some of the sacadas are too deep to be considered appropriate for the milonga dance floor. The side step used in initiating the salida is also too long for the milonga dance floor. Samantha’s high kicks are also a violation of milonga codes. Octavio at times races ahead of the tempo of the music. Thus, this exhibition represents a mix of styles, although when compared to the demonstrations by Javier & Andrea and Fabian & Natacha referenced here, it shares common characteristics of this contemporay style of tango that is labeled as ‘Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza’.

(c) Sebastian Arce & Mariana Montes

Sebastian and Mariana are academically trained dancers (various genres including ballet, Argentine folk, and jazz) who are recognized as representing Tango Nuevo, although they also have had a long association with Tango Escenario. Their professional dance training and Tango Escenario background is apparent in this exhibition. The technique is highly refined – excellent balance, coordination and timing of the movements with the music. However, the performance appears to be choreographed rather than improvised. There are elements of Tango de Salon (mostly Tango Estilo del Barrio) in elegant walking, and giros with sacadas, enrosques, dibujos, and paradas. There are some subtle adornments close to the ground that are also characteristic of Tango de Salon. However, more characteristic of Tango Escenario are rapid movements (very fast turns and foot movements in general) in some parts of the dance. The high boleos, although characteristic of Tango Nuevo (and the younger generation of dancers represented by the label ‘Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza’), are rooted evolutionarily in Tango Escenario, although Tango Nuevo has expanded the use of high boleos in new directions (e.g., linear boleos) which are demonstrated to a limited degree here. Sebastian and Mariana also employ other numerous elements that have been developed in the evolutionary school associated with Tango Nuevo – back sacadas, colgadas, and a volcada. There are also ganchos that have a long history in tango but which have for many decades been associated and popularized by Tango Escenario. This exhibition is better classified as Tango Escenario with Tango Nuevo elements, but it clearly not Tango de Salon.

Overall Evaluation

(1) Tango Nuevo as the Evolutionary Descendant of Tango Estilo del Barrio

There is much in the vocabulary of Tango Nuevo that can trace its origins to Tango Estilo del Barrio – giros with sacadas and paradas, barridas, adornments on the floor. What is lost in the evolutionary transfer of traits from Tango Estilo del Barrio is the musicality – the measured walking and collection and pausing. The Tango Nuevo style is often portrayed in seemingly perpetual motion, at times disconnected from the rhythm or phrasing of the music.

Tango Nuevo has adopted some movements that are more characteristic of Tango Escenario – ganchos, high boleos, large calesitas, planeos, jumps, and rapid movements in general. To a limited degree Tango Nuevo has also incorporated underarm turns, which are characteristic of other social dances such as swing and salsa.

Tango Nuevo has also developed some movements that are new in the evolution of tango – volcadas, colgadas, back sacadas, linear boleos, etc. Also, Tango Nuevo, more than any other style of tango, uses a wide variation in the connection between partners during a dance, from a closed embrace, to dancing in various degrees of open extension, to one arm holds, to a complete break in body contact.

With regard to whether Tango Nuevo meets the criteria for being classified as Tango de Salon, the ultimate test is the examination of Tango Nuevo danced within the milonga setting, which is beyond the scope of this post. However, it should be noted that Tango Nuevo does not meet the Campeonato Mundial de Tango criteria for Tango de Salon in its utilization of stage moves such as ganchos and (in some cases) jumps, in the complete separation of partners in the dance, and in the lifting of the feet above the level of the knee. All of these elements of Tango Nuevo are potential dangers to other dancers at a milonga. Whether a subset of movements developed in the evolution of Tango Nuevo can be utilized on the pista at a milonga and still respect the space of other dancers remains to be demonstrated or, the question may be asked that if so many elements of Tango Nuevo are deleted from this style of dancing tango, at what point does it cease to be Tango Nuevo?

(2) Is contemporary ‘Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza’ an evolutionary descendant of Tango Estilo del Barrio?

Stated more specifically, this question addresses the issue of whether the younger generation of dancers using the label ‘Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza’ is dancing in a manner similar to their presumed cultural origins, i.e., Tango Estilo del Barrio.

There are definitely many classic elements of Tango Estilo del Barrio in the demonstrations of the younger generation of dancers referenced here. Included are long walking sequences in parallel and crossed feet, sometimes leading to the cruzada, conducted in a closed embrace; however, the closed embrace is typically more similar to Tango Estilo Milonguero than to the Tango Estilo del Barrio of the 1950s. The embrace is opened for giros, adding sacadas, enrosques, dibujos and paradas to giros, and adornments close to the floor, all of which are characteristic of classic Tango Estilo del Barrio from the 1950s. However the younger generation of ‘Estilo Villa Urquiza’ dancers are also using elements that transgress milonga codes and the Campeonato Mundial criteria for Tango de Salon – in particular high boleos and the foot raising forward ‘tap hammer’ walk – whose origin can be traced to Tango Escenario. Also, the more rapid movements used are uncharacteristic of the measured walking and collection of Tango Estilo del Barrio but more typical of Tango Escenario. Absent in the contemporary ‘Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza’ are off-axis movements and breaking the hold of both arms around the partner that are evolutionary developments in Tango Nuevo. Thus, the so-called ‘Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza’, as demonstrated here, has characteristics which differentiate it from the Tango Estilo del Barrio danced in the barrio of Villa Urquiza during the Golden Age, even though the name ‘Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza’ was selected as a reference to the ancestral style of tango danced in Villa Urquiza milongas in the Golden Age. It has already been noted that neither ‘Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza’ (nor its ancestral Tango Estilo del Barrio) are prominent in the milongas of Buenos Aires today.

Conclusion

Tango has evolved along various lines of development since the 1950s. Two evolutionary descendents of Tango Estilo del Barrio, the tango danced in the milongas of the outer barrios of Buenos Aires during the last decade of the Golden Age, are examined here.

Tango Nuevo has borrowed some elements from this classic version of Tango de Salon but has modified the embrace considerably and has changed the musicality. In adding elements from Tango Escenario and developing similar space consuming movements it has migrated away from Tango de Salon and become in violation of codes of dance behavior at a milonga concerned with respecting the space of other dancers on the pista.

The new evolutionary line utilizing the label ‘Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza’ retains the basic structure of Tango Estilo del Barrio – a significant amount of walking interspersed with turns, as well as associated changes from a closed to a slightly opened embrace. However, the closed embrace is tighter and more characteristic of Tango Estilo Milonguero than Tango Estilo del Barrio. Elements of Tango Escenario such as high boleos and the tap-hammer walk have also been added to the basic Tango Estilo del Barrio structure. In addition the musicality has been altered to some degree by the inclusion of rapid movements. However, the so-called ‘Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza’ does not explore the ranges of partner connection and disconnection used by Tango Nuevo, nor does it venture into off-axis movements. Rather than being exclusively a linear evolutionary derivative of Tango Estilo del Barrio, it appears to be a hybrid of this ancestral form, mixed with elements of Tango Escenario and Tango Milonguero, but not borrowing from Tango Nuevo independently of these other influences.

In contemporary tango in Buenos Aires the classic Tango Estilo del Barrio of the 1950s exists to a limited degree through promotion by an older generation of dancers such as Jorge Dispari & Maria el Carmen and Carlos Perez & Rosa Forte; it is not present to a significant degree in the milongas, at least to the degree of development demonstrated by these dancers here. In the tango marketplace, the two recently evolved tango styles – ‘Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza’ and Tango Nuevo – are actively competing (along with ‘Tango Estilo Milonguero’) for market share in the tango tourist circuit in Buenos Aires and as brand names utilized in the exportation of tango.

In the milongas of Buenos Aires, porteños are dancing a range of variation of Tango de Salon that most commonly resembles some variation of what has been marketed as ‘Tango Estilo Milonguero’. However, experienced dancers have developed their own style of tango that is largely independent of marketing and labeling trends (Tango Milonguero: Improvised Expression of Music through Movement in a Shared Embrace) (Milongueros Dancing Tango in the Milongas of Buenos Aires).

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14 Responses to Is Tango Nuevo the Evolutionary Descendent of Tango Estilo del Barrio (Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza)?

  1. TP says:

    Javier and Andrea are not teaching “under the label of ‘Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza’”. They always say that they are teaching tango de salon.

    • tangovoice says:

      That’s interesting. Javier & Andrea are certainly repeatedly identified as representing ‘Villa Urquiza style tango’. Perhaps this should have been worded differently, such as “Javier Rodriguez and Andrea Misse are one of the more prominent contemporary younger couples teaching tango who are classified under the label of ‘Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza’”. That corrected statement is supported by repeated references to their style of dancing:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argentine_tango

      “Dancers who are currently leading the wave of Villa Urquiza Style tango are … Javier Rodriguez and Andrea Misse” (included in list among others)

      http://www.neymelo.com/javierrodriguez.htm

      “Javier Rodriguez .. and his new partner, Andrea Misse, are now one of the top tango couples in the world and are attracting worldwide attention to the elegance and beauty of the Villa Urquiza style of tango.”

      http://www.sydneytango.com.au/WebModules/Forum/ShowThread.aspx?ID=3031

      “Javier and Andrea are two of the most distinguished and famous top level dancers of the new generation in traditional Tango. Their style is described as Villa Urquiza…”

      Their blog (http://javieryandrea.blogspot.com/) is not useful for determining their self-identification. It only lists their tours and displays their photographs.

      In any case, Andrea’s high kicks would disqualify them from inclusion in the Tango de Salon category of the Campeonato Mundial de Tango and these and Javier’s large and rapid movements in the video referenced here, as well as other videos of their dancing on YouTube (for example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HFUj0Y_DzE) display dancing that would be menacing to other dancers at a milonga.

      If they claim to teach Tango de Salon, then their demonstrations should show Tango de Salon, without the inclusion of elements that are inappropraite for the milonga dance floor.

  2. jantango says:

    I agree that those who say they teach salon tango should dance salon tango in exhibition rather than including elements inappropriate for the milonga. This is the source of confusion among those who study. Tango is becoming an exhibition dance with choreography. It’s rare to see it danced simply and improvised by anyone under the age of 60.

    I looked back in the issues of El Tangauta and found that “Villa Urquiza style” marketing campaign of Maria del Carmen and Jorge Dispari was launched December 2002. An interview with Geraldin Rojas (her daughter) in Chicago quoted her as saying, “there is no Villa Urquiza style.” [Tangonoticias.com–no longer on the web]

    Your post gave a thorough examination of a hot topic today in tango. Villa Urquiza and Nuevo are competing for the biggest share of the world tango market. My conclusion is there is confusion among the young dancers who do what they are told and copy everybody else. They have no clue about how the music will inspire their dance and focus on technique to look good. There may come a time when milongas will be nothing but a wild dance jam where everyone does whatever they want on the floor to whatever music is played. I just hope that it won’t happen in my lifetime.

  3. TP says:

    Clearly, you don’t understand the difference between performance and social dance. And your article about styles is based on information available on the web. The references that you used are all written by people like you and me, foreigners who started tango not too long ago. As a matter of fact, most of the Argentine dancers I spoke with had never identified themselves dancing certain style, milonguero, Villa Urquezia etcs…All they said was ” I dance tango.”

    Jy A don’t claim that they teach tango de salon, They TEACH tango de salon. If you ever take any class from them, you would know.

    • tangovoice says:

      Instructors at tango workshops do not say ‘This is a performance. Not everything done here will be acceptable on the milonga dance floor.’ One reason there is frequent violation of milonga codes (particularly respect of other dancers’ space) at milongas worldwide (including Buenos Aires) is that instructors do not make this distinction.

      Here are 3 demonstrations given by Javier and Andrea during workshops:

      Some common characteristics of these demonstrations that are contrary to the codes of the milonga (therefore not appropriate Tango de Salon) are:
      – There is no evidence of navigation in their movements.
      – There is no progression as one would in a ronda.
      – There are times when Javier is moving backwards blindly.
      – There is a considerable amount of staying in one place for a relatively long time, sometimes with a excess of embellishments, thus blocking the progression of the ronda.
      – There are numerous times when Andrea kicks high and sometimes wide, which would endanger the safety of other dancers.
      – In Andrea’s arm-pinching hold in the Gallo Ciego demo, her elbow is jutting out far enough to hit (and hurt) other dancers on a crowded floor.

      It is no surprise that high boleos, the tap-hammer walk, and the arm-pinching hold are so prevalent among young women in Buenos Aires milongas. Andrea and other tango instructors are role models for those learning tango today.

      As for instructors saying they are only teaching ‘tango’ (as compared to saying they teach ‘tango de salon’ at other times), this is a cop-out. This blurs the line between Tango de Salon and Tango Escenario (the division recognized by most porteños who are experienced tango dancers). On the other hand, one need only open any issue of El Tangauta or BA Tango or visit instructor websites to see that despite the frequent claims that what is being taught is ‘just tango’, there are many different stylistic labels used for self-identification or, if promoters are using these labels, there is no apparent effort by instructors of ‘just tango’ to stop the promotion of stylistic labels associated with their names.

    • gyb says:

      That certain dancers, with whom you talked to, don’t identify themselves dancing a certain style is only as strong evidence against the existence of styles as arguments from authority usually are.

      It takes related, but separate skills to produce art and to analyze products of art. There is a reason why there is a distinction between, say, artists and art historians/critics. Even very good artists might fail to identify general trends or place their works within categories/styles (for number of reasons, some having to do with preferred self-representation, self-esteem, an elusive sense of artistic freedom, marketing etc.). It is a separate intellectual job to organize efficiently information about their work, and to do it well you don’t necessarily need to be a good artist yourself either (although it certainly helps). What you rather need is a good eye, a wide knowledge of variations, and an ability to follow a methodology which operationalizes differences in these variations in relatively objective terms and tie these differences to differences in causal influences.

      Noone claims that “styles” have a sort of mystical independent existence; everyone acknowledges that there are no two artists or even two works by the same artist which are exactly the same. But this doesn’t mean that products of art can’t be clustered to a few categories in a way that variation within these categories is much smaller than variation between them, the different categories can be distinguished along operationally defined traits, and that the differences in categories can be, to a good extent, traced to differences in the causal (historical, psychological, social etc.) mechanisms leading to the production of the work. And so to criticize a style-categorization you need to argue (not merely state, but point to evidence) that the presence of one of these three elements is not sufficiently established, as opposed to cite opinions of people who might have not had the desire, opportunity, ability etc. to carry out this work themselves. To me it seems that tangovoice does a pretty convincing job at least with delivering the first two elements – for instance pays a lot of attention to characterize the differences in dances in terms of relatively objective terms (maintained close embrace, space conserving movements, posture-differences, rhythm-following, prevalence of pauses etc.) as opposed to throwing in the usual warm-and-fuzzy buzz-words (c.f. the tangovoice post on “organic tango”). To criticize this work you need to criticize the methodology and the arguments which are being put forward, not merely repeat opinions of performers and teachers who, in many cases, arguably have direct financial incentive to mask such differences, and thus can be reasonably suspected to express a biased opinion. (Many of the elder dancers, in my view, just don’t have the opportunity to see how consistent these differences are in different parts of the world.)

      Although this difference didn’t come up explicitly yet, but I’d also like to mention that in many cases it is possible and meaningful to cluster into styles not just individual products of art but also the artists producing them. Merely the fact that gifted artists are able and willing to produce, occasionally, works of art belonging to a different styles is not in itself evidence that their work in general can’t be classified relatively stably. Name your favorite impressionist painter who occasionally painted baroque or neoclassical works when money was in offing. Actually I’m rather surprised that really talented nuevo dancers, such as Chico or Arce, don’t dance more frequently in milonguero style, just to show that they are capable to.

  4. jantango says:

    I’d like to see Chicho Frumboli dancing a simple, social tango as he observed in the milongas when he was learning. He says, in his El Tangauta interview, that he has forgotten the essence of tango in what he has been teaching. So true. He and Sebastian Arce have been doing their thing so long, I doubt they could show us anything different.

    • tangovoice says:

      Gustavo Naveira, one of the founders of the lineage of Nuevo Tango, taught what was labeled as ‘Tango Milonguero’ in Denver last year in September. Homer Ladas, who identifies himself as dancing and teaching ‘Organic Tango’ (heavily laden with colgadas, volcadas, and boleos in every direction) has been teaching at the tango festivals focusing on ‘social tango’ in San Diego and Denver. There are a number of instructors teaching ‘nuevo milonguero’, a supposed addition of elements of Nuevo Tango to Tango Milonguero. The line between social tango and exhibition tango is being blurred worldwide. It’s no wonder people learning tango as getting confused.

    • gyb says:

      If we want to see how they dance social tango, we need to observe their dance in a real milonga setting; drawing inferences from exhibitions is tricky.

      Here is an example video of Chico in a milonga: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14E3HYnRmQA

      May I add as a general historical remark: the problem usually is not with innovative geniuses, who are usually well aware of their limits and context, but with people who follow them by selectively copying and holding onto certain aspects of the novelty they see and by overgeneralizing it to contexts to which the novelty does not properly belong. The question of responsibility is an open one, but I don’t think the blame should fall on those exploring new territories, unless they intentionally misrepresent their background contrast class.

  5. tangovoice says:

    It is not surprising to see that Chicho Frumboli is capable of dancing a reasonable tango de salon. One can assume that most of the architects of modern tango evolution have that ability, but the students of these innovators who selectively copy the milonga inappropriate moves of their teachers share the blame for violation of milonga codes with the instructors who fail to make the distinction between social tango and exhibition tango. Why are any of the space consuming – direction unpredictable aspects of tango nuevo taught at all if they are inappropriate for the milonga? For academic interest? To prepare the students for the stage? Certainly the students are looking for moves to use at their version of a milonga.

    • gyb says:

      I have not defended the practice of instructors to misrepresent what is socially appropriate, and I’m not debating that neglect of this aspect actually leads to a transformation of what is regarded as socially appropriate into a direction which is reasonably worrisome for those who mainly got seduced by the tango music and by the connection.

      If I had the time, knowledge, and resources to research and write about the development of contemporary tango I would focus my attention on the interconnection of incentives and interests that bring about these changes. (i.e.) There are several “tragedy of commons” type incentive feedback circles at work. I think it is futile, and indeed counterproductive, to try to break these circles by appealing to moral judgment and to try resolving the tension between social and exhibition tango by putting blame on those whose predominance is also merely a product of such a system of incentives. Blame, name-calling, bad-mouthing etc. are also social forces, but they are not particularly effective, and frequently alienate people who otherwise would be receptive to a cause. What is needed is first a careful, non-normative analysis of how these mechanisms work, which can then be followed by an attempt to change some elements of this mechanism in such a way to produce the desired change in the outcome, which is still going to be the product of the interaction of people who follow their own interests in the new setting. (I regard what you are doing as a preliminary step to the exploration of these mechanisms, namely as a step towards establishing that there are recognizable differences produced by the different social environments in the first place.)

      No, I don’t have the recipe either, but neither do I have the evidence-based knowledge, which should come first.

  6. tangovoice says:

    One solution to the conflict between tango de salon and tango nuevo within a tango community is to provide separate venues for each, as is done in Buenos Aires. Those interested in tango de salon are not advised to dance at Villa Malcolm or Practica X, and those motivated by tango nuevo would be considered disruptive at El Beso or Lo de Celia. However, within many tango communities in North America it is considered anti-social and even arrogant to advertise that a particular milonga will follow the codes of behavior of traditional milongas in Buenos Aires. The root of this problem is to consider tango de salon and tango nuevo as both representing ‘just tango’ or saying that ‘there is only one tango’ and by argument concluding that the two are compatible when in fact they are likely to be in conflict sharing the same pista. Mutual compatibility can only be achieved through respect of each other’s environmental needs, the only logical result being separate and clearly identified venues for each genre of tango. Then, if one goes to a milonga designed for tango de salon, one would be expected to follow the traditional milonga codes (https://tangovoice.wordpress.com/2009/12/13/codes-and-customs-of-the-milongas-of-buenos-aires-the-basics/) and if one goes to a tango nuevo dance event, one would expect to encounter spacious movements, possibly the absence of a ronda, and perhaps people utilizing movements associated with tango in the presence of non-tango music.

  7. El Polaco says:

    Really great work and analysis. I didn’t watch all of them as there’s so much but this is a very good resource. Here are my observations.

    1. Some of these ‘famous’ dancers make absolute fools of themselves. Chicho’s dancing to poema is just said, whereas Javier Rodrigues is the weirdest looking dancer on the planet. I had no idea that tango could be danced like ballet. I don’t recognise anything this guy does as having anything to do with tango. You’re being way too generous. Am I the only one to think that his dancing just looks weird? It would look ok as ballet (perhaps ‘tango ballet’?) really ‘up’, but completely wrong for tango. Unless I guess it’s some sort of an ‘evolution’.

    2. Even when their dancing sort of fits the music, the choreography is wrong. I haven’t really read this but my understanding is that choreography should generally follow a theme-variation pattern, much as music does. So a piece of music establishes a pattern and then there is a bridge and some variations. There are no variations without establishing the main theme, as variations are supposed to *contrast* with the regular theme. This is standard for most if not all modern music.

    Now theme is established through *repetition*. So milongueros establish a walk or some sort of a repetative pattern, and then once that’s established they do some variations. Turns and sacadas are generally viewed as variations. Variations are generally viewed as ‘cash moves’.

    The show dancers break basic rules by going for cash moves from the get go. They even try to make the salida a cash move by getting really pumped up. Since they raise the bench-mark really high by pumping themselves up at the start when they get to the variation they need to be in total over-drive.

    Nuevo dancers are even worse since they start shooting out cash moves, all the sacadas, ganchos, etc etc, everything in their arsenal, to the point where (a) looking at them is exhausting, (b) their dance ends up looking cool but sort of ‘flat’ as there is no real variation (it’s all great), (c) they dance ‘too big’ for most tango music, eg., tracks like Poema, and only really look any good dancing to Piazzolla, and (d) you see their cash moves so many times you get sick of seeing them.

    I guess that’s what it takes to fill up those workshops with unsuspecting newbes who will torture the rest of us with those moves at milongas, which brings me to the final point:

    3. Thank you for identifying two of the most horrendous dance killers for me: the tap hammer walk and the arm-pinching hold. These should be made illegal. That this sort of thing should come to pass … speechless.

  8. El Polaco says:

    Having watched Javier Rodriguez I think I figured out why he doesn’t look like a tango dancer but like a ballet dancer. If you look at how he keeps his legs straight and his back is arched back, that is completely wrong for tango.

    While that looks very ‘show’, or very ‘money’, which is why he does it, it means that his dancing has absolutely no rhythm. His milongas for example don’t look like milongas at all.

    The woman has to be really good to follow this guy as he only moves her horizontally (hence smoothly) without any rhythmic movement that she can feel, or if she feels anything it’s not very clear, hence no good for milonga.

    Basically, for rhythm you need to drop into the hips and knees, and your tailbone under, ie., not ballet, rather funk. In this respect I agree eg., with the YouTuber DrDanceRight, need a ‘triagle’ for rhythm.

    Generally, show dancers of whatever ‘style’, and Nuevo dancers, have in common the lack of rhythm, because they think that to look good in tango they have to have this sort of weird posture: straight legs, tailbone to the back, really rounded back, and avoid vertical dropping.

    But look at this very good milonguero couple from Japan who spent time living in Bs As (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZrKT8Xzd_w). Tailbone is under, the guy leads rhythm vertically downwards by dropping into his hips and knees.

    When you try to keep your knees locked like Rodriquez you won’t have rhythm in your dancing. Notice, eg., how he keeps cadencia by moving his feet only. That looks totally wrong to me, no grounding, no rhythm, no lead.

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