Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tango ~ To Love In Dance..

South America is one of the most fascinating continents on Earth. It is the land of the Mayan and the Incan civilisations - two of the greatest epochs in the history of mankind. The face of this glorious land was transfigured beyond recognition by the end of the 15th Century, due to the voyages of Christopher Columbus which were funded by Queen Isabella I of Spain. It paved way for the invasion of the New World by the Spanish conquistadores and their subsequent colonisation, having far-reaching implications in the multi-faceted culture of this beautiful continent. The arrogance, the madness and the folly of the Spanish colonisers have been meticulously captured in the epic movie Aguirre, the Wrath of God by Werner Herzog, with Herzog's fiend Klaus Kinski giving an immortal performance. The Spanish conquest of indigenous peoples of the Americas resulted in exploitation of the natives who were converted into forced labour. Along with the colonisers came their dreadful diseases, most importantly small pox. It wiped out a vast majority of the natives leading to a massive labour shortage for the colonisers to cultivate their plantations. Consequently, the Spanish colonisers got involved in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.    

The innocent villagers from the West and Central Africa were violently captured, kidnapped and shipped to the New World, comprising of both the North and South Americas. Out there in the wilderness of both the Americas, the African villagers, who had by then become slaves, were sold as forced labourers to work in the plantations and mines of the European colonisers. Alex Haley's captivating novel Roots : The Saga of an American Family gives a profound glimpse on the history of Blacks in America. Alex Haley has colourfully fictionalised his journey to discover his genealogical roots upto his seventh generation ancestor Kunta Kinte, who was captured in Gambia and shipped to America in 1767. The slave trade flourished from the 16th to the 19th centuries, during which about 1.2 crores of Africans arrived in the New World, excluding the substantial number of people who died onboard the ships due to varied fatalities that happened during enslavement. Maafa is the term given by the Black scholars to denote the slave trade primarily of African people. In Swahili, it means the African Holocaust or the Holocaust of Enslavement.

The history of the last five centuries of both North and South Americas is a blood-soaked palimpsest. It is drenched with the blood and sweat of two different streams of highly respectable and culturally sophisticated human beings. On the one side, it comprised of the millions of native Americans of various indigenous origins including the Aztecs, the Mayans and the Incans. And on the other side, it constituted more than 12 million Africans of varied ethnicities originating from Western and Central Africa. When these diverse communities started communicating with each other, with the mediation of European Modernity, newer forms of artistic expressions emerged on the horizon. From the turn of the 19th century, there was a creative effulgence across South and North Americas in all the domains of art : music, dance and literature. And one such creative zenith was accomplished by modern civilisation with the emergence of a dance form called Tango.

Tango is a modern dance form which originated in the middle of the 19th century in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. It is said to have been shaped by the dance rituals of Candomble cult, which emerged from the synthesis of some of the native Brazilian religions with the Yoruba religion of the African diaspora from Nigeria. During the Candomble ceremony, the Supreme Being called as Olorun sends the venerated spirit of the ancestors called Orixa, embedded in the anima or the soul of Nature. The Orixa would possess those who participate in the dance ritual, make them go into a trance and heal their souls. During the 19th century, the Candomble was banned by the Catholic Church and was even criminalised by some governments. No wonder, artistic creativity has always been an anathema for any organised religion and the modern nation-state.

Tango is a social dance which has its roots in the working-class slums of Buenos Aires. The music of Tango is derived from the fusion of various genres of music from Europe. To Tango is to walk with a partner in music. Tango is essentially to dance with one's partner with a rhythm in the body movement from head to toe. It is a silent conversation between the two bodies in unison. Tango happens when the eyes and the bodies speak to each other. Without any word or sound. The basic elements of Tango are : the embrace, the walk and the music. The styles of the Tango are varied from place to place. But the underlying themes of any good Tango are its playfulness and musicality. The axes of two bodies merge into one another as they dance in love. It is the most intimate artistic expression which depicts the yearning for communion between two bodies, mind and soul. When two beings who are intimately in love starts to Tango, the ancestors would appear on the sky to watch it with joy. The spirit of the  Orixa would be beckoned by the God Olorun to bless the loving souls to confluence with each other..

(You Tube shared above : A Tango composition from one of the greatest 100 movies of 20th Century, as per my rating : Tango, directed by the Spanish director Carlos Saura in 1998. The cinematography is by Vittorio Storaro, a master in the art of capturing shadow and light.)


  1. I never knew the interesting background of Tango dance till I read your blog. It is an enriching experience. Culture and art cannot be suppressed by anyone. After reading, it makes me feel that I should learn this dance.

    But it takes two to tango, they say!

  2. Interesting blog!

    The history of Tango is amazing to read in the way u've revealed. what u've expressed in words perfectly counterparts with the video.

    The beauty of Tango is when u watch those videos,our minds are attracted towards it without moving the eyes and there is no distraction.Especially that beautiful leg movements are mindblowing!

    "Tango happens when the eyes and the bodies speak to each other" - These lines link with the pair in the video.

    Keep posting these kind of absorbing articles in future.

    Thanks for let me know about the beauty and elegance of Tango dance!

  3. Loosely interpreted Tango could be alignment of frequency of two instruments. Like when a radio set tunes into the frequency of a particular transmitter. So we can have Tangos of all kinds. A Buddha would have tango even with food enjoying and assimilating every subtle taste and texture of the meal while having it in complete silence. Even while walking he would do 'Chalit Dhyana' i.e a kind of tango with the path/nature. KRISHNA would have tango with Gopis with his flute. The physical presence is not necessary. An accompalished GURU would have tango with the conciousness of the student raising it higher and higher through his own. Even in normal day-to-day life we can see many forms of tango. If one, while sitting in a tonga, feels and enjoys the rythmic movement of the horse and its sound, it can be said as tango in a tonga. There are tangos of altohether different kind also. Like in office, when one does the bidding of his boss. Or at home when he makes his better-half as his boss. In these tangos, there is incalculable damage to knees and spine which get bent irreversibly. It is better to avoid them. What say!

  4. Tango is a beautiful dance. U've traced out its origins, giving a deeper perspective to its historical moorings. Good job.

    Pallavi, fly out of Kolkota. Let us travel to South America, learn to Tango & get possessed by Orixa. After dat, u go u'r way & i go mine. Let our memories continue to be blessed by Olorun, as assured by da blogger!

    A word to Pankaj : it seems u'r heart has started to Tango with u'r brain. Da problem is, both r dancing in da void. In da process, as u've rightly confessed, der is an incalculable damage. But it seems to have gone beyond da knees & da spine. Before it becomes completely irreversible, check it out buddy!

  5. red earth and pouring rainMay 17, 2010 at 3:18 PM

    Most of the art forms of the South America are peculiarly more physical and more sensual, compared to 'eastern tradition'. We conceptualise everything to the level of DIVINE starting from classical dance to folk plays. But the Physicality of the South American literature(Marquez) and their dance forms are strikingly different from ours. Are the peculiar historical and cultural factors reason behind the distinctiveness of their expression?.

  6. red earth and pouring rainMay 17, 2010 at 9:59 PM

    The peculiarity of the various art forms in Latin America is that it is sensual and more physical than compared to eastern tradition. Our artists starting from FOLK PLAY to classical forms start with invocation to GOD and artist mostly tries to take the Mundane to the level of Divine. Whereas, Latin American art including Greats like Marquez is known for Physicality. What cultural and Historical factors were/are there in that society for this uniqueness?.

  7. Tango will help heal neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease in a manner that was greater than the same amount of regular exercise. It is said that while dance in general may be beneficial, tango uses several forms of movement especially relevant for Parkinson's disease patients including dynamic balance, turning, initiation of movement, moving at a variety of speeds and walking backward.Dancing tango has been linked to increased heart health, better balance, improved memory, and weight loss.

  8. Brilliant.Especially the last paragraph. You have the knack of expressing vividly whatever you enjoy and appreciate. I particularly loved the line " It is the most intimate artistic expression which depicts the yearning for communion between two bodies mind and soul.."

    Watching Tango gives such a delight that you almost feel being on the floor yourself and getting carried away by the flow. And yes,the musicality and playfulness combined with rhythmic movements and rich footwork make it beautifully sensuous.