Intangible Tango?

To dance the Tango is to touch your partner with sensuousness and seduce him/her with elegance: it is a dance I never tire of watching when in the hands (and feet) of expert performers. We’ve loved going to the Tango evenings at Palazzo Bove in San Gennaro (Capannori comune) for some years where an excellent group have treated us to the purest Argentinian form of tango and milonga. This year that event hasn’t happened so far so when Marco Nicoli promised us a tango evening in nearby Fornoli’s Post Office square we seized the chance to go.

The dance-master, from South America, introduced the evening by giving something of the Tango’s history and describing its etiquette. Choosing a partner for the next dance is all a question of eye-contact and head movement; a “cabeceo”, in fact– no formal questions asked here…

The evening’s dancers were all advanced students of the master’s class – of a wide variety of ages, but all enticing with their traditional tango outfits featuring split skirts, baggy trousers, high heels and spats.

The evening presented the sort of tango I like (and can possibly manage) – a social tango without any major choreographic frills. Tango has several variants of which the main ones are Argentinian, Ballroom, Uruguayan and Finnish. It would be tedious to describe the differences between these forms of the duple-time dance born in Buenos Aires’ poor quarters in the 1890’s – they deal with variant balance postures, body contacts (the Finnish variant emphasises pelvic contact, the Argentinian a close upper body embrace), head snaps (largely absent outside ballroom tango) and differently accented rhythmic patterns. But they are all unforgettably Tango in their yearning, sensuous and alchemical mood.

The wonderfully creative point about tango is that it is one of the very few partner-dances where there is no fixed step but where steps or “figures” can be taken in an almost improvisational manner. These include movements like ”caminar”, “cruce”, “ochos”, “ganchos” and “giros”. Look them up…you’ll know them if you enjoy watching tango!

The nice thing about the evening in the square, which became magically transformed from its usual daily destiny as a car-park to resemble an amphitheatre (or even a large courtyard in a Buenos Aires block of flats) where dance, dining and discourse found their place, was that the dance-master and presenter invited the audience to try out the tango on the floor and encouraged us by saying that anyone with a sense of rhythm can do a basic tango and that the “frilly” bits, the high-back kicking, the twirls, the double-steps, the body plunges and all the rest of those highly sexual, provocative but always suave movements can be learnt with time and intuition.

Some of the world’s great composer have written tangos: for instance Albeniz, SatieStravinsky and Ravel. Among them I put Piazzolla at the top for best understanding the spirit of this fabulous dance. Amazingly, Piazzola was born in Argentina from emigrant parents who came from the area next to us – Garfagnana – Massarosa, to be exact, where a statue to him has been very recently inaugurated.

There are many places to learn tango (and other dances) in this part of the valley – Borgo a Mozzano – for example, has an excellent school. At Bagni di Lucca Villa there are evening classes at the local gym where a lovely ex-ballroom-champions couple can transform one’s feet from lead to quicksilver.

The chances of a specific Tango dancing centre in Fornoli substantially rose that evening. And don’t forget: in 2009 tango was declared by UNESCO as a world “intangible heritage”. Intangible tango?

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