back to Tango Tales

  Capítulo Dos p.1
'The Dance Lesson'
This Is The Tango

Song by
Elizardo Martinez Vilas
music by Elias Randal, 1942

"This is how to dance the tango!
Feel the blood
rise to your face
with every beat;
while an arm
winds like a snake
around a waist
that is about to break.
This is how to dance the tango!"

tango couple

The tango is not a dance
but an obsession.
For the tanguero,it's
as much a part of life
as eating and sleeping.
Erotic and passionate, haunting and melancholy,
it involves
not only the body
but also the soul.


"Creator of silouettes that glide by silently
as if hypnotized by a blood-filled dream,
hats tilted over sardonic sneers.
The all-absorbing love of a tyrant,
jealously guarding his dominion
over women who have surrendered submissively,
like obedient beasts...
Sad, severe tango...
Dance of love and death..."
from 'Tango' a poem by
Ricardo Güiraldes, 1911
Our own tanguera, Guadalupe Jolicoeur, recently took her microphone
to a tango evening at the 'Whip Gallery Café' in Vancouver B.C.
Join her in RealAudio as she informally chats with tango luminaries
Carlos Loyola, Susanna Domingues, and other guests on 'Tango Talk'.

tango film
tango film
tango film
  Here Guadalupe shares some of her thoughts on the tango
in english and en español.

"My impression of the tango as a child had a lot to do with my over-all impression of my grandmother. For me the tango was a warm, delightful dance you did in your living room with your grandchildren. It wasn't until much later that I realized the tango was slightly more complex than that. Now as an adult and as a novice student of the dance, the tango has captured my imagination, once again. Learning the tango is perhaps the most frustrating thing I have ever attempted. To be a good dancer you must have an instinct for it. But, to find your "tango instinct" you have to learn all the basic rules.

What I have found most challenging is the timing of the dance. In the tango the woman's movements must always be a fraction of a second off from the man's movements. The woman's movements must seem effortless and precise. All of her "impulses" are actually directions that the man gives her through the subtle movement of his hand which is placed on her back.
All of this seems reasonable enough...until...the man and his personality and the woman and her personality all meet on the dance floor. Then, all hell can break lose and it usually does (at least when you are first learning). It can all be terribly dramatic and explosive.

But, the other night at a weekly tango-dance we have here in Vancouver, I was watching people dancing (Argentines and non-Argentines) and on occasion one dance couple would grab my attention. They weren't the youngest or the handsomest couple on the dance floor. They weren't even the couple with the most "moves" or "pasos". Yet they were the most beautiful to watch. They moved together so perfectly. Their motions were simple--not overly exaggerated or glitzy. Their expressions were concentrated, but not forced. There was a perfect combination of thought and instinct in their dance and I felt exhilarated just watching.

I understood something after watching them through out the night: the tango is beautiful when two people can harness that passion and that drama and include it in the dance. You see, I am still at the point where I let it get in the way of the dance and this couple is beyond that point. The tango takes time, not acrobatic skill or a shiny sequined dress."

Guadalupe Jolicoeur

Guadalupe Jolicoeur
shares some of her thoughts on the tango
en español.

Mi percepción del tango de niña, tuvo mucho que ver con la impresión que tenía de mi abuela. Para mi el tango era un baile envolvente y cálido que se bailaba en la sala de estar con los nietos. No fue hasta mucho tiempo despues que me di cuenta que el tango es un poco mas intricado. Aharo, como adulta y como aprendiz del baile el tango ha capturado mi imaginación nuevamente. Aprender a bailarlo ha sido la cosa mas interesante que he intentado en toda mi vida. Para bailar bien el tango tenés que tener instinto. Pero, para encontrar tu "instinto del tango" tenés que aprender todas las reglas basicos.

Lo que encuentro mas desafiante es el ritmo. En el tango los movimentos de la mujer deben ocurrir una fracción de segundo despues de los del hombre. Los pasos de la mujer son precisos y parecer que fueron realizados sin esfurzo alguno. Todos los "impulsos" de la mujer en realidad son realizados por indicación que el hombre hace atraves de gestos sutiles de la mano derecha que descansa sobre la espalda de la mujer.
Todo esto suena razonable...hasta que...el hombre y su persona confrontados a la mujer y su manera de ser se encuentran en la pista. Y entonces las pasiones desenfrenadas se suelen confrontar, sobre todo cuando uno apenas comienza a aprender a bailar.

La otra noche, en un encuentro semanal de tango en Vancouver, observava las parejas desplasarse en la pista de baile (Argentinos y no-Argentinos), cuando de repente tomé cuenta de una pareja. No eran los mas jovenes ni los mas hermosos en la pista. Ni si quiera eran los que ejecutaban los pasos mas complicados. Sin embargo eran los mas fasinantes para observar. Se movian juntos con tanta perfeccion. Sus movimientos eran simples--no exagerados o relumbrantes. Sus gestos eran concentrados pero no forzados. Había una combinación perfecta de pensamiento e instinto en el baile. Me conmovieron solo con mirarlos.

Entendí algo despues de observarlos durante esa noche: el tango es hermosa cuando dos personas pueden integrar la pasion y el drama en el baile. Yo todavía estoy al punto en que estas cosas se interponen en mi baile. El tango toma tiempo y sentimiento, no talento acrobático ni un vestido despampanante.

Guadalupe Jolicoeur
  Foot Notes:

  1. The poet and writer Ricardo Güiraldes (1887-1927) was the archetypal Buenos Aires playboy - rich, handsome and debonair. He came to Paris in 1910 as part of his grand tour of Europe, and it was he more than anyone who was responsible for championing the tango in the French capital. In 1911 he wrote a famous poem in honour of the dance, and the following year gave a dazzling impromptu performance of tango dancing in front of astonished guests at a fashionable Paris salon. During the First World War Güiraldes published Raucha, a semi-autobiographical novel set in pre-war Paris.