April 2, 2011

tango...can create a space to reflect on power and terror

I just read an amazing book called "Paper Tangos" by Julie Taylor. The place: Argentina. The time: the years 1966-1983, full of political instability, state sponsored terrorism, Dirty Wars, and desaparicidos. Taylor discusses how the tango provides Argentines a free, safe space to think, similar to modern dance therapy. But it is especially effective because the same controversial elements of Argentine culture are present in the dance. By dancing the tango, Argentines can grapple with impossible, forbidden topics such as hierarchy, fear, violence, machismo, authoritarianism. By dancing, they can continue to truly live, shadow of the fear of death.

Here are two selections from that book:

That the world is and always was a mess,
I already know
in the year 506
as well as in 2000....
Just like the unrespectful window
of the pawn shop
all of life has been mixed up...

Twentieth century, pawnshop window
problematic and feverish;
the squeaky wheel gets the grease
and he who doesn't steal is a fool

--from Cambalache, by Enrique Santos Discepolo


dearest, it's that I cannot be there and yet I am there
when bargains are being struck over the price of a life
and exchanging one violence for another
or when you wake up with the fear of a child
when you feel something behind the door
left open as it always has been left open in the dark
it is that not even as an adult can I tell you that behind the door there is nothing at all,
because the worst is that we both know that
just there lies in ambush an obscenely bustling marketplace
where lives and violence and even tranquility are sold
but in such a nightmare carnival
never never can there be an agreement on price
nor can one know with whom one has to make the agreement
much less know if security comes from death or promises of life
or both at once

where are you that I can't tell you?
where are you that I am writing this?
and if you are by my side,
then, where am I sending this letter?

Julie Taylor, from "Paper Tangos" Public Planet books

The last sentence of her book is haunting to me:
What does your dance need? Your tango lacks scream. Dance a tango that screams.


  1. nice.. :D
    followed and $upported! return favour. :)

  2. I have to learn Argentinian Tango at some point.