Published August 4th 2016
Last time I wrote a blog trying to highlight issues arising from peoples attitudes surrounding “traditional” tango music and if this is limiting the appeal of the dance. This time around I’m going to try and look at this same issue from the other side. I’m going to explore why people may have issues with “Nuevo/Alternative” music. I should point out this isn’t about the music but more about what people’s perception is. I will not consider the point of view that some seem to have that tango music written after 1950 is inferior to that written before and is not worth listening to or dancing. This absolutist view is not logical, invalid and is pointless to argue against.
The first point I would like to make is the same as in my last blog: terminology. As I said before the terms “golden-age” and “traditional” installs imagery and reverence in the minds of those dancing, I think the word “Nuevo” and “Alternative” have similar psychological effects. Let me first deal with this word “alternative”. This term implies that it differs from the norm, but what is it alternative to? Considering dance is an art form and ever evolving, how can there be a clear cut to have an alternative form. I also think “alternative” brings an idea of rebellion and being different for the sake of being different. I can understand these concepts cause discomfort to some and may be put off hearing the term “alternative”. Similarly the term “Nuevo” seems to imply Gotan Project which may put many off dancing to it. It seems Nuevo means music written after 1950, but again how can there be such a clear cut?
I stated in my last blog that I am often the only one dancing at a Milonga when a non “traditional” tune is played. I can honestly say I don’t know why this is, so I can only guess. I think that one reason is that people may think that they will be out of their comfort zone dancing to something other than “traditional” music. They may spend some much time dancing to the “traditional” stuff that they cannot get their head around anything else and do not feel they would be able to dance to it. This is a concept that I really struggle with. I love dancing and interacting with music. I quite often listen to the radio and hear songs that I just want to dance to, not always tango but I just want to move to it. I find it sad that people who claim to be dancers do not have these feelings.
Another possible reason could be that people think dancing to “alternative” music degrades tango. They may see it as pushing the boundaries too far and there do not want to be associated with anything that could degrade their view of tango.
Last time I also discussed that young people just don’t like “traditional” tango music and are therefore put off. There is nothing that can be done to change someone’s taste, their taste may change over time so the only thing to do to encourage them is to play a range of music. I do not hide the fact to do not enjoy “traditional” tango music and do not like dancing to it. However I have also realised that if I want to dance and practice that I have to go to events which only play “traditional” tango music. I would rather dance to something that I don’t enjoy than not dance at all. Of course I’d rather that there are more opportunities to dance to the music I like (hence why I run Urban Tango Nights). I think other young dancers should also take this attitude and take opportunities to dance when they can and not be put off by the music. I also feel having knowledge of “traditional” music or an appreciation of it, even if you do not enjoy the music, is needed to push the dance forward.
So my final thoughts on this subject: I think tango needs to get away from this habit of using adjectives/labels to describe music, whether it be Nuevo, traditional or anything else. Maybe just call it music, I would say that a piece written to tango to is tango music, but they this seem to be implies a piece of music that can be tangoed to is inferior. I don’t think there is any real difference between traditional and Nuevo tango, I think it is all tango and trying to categorise everything causes segregation and problems. I think people should not be afraid to try new things outside their comfort zones and a range of music should be played to accommodate everyone’s taste. I also feel that people should take the opportunity to dance even if they do not like the music, even if it just gives someone else the chance to dance or just show support for the art form.