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February 21, 2006

Tango #95

Solo Practice

I stand still
softening the bones in my feet
to better feel the floor, the earth
I breath slowly and deeply
every cell in my body alive and working
churning out whatever is needed
creating energy
out of this ordinary, freely available air
the setting sun slants through the blinds
adding texture to the room
the space beween me and the window, the walls
the precious wide-open space
of the living room
this wonderful old warm wood floor
just the right amount of friction between it
and my worn-perfectly-smooth old sneakers
to pivot, to spin
such a gift
this floor, this space, this time
to pursue this joy
to stand here and harness gravity itself
and become
the wind

I segue between t'ai chi and tango
playing with gravity first one way, then the other
playing with this body
so interesting that I need the mirror
to see what I cannot yet feel
movements I don't realize I'm making
until I see them

a good teacher is a mirror
a very special mirror
that can see both your mistakes
and your potential
better than you can
and keep you going in the right direction

being your own teacher

of course the nice thing about practice by yourself
is that it is easier
fewer variables
you can discover a lot on your own
if you are diligent
but of course it is not tango
just elements of dancing
ingredients you are stocking up on
getting the kitchen ready
everything you need at your fingertips, toetips
ready for the opportunity
to really cook

Posted by Sharon at 10:15 AM | Comments (0)

February 10, 2006

Book: The Tango Singer

Review by Amanda Hopkinson

The Tango Singer, by Tomas Eloy Martinez trans Anne McLean
Dancing to the rhythms of a violent history

By Amanda Hopkinson
Published: 10 February 2006
Madonna performed it in Evita. Sally Potter directed it in The Tango Lesson. Hundreds, mainly women of uncertain age, dance it across British cities. And the Argentines, who claim to have choreographed it - although the roots lie in the male partnerships of Cuban sailors improvising on the rhythms of the habaƱera - have written about it. Even Borges's brief "History of the Tango" opens by paying homage to the many histories that precede his. And British visitors to La Boca (the port where tango emerged) write glamorous accounts of their encounters.

Tomas Eloy Martinez takes a less glamorous approach. The novelist is interested in tango's myth and mystique, related through the lyrics rather than the movements of this lament that balances on a knife-edge between consummate control and intense passion. As with The Peron Novel and Santa Evita, The Tango Singer is about the Buenos Aires of his youth, before a right-wing bomb ousted Martinez from his newspaper and brought exile in the US.

The eponymous singer is Julio Martel, discovered by a North American PhD student during a chance conversation with the cultural historian Jean Franco. Again, this mingling of actual and fictitious protagonists belongs to a Latin American genre of "meta-historical fiction".

Bruno Cadogan's quest for Martel leads him to Buenos Aires, where he is led to the house that was the original site of Borges' kabbalistic tale, "The Aleph". From there he pursues Martel across the city, attempting to divine the connections between the odd occasions when the crippled singer makes erratic appearances and sings in a strange voice between a tenor and a falsetto. Martel refused to record: the only way to hear him is to see him, although an early fairground recording precipitates a national furore.

Martel's repertoire includes laments from the earliest and lewdest period of immigration to the city, in the late 19th century. But the year now is 2001, when the Argentine economy collapsed. Graphic descriptions abound of a city under siege by the migratory poor, camped on the streets, desperately attempting to find food or beg a living - a city of ragged shadows and bonfires on corners, of a political structure in crisis. The city that Martel maps out for Cadogan is an even bleaker one, superimposed on an even blacker past. It is this recent history that Cadogan explores through a variety of subplots.

The Tango Singer delivers on every Buenos Aires myth, but goes well beyond the familiar. This is the city in which ghostly legends - Peron, Evita, Borges, Gardel - haunt everyday reality. It is also where the secrets of a recent past cannot be contained. The legend of the charismatic singer "with sunshine in his throat", vocalising the "long roll of thunder" unleashed under Peronism and military dictatorship, gives a sharper, more urgent voice to the tango. From being merely a sexy and exportable dance craze, it translates as the popular history of a nation in violent change.

Amanda Hopkinson is director of the British Centre for Literary Translation at UEA

Posted by joegrohens at 10:55 AM | Comments (0)

February 01, 2006


Posted by yana at 05:56 PM | Comments (2)