Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Nothing nuevo under the sun pt 3

"The aesthetic of tango has changed but structurally there's nothing new. The women has a lot more aesthetic participation. The structure for example volcadas, already existed."
Graciala Gonzales

Which supports my two points: that 'nuevo' steps are not actually new at all; and that no current style is aesthetically like those of the past. So no style has any greater claim than any other to 'authenticity', and we should all stop worrying about it.

Really must do some work now.


Johanna said...

Psyche, I really admire your passion!!! Not to mention your dedication to clarifying what "Nuevo" is "Not".

However, as someone who "prefers" traditional (yet occasionally enjoys some "nuevo") - and despite your writing copiously about all its misconceptions, and gone to great lengths to point out that there really is nothing Nuevo about Nuevo - I remain clueless as to what nuevo actually IS.

So please, for us brutes who just don't get it, could you write a post about what makes Nuevo, "Nuevo"?

Psyche said...

Well, that is the million dollar question! The best I've managed so far is this post. That's probably the best I'll ever manage. Maybe someone will one day do a huge classification study, like they do with regional accents, or species of butterflies. Perhaps MT will one day produce such a thing with her anthropomopological skills.

Tell you what - you tell me what you think milonguero is, or what salon is, and I'll see if I can do the same for nuevo. The problem is, I suspect no two people will quite agree. Perhaps we should do a huge survey where we get people to tell us what their style means to them.

Psyche said...

Or, we could do away with categorisation altogether, and just dance together in the sun in one big hippy lovefest.

Johanna said...

If we could GLOBALLY get rid of "labels", then we most certainly could all get along!

My confusion arises from your arguments that Nuevo is just like old in its embrace, its goals, its steps, etc., yet conclude that there IS a difference, stylistically, etc.

So to me you are essentially describing traditional forms of Tango. I could not possibly add anything further to your very complete description of what sounds like traditional tango.

As for what constitutes "nuevo" to me? Aside from the music, there appears to be much more play with separate axis, and a lot more swinging leg elements.

ModernTanguera said...

That's a nice quotation. It fits with the point I have tried to make, that nuevo takes traditional technique and just uses it to push at the boundaries and play with the possibilities. They aren't entirely different dances, just different ways of dancing.

I have very little interest in a classification study, but maybe I'll start up some research into dancer identities - what it means to a dancer when they call themselves nuevo or salon or whatnot. ;)

Psyche said...

MT - do! I think there's a lot of interesting anthropological work to be done with tango.

"My confusion arises from your arguments that Nuevo is just like old in its embrace, its goals, its steps, etc., yet conclude that there IS a difference, stylistically, etc."

To look at those things individually:

The embrace - I think we're alike in that the love of a good snuggly embrace is universal. I think there is a small subset of tangueros who aren't so interested in the embrace, but like to do tricks - but I think these tangueros can be found among both 'traditionals' and 'nuevos'. I've certainly met plenty of 'traditionals' like this.

But I don't think it's *entirely* accurate to say that one is just like the other 'in its embrace'. I think that *generally* nuevos favour a slightly triangular embrace to the square-on embrace. And *generally* a very soft embrace, with little or no base strength or resistance in the arms, and the joined hands lower than most traditionals - a very relaxed below-shoulder position. Also that we tend to use the embrace more flexibly than 'traditionals', opening and closing it as we feel moved to do so. This stuff is so fuzzy, though, because as we've seen there are plenty of 'traditionals' who play with the embrace, and some 'traditionals' who don't like more room in their embrace than others, and some 'nuevos' like to snuggle in a very 'traditional' way. If you look at Maria Mondino, she often (but not always) has her left arm quite low, her hand on the guy's right shoulderblade, with a lot of space between her and her partner. If you look at Moira Castellano, she often has her arm right over his shoulder, snuggled up as close as she can get. There are no absolutes, which is why I think it's impossible to create any kind of definition - these are fuzzy concepts. Like chairs. You can't define a chair by saying it has four legs, because some have no legs at all. But we all known a chair when we see one.

Goals - I think we share the classic goals of tango: the embrace, musicality, feeling, etc. People might say that nuevos *also* tend to like to experiment, that we enjoy the sheer joy of seeing how fast we can go, sometimes. And they might say that traditionals *don't* like to do this and consider it vulgar. But again, we'd be silly to think this is an absolute when there's plenty of evidence that plenty of traditionals *also* enjoy that basic childlike joy of playing and seeing what they can do.

Steps - yes, I think in terms of what can be done, there's not much nuevo under the sun. But we're all constantly playing with new (to us) ways of using those steps: like making new outfits from old clothes. There are some outfits, I guess, which are more likely to be used by one style or the other. If I dance with a traditional guy, I may get a lot of those cross-body paradas and step-overs. If I dance with a nuevo guy, I may get more boleos. Fuzzy again, but perhaps we like different outfits. Us nuevos *do* like boleos. It's true. We're not the only ones, though.

Stylistically - this is the key thing in your list, I think. This is the thing that I think makes us look at one couple and go 'salon', at another and go 'milonguero', and at another and go 'nuevo'. I think nuevos prefer a very organic style of movement. We don't aim for 'pretty' or 'elegant' the way the salon guys do. If you do a salon class, you hear a lot about elegant posture, pretty feet, a lot of drills for a particular way of walking - whatever that couple's way of walking is, they usually firmly believe that the best way to learn is to perfect that way of walking, in stages - stretch the leg, point the toe, slide the toe forwards before you transfer your weight, or whatever it happens to be. We don't tend to do this, we generally believe that we've all been walking since the age of 2 and the best way to walk in tango is as naturally as possible, and a lot of what we do is to try to free our body to move naturally, because even though we've all been walking since the age of 2, when we're told we're dancing, sometimes that's enough pressure to make us forget how to walk. So, I think stylistically we do things in a way which seems 'ugly' to some salon dancers, but beautiful to us because it's natural. Like, I don't know, ballet vs hip-hop - it's a different aesthetic.

OK, I'm going to stop now, because I haven't had breakfast yet and my head's going fuzzy.

Johanna said...

Aaaaaah! So basically, it's different but the same, Psyche!

All kidding aside, "we know it when we see it" seems to be the truest definition of Tango styles.

FYI, however, this strictness and adherence to "prettiness" you describe with regard to traditional Tango classes is relatively new - coincidentally introduced with the flood of ballet dancers into Tango. When I first started dancing, pointing the feet was rarely mentioned as a key to good tango.

Psyche said...

That makes sense. It seems to me that it's also to do with the many stage couples teaching. While I was learning in London there were several couples, both local and visiting, who made a big deal about the fact they'd been in Tango x 2 or similar. They were always the biggest 'point the toe'ers.

That having been said, Jen Bratt, who I think of as a very social dancer and all about empowerment and tango joy, also has a clear step-by-step approach to the tango walk, involving stretching legs and pointing toes.