Inside Tango Argentino: The Story of the Most Important Tango Show of All Time

inside tango argentino

Antón Gazenbeek

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Tango Argentino was the groundbreaking show that led to the renaissance of interest in Argentine Tango. It premiered in Paris, then conquered Broadway and, later, toured the whole world. It had enormous cultural influence on the understanding of tango history, music and dance, fashion, hair and makeup.

After 7 years of research and writing, tango historian Antón Gazenbeek presents his in-depth book on the history of the show Tango Argentino.  The book includes never before seen backstage photographs, memorabilia from the show and fascinating inside stories taken directly from personal interviews with all the surviving cast members.  The book has an intimate narration that allows you to be a part of the show’s creation, its backstage dramas and onstage triumphs. This is a book not to be missed!

Tango Trans-Cultural Diffusion and Adaptation after the Tango Renaissance

During the period of oppressive political regimes in Argentina during the late 1950s, the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s, tango as a social dance had been suppressed and marginalized and, to a significant degree, driven underground. With the fall of the military dictatorship in 1983 and the subsequent introduction of democracy, tango social dancing (i.e., at milongas) was revived in Argentina. The revival of tango during this period has been labeled as the ‘Tango Renaissance’.

It was at this time that the second wave of worldwide trans-cultural diffusion of Argentine Tango as a dance was initiated by the stage production ‘Tango Argentino’. In 1983 ‘Tango Argentino’ opened in Paris, and in subsequent years in numerous cities throughout Europe and North America (Anton Gazenbeek – Inside Tango Argentino: The Story of the Most Important Tango Show of All Time; published by the author, 2008). ‘Tango Argentino’ was well received by the viewing audiences. In a review in the Parisian newspaper Le Mond (November 13, 1983), Tango Argentino was described (as reported by Gazenbeek, op. cit., p. 33):

Between men and women with the sound of monotonous chants charged of sensuality. The scenario is always the same: approach, seduction, hesitation, conquest, heat, rebellion and finally death…. The men have the look of macho seducers and the girls have the incandescent glance which gives shivers everywhere.

Upon its debut on Broadway in New York in 1985, there were similar reviews (Gazenbeek, op. cit, p. 60-61):

Dancers … grab their partners and whip into high-stepping, sexy action. A woman’s leg rises slowly from under her satin skirt, telegraphing an unmistakable message. It lowers, then pauses, caught and kissed by a partner’s extended foot…. (New York Times; October 10, 1985)

The people in ‘Tango Argentino’ mean business, and the business is passion. The true tango turns out to be a mini dance-drama, formal and abandoned, austere and sensual, intricate and elemental, explosive and implosive. (Newsweek; November 18, 1985)

The shifting choreographic patterns were like the flaring up and ebbing away of emotions…. Occasionally dancers simply walked or glided enticingly. But feet could also caress the floor and the air and stamp with petulance and exuberance. In some sequences, the feet hurried forward, then paused, but not for long; and when they started up again, they darted back and forth like adders’ tongues. Little kicks to the side and constant changes of direction suggested the wiles of worldly people who were virtuosos in the art. (New York Times; July 7, 1985).

Absent from these reviews were terms like ‘shocking’, ‘indecent’, and ‘scandalous’. Social mores in Europe and North America had changed. The sexual revolution of the 1960s redefined possibilities for sexual expression. Sexuality portrayed in dance was no longer shocking. However, tango had also changed. It was no longer the rough and aggressive Tango Canyengue of 1913. The Golden Age of Tango in Buenos Aires had refined the dance and made it socially acceptable. In the smooth movement of the dancers, as well as in their elegant attire, the stage tango of Tango Argentino reflected that refinement, even in its more sensuous and seductive scenes. However, at the same time, in its dramatic portrayal of sexually-charged sensuality and its demonstration of physical prowess, ‘Tango Argentino’ provided audiences vicarious pleasure, creating a yearning for enactment of tango-derived fantasies. The fact that tango was known to be a social dance (but not known to be very different from the dance portrayed on the stage) permitted those fantasies to appear attainable. This was a major component of the popularity of ‘Tango Argentino’ and the dance it portrayed.

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4 thoughts on “Inside Tango Argentino: The Story of the Most Important Tango Show of All Time

  1. Anton: I have learned everything from your Al Reve DVD . In fact , I have studied all of your teaching DVD’s. Even Mingo Pugliese hasn’t done that much documented work. I would like to have a personally autographed book from you sent to me . I would be glad to pay extra for it. Please advise me of the cost and where to sent the money. Your contributions of excellence in tango teaching and preserving the tango history makes you the leader for the argentine tango generation today. Tango history must be danced with the heart. Sincerely, Dr. Ken Schafermeyer

  2. Dear Anton,

    Congratulations on your fine work and your considerable dedication to tango.
    Many thanks for creating this interesting web service and making it available to us all.

    I would like to ask a question if I may?

    Is the “Tango Argentno” book available in hard copy?

    Can you please let me know if it is available as I would be very interested to purchase one if possible.

    Many thanks

    Yours Sincerely

    David

    1. Yes David, it’s now available also in hard copy format, and it can be purchased directly with the button above.

  3. by Patricia Muller
    Stories, characters, fashion , music and much more quickly follow each other and make us understand why the Tango is, again, become irresistible. A must read!
    What a book!

    It starts undertone, that the reader is likely to say “well, everything was already written, but let’s see what else he has to say…”, but you cannot do anything but read it thoroughly, and quickly! Simply enchanting, like the show, that taking us to the beginning of Tango accompanied us in its history, by gradually arising in the “viewer” the irresistible urge to Tango.
    In the book, we come face to face with the myths of the dancers, musicians and singers, we are told some gossip about fights and jealousies in the backstage and about the creation of the dresses, now icons of any tango show.
    We read also that the Japanese Emperor Hirohito and Princess Diana were so enchanted that they wanted to learn the Tango!
    What we could guess in Sally Potter’s 1997 movie icon “Tango Lesson” and “Tango” by Carlos Saura in 1998 (the first tells the effect on the viewer of the show, while the second plots and jealousies of the cast during the creation of a show), is finally confirmed: only knowing the beginning of this new era we can better understand its current global success. The Tango is a universal language!
    Yes, this is an indispensable book for Tango lovers and not only!

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