[lit-ideas] Re: The Tango

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 18 Jul 2009 13:39:46 EDT

In a message dated 7/17/2009 10:37:01 P.M.  Eastern Daylight Time, 
mimi.erva@xxxxxxxxx writes:
There's nothing less  romantic than ballroom dancing.  I personally don't 
see (or hear) a tango  in this, but then I never see the actual steps in 
professionally done ballroom  dance.  It's beautiful to watch though, exactly 
for its precision.   


Well, J. L. Borges was _fascinated_ with the history of  tango.

It started as an 'all-male' dance in the _brothels_ -- very common  in 
Buenos Aires, 'common' not in a snobbish way, but meaning, unrare. Cfr. that  
book that should interest you bunches, "The Road to Buenos Ayres" about  
white-slave trade.

Girls -- esp. in France -- were reported missing and  then suddenly finding 
theirselves on the River Plate. Very odd. The pimps were  French, mostly.

---- So, with the French prostitutes (for they _had_ to  be French!) the 
brothels proliferated. Also, by 1900, 3 out of 4 people (I  counted them) were 
_males_, and 3 out of 4 _males_ were furriners ('dagos'  mainly, as the 
Anglo-Argentines, who had arrived earlier, would call  them).

So you can imagine the brothels. Now for _one_ prostitute to cater  for, 
say, 15 'dagos' a day, they had to _line_. And what to do in the interim.  As 
Yost notes, it's an Italian thing, -- 'belcanto' almost, the bandoneon. They 
 started to play a tune -- and embraced.

Later, the prostitutes joined.  But they soon realised that this 'operants' 
(they worked in the harbours mainly  where the Red-District still operates) 

When Walton and Edith  Sitwell composed their Facade (which was all the 
rage among Noel Coward in the  1920s), they included a  little


piece -- there is an orchestral arrangement as well, only. Now, in the  
recent (well, 4 decades ago) revival in Sadlers Wells (I know of this because 
of  the Collier _Tango_ book I was talking about -- with lavish photos) the  
choreographer made the 

excellent suggestion

to re-enact the original tango-choreography.  

So you'll see that the 


-- made popular by Valentino in "Four Riders" as well  -- where he plays an 
Argentine -- 



both partners --




Victoria Ocampo (our Mecenas in more than one  way) would recall how she 
installed Tango in "La Belle Societe" when after  touring London 
("Hippodrome") with Ricardo Guiraldes, and the cafes of the  Trocadero -- with 
Argentine lounge lizards catering for the weary divorces  -- or Monte Carlo -- 
broke and all -- decided to add the spice in Buenos  Aires.

The districts of Buenos Aires (very much alla early dance-band  history in 
England -- or London -- where each orchestra was associated with a  hotel) 
followed suit.

I live blocks away from The Palais de Glace. This  was of course, Putnam's 
idea of translating his 'twater' -- for 'glace' is 'ice'  in French. It is a 
_most_ beautiful building and became the Mecca of the _good_  stylish tango 
that my family would promote. Other types of tango were a  no-no-no-no-no. 
They had their own resident orchestra. Any other orchestra was a  

Gardel started as a crooner for these tangos. His hit was  called "The 
Moorish". Unfortunately, while walking away from the palais de  dance, someone 
shot him to  death.

"You'll never  sing The Moorish no more"

-- he said.

Obviously implicating, "I'm  killing you".

As it happens, he survived -- but a few years later (after  he entertained 
the Prince of Wales in an estancia in Buenos Aires -- and the  Prince, never 
wanting to be _less_ -- wanted the 'bombachas' -- what embarrassed  Gardel 
was that the Prince would add his 'ukelele' to the orchestration, killing  
the whole point of the sadness of the bandoneon) he died, Gardel  did.

Oddly, when they did the autopsy on him, they found a bullet (in his  
stomach). And they said, "Murder!" -- but it was soon proved that the bullet 
_rotten_ and dated from the days of the Palais de Glace. The bullet did not 
kill  him but fell in love with him!


J. L.  Speranza
Buenos Aires, Argentina  

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