The Argentine tango has always been a reflection of the people who created it. This is not to say that the music and the way we dance today has any resemblance with the typical inhabitant of Buenos Aires during the last decade of the 19th century. Every time we spend a couple of hours at a milonga, we are moving back and forth in time, according to the mood and inspiration of the volunteer with the laptop and the time to run the music. As Pugliese is mixed with Canaro, D’Arienzo, De Caro, Troilo and Tanturi, we are unaware that we are zapping through a rich history of the music, the dance, the social values and the idiosyncrasies of several generations of porteños, the people of Buenos Aires, who as they undergo generation changes, reflect those changes in the tango.
The longevity of the tango and its resilience are founded in the respect and veneration with which Argentinos see aging. As children, they love and are loved by their parents and grandparents. As teenagers they learn to love and be loved by their parents and peers. As adults they love their children and their parents and each other. As they reach their senior years they love life and everything it brings to them every day.
That love is balanced by respect, tolerance, generosity and patience. They let life run its course as they first crawl, then walk and finally run. There is a lot of philosophy behind all this and most of it is reflected in the music, lyrics and dance of the Argentine tango.
The backbone of the Argentine tango is the connection that exists between generations, adults and children living in the same world, basking in the same sun and quivering in the cold of the same night. Staying involved forever, and greeting the presence of those who sit around the table every day and mourning the absence of those who have departed. Children don’t get kicked out when they begin to turn into young men and women. In turn, when they become adults, they don’t get rid of aging parents and grandparents. It is a very profound commitment that enhances the quality of life and as a side benefit it allows an orderly transition between generations.
This may clash against the beliefs of the politically correct crowd that fears to utter words like man and woman. Instead they neutralize the human connection required in the tango by calling each other “leads” and “follows.” They desensitize the intense passion that men and women bring into life and that are the key ingredients for the ritual of the dance. This attracts wolves wearing lamb overcoats, who aim to divide in order to satisfy their egos. Our communities suffer.
We are now well into the beginning of a new 40 year cycle for the Argentine tango. Where it will take us, we don’t know. What the renovation brings us, we don’t know. How we’ll dance the tango in the years ahead, we don’t know. Luckily, we are living the process instead of recanting it.