On not Dancing to Gardel

"Yes, no doubt, to talk about tango is to say Gardel, el zorzal criollo, and we have to repeat until boredom, he sings better each day..." Alfonso Laso Bermeo

I knew that Gardel's voice only very rarely graced milongas I had been to. I didn't realize that, generally speaking, his voice shouldn't be danced to at all. When I've asked before, I always got a sort of shrug and sigh, and "he's too hard to dance to." "I can't find the rhythm through his voice." So I thought it was an issue of dancibililty.

I can certainly understand that. I have a tendency, when Gardel makes his way around my mp3 player, to stop what I'm doing. I still feel like moving to it - but it's not precisely that I want to dance. It's hard to think about anything else. I multitask all the time, but I can't do it when Gardel sings. It's a good thing I don't drive or I'd be pulling over every 20 songs or so. It's powerful stuff - that voice.

I should have known it is also out of respect that one does not dance to Gardel's voice. His tragic death in an airplane crash at the height of his career devastated an entire country - well, two countries really - Argentina and Uruguay, not to mention his devoted fans all over the world. So when Gardel sings, we take a seat.

EDIT: Speaking of fans, here's a link to the dubious "celebrating" Carlos Gardel in Scotland: http://www.buteman.co.uk/news/Statue-show-catches-eye-in.5617068.jp (Thanks for the bit of fun, B - I'll get you next time.)

Further Reading:

After reading this post: http://ireneandmanyung.blogspot.com/2008/05/why-one-does-not-dance-to-gardel.html I gained a better understanding of "not dancing to Gardel."

And Alberto Paz's post about the same can be found here: http://www.gardelweb.com/not-dancing-to-gardel.htm

(Picture courtesy of Wikipedia.)


happyseaurchin said...

no way!
i just sought out some gardel
and i recognise it from milongas i have been too
incredible melody full of passion
definitely danceable

then again
i dance to piazzolla...

Mari said...

happyseaurchin - I love it too, but must admit I would find it challenging to dance to. Plus I just tend to get wrapped up in it instead and being sort of still rather than dancing to the music.

Mari said...

Posting this portion of an email I received, written by another dancer, who puts these things so well:

"In my mind he is of extreme importance to the history of tango because without him, tango as we know it would not exist, or would be very different. Gardel was not a dancer, he was a singer (and eventually an actor), one of the first who performed tango music with words that one could say in polite society. But as your documentation points out, they weren't just words - they often conveyed the deepest feelings of the impoverished and struggling men and women in the barrios of Buenos Aires and elsewhere - he sang about life as he knew it, personally, or from those around him.

"He was also a reasonably good actor, and had a beautiful tenor voice. He also composed a lot of his own music. His greatest achievement was introducing tango (music) to the world, particularly in New York and Paris, and in movies which he made in those cities, and which captured the imagination of the western world (maybe the fact that we were in the Great Depression had something to do with it?). When he died in 1935 (in the city of Medellin, Colombia, he had made at least 5 movies, and was as popular as Rudolf Valentino had been a generation earlier. Others refined and promoted tango as dance, but without Carlos Gardel it is doubtful that they would have found the audience they did."