Sunday, July 26, 2009


My favorite ballroom dance...The Tango!!! It may be the best ballroom dance ever. It's sexy and drastic, street smart and funny, elegant and beautiful.

I love the way tangos (above) have bursts of fast, funny, complicated action...

...that ends in abruptly frozen poses (above) where the dancers whip their heads around with caricatured seriousness.

I love the weird, deco contortions.

Was the Tango invented by cartoonists? Sometimes it seems that way. Or maybe the Tango invented or inspired Argentine cartooning. That country has more than its share of world class cartoonists.

I asked that because it's obvious that Don Martin must have choreographed this (above)!

Add elegance and skill (above) and the funny pose becomes a shockingly beautiful funny pose.

The Tango is so innovative! How many ways are there to bend a woman over? Only about a million and a half!

Attitude (above) counts for a lot. It reminds me of Flamenco in that respect.

Surely this (above) is ballroom's most heterosexual dance. It assumes that men and women are attracted to each other, and that animal magnetism exists. I love the way it makes an art form out of our most primal urges.

For a while gays were really into the Tango, especially in Paris. My book says that Parisians came to think of it as a gay dance.

Finally the Argentines stepped in and with commanding authority...the result of single-minded devotion to the art...brought the dance back to its wild, heterosexual roots.

Of course the French gave us the Apache (above), which is a parody of the Tango. That's interesting because the Tango itself is a parody of previous dances, so it's a case of a parody being parodied.

My book says that it all started in the late 1800s when a lot of cowboy gauchos were put out of work, and forced to go to Buenas Aries to look for jobs in the big city. It was tough because a flood of Italian, Spanish and French immigrants soaked up a lot of the available work.

The proud cowboys (above), still wearing their kerchiefs, boots and knives (even though the picture doesn't show that), found themselves spending the day in what my book calls "low life" bars, brothels and dance halls.

There they encountered Argentine blacks (above) who danced something vaguely Afro-Cuban and Flammencoish called the Milonga. It was athletic and flamboyant and struck the gauchos as being hilariously funny.

I like the way the artist shows cats on the floor.

The gauchos liked to do dance parodies of it, which Italian and Spanish musicians worked hard to find a rhythm for. When they did, the word Tango was sometimes used to describe it.

Here's the street in Buenos Aries where the Tango finally earned some respectability and entered the mainstream of Argentine life. All the composers wanted to write for this new thing, the Tango.

Here's (above) a modern revue which conveys a little of the street smarts and humor that I spoke about earlier. How do you like the row of Tango men in the background? The one with the military jacket (or is it a doorman's jacket) is especially funny.

Argentine cartoonist Oscar Grillo wrote in to say that said this looked like tourist art and was a misuse of the dance. Boy, Argentines still get mad about deviation!

Wow! Isn't it great, the way it starts with the guy in red (above) telling the servant girl to buzz off because he's working on some other girl? Wouldn't it be fun to animate Tex Avery-type humor like the kind above? Sorry to say the major studios are all invested in cookie-cutter features where this approach would be irrelevant. Too bad. I'm going to get laid-off in a week. Maybe I'll have time to try some drawings of this type just for the fun of it.

So the Apache is a parody of the Tango, and the Tango is a parody of the Milongo. I think it stops there, though. I can't imagine going much farther than this video does. The dance starts half a minute into the clip.


deniseletter said...

The vid of the middle has a funny waiter and also you're right with Tex Avery,they give somewhat as Red Hot Riding Hood scene and for the abruptly frozen poses came to mind a blend with Chuck Jones...I can't wait to see your drawings again.
You show me better how's this dance and here is a typical instrument you hear in them.
Its the Bandoneon playing the Tango "Inspiracion"

Matthew Cruickshank said...

Jeez louise! The last clip is terrific-I can imagine you performing this on your last day next week, with a female animation exec!

Great people like you will find work in a shot Senor Eddie

Maybe Senor Grillo will visit here too- he'd know more about Tango and Buenos Aires than most!

Oscar Grillo said...

I know the book you took these pictures from. I come from Buenos Aires and I NEVER seen tango danced like this, only in shows for tourists. It would be like if they made a show about Morris Dancing choreographed and danced by Bob Fosse (or Gene kelly if you prefer)

Love your blog though.

Michael Sporn said...

Great post. You must spend hours searching out this material. Thanks.

Craig said...

I like the Tango the Argentine does to ROXANNE in MOULIN ROUGE.

Rne said...

Eddie, I´m Argentine and I can tell you FOR SURE that the correct spelling is BuenOs Aires instead BuenAs Aires.
Anyway, very nice blog!

jack raffin said...

milongo or milonga?

Jennifer said...

One thing is for sure - you always learn something new about unusual subjects on your blog.

I'd like to see more Uncle Eddie comedy videos. Will you be doing any soon? Perhaps you can collaborate with Nico on a video. He does a great job with his comedy videos.

Zoran Taylor said...

You're getting laid off?!


Where are you working? Or is that not something you'd like to digress? If so, I understand. But that's a drag.

Anonymous said...

I think this guy is pretty much the best dancer ever

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Denise: Funny you should mention that, because i tried to embed that very video and YouTube wouldn't allow it. Thanks for mentioning it here. It's worth seeing!

Matt: Thanks for the kind words! 'Hope you're doing well!

Oscar: I merged your comment with the article. I only meant the revue clips to be one example of the humor I was talking about. It's also, in a more subtle but profound way, in the Baneneon clip that Denise recommended.

Tango is a dance that was humorous in its infancy, so it doesn't seem out of line to think of ways to have fun with it. I do however, bow to the zeal of Argentines to keep the dance pure and vital, generation after generation.

Jack: Hmmmm, I have to run to work, but I'll look that up when I get back.

Craig: I love that film. I need to watch it again.

Jennifer: Unfortunately I'll be an unemployed bum soon and will certainly have time to do more videos.

Zoran: i never talk about stuff like that on the net.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Michael: Thanks for the kind words. Boy, you've put some great stuff up on your blog lately. Even John K wrote in praise of it.

Oscar: I forgot to say that I'm a fan of your blog(s), too!

Lester Hunt said...

"I'm going to get laid-off in a week."

Yikes! Good luck with whatever comes next!

Zoran Taylor said...

Good luck anyway!

Jack G. said...

Is there anything you're not facinated by?

The Tango always struck me as having humor but I didn't realize that it was started to poke fun of another dance.

Hopefully losing your job will lead you to more fullfilling work. The sketches you post here are so much better than the corporate rubbish that pases for entertainment these days.

Best wishes.

Lester Hunt said...

"Surely this (above) is ballroom's most heterosexual dance."

Hm. Yes, it's hard to imagine a gay tango, unless one of them is in drag. ... Say! That's not a bad idea!

Flor said...

Hi Eddie, I'm from Argentina. I've been reading your blog since 2007. It's interesting to read your opinions on tango. I really don't know much about tango...

Anonymous said...

Love these posts, they get past fundamentals like construction and really make you think about the essence of cartooning. So many ideas!

Anonymous said...

That being said an occasional "art lesson" post on fundamentals like construction wouldn't be minded by anyone!