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.
...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.
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.