One vision of meaning in the New Vogue Tangos

Don Herbison-Evans ,

The ballroom Tango has some characteristic elements: staccato body movement, separate head movement, compressed knees, delayed foot closes. Together: these can make an attractive geometric pattern of movement in a couple performing this dance..

But also there is a sexual story to any tango, which is the interplay of emotions between a man and a woman. He is assertive and possessive, and says "You are mine". She is contemplative, assessing him: "Do I want this man or not?". Together in the dance they play their inconsistent roles, which perhaps can evolve into the sexual overtones of foreplay.

Poetry too can have these same multiple layers of meaning. One is a pattern of sound, exemplified by the works of Dylan Thomas, with his interplay of rhyme and alliteration. Then there is the narrative as the words can tell a story. But poetry can an extra layer of meanings through the use of metaphor and allegory. Each word or phrase can evoke a meaning of something quite distinct from the literal meanings used in the narrative, which leads to an additional pattern of the meanings.

In the same way, the three New Vogue championship tangos: the Tango Terrific, the La Bomba, and the Tangoette, lend themselves to multiple layers of meaning. Besides the geometric patterns, and the sexual interplay, there can be extra layer in all three. Different people will see a variety of different meanings in these dances. For me, they can evoke the emotions of the Hunter. Each movement in these dances can be a metaphor for an action of maybe a cobra, maybe a tiger, maybe a samurai warror.

The compressed knees give the low profile of the hunter seeking prey or the enemy, mimimising the chance of being seen. The staccato movement: move then freeze, is typical of a hunting tiger, lion, or cheetah. Every stop is a gathering of energy for the next move. The head movements, the pivots and rotary chasses, the wheel in La Bomba, these are the moves of the wary hunter observing before acting. Every linear step is a lunge, the attack of a swordsman, the strike of a cobra. The breakaway in La Bomba can be the uncoiling of a spring, the firing of a weapon.

The difference between a man and a warrior is the additional embodiment of power, weaponry, experience, wariness, and ruthlessness. The woman's part in the three dances can be to embody that package and to turn him into the powerful, frightening samurai. She is not just a partner, but part of his being. She is his shadow that accompanies his every move. She is his sword, his shield, his fangs, his gun, his knowledge.

She is the difference between the puny flesh and blood man, and the fearsome hunter.


written 24 January 2013, revised 2 October 2020