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August 14, 2009

What is Nuevo in Tango Nuevo?

During a conversation I had a few weeks ago, it suddenly occurred to me that it is actually very difficult to explain what is/is not “Tango Nuevo”? Just to be clear, here I am talking specifically about the styles typified by people like Fabian Salas, Chico, Pablo Inza, not so much the styles danced by the younger generations like Pablo Rodriguez. It surprised me that I could not – and still cannot – put a clear definition to it.

I mean, when I begin to seriously think about it in terms of usual categories such as embrace, sequence of steps (from what I had actually learnt but no longer use) and music:

  1. Embrace: well, salon and Tango fantasia has been doing open/fluid embrace long before anything became Nuevo-ish…
  2. Fancy steps: colgadas are already used in Tango Fantasia, and even by some milongueros; colgadas have been seen in Tango Fantasia, or even some Tango Salon. Other steps?
  3. Music: I have been to quite a few so-called Nuevo venues where Golden Age music (albeit with a higher percentage of strongly rhythmic and driving music) was the flavour of the night. As a side note, one common element, irrespective of the style, is that good dancers invariably were able to interpret and express traditional Golden Age music well. In fact, to my eyes, even Nuevo dancers looked much better when expressing such music compared to dancing to some monotonic electronic music – but just my artistic preference… 😉

It seems almost impossible to separate the Tango Salon from Tango Nuevo? Or am I missing something here?

However, despite all this, I am very certain that I will be able to recognise if something is Tango Nuevo or not when I see it – although there are people who seem to border these two worlds, Julio Balmaceda is a name that comes to mind. But just exactly what are those final qualities which makes it different from “traditional”* tango? Currently I have no answer.

Incidentally, I also got to know a new term – new for me, anyway – Salon Nuevo. People like Pablo Rodriguez (with Noelia Hurtado, as there seems to be a few nowadays) and Federico Naveira are examples of this way of dancing, which is quite attractive and has a large following of young dancers from what I saw during my trip to Buenos Aires. So, in future, even more headaches when trying to explain to someone new to the tango scene…

* Actually in some ways it is equally misleading to talk a traditional tango these days, because after having seen some videos (of milongas and workshops) from the late 80s and early 90s, technically the tango that we know now has come already a long way.

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