Image credit: Hyjunji Jung at V2, Rotterdam 2019

<-- Tango for Us Two/Too -- > is a live coding performance that merges web-programming with the choreographic language of Tango.

The script focus on the dialogical nature of Tango, using Google Translate with fragments of texts from interviews with Tango dancers and practitioners. It invites us to a pas-de-deux performed by the online interface and JavaScript functions which randomise search queries and present a series of (mis)translations.

An algorithmic dance sustaining glitches between the techniques and poetics of Tango, each breath a step towards the emergence of a new vocabulary for the moving.

Read an article on the project by Daniel Temkin (2019).

"Ways of Moving: Tango" is project/ research by Joana Chicau first developed in 2016, in Buenos Aires, Argentina and revisited in 2019. This project was first realized as part of the Summer Sessions network in a co-production of Untref// Espacio Nixso and V2_ Lab for the Unstable Media, with support of the Creative Industries Fund NL. A very special thank you to the artists, designers, thinkers who helped me through this project: Leo Nuñez, Laura Nieves, Yisell Sarasua, Marlin Velasco, Marcelo Terreni, Alejandra Ceriani, Emiliano Causa, Paula Guersenzvaig and the tango dancers Luciana Rial and Daniel Sansotta.

Essay (by Joana Chicau, 2016)


It all started in the port cities of Buenos Aires and Montevideo — the hubs for the encounters of diverse cultures, where you could hear different accents and rhythms which together found a common language: the one of Tango.

Tango is said to be born from the fusion of elements from diverse cultures — afroargentinian, afrouruguayas, european — later released back into the world. It maybe compared to an estuary combining different ethnic and cultural influences originally flowing in the margins of river La Plata: "Buenos Aires era el último puerto del mundo: los artistas y los marinos llegaban a ella con toda la música recogida en los puertos del trayecto. Y la larga estadía de los barcos en cada puerto daba tiempo para el contacto y el intercambio con los habitantes." [1]
From the beginning, Tango has been embedded into various stories, beliefs, fed by the imagination of all those who wanted to be part of it.
"El tango creo un turbo pasado irreal" [2] says Jorge Luis Borges, referring to the “blurry” history of Tango and its legendary, quasi mythological past.

In between the techniques and the poetics of Tango.

Tango is a space for communication: al bailar, se dialoga constantemente sin pronunciar palabra [3], from its origin Tango is about establishing a space where we can encounter each other. As in any communication system, there is a language and a media. In this case both are corporeal. Tango is a codified language system — which often follows traditional social conventions — and its media are the movements that unfold from “el abrazo”.[4] A discourse rooted in the intentions of the bodies: hablar y escuchar corporal. Tango is also a compromise between an introspective action and a continuous communication between two people. And most importantly, we find in the genre a deeper understanding that communication is not merely verbal, and that movement and silence play leading roles in the construction of vocabularies.

Tango is 100% improvisation.

Improvisation = freedom?
Improvisation = anarchy?
Improvisation = ignorance?
Improvisation = welcoming the unknown, not yet defined.

“Nadie se baña dos veces en las mismas aguas de un río.”. [5]

Every dance is unrepeatable - the ephemeral character of Tango is emphasized by its improvisation attribute. Even though there is a very clear attitude to Tango [6] and an established setting of basic steps, there is no sequence of movements defined.
An interesting reflection on the improvised character of this dance is how much it creates a certain tension and yet a great communicative power between the dancers. As no previous script can be followed, the dance couple has to be extremely aware of each other's bodies and movements. There is a building up, a shared construction of a choreography, which rises from the inter-relation between the expression of a will to move and the actual movement. The improvised nature of Tango allows for a potential politics to come. It is not possible to speak of an ideal choreography or set of gestures, there is though a constant re-formulation of such.

There is also a great freedom in the creation of the movements, either by suggesting the next move or by interpreting the move. [7] In between every movement there is a world of virtual possibilities. How can the unfilled gaps between steps, generate new possibilities? If Tango has challenged its technique (Tango Scenario vs Tango Salon ) it might as well challenge its pre conceptions in regards the to the myriad of possibilities generated by two bodies. A move towards an open ended imaginarium, to overcome current male/ female [8],self and other, and other binarisms, and bring other urgent questions to play.

Tango from/for the future

How to change the common aesthetics of Tango and bring a new discourse?
How can Tango intervene in the relation between sensing bodies?
How can we rescue the freedom propeller of its improvisation qualities from and bring it to a wider spectrum?
How can gesture/ (signified) movement provide an alternate vocabulary of the political?
How the silent words of Tango de-tranquilize current politics/ or the politics of the Port/ City/ Polis?

¿Capacidad de intervención?

It is relevant to rethink the space of and for tango. Tango as a space for all, a space for a shared concern, in which every body is included, and works together in the empowerment of the collective body. To make use of Tango improvisation character to form new organic forms of thinking the time and space shared amongst people and technologies. To let the future of Tango bring new and radical thinking and move towards questioning current paradigms.

Notes and References:

[1] Nudler, Julio (12 de diciembre de 1999). «Juan Carlos Cáceres: tango for import».

[2] In the words of Jorge Luis Borges, “Cualquier conclusion es valida a la hora de pensar el origen, aunque las versiones sean diferentes entre sí. El tango puede haber nacído en Montevideo, en Buenos Aires, en La Plata o en Rosario, según los intereses de quién lo diga. Puede tener su versión sentimental or su carácter pendenciero; ser un derivado del candombe uruguayo o de zarzuela española. Su carta natal combinará los astros de acuerdo con la mirada creativa de quien vaya buscar su raíz, en cada caso los fundamentos que se encuentren háran verosímil una hístoria posible, que hallará en os hechos una justificación para explicar su carácter ulterior.” in “Historia del tango” ([1930], 1984)

[3] I Jornadas de Lenguage, Literatura Y Tango cruces entre la linguistica, la critica literaria y el psicoanálises: 4 y 5 de agosto de 2016 Biblioteca Nacional Mariano Moreno Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires.

[4] “In the case of tango, my language is what I reveal to you in the intimacy of the embrace, a language that introduces you to a movement that invites you to respond to a direction we initiate together.” Politics of Touch: Sense, Movement, Sovereignty by Erin Manning

[5] A spanish popular expression.

[6] Tango is a hybrid between technique and poetics. What are the poetics of Tango then? “It has its own poetics which makes it different from other dance genres, such as Salsa, Merengue, Bachata. This answer maybe tyrannical, because it embraces the feeling of everyone. There is something common shared by all Tango dancers, a very dramatic sense to it.” in an interview with the dancer and teacher Luciana Rial

[7] “By responding to the proposition with a counter-movement, re-creating the temporal horizon of virtual possibilities which all those partaking are collectively sustaining and individually assessing. In a word, a genuine inter-action unfolds in which the operations of leading and following are constantly re-destributed. Thus the collaboration instantiates, in a micro-context, the peculiar political configuration of an a-personal ‘’leading/following” (or following leading) that provisionally displaces and de-segments the general line of inequality informing a semi-directive work relationship. The expression “leading following” is André Lepecki’s, who in turn uses Erin Manning’s perceptive analysis of walking or dancing tango together as a principal source of inspiration. “I am leading. But that does not mean am deciding. Leading is more like initiating an opening, entering a gap, then following “her” response. I am not moving her, nor is she simply responding o me: we are beginning to move relationally, creating an interval we move together”, Manning writes.

Cooperating in the mode of “leadingfollowing” brackets the question of both legitimate authority and personal authorship because the collaborators are truly moving together, thus creating an enigmatic king of social subject. For each collaborator’s action are now grounded in an interpersonal dynamic not reducible to only individually accountable initiatives or proposals and also superseding the exchange logic of attributable gifts and couter-gifts. Nobody commands or really has authority: there is just the constant altering of leading and following..” Re/Presenting the body— book by Rudi Laersmans.

[8] In Tango there are two distinct roles: a passive and an active one. Conventionally man would take the latter and woman the first one. For this text I will not base the roles in genre, but in its fundamental distinction based on leading and following functions.

In castellano “pareja” (or the dance couple) means: equals.

Parejos = Iguales….

“Unidad”. Uno mas uno en el Tango no es dos si no que es uno. - Syncronicity.

“El Tango nace siendo una danza de improvisación pura. Hombre y mujer se abrazan y procuran un devenir; buscan un tiempo y espacio futuro en función de lo lúdico, en función del juego. Es un estado igualitario, por eso cuando hablamos de hombre y mujer abrazados, hablamos de pareja. En castellano pareja significa parejos = iguales…. Es decir que hombre y mujer tienen un estado igualitario y juntos en una circunstancia de coloquio, de conversación, se proveen circunstancias dinámicas que van conformando lo que se reconoce desde afuera como Tango.
Cual era la habilidad? Era una destreza muscular? Era una habilidad muscular?- No. En realidad lo que se proveía el individuo para si, era la posibilidad de poder confrontar la dinámica en un estado de plena libertad . Esa libertad no estaba para el hombre sólo, estaba también para la mujer, en una mecánica de construcción creativa que le daba la posibilidad fantasiosa a los dos integrantes de la pareja. Es ilógico pensar que planteando las circunstancias dinámicas en plena libertad, esa libertad haya sido para uno solo de los integrantes de la pareja.”

Extract from a seminar with Gloria and Rodolfo Dinzel in Sweden. Find more info on the Tango Dinzel System here and the Notation System here.

Further readings:

Benedetti, Héctor. Nueva Historia Del Tango: De Los Orígenes Al Siglo XXI. Argentina: Siglo Vientiuno, 2015. Print.

Buenos Aires Tango Milonga:

El Metejon Tango.