They dance alone...

Text by J. Alberto Mariñas
The imagery and history of tango are full of allusions to the dance among men, doubtless always justified as a sort of apprenticeship previous to moving in on the female 'mines'. Those images of fellows carrying out their faltering steps on Buenos Aires' city streets have, nonetheless, their feminine replica, generating much less literary documentation yet a more extensive iconography.
  Interestingly, most of the images of women dancing the tango, have European passports. It is not plausible that the brothel workers, or the daughters of respectful families, or both, did not practice the tango in its native country. Nevertheless, due to the secrecy of some and the prudishness of others, their image has not endured.
 

Europe was another matter. The French postcards of the first decade of the XX century took on the task of recording the tango fashion. Imprinted upon them are steps, poses, personalities... and women who look amicably at the camera while maintaining a supposed tango appearance..

CONTINUE

 

tango old postcard

French postcard, 10's
Floyd Baker colection

 
tango old postcard
American postcards, 10's

tango old postcard
 
Floyd Baker colection
tango old postcard
tango old postcard   tango old postcard
Floyd Baker colection

French postcard, 10's
tango 20' ilustration
En el cabaret, by Lorenzi
 
tango 20' ilustration
from the book Las tanguistas
Ilustrations by Pico (pseudo)

tango 20' ilustration

 

 

Alex Waterhouse-Hayward Photo
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward (mail)
 
Mariano Otero tango painting

Mariano Otero
Oil on canvas.
Mariano Otero tango painting
   

Alex Waterhouse-Hayward Photo

Alex Waterhouse-Hayward (mail)

(...)

The origin of those images, like the origin of the enthronement of tango as a universal fashion, is Paris. They are mostly anonymous pictures of women before the retina of a man one imagines to be complacent with the image of two women narrowing the distance between their bodies, something this dance encourages. One cannot see in them any self affirmation of feminine propriety, but rather, flattery or seduction toward the male spectator.

The images from the 20s and 30s are more carefree. This is the gay and reckless carefree society that strove hurriedly to live the present on the verge of falling into a future of social and political strife that was soon to tear it apart. But, at the same time, it is the carefree society of people making the most of their individual freedom by hinting at or exhibiting sincere or mercenary passions. On one hand, Saphic flirtation or outright lesbianism was exercised by valid individuals belonging to circles of artistic luster wherein this was entirely admissible. On the other hand, the cabarets, in their obvious role as vias for sexual escapism, found their place in society. The image of tango between women is to drink from both springs and, from both, some images representing it have been handed down to us.


From then on, the image of woman to woman tango has been an isolated incidence generally recreated by directors in their celluloid fictions. And nowadays, tango once again has a masculine and voyeuristic accent tinged with a degree of sublimation and eroticism.

 

INICIO