Tango Vesre [Inverted Tango]
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The Argentine tango, a beautiful and sexually-charged partnered dance form, is most often characterized as a passionate drama between a man and a woman, where the masculinity of the male dancer as the leader contrasts with the femininity of the female follower. Its origins are deeply rooted in earliest twentieth-century Argentine life, particularly in the barrios of Buenos Aires, where tensions of culture, race, class, sexuality and privilege clashed head on. Because tango is historically and popularly accepted as a heterosexual dance, little attention has focused on its very earliest development and practices, when men often partnered with other men to learn it. This practice was so common that in 1903 the Argentine magazine Caras y Caretas [Faces and Masks] published a series of photographs portraying two men dancing tango to illustrate its basic steps and maneuvers. Inside this early practice lie uninterrogated questions on issues of sexual preference, identity and homosexuality. As a professional dancer and dance scholar, I have explored this aspect of tango’s history from two perspectives: through traditional historiography that investigates the documentation of its iv early practice, and through choreography and performance of an original dance work that affirms that continued practice today. Tango Vesre is a dance performance, that through live performance and video projection, spotlights a 100-year evolution of male tango dance in the Buenos Aires of 1910 and 2010. This work analyzes male/male tango partnerships from historic, performative and choreographic perspectives, examining issues of homosexual bonding and sexual identity through tango dance practice. The choreographic creative process for the dance performance intertwines deep archival research in Argentina and the United States, ethnographic research in Buenos Aires, and studio/movement explorations. In 2009, tango was designated an “Intangible Cultural Heritage” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO); Tango Vesre investigates this art form's unacknowledged history and brings forward a new perspective.
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