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“In Strangers’ Arms: The Magic of the Tango” Essay (Book Review)

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Updated: Mar 25th, 2020

Book Summary

In the introductory section of the book, Beatriz Dujovne discusses the history of tango which is now regarded as the most popular dances in the history of the twentieth century. The author challenges the historical myth according to which tango was created by people who could represent the criminal world or the lower social classes (Dujovne 5). Moreover, it is often assumed that the performances of tango were often prohibited (Dujovne 7).

The author notes that such stereotypes are not supported by historians who argue that tango was embraced by different social classes. Moreover, this dance was not criminalized (Dujovne 7). Additionally, Beatriz Dujovne discusses the spread of tango throughout the world. Overall, this part of the book enables the readers to challenge some of the main assumptions about this dance. This is why this section should not be overlooked.

In the first chapter called In Strangers’ Arms, Beatriz Dujovne discusses the social aspects of tango. In particular, the author argues that this dance enables people to transcend their external differences (Dujovne 26). This is why she introduces the term “milonga” which can be understood of as social dance (Dujovne 26).

Beatriz Dujovne also points out that tango requires a certain degree of trust, because a woman makes herself more vulnerable in the arms of a stranger. The writer distinguishes several important characteristics of tango. In particular, this dance gives people an outlet for displaying their emotions on public. More importantly, it enables them to establish closer relations with one another. Furthermore, the author notes that in Argentina, one can better understand tango as a social phenomenon.

The second chapter is aimed at examining experiencing of people living in Buenos Aires. In particular, the writer lays stress on the idea that it is a multicultural metropolis that incorporates Italian, Spanish, and French influences (Dujovne 38). Furthermore, the author notes that the residents of this city are usually willing to interact with visitors. Beatriz Dujovne notes that tango is imbedded in the culture of this city; to a great extent, this dance is “the voice” of this metropolis (Dujovne 38).

Some of songs that often accompany tango were written about the streets of this city. For instance, one can mention Corrientes y Esmeralda (Dujovne 40). To a great extent, this dance reflects people’s need for creativity, aestheticism, and sensuality (Dujovne 55). Moreover, tango facilitates the socialization of people living in Buenos Aires. Yet, one should keep in mind that this dance can play a similar role in other parts of the world.

In the second chapter, the writer examines the concept of milonga in greater detail. As it has been said before, this notion can be described as the social dance. In the writer’s opinion, this activity is an important part of tango culture (Dujovne 58).

In this case, a milonga can be viewed as the social event during which people dance various forms of tango (Dujovne 58). Such a place as Confeteria Ideal is one of the places where milongas are often held. Sometimes, these events can be accompanies by stage performances, but they are not very widespread, because milongas are not aimed at displaying one’s skills.

More likely, they should support socialization and expression of emotions. Such events are very ritualistic because much attention is paid to different preliminary activities such as the invitation of a partner (Dujovne 64). Overall, such events are critical for the everyday life of the city because they enable people to forget about their daily problems. This is one of the main peculiarities that one should take into account.

The chapter called The invisible Heart of the Dance throws light on people’s experiences during tango. Overall, Beatriz Dujovne notes that this dance can be viewed as a form of silent conversation (Dujovne 80). In fact, words are usually superfluous. In this case, body language enables people to enter the state which resembles a dream (Dujovne 85). People, who experience this sensation, do not have to have to think about their movements.

Overall, this effect can be achieved if people can overcome their distrust and anxiety. At such moments, people do not actually notice the beginning and ending of songs (Dujovne 83). Again, it is vital to remember that the author writes about the dances with strangers. Overall, this experience is one of the reasons why tango appeals to many people. Emotional freedom of this dance is one of the peculiarities that should be taken into account.

In the chapter La Boca: The Rebel Embrace, the author discusses the famous neighborhood in Buenos Aires. Beatriz Dujovne briefly reviews the history of this district, especially the role that trade unions played in the development of La Boca. (Dujovne107). Moreover, the writer mentions that this district is adversely affected by crime and drug trade.

One should keep in mind that this neighborhood is a place that attracts artists, writers, and musicians who are willing to share their experiences with one another. In turn, tango plays an important part in the life of this community. In fact, La Boca is considered to be the birthplace of this dance. Beatriz Dujovne argues that the development and popularity tango could be a response to the vibrant life of this community. Overall, the author is able to throw light on the life of this neighborhood.

The sixth chapter is aimed at discussing the tradition of tango which was developed in such a district as San Telmo. It should be mentioned that San Telmo is by far the oldest part of Buenos Aires. In this case, tango can be viewed as a form of public demonstration. San Telmo attracts thousands of tourists coming from different countries. Many of these people are drawn to the performances of professional dancers (Dujovne 118).

In particular, these people often watch such forms of dance as milonguita and compadrito (Dujovne 118). In many cases, they take pictures of performers. Additionally, tourists are allowed to join the dancers. On the whole, San Telmo is one of the famous neighborhoods in Buenos Aires. In turn, tango is one of the things that make this district so attractive because it offers people new opportunities for entertainment.

The seventh chapter The World Milonga explores tango as a global phenomenon. In particular, Beatriz Dujovne speaks about tango festivals that can be attended by people coming different countries. In particular, much attention should be paid to gala millongas (Dujovne 128). By examining these examples, the author tries to show that tango was created by people living in Argentina and Uruguay. However, they could represent different cultures (Dujovne 140).

Modern tango also remains a global phenomenon. The author notes that tango festival create an illusion of social connections among people who could be totally unrelated before the milonga (Dujovne 140). Moreover, such events enable them to escape the routine of everyday life. Therefore, tango has retained its popularity even at the time when new forms of entertainment become more available.

The eighth chapter throws light on the role of songs and lyrics in tango because they dramatically shape the experiences of dancers. Beatriz Dujovne notes that such songs emphasize such aspects as the celebration of life and love (Dujovne 147). Many of the songs accompanying tango can be viewed as the form of confession.

These songs prompt people to be more open (Dujovne 150). Additionally, the author points out that tango often has certain political or social undertones. In particular, they often throw light on the experiences of working-class people (Dujovne 152). To a great extent, these songs make people about forget about their everyday problems.

Moreover, these songs lay stress on the idea that the social background and status of an individual are irrelevant to tango which makes people forget about their differences and conflicts. These are the main elements that can be identified.

The ninth chapter presents an in-depth discussion of the tango called Milonguita. The music for this dance was composed by Enrique Delfino while the song was written by Samuel Linning. Beatriz Dujovne examines the lyrics. In particular, the poet lays stress on the liberty of the lyrical character, even despite her poverty (Dujovne 182). Moreover, the poet pays much attention to the relationship between men and women living a vibrant urban community such as Buenos Aires.

Additionally, the poet explores a person’s need for love. On the whole, in this chapter, the author conducts a close textual analysis of the song and relates this discussion to the social environment which emerged at the time when the song was written. This discussion enables the readers to gain a better understanding of Milonguita which can be regarded as an important landmark in the history of tango. Moreover, one can better understand how it later influenced many musicians and dancers.

The final chapter of this book tells readers more about the life and work of Alberto Podestá. He is considered be as one of the greatest tango singers. The writer argues that such performers as Podestá are able to enliven the song by portraying the emotions of the lyrical characters (Dujovne 198).

Moreover, the performances of Alberto Podestá contributed to the popularity of tango in the world. The author gives a brief overview of his career; she pays much attention to his performance in the band known as Orquesta Miguel Calo (Dujovne 187).

Additionally, Beatriz Dujovne discusses the aesthetic views of this musician, especially his opinions on the work of other performers (Dujovne 187). Overall, this discussion enables people to gain a better idea about the important landmarks in the history of tango; furthermore, the examples offered by the author explain the continuing popularity of this dance.

Why tango fascinates and engages people all over the world

On the whole, the popularity of tango can be attributed to several distinct characteristics of this dance. In particular, it enables people to express their emotions and sensuality in an open manner. One should bear in mind that the dances, which existed at the beginning of the twentieth century, did not provide people with this opportunity. In fact, the open display of sensuality was not a part of the existing culture; very often such behavior could be perceived as something immoral or at least indecent.

In turn, tango deviated from this tradition. Therefore, this dance could appeal to many young people. Additionally, the aestheticism of this dance is based on the premise that people should be able to transcend their social and cultural barriers which were often artificial. This is one of the reasons why tango was so attractive. As it has been said before, tango was created by immigrants who came to Argentina and Uruguay from different regions of the world.

In turn, these individuals could synthesize various music, lyrical, and visual forms. Moreover, they laid stress on the elaborate use of body language. These are some of the details that should be taken into consideration because they can be useful for explaining why tango fascinates many people throughout the world.

Apart from that, tango has a great number of variations; one can even say that it is open to improvisation. This characteristic of this dance distinguishes it among many others. So, it enables people to express their creativity. Tango cannot be viewed as a formalized list of movements. Moreover, this dance continuously evolves because people can develop new techniques. This is one of the main points that be singled out because this characteristic is of great interest to many people.

Additionally, one should keep in mind the popularity of tango can be partly explained by technological developments which emerged in the early twentieth century. In particular, one should speak about the invention of gramophone and music recording. Due to these developments, various tango melodies could be easily spread and recognized by people living in different countries. This is another detail that should not be overlooked.

Furthermore, it is possible to say that tango enables people to overcome many of their complexes. In particular, tango is critical for the socialization of many people who could often be isolated from one another in the past. Overall, this dance prompts people to overcome their anxiety or apprehension of strangers. This issue is eloquently illustrated by Beatriz Dujovne in her book. This author shows that this dance helps people cope with their sense of vulnerability.

On the whole, tango helps people become less alienated. Moreover, it facilitates the interactions between various social groups. Admittedly, there are many other forms of dance, and they can produce a similar effect. Nevertheless, tango was the first dance that appealed to people representing difference classes. More importantly, it changed the artistic and cultural conventions which existed at that time. Furthermore, this dance was associated with inner freedom. This is one of the factors that contribute to the popularity of tango.

Finally, one should mention that contemporary tango is often associated with such aspects as artistic sophistication, musical taste, and prestige. This argument is particularly relevant about the views of people.living in the United States, Europe, and Australia. This is one of the reasons why this dance is of great interest to many people. Certainly, this claim is not relevant if one speaks about such countries as Argentina and Uruguay in which tango was created.

Admittedly, one cannot assume that tango is the only dance that appeals to a great number of people. Its major peculiarity is that it enjoys popularity among people representing different age groups, cultures, and ethnic groups. These are the main arguments that can be put forward.

Works Cited

Dujovne, Beatriz. In Strangers’ Arms: The Magic of the Tango, New York: McFarland, 2011. Print.

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