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Tango: The Art History of Love
by Robert Farris Thompson

Publisher: Pantheon (September 20, 2005)

ISBN-10: 0375409319

Here at last is an antidote to those trite coffee-table books that treat the tango with purple prose. In language no doubt inspired by the lyrics of its subject, this serious volume examines and celebrates the cultural history of the famed Argentine dance, conveying its real passion and the author's passion for it. Thompson, the renowned Yale Africanist and art historian, convincingly evokes the often-obscured African roots of the dance, whose name comes from the Ki-Kongo word for "moving in time to a beat." He then explores the tango's relationship to cakewalk and ragtime, Cuba's habanera and Rossini's operas, along with the mutual admiration between the father of tango, Carlos Gardel, and the tenor Enrico Caruso. Thompson tells the stories of tango's composers and performers, from the female composer Eladia Blázquez to poet and lyricist Jorge Luis Borges. Hollywood versions of the dance pale once Thompson begins to mine the riches of tango's rhythms, lyrics, philosophy and steps. He explains the sinuous figure-eight footwork of ochos, the boleo circular leg thrusts and the dramatic corte y quebrada cut-and-break steps that mimic the real-life emotional combat of relationships. There may be too much detail for generalist readers, and even devotees will need to pause to digest all of the information given. Still, for fans of dance, music and cultural history, this is the real deal. B&w illus. (Sept. 30)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Tango!: The Dance, the Song, the Story (Paperback)
by Artemis Cooper, Maria Susana Azzi, Richard Martin, Simon Collier (Editor), Ken Haas (Editor, Photographer)

Publisher: Thames & Hudson; 1 Pbk ed edition (September 1997)

ISBN-10: 0500279799

The tango smacks of elegance and sophistication, but that was not always the case. The tango was born in the lesser quarters of Buenos Aires in the late nineteenth century, first danced by prostitutes and pimps, and took years to win the "battle for social acceptability." This unbridled dance is chronicled in a book that is equally unrestrained, abounding in exciting illustrations and grounded in a lively text by four authorities. In the 1880s, as we learn here, an economic boom sent Argentina zooming to the top ranks of wealthy nations, and its capital was transformed into a beautiful metropolis, but the city also played host to thousands of European immigrants whose lives were not lived in beauty. In this less-than-respectable ambience sprouted a new and very sexy dance; the "connection between the tango and the brothel is inescapable." It took the tango's transfer across the Atlantic to Paris in the years immediately prior to World War I to render it not only respectable but chic. Back to Buenos Aires it came, and in the 1930s, not only the dance but the musical form associated with it enjoyed a golden age; the authors profile the famous singers and dancers who emerged during that flamboyant era. The tango lives on, for according to the authors, "There will never be a last tango." Brad Hooper

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