The art of bodies moving through space, an original art with world recognition and a global foothold—the dance of the tango is for me not just those two generalizations, but also my profession. As flutist and director, I have accompanied the most distinguished stage dancers in performances all around the world, as well as a countless number of anonymous milongueros (social dancers) in the dance halls of my native city, Buenos Aires.
I used to think I knew quite well what dancing is because I carry it engraved on my retina and because I have taken part in it, in communion, by contributing the sounds essential to the dance’s existence. However, as a popular adage in my country has it: “he that plays never dances,” and with the passing of time, I have witnessed the inexorable accuracy of this. I do not dance the tango.
Today, I can change the verb tense and say: I did not dance the tango until I fell into the cosmic embrace of Beatriz Dujovne.
Her book, In Strangers’ Arms, let me grasp the transcendent value, the profound value of this art form, the one I used to watch from the outside. Today I know that there is much more, and I invite you to experience it as a reader.
Having said that, a question keeps going around in my mind: How could an impact of such magnitude be made by a citizen of the United States? Beatriz Dujovne has with her book produced a phenomenon—fusion—that is only arrived at by whole peoples in conjunction or by great artists in their deepest selves. Tango, jazz, and bossanova are products of the fusion that would not exist were it not for the social phenomenon of our continent. Tango, jazz, and bossanova, like so many other marvels, would not exist without America.
In Strangers’ Arms is the offspring of a singular fusion because its author was born in Buenos Aires, completed her graduate studies in Argentina and the United States, and lived and practiced her profession in the United States, before beginning her research on the tango which she later brought to conclusion in Buenos Aires, breathing the same air that nourished the tango’s mentors; but above all, since Beatriz dances the tango, what she talks about in her work is not solely a research topic but a life experience profoundly her own.
In conclusion, I would say that it’s not often you encounter such knowledge expressed in so transparent a form; Beatriz Dujovne has written a document that turns no reader away.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
February 3, 2009
Alejandro Martino is founder of the School of Popular Music of Avellaneda, and a Senior Member of the National Academy of Tango of Buenos Aires.