History of the Dance

by Bruce Spear

gardel260Stepping into tango, so I have learned, is also to step into a tradition and since I love history I quickly found Robert Farris Thompson’s “Tango: The Art History of Love.” The book is also a history of culture: of how music, figures, costume, and all the rest have been passed down through demonstration, teaching, and imitation from generation to generation and across cultures. It is quite a remarkable story, and living in Berlin I get to be part of it: with milongas open every night, the “scene” includes thousands of dancers, dozens of instructors and musicians, and everyone, it seems, is practicing: picking things up from their partners, teachers, other dancers, and themselves. Maybe it is because, as a teacher, I might have a special awareness of learning and so am quick to notice it going on, but like most everyone else, my attraction also has to do with being able to be a part of it. This is rather new for me, I think: until now, “culture” was something I studied, read in books, photographed. and so mostly knew from a distance. But with the dance, I am being invited, literally, to step into the footsteps of others.