The Love That Kills – Gabriel Missé revises tango

Tango, with its tight embrace and insistent drive, may seem to be about only one thing: sex.

In a story that may be apocryphal, but I hope not, a French President, upon being introduced to tango, said, “In France, we do it horizontally.” But often there is another powerful current in tango: hostility. Though the man and the woman dance very close, they don’t necessarily look at each other, or, if they do, the gaze may be cold.

tango-loveRoughly speaking, the message is “Now we’ll dance together, then we’ll have sex, then I’ll stab you with my knife.” This noir romanticism, I think, is responsible for much of the popularity of tango, and of many other Latin dance forms as well. I once asked Eduardo Vilaro, the artistic director of Ballet Hispanico, whether he felt pressured to deliver heat, sizzle, pantie shows. Yes, he said, because that’s what the presenters want.

In which case, you can be pretty sure that that’s what the audience wants. I can see why. Tango is one of the last repositories of the old and piercing idea of the love that kills: Tristan and Isolde, Carmen and Don José. But this convention is also the source of a lot of the vulgarity of tango shows.

And that factor, or the elimination of it, is the reason that Gabriel Missé’s visits to New York in recent years have been a cause of joy. Missé, a native of Buenos Aires, the capital of tango, began lessons at the age of six. (He is one of five siblings who became tango dancers.) Now thirty-three, he is a star in his country and beyond.

He first performed in the United States in 2008. He has returned every year since. On September 25th and 26th, he and his partner, Analía Centurión, will appear in City Center’s popular Fall for Dance series, and early this month, almost as a preview, he and Centurión danced at the Dardo Galletto Studios, in Times Square. During that engagement, I saw the couple for the first time, and I practically fell off my chair. . . .

Read more at The New Yorker.


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