There's a contagious idea going around: prophets of doom, Cherie, Irene and Man Yung, then London Tango, one after the other, all proclaim the imminent demise of 'tango nuevo'! (Sighs of relief all round!) I seem to be the last to catch it, but maybe someone will catch it from me. After all, it's such a good idea!
Some years ago it was pointed out that there's no room for it on most dance floors, and thus the End of Nuevo is nigh. Not always true, but tango actually feels best in big close groups, like our Tango al Fresco in London. If you dance at arm's length from the friend you're dancing with, and at leg's length from the nearest couple, you are very close to dancing completely on your own, and how long is that satisfying?
A few weeks back I visited the big Monday-night practica in North London: a friend I'd met in Buenos Aires was passing through London, and of course we wanted to resume our dancing. She'd learned in all the best places in Germany and has enjoyed tango wherever she's been which, since she's a non-tenured academic, is all over Europe. It was literally a heart-warming experience to renew our friendship over some good old tracks that were such a pleasure to dance to. But pause a moment, and look around. Milena Plebs had taught the class so there were a lot of people there, and it was mainly tango at arms' and legs' length. A strange disengaged, abstract, cold, detached (literally) sensation; there's something cerebral about it, as if the dancers are really wrapped up in some kind of puzzle, cleverly remembering fragments of choreographies, and assembling them, and remembering the appropriate responses to the lead. I cried for the cheerful ringing laughter of the late Ricardo Vidort. Or the passionate musicality of the late Tete Rusconi. Sin miedo! Sin pensamiento! Without fear! Without thinking!
Pablo Veron commented a year or two ago that 'tango nuevo' is doubly a misnomer: it's the name coined by Piazzolla to describe his kind of music, and moreover there's nothing new in the dance itself, which goes back to dance halls of the 1930s and 1940s. It's all old tango, its elements are tango history. In its city of origin the usual term for this kind of dance is 'tango fantasia': something that happens away from the crowded reality of the dance floor, tango for the stage. I can enjoy it if it's done with passion and musicality, and with a strong sense of the close-hold emotional commitment. Look at Javier and Geraldine when they were young and together: it's a wild and breathtaking dance, although I think they'd call it salon, but nothing like the fingertips-only-and-look-how-clever-we-are-dancing-tango dance that's the worst side of London tango.
Chicho Frumboli loudly proclaimed last winter that he had ruined tango with his experiments; that THE EMBRACE was what really mattered. I checked out some recent videos of him: well, poor guy if he thinks that's an embrace! And he even looks bored. Well, maybe he was; maybe he was thinking 'I'm Chicho so I've got to teach this stuff and dance it, but really, my dear, I just want to hold you close and dance properly!' I hope he'll shock everyone and do it soon!
So is 'tango nuevo' dead or dying? It's less popular on the continent than in London, and my guess is that its day here has passed. Europeans dance close, and do it well, and I think nuevo, or fantasia, will begin to feel to dancers how it looks to outsiders: arid, lacking emotional pleasure in its core. They don't really look as if they're enjoying it, so how can it survive? Dancers will split off into jive and salsa, which can be enjoyed very readily, and into salon/milonguero tango. Of course a few gifted dancers will continue to amaze us with 'extreme tango', and the 'n' word will be long forgotten. Eso espero!