Friday, May 22, 2009

Last Tango for Marini

Just to prove that “nice guys don’t always finish last”, Kris Allen became America’s idol this week. As well, the countries newest sweetheart, seventeen-year-old gymnast, Shawn Johnson, won top prize on Dancing with the Stars.

I guess a lot of young people weren’t happy with the choice of Kris over Adam but from my perspective, being the old fashioned senior I am, I was totally happy that Kris won. He’s a little more “mainstream” and I much prefer his style of music.

To be honest with you, I’m not fussy about the term “idol” nor the adulation, bordering on worship that goes along with it. I just hope it doesn’t change Kris from the engaging and modest young man he appears to be. Of course, looking back I realize that our generation had our idols as well: Elvis Pressley and the Beetles were definitely in that category.

As far as “Dancing with the Stars” is concerned, I was rooting for the French actor, Giles Marini to win. So, of course, I was a little disappointed in the final outcome although Shawn is certainly a lovely young woman and has been dancing better as each week goes by.

But last Tuesday, Giles’ flawless performance of the Argentina Tango along with his dark, Latin good looks reminded me of our adventures in beautiful Buenos Aires. And a few weeks ago, I did promise to tell you about the time we spent in that elegant city prior to our South American cruise last year.

Argentina is the home of the tango which originated the back streets of Buenos Aires around 1870. It was created by the lower classes in response to upper class tyranny but many of the elite enjoyed it in private. At first it was only performed by men with men but later they would dance with prostitutes. At the time, it was considered much too sensuous for proper ladies.

However, around the turn of the twentieth century, the music of the Argentine Tango became popularized worldwide because of two idols of that time: Rudolph Valentino who made it a hit in 1921 in North America and Carlos Gardel, a French-born singer whose interpretation of the sensuality of the music was pivotal to it eventual success and acceptance.

Gardel travelled all over South America and the Caribbean making recordings of over 515 different tangos. He also made several films for Paramount Pictures which helped bring much attention to the dance. He probably would have become even more famous but he suffered an untimely death in an airplane crash on June 24, 1935. By then interest had become wide spread and the 1940s and ‘50s have been referred to as the Golden Age of the Tango.

Since then, tango has had periods of decline and resurgence but, in the past few years, it has been growing again, perhaps in part because of its popularity on Dancing with the Stars. Here in British Columbia, the Vancouver Argentine tango community has garnered such interest that in a four year period it doubled to its current size. I do feel it’s a little late for me to learn it but I never tire of watching it.

We especially enjoyed our evening at the historic El Viejo Almacen in Buenos Aires where we feasted on a juicy Argentine steak dinner in their fine restaurant, then crossed the street to the showroom for a fantastic evening of music and tango. In Argentina, along with Evita’s tomb, the tango has become a national treasure. Here’s a link to a variety of styles of the tango on youtube.

Next time we take you out to the Argentine pampas for a visit to an estancia complete with gauchos and a fantastic outdoor barbecue.

The above two pictures were taken in the tourist area of Buenos Aires where artists abound and you can get your own picture taken dancing the tango. That's me with the camera above.

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