2013 in review

•Tuesday, 31 December 2013 • Leave a Comment

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,200 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


Or the flame…

•Thursday, 26 December 2013 • Leave a Comment

“Tango is a sad thought that is danced.”

—Enrique Santos Discépoloo

“But sadness is also beautiful, maybe because it rings so true and goes so deep, because it is about the distances in our lives, the things we lose, the abyss between what the lover and the beloved want and imagine and understand that may widen to become unbridgeable at any moment, the distance between the hope at the outset and the eventual outcome, the journeys we have to travel, including the last one out of being and on past becoming into the unimaginable: the moth flown into the pure dark. Or the flame.”

— Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby

Reasons to Dance

•Wednesday, 25 September 2013 • Leave a Comment

For a cynical, soulful, romantic Bukowski managed often to hit the nail hard and true:

unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

From Sifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way – 2002.


•Saturday, 14 September 2013 • 3 Comments

Photograph taken at La Milonga del Quinto Sabado, Nottingham, 31 March 2013.


Fué un ensueño de dulce amor,
horas de dicha y de querer,
fué el poema de ayer,
que yo soñé,
de dorado color,
vanas quimeras del corazón,
no logrará descifrar jamás,
nido tan fugaz,
fue un ensueño de amor y adoración.

Cuando las flores de tu rosal,
vuelvan mas bellas a florecer,
recordarás mi querer,
y has de saber,
todo mi intenso mal.

De aquel poema embriagador,
ya nada queda entre los dos,
doy mi triste adiós,
sentiras la emoción,
de mi dolor…

A favourite at milongas is Francisco Canaro’s classic 1935 recording of the beautiful tango Poema: music by Mario Malfi, lyrics by Eduardo Bianco. The singer is Roberto Maida.

There are several translations of Bianco’s lyrics on the internet, but translating poetry or lyrics (especially tango lyrics) is fraught with difficulty.  Do you stick to the literal meanings, or do you go deeper and try to convey the feelings and emotions being expressed? And there’s the problem of rhyme and rhythm.

For me, direct translations rarely work as poems or lyrics. Vissarion Belinsky once commented, “To read a work in translation is like kissing a beautiful woman with a handkerchief over her face.” I am grateful to those who take the trouble to translate tango lyrics; they do give a flavour of the original. But to be true to the essence of the song or poem the translator must bring to it much of his own sensibility and that of the language he is translating into. Words and phrases do not mean the same in one language as they do in another.

See also https://tangowords.wordpress.com/2012/01/21/tango-poetry/

So these ramblings are really an excuse to proffer my own painfully produced version (‘version’, not ‘translation’):


It was a sweet dream of love,
hours of joy and hope.
Yesterday was a golden poem I dreamed,
a vain construction of my heart
that I can never rebuild.
So quickly lost are
our dreams of love.

When the roses in your garden flower again
you may remember my love,
and understand my sadness and my pain.

Of our intoxicating poem
nothing remains,
So accept my last goodbye
and for one moment
remember all the passion and the pain…

[The photograph above was taken at La Milonga del Quinto Sabado, Nottingham, 31 March 2013.]

The Lion and Jill

•Saturday, 20 July 2013 • Leave a Comment

“You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,” said the Lion.”

What we seek is that moment of connection when things move from the physical to the metaphysical, and the dance just speaks. Nothing is forced or staged. Nothing is unnecessary. Perhaps this is true of many things.

“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.

“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.

“Then drink,” said the Lion.

“May I — could I — would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.

The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.

The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.

“Will you promise not to — do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.

“I make no promise,” said the Lion.

Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.

“Do you eat girls?” she said.

“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as it it were sorry, not as if it were angry. It just said it.

“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.

“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.

“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”

“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.

[Both quotes — in italics — from C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair]

“Honeyed by Oblivion”

•Saturday, 27 April 2013 • 6 Comments

The quotation heading this post is from George Eliot’s The Spanish Gypsy and refers to kisses, but it could perhaps equally refer to certain tango moments.

I read quite a lot of poetry and dance tango on average three or four times a week. There often seems a close link between the two. Frequently I’m reading a poem and there’s something in the words that chimes with the feelings I get when dancing, particularly those very special tango moments when the music, the partner, the movement and the mood all come together to create that feeling that most dancers seek but is so difficult to describe.

I’ve recently taken to noting those poems or lines which make that connection for me and intend to post them here occasionally. In some cases the writer is not talking about dance, so I’ve taken the liberty of ‘adapting’ their words slightly (with apologies and respect).

Please feel free to add you own.

There are as many nuances and inflections for tango as there are dancers to dance with and tandas in which to enjoy them.

[Above adapted from Tess Gallagher, Portable Kisses.]

You are always new. The last of our dances was ever the sweetest…

[Above adapted from John Keats’ letters to Fanny Brawne.]

Something made of nothing,
tasting very sweet,
A most delicious compound,
with ingredients complete;
But if as on occasion the
heart and mind are sour,
It has no great significance,
and loses half its power.

[Above from Mary E. Buell, The Kiss.]

When age chills the blood, when our pleasures are past —
For years fleet away with the wings of the dove —
The dearest remembrance will still be the last,
Our sweetest memorial the dances we love.

[Above adapted from Byron, The First Kiss of Love.]

Tango is a secret told to the heart instead of to the ear.

[Above adapted from Edmond Rostand, Cyrano De Bergerac.]

Rose danced with me today.
Will she dance with me tomorrow?
Let it be as it may,
Rose danced with me today.
But the pleasure gives way
To a savour of sorrow;
Rose danced with me today,
Will she dance with me tomorrow?

[Above adapted from Henry Austin Dobson, A Kiss.]

My love and I for dances play’d,
She would keep stake, I was content,
But when I won she would be paid;
This made me ask her what she meant.
Pray, since I see (quoth she) your wrangling vain,
Take your own tangos: give me mine again.

[Above adapted from William Strode, Sonnett.]

Never do with your arms what you could do better with your whole body.

[Above adapted from Cherry Vanilla, American singer-songwriter.]

Come back often and take hold of me,
sensation that I love come back and take hold of me —
when the body’s memory awakens
and an old longing again moves into the blood…

[Above from C.P. Cavafy, Come Back.]

Tango: Sensual or Sexual

•Tuesday, 5 March 2013 • 15 Comments

Argentine tango is a sensual, emotional dance. But sexual? That seems often to be the perception of those outside the tango scene…

We are sexual as well as sensual beings, and perhaps at times there may be some kind of overlap between these two aspects of sensuality at certain times, in certain dances, with a certain partner, in the same way that there may be in day-to-day contacts or conversations. But this isn’t what tango is about. Perhaps the confusion comes because tango is certainly about passion.

This is a trailer for a documentary entitled Tango and Sex by Junior Cervila:

The film “… explores the sub-text of Tango, and every aspect is colored by sexuality. Tango is not just a dance it is an historical tradition, a social contract between two people, a philosophy. Because sexual expressiveness was forbidden, the early years of Tango bore this stigma. Tango is a social contract with strict rules defined by the very nature of ‘leading’ and ‘following’. These rules provide perspective for understanding both relationship between the sexes and how the individual relates to their own sexuality. How one perceives these roles ranges from sexual repression to total release or sexual freedom. As a philosophy the documentary explores the dance as a sensual metaphor for life…with trust and true intimacy as its highest level.”

I’ve not seen the documentary so I cannot comment further. But, a sensual metaphor for life… I can go with that. And certainly trust and true intimacy are as essential in tango as they are in any real relationship.

Feel free to add your thoughts.

%d bloggers like this: