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Blog // Sounds
March 23, 2007

Tango Buenos Aires

Growing up in Australia, my childhood and adolescence were defined by misunderstanding. My name relentlessly misspelt and mispronounced. My country of birth was a mystery to most people. No one I met at school spoke my language (I did not meet any Spanish-speaking students or teachers throughout all my schooling). There were the relentlessly wrong […]

Growing up in Australia, my childhood and adolescence were defined by misunderstanding. My name relentlessly misspelt and mispronounced. My country of birth was a mystery to most people. No one I met at school spoke my language (I did not meet any Spanish-speaking students or teachers throughout all my schooling). There were the relentlessly wrong assumptions about our diet (No, we don’t eat Mexican food).

I distinctly recall a junior high school experience where a teacher tried to persuade/convince me that Tango had nothing to do with Latin America. Apparently “those people” listen to drum music, like Samba. As one of “those people” I learnt something that day – about the limitations of reasoned argument. I knew that the music of my country was defined by guitars and pan-pipes and that the music of the neighboring country, music that I had also grown up listening to, was the Tango, but nothing i could say would dissuade my “teacher.”

In fact that music has stayed with me ever since. Tango moves me in a way that few other genres do. It’s also a music that as I have aged only grows in the levels of meaning and richness it brings forth.

So last night was a treat, enjoying the Tango Buenos Aires concert as part of the Hong Kong Arts festival. The dancers, Roberto Herrera and Tamara Bisceglia, Esteban Moreno and Claudia C??dega and the No Bailar?°s group were crisp; with a good balance of humour and seriousness. The highlights were Herrera and Bisceglia’s charming “morning after” routine which blended tradtional tango moves with lighter Astaire/Rodgers style hollywood charm and the rather subversive No Bailar?°s’ interpretation of the famous tango tune, “A Media Luz”. The musical selections, performed by tango group, El Arranque spanned the full scope of tango from traditional gravitas to contemporary playfulness. A real treat were the perfomances from bandoneon master, Ra??l Garello and powerhouse vocalist Noelia Moncada.

For me, this stands out as the most rewarding performance of the festival. Thankfully the group brought their own lighting and sound, so there were no repeats of the unprofessionalism that marred the Valdes concert.

I find it hard to judge Hong Kong audiences. There were again plenty of empty spaces in the better seats, some people left early (all from the front rows), many more arrived late (the show had begun 12 minutes after the scheduled time) and a few ex-pats around us talked almost non-stop throughout the show. But the applause was warm and felt generous, growing in intensity as the show progressed.

I suspect that many people came for the dance and stayed for the music. That’s really the point of booking these kinds of shows in places like Hong Kong and it is a wonderful feeling to be part of an audience that is learning and growing (even if it comes with a reminder of how resolute some people are in their desire to not learn).

It’s also an example of how to face that which is foreign and other to us – with curiosity, patience and respect. Maybe the future of Hong Kong’s cosmopolitanism depends less on the dwindling numbers of expats and more on the cultural sophistication of its long term residents. Based on what I saw last night (and what I’ve been seeing recently), I more optimisitic for the latter.

[tags] Tango, Cosmopolitanism, Hong Kong Arts Festival [/tags]

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