[Re]turning

December 8, 2008

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Re[turning] is live cinema performance about the significance of the Tango to a community in Rosario, Argentina. I became interested in the Tango during my first weekend in Rosario, living in a historic Tango venue. As I watched the dancers through the steamy glass of a rooftop window, the fog condensing from the cold air outside and heat of the dancers inside, I became entranced. This project seeks to capture the aesthetic beauty of the Tango while also speaking to its historical and cultural dimensions. As a foreigner, my images convey the gaze and wonderment of a distant observer. They reflect movement, memory, longing, and the increased symbiosis of bodies in motion—all viewed from a lens none too clear.

The dancers describe why Tango is important to them. Many of them talk about how it’s part of their identity, both personally and culturally. They describe the feelings one experiences while dancing and the emotions of the music, reflecting “all of life in three minutes (the standard length of a Tango).” An older woman talks of how she danced every night with her husband when he was still alive and how her whole family dances. “It’s part of our identity,” she says. A young woman eloquently traces how the Tango reflects politics as well, explaining how Tango had to go underground and was almost lost during the seventies and eighties when Argentina was in political turmoil. “People didn’t think of having fun, or feel safe going out. Fortunately the major Tango artists kept it going and today the tradition carries on.”

Using VDMX, a live mixing software typically used by VJ’s, we (David Fodel and I) created a ten minute performance piece combining my footage of the dancers and the interviews with live writing and music. As the interview clips came up on the screen, I translated and reacted spontaneously to what each participant expresses in various clips while Dave mixed the layers. The performance culminated in our own version of Volver, a famous Tango song that embodies the memory and longing Tango is known for. In my first version of this project, a musician I interview spontaneously sings this song in front of my camera. David and I start this song with an electronic midi track, transitioning into me playing this song on my accordion. Throughout the piece we highlight the combination of old and new evident in the Tango. We do this mostly through sound by mixing in static and also mixing old and new instrumentation in our version of Volver. The combination of images, also touch on this concept. Some are grainy and foggy, mimicking history and memory, while others are clear and fluid, feeling more contemporary. The people being interviewed also speak about the juxtaposition of old and new, as they discuss the significance of the Tango, both personally and culturally. We titled this piece [Re]turning, an English translation of Volver, that expresses the physical turning of the Tango, as well as the psychological return.

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