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Tango: The Art History of Love

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About the Author

Robert Farris Thompson is the author of, among other works, Black Gods and Kings, African Art in Motion, and Flash of the Spirit. He has been a Ford Foundation Fellow and has mounted major exhibitions of African art at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. He is Col. John Trumbull Professor of the History of Art at Yale University, where he is also Master of Timothy Dwight College. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.


Here at last is an antidote to those trite coffee-table books that treat the tango with purple prose. In language no doubt inspired by the lyrics of its subject, this serious volume examines and celebrates the cultural history of the famed Argentine dance, conveying its real passion and the author's passion for it. Thompson, the renowned Yale Africanist and art historian, convincingly evokes the often-obscured African roots of the dance, whose name comes from the Ki-Kongo word for "moving in time to a beat." He then explores the tango's relationship to cakewalk and ragtime, Cuba's habanera and Rossini's operas, along with the mutual admiration between the father of tango, Carlos Gardel, and the tenor Enrico Caruso. Thompson tells the stories of tango's composers and performers, from the female composer Eladia Bl zquez to poet and lyricist Jorge Luis Borges. Hollywood versions of the dance pale once Thompson begins to mine the riches of tango's rhythms, lyrics, philosophy and steps. He explains the sinuous figure-eight footwork of ochos, the boleo circular leg thrusts and the dramatic corte y quebrada cut-and-break steps that mimic the real-life emotional combat of relationships. There may be too much detail for generalist readers, and even devotees will need to pause to digest all of the information given. Still, for fans of dance, music and cultural history, this is the real deal. B&w illus. (Sept. 30) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"Thompson . . . inflames us with his reverence for the form." -Mikhail Baryshnikov "Thompson helps us understand the way artistry and ancestry combine to make an art form of the body." -The Washington Post "Elegant. . . . Uplifting and timely. . . . Thompson rescues tango from a one-dimensional tristesse, mining in its working-class origins emotions of defiance, freedom, self-control, humor, love, and redemption." -Foreign Affairs "[Thompso treats tango as narrative art, literature and way of life. . . . By extensively tracing the lines of this 'rich suite of moves, ' Thompson's work gives a dance started in the early 1900s the weight of a centuries-old form." -Newsweek

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