Arts & Entertainment

New Uruguayan TV series examines tango’s storied past, constant evolution

By Federico Anfitti

Montevideo, May 18 (EFE).- A new Uruguayan television documentary series offers a comprehensive look at the past and present of tango, a dance and musical genre that was born on the banks of the Rio de la Plata in the mid-19th century and continues to evolve and appeal to younger generations.

Directed by Rosalia Alonso, “Cambalache” provides a broad-based view of tango in Uruguay and shows that a dance associated with an earlier era is changing with the times and staying relevant today.

“The world of tango is inexhaustible: from its history, everything that’s happening here in Buenos Aires and other parts of the world,” the filmmaker and tango dancer since the age of 17 told Efe.

“Cambalache,” which will start to be aired Tuesday on Television Nacional Uruguay, is divided into eight episodes that focus on different elements of tango, including its history and renowned orchestras, its lyrics and instruments and the dance’s changing gender roles.

The series gets its name from a famed tango song that was written by Argentine composer Enrique Santos Discepolo and known for its cynical depiction of 20th-century life, a track chosen, according to Alonso, for its “very current poetic language.”

The documentary series features more than 60 interviews with figures such as late tango theorist Daniel Vidart and the late concertina player and composer Raul Jaurena, as well as young musicians and artists now taking their first professional steps.

Footage of live music, stories and anecdotes and lessons learned along the way, all are blended together in “Cambalache,” a series that she said even inspired many members of the production team to take dance classes after filming was completed.

The origins of tango date back to the mid-19th century on both sides of the Rio de la Plata, a river that forms a natural border between Uruguay and Argentina.

Buenos Aires and Montevideo were the original epicenters of that dance and musical form that has since expanded worldwide.

“It’s something that’s inherited, like from your family. There are things you inherit and you’re going to want to change them. I think it’s also good that that’s reflected” in the series, Alonso said.

A genre commonly associated with a bygone era, tango is now in tune with new fashion trends and non-traditional ideas about gender.

Roles are blurred, with women now able to take the lead in the dance. Special footwear and clothes and designated venues are no longer obligatory, with people now dancing on the street and in sneakers.

Over the course of the series, “Cambalache” strives to capture the different aspects of tango both old and new – the singing of Carlos Gardel on Radio Clarin and the new generations dancing in a public square – to promote and preserve that important cultural heritage. EFE

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