Tango behind the dykes
100 years of tango argentino in the Netherlands
Arnoud de Graaff
When on the eve of the first World War a worldwide tango mania erupted, the Argentine tango also came to the Netherlands. The first official traces date back to 1913. On July 1 the actresses Sophie Hermse and Mien Vermeulen demonstrated the tango in Cabaret Artistique in Scheveningen. Also in 1913 a tango demonstration was also given in the Princess Room in The Hague, but from this one no date is available. From that date on many tango manifestations have taken place in the Netherlands, although in some decades (the fifties and sixties) tango seemed to be in a coma. From Malando to Carel Kraayenhof (music), from Willy Derby to Wim Sonneveld (cabaret), from James Meijer to Ricardo & Nicole (techers); all of them have dedicated themselves to tango, each in their own way. Apart from music, cabaret and teaching, there are also other types of tango manifestations; such as prose, poetry, movies and visual arts.
In the beginning
It is not very likely, but also not 100% certain that tango was already known in the Netherlands before 1913. Not very likely because the world wide breakthrough came in April 1912, when tango was 'discovered' in Paris and became an overnight sensation. But also not impossible, because tango had arrived a few years after the turn of the century in the mundane Paris, after which the first recordings were made. Already in 1907 the first musicians arrived in Paris (Buenos Aires didn't have recording studios yet) to make recordings:
"In 1907 the management of Gath & Chavez, that until a few years ago occupied the corner of Florida and Bartolome Mitre, decided to send Angel Villoldo, Afredo Gobbi and his wife Flora Rodriguez to Paris. Their task in the French capital was fundamental: to record music for Gath & Chavez" (Aranibar; 2005).
So it is not impossible that adventures, business travelers, bourgeois and aristocracy already came into contact with tango before it became fashionable.
On the date when tango arrived in Paris, Groeneboer (2009) commented:
"Shortly after the turn of century tango appeared in Paris, allegedly transported by sailors, dealers in white slaves and cocaine dealers. And although the Argentine elite distanced themselves from this lowly dance, it may be possible that Argentine students imported tango in France. The French capital was the place where children of well to do Latin American families received their education. Off great importance for tango's popularity was also the meteoric rise of the recording industry. [...] Round 1907 the first tango musicians arrived in Paris, soon followed by the first tango dancers."
From Manuel Pizzaro it is known that he even arrived earlier in Paris. Vichneski describes this:
"In 1900, Pizzrro landed in the harbour of Marseille. After three months of success in a cabaret, he decided to head up to Paris, the city of his dreams. There, Pizzaro goes straigth to the Pigalle hotel in Montmartre to meet his good friend violinist Pepe Chutto. As luck would have it, two other tango musicians, Celestino Ferrer and Filipotto, were also staying. [...] One night, Moreno invited Pizzaro for a drink at the Princesse, his usual water hole. [...] Modero intruduced him to the owner, cleverly shifting the conversation towards tango. The owner knew that of the 4000 Argentinians living in Paris, a great number of them were already regular custumers his. So when he decided to give Pizzaro a chance and offer his crowd a tango orchestra, he knew it was a sure bet. Filled with enthusiasm, within a week Pizzaro had put his band together, featuring Ferrer on piano, Pepe Chiutto and himself on violin, Filippo and Genero Exposito on bandoneon. Due to the musician's union policy, traditional gauchos outfits were required; all immigrants preformers needed to be dressed according to their homeland. The first night was a triumph. Pizzaro enjoyed the success. Yet he was not one to sit on his laurels. He trained french musicians to play in his orchestra and asked that the place be renamed El Garron. The owner knew he had made the right decision for only a few weeks later people from all corners of Paris came down to listen to the house band, including celebrities from the art scene like Rudolf Valentino, Josephine Baker, Maurice Chevalier and Mistinguett."
Also in the harbors of Rotterdam and Amsterdam tango may have left traces on Dutch culture. Many musical genres are known to have originated in harbors, since harbors are by definition crossroads of all sorts of cultural influences and can and do function as cultural melting pots. The best examples of this are Havana (son), New Orleans (jazz) and New York (mambo, salsa).
||The first tango steps
By the general public in the Netherlands however, tango became only known in 1913. In this year the tres chique Princess Room, situated on the Kneuterdijk in The Hague, presented an exclusive (with closed curtains) demonstration by tango dancers, after a classical concert directed by Willem Mengelberg.
Not long after this demo, other demonstrations were given in the Mascotte Club (Wagnerstraat) and the Wirtz (Denneweg) in The Hague. In this last venue the demonstration was announced as "a demonstration of good French taste and English reservation". A few months later tango reached Amsterdam, where the dance-teacher Simon Lord taught tango, after the regular performances in the Theatre Centraal were finished (Kagie, 2000:29).
The description "a demonstration of good French taste and English reservation" hints that this is already an Europeanized version of tango and not of tango the way it was danced in the barrios in Buenos Aires at that time. On the other hand the closed curtains in the Princess Room may point in another direction. It is very likely that right from the start of tango rioplatenes's boom in Europe, there developed a differentiation between civilized tango (later to become ballroom tango) and 'dirty dancing' tango (Castle & Castle, 1914).
There is no consensus about where, when and by who tango was first danced. The dance teacher James Meijer (Arnhem) claimed to have demonstrated tango already in February 1913 in Musis Sacrum, but according to Groeneboer (2009) he placed this demonstration just one year too early. Groeneboer claims that the first time was on July 1 1913. On this date and following days the actresses Sophie Hermse and Mien Vermeulen demonstrated the new dance (tango) in Cabaret Artistique, which was operated by the impresario Max van Gelder of Kurhaus Scheveningen. Other well known tango dancers of these days were Georgis & Paulianne (probably not Dutch), the French couple René Blanc & Lucette Gilbert and the Dutch couple Theo Frenkel & Coba Kinsbergen and Meina Irwen.
A sudden end of a hype
Just as suddenly as the first tango-wave had appeared in the Netherlands, it disappeared again. As reasons for the sudden disappearance of tango from the Dutch cultural the emergence of other dance-crazes and music (jazz), the first world war and the complicatedness of tango as a dance can be mentioned. Groeneboer illustrated this last point:
"What made tango so special, was that apart from some basic steps, there were no fixed choreographies. The follower danced different steps than the leader and the opportunities to improvise were omnipresent. In her book on dance Dansen en hoe het te doen (Dancing and how to do it) Tine van Aalst wrote that the many steps and choreographies often discouraged the beginning tango dancer. Newspaper articles mentioned as many as two hundred steps and choreographies, and almost daily new ones were added to the tango repertoire. Most of these acrobatic choreographies were developed for professional dancers and not for amateur dancers. Van Aalst observed that too many tricks caused the tango to become too stiff and therefore she decided to limit the number of steps to six standard choreographies, in a manner they were danced in Brazil and Argentina".
A few years after tango faded out of the general public's interest, Nap de la Mar sang (in 1916) s Spanish version of Adios Pampa Mia (Ferrer & Brave, 1989). Nap de la Mar was a well know artist in the world of theatre and cabaret at that time. He worked together with some famous artists of his time: Koos Speenhof, Eduard Jacobs, Cory Vonk, Louis Davids and his daughter Fien de La Mar. This version of Adios Pampa Mia is probably one of the first (if not the first) tangos performed in a Dutch theatre. In the world of the pre- as well as the post war cabaret and theatre, tango was a regularly returning phenomenon.
From theatre to tearoom
At first tango manifested itself via theaters, cabarets and dance-schools and only in the twenties tango moved in direction of more public places, such as bars, tearooms and restaurants. In these years there weren't many (if any at all) 'real' tango orchestras in the Netherlands. The orchestras were often jazz bands, who also played tangos, apart form foxtrots, one steps and shimmies. This is the reason why for many years, the violin remained one of the essential instruments of Dutch jazz bands, because it was needed for playing tangos (Lelieveldt, 1998).
The tango controversy
As Wagner (1997) argued, it is not a new phenomenon in the Western world that there was opposition against modern dances. It was not different when tango became a worldwide tango-craze and the Netherlands certainly were not an exception. Soon after its emergence in the Dutch cultural scene, tango became a point of discussion. This controversy was stimulated from different sides. First of all there were the commentaries of well to do Argentine elite, which also got through to Dutch papers. The Argentine elite, almost immediately followed by conservative powers, were quick to brand tango as a vulgar pass time of the lowest classes of paupers, criminals and poor laborers of Buenos Aires. Also the 'coming out of tango' (that is the transformation of tango as danced in an exclusive non public place to a more public manifestation; such as dancing in a dancehall; with subsequently fewer means of controlling what happened) helped this controversy to become a point of discussion in the papers and the public discourse.
tearoom tango, Germany 1870
Also in Buenos Aires of the turn of the century, tango was definitely not a subject the higher classes openly talked about. The Argentine magazine El Hogar commented on tango's popularity in Europe, that "the aristocratic salons in the French capital enthusiastically greeted a dance, that in Buenos Aires was not talked about in public, because of its bad reputation" (Kagie, 2000:29). And in Europe this was the same. In 1914 Pope Pius X forbade tango, after an aristocratic couple had demonstrated tango at the papal palace. Within a year the archbishop of Paris followed this example:
"We condemn this strange dance, also known as tango, because its voluptuous character goes against catholic norms and morale (Sebastian; 1988:37). The German emperor forbade Dutch officers to dance tango in uniform. The Argentine ambassador in Paris stated that:
"tango in Buenos Aires is only danced in houses of ill repute and bars of very low esteem. Tango is never danced in civilized salons or by civilized people. Tango music evokes very unpleasant associations to Argentines" (Birkenstock, 1999).
It didn't take the Dutch government long to join the tango debate. Without the intention to be complete, I want to stress some points in this debate. On July 22, which was only a few weeks after tango was introduced in the Netherlands, a letter by the gynecologist Hector Treub was published in daily paper De Telegraaf. In this letter to the editor he clearly states his disgust with the titillating character of the modern dances, such as tango and jazz:
"The male and the female body press together in such a way that from chin till knees there is an intimate contact. To make this possible, the thighs are opened a bit, so that the knees can be curled around the legs of the other. In as far one can speak of dance steps, these steps are fast, shuffling, which result in the male pushing the female backwards. Every once in a while this is interrupted, so that the dancers can bend over or backwards, but not without maintaining the bodily contact. The impression that this dance presented, was not elegant and very ordinary" (Groeneboer, 2009).
Treub's letter in The Telegraph evoked a lot of reactions; some of them agreeing with him, but others accusing him of a carping, fault-finding attitude and a petty bourgeois mentality.
After the first World War ended, the western world felt a need for technological innovation and sociocultural change:
"This wasn't only a need for technological change, but also implied changes on a cultural level, as avant-garde arts. New forms and movements came into being and all sorts of experiments were done. This resulted in a stormy period in arts. The roaring twenties showed a more severe and penetrating forms of arts; radio, gramophone, movies confronted people with more intense emotions. The modern dances shocked the older people, but delighted the young ones" (Romer, 2002).
This urge for exoticism caused some worldwide dance-crazes. Regularly new dances were introduced in the Netherlands; charleston, shimmy, volta, jimska, huppa huppa, black bottom and dozens of other dances. Tango, as a dance coming from a country far away of which most people knew hardly anything, fitted perfectly in this craving for exotic new things. Dutch books on Argentina, like Hans Schmidt's Op zoek naar 't geluk in Argentinië en Paraguay (Searching for success in Argentina and Paraguay) will probably have been exceptions.
Traveling tango musicians
Several well known tango musicians and tango orchestras travelled through Europe in this period. Starting with Pizzaro, Villoldo, Gobbi and Flora Rodriguez and later with Francisco Canaro, Eduardo Bianco and many others have performed in the capitals of Europe during the twenties and thirties.
It is a fact that Eduardo Bianco n the thirties performed in Rotterdam and The Hague. One of his concerts (in 1935) in Tabaris in The Hague was attended by Arie Maasland, who decided right away to dedicated himself solely to tango. A few years later Arie Maasland (now under the name Malando) would gain world wide fame with a song that at first was named Cosmopoliet (after the restaurant in Rotterdam where he premiered it), but later was renamed as Ole guapa (Gout, 2006). This song became a world-hit and several Argentine tango orchestras included it in their repertoire. There must have been at least about 200 versions of Ole Guapa recorded in those days (Oudejans, 1989). The aforementioned Eduardo Bianco also performed in the well known dancing Pschorr in Rotterdam in September 1935 (Romer, 2002):
"In September 1935 the Argentine tango orchestra directed by Eduardo Bianco filled Pschorr with a beautiful sound. Tango's, rumba's and paso dobles were in turn performed both on stage and on the dance-floor. Before the second world war Bianco's orchestra travelled for years through Europe, where it probably gained more fame than in Argentina itself. The story goes that Bianco performed for the complete European royalty" (Romer, 2002:135).
In 1942/43 Eduardo Bianco's music was even captured on Polygoon film by Walter Smith in his movie Wij maken muziek (We make music). Mario Canaro, brother of the famous Francisco Canaro, performed in 1938 in the Carlton Hotel in Amsterdam. And also Agesilao Ferrazaano and José Illimani performed in the Netherlands in the pre-war years (Groeneboer, 2009). Of many other tango musicians it is known that they have travelled through Europe, but remains uncertain if they visited the Netherlands during their European tour. For the time being it will remain a mystery if Carlos Gardel, Orquesta Ferrer & Filipotto, Orlando et son Orchestre du Bagdad, Rafael Canaro, Salvador Pizarro, Orquesta Tipica Brodman, Pedro Maffia and many others have visited the Netherlands and performed here (Pfeffer, 2000).
The second tango wave
Halfway the twenties tango rioplatense regained a lot of its earlier popularity in dance loving circles in the Netherlands. Several dance unions recognized the objection that tango was too complicated (also because of its improvising character). By standardizing tango (an international practice in the world of ballroom dancing) the dance-world created a less complicated form of tango dancing, which resulted in what now is called the second tango wave. This standardization led to different styles of tango; such as the english tango (smooth and controlled) and the french tango (dramatic).
In the thirties the dance-schools and dance magazines regularly presented new tango variations: tango-polka, tango-step, tango trot and several other novelty variations (Groeneboer, 2009). For example, Victor Sylvester presented in the dance magazine The Dancing Times (December 1936; 321-24)) some new steps in tango in an article that was named The season's tango (!). Earlier that year, also in The Dancing Times (November 1936; 164-65), Margaret Cadman wrote an article on a new tango form; the tri-ango, which was a mix between waltz and tango. In how far these innovations still resemble tango rioplatense as we know it (or imagine it to have been danced in those times in the Rio de la Plata) is a question which is hard to answer. I expect that tango rioplatense and the europeanized version grew quite far apart relatively soon after the first tango mania/ wave in 1913.
In the years between the two world wars, dance-craze were seen as a threat to public morale. Kagie (2000:29) comments on this:
"the ruling classes carefully monitored what happened on the dance-floors, as they suspected it had hazardous influences for the youth."
Modern dances as a social problem
In 1928 the Dutch government took this perceived social problem seriously and founded an governmental committee (after a request of the Dutch Tucht Unie) that studied this problem. Three years later this organization presented the result in Regerings-commissie inzake het Dansvraagstuk (Gourvermental commitee for the dangers of social dance) to the ministers of the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Foreign Affairs (successively CHU-minster Frans Beelaerts van Blokland and ARP-minster Jan Donner). The organization was concerned about the dance-craze of the twenties:
"Modern dance, such as the step, foxtrot, shimmy, charleston, etc. often is attributed a sexual character and can not have a positive influence. [...] The danger of sexual stimulation has reached a level in modern dances, that was not known before "(Giesen, 2005).
In 1933 the government issues the Dansbesluit, which was written by Mr. J. Maarleveld, a National Health inspector. The Dansbesluit issued several measures that would solve the dance craze problem: a maximum of 1 pair of dancers per square meter; not more visitors than can be seated; a well lighted dance hall, which can be seen from all angles; no admittance for minor aged and suspicious persons and controlling facilities for a person appointed by the mayor. Not long after these measures had been put into effect, it appeared that they were counterproductive. In these years of economical crisis, dance hall owners had enough problems of making a living and the Dansbesluit only made it more difficult for them. Later that year the Dansbesluit's measures reformulated in a more flexible way.
The Dansbesluit was not only caused by tango dancing; also jazz dances will have contributed to it. Both jazz and tango dancing was a controversial social issue in those days. In het Vrije Volk (21 February 1933) there is a commentary on tango dance to music of the Jack Payne orchestra:
"It is amazing to see how many Lombroso types you find in a dancing. You can really see some criminal types there" ( Kagie, 2000).
The more persistent the opposition to modern dances was, the more popular they became. Wouters (2009) comments on the popularizing effects of the Dansbesluit:
"The harsh measures (in as far as they have been executed) which were proposed in the Dansbesluit have not led to realize the goals they had. Dancing only became more sexual, primitive and instinctive."
Where in Germany from 1933 onwards a systematic repression of swing and jazz took place, there didn't happen much in the Netherlands. After the Netherlands had been occupied by the German army, this soon changed. The German measures were soon put into effect. This resulted in the formation of a Dutch Kultuurkamer, which limited the creative freedom of (predominantly jazz) musicians, radio program makers and catering entrepreneurs. (Wouters, 1999).
Despite the repercussive measures of the German oppressor did the amusement industry (theatre, movies and cabaret) expand significantly after a little dip at the beginning of the second world war. Only in the last year of the war and especially in the 'hongerwinter" (famine winter) did decrease the number of people who visited movies, theatre and the like. After the war was over the expansion continued again. (van der Veen, 2005).
There is little known about tango (music and dance) during the war. Where jazz was forbidden (Nazi regarded jazz as negroid, degenerate and American; Overbeeke c.s. 2004), tango managed to escape the oppressors attention for a long time. Argentina (a white nation with strong European character) remained neutral until a few weeks before the end of the war, before opportunistically joining the ranks of the allied forces.
The name that comes to mind if you think about (pre-)war Dutch tango is of course Arie Maasland, better known as Malando. The Malando orchestra managed to stay out of trouble during the first four years of the war and thus were able to keep on performing. On September 5 in 1944 their luck ran out.
On this day (also known as Dolle Dinsdag) Arie Maasland, Ben Rodenhuis, Koos Knoop and Wim Sanders were drafted in order to work in Germany.
Dolle dinsdag (literally Mad Tuesday) refers to 5 September 1944. On this day rumors spread that the liberation of the Netherlands was near. The Allied Forces had already liberated large parts of South Netherlands and people expected, that if they would move on with this tempo, the war would end soon. The rumor (based on a radio message of the BBC stating that Breda already was liberated) turned out to be false.
Their refusal to do so meant that they were arrested and deported to the penitentiary camp Amersfoort. They managed to escape when they were transported to Amersfoort, but performing was only possible again after the war had ended (Gout, 2006).
After the war
After the liberation of the Northern part of the Netherlands (the south had already been freed in 1944), a period of americanization of Dutch culture started and until today no signs of a slowing down of this cultural trend are visible. In the years after the war (the years that Netherlands had to rebuild after the heavy losses of the war) American music is extremely popular. In the first ten years after the war jazz, swing and big band were very popular and from mid fifties rock and roll and later pop conquered the hearts of the younger generations.
After the war a new culture grew fast: a youth culture. For the first time in history young people had enough money to spend the way they wanted to. The music industry realized the potential of this market and gave the young generation what they wanted: Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and later the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. In the light of this new youth culture it is reasonable to assume that tango, usually associated with the twenties and thirties, will have dwindled to almost nothing. I don't expect that in the fifties and sixties many tango orchestras have travelled and toured through Europe, let alone the Netherlands. In Buenos Aires of the mid fifties to late sixties many tango orchestra folded or were trimmed down to smaller ensembles and musically tango lost a lot of the flavor it had in the golden age of tango.
In 1962 the Amsterdam dance teacher C. de Jong made some attempts to revive tango. The motivation for this attempt was (ironically) that tango was used as a counter force against the modernist dance rock and roll.(Groeneboer, 2009). Since the early fifties regularly song were recorded that had to do with tango. And quite often these songs were in Dutch. Examples are Toby Rix/Kriminal tango (1959); Jaap Valkhof (als Slome Japie en de Slome Duikelaars)/De tango Argentijn (1965); Frans Halsema/De laatste tango (1966), Wim Sonneveld/Tearoom tango (1966); Herman van Veen/De neus (1969); Nico Haak & de Paniekzaaiers/Tango Johnny (1972); De Kermisklanten/Harmonica tango (1982); Robert Long/Beschaafde tango (1977); Herman van Veen/Parijse tango (1984); De Alpenzusjes/De tango van het blote kontke (1989, which was originally written and performed by Toon Hermans) and Eddy Wally/Dans met mij de laatste tango (2004).
In the seventies two important events took place which helped catalyze the revival of tango outside Argentina in both Europe and the United States. First of all, did several tango orchestra travel through Europe and America. Most notably in this period were Piazzolla and Pugliese. And what had probably more impact was the diaspora of 'political' exiles who fled Argentina, where a military junta waged war on subversive elements. Many musicians left Argentina and went to Europe in search of a culture in which they could freely express themselves. And many of them went to Paris: Juan Cedron, Gustavo Beytelmann and Juan José Mosalini to name a few. But also the Netherlands could welcome a few tangueros: Juan Tajes and Mirta Campos.
After Piazzolla gained acceptance in his fatherland, he toured through Europe and America quite regularly (Azzi & Collier, 2000). Despite the fact that Piazzolla's music in the seventies and early eighties is as far away removed from tangos from la epoca de oro and is not danceable at all, many musicians got inspired by it and were motivated to rediscover the tangos from la epoca de oro. An extra stimulus was Hans van Manen's use of Piazzolla's music for his ballet Five Tangos.
The tango renaissance
After having played a marginal role for many years, somewhere in mid eighties tango rioplatense made a quiet comeback in the Netherlands. At first the renewed fascination for tango may have been nurtured by some political exiles, who fled Argentina during the dirty war. Most of the exiles settle in Paris, but some come to the Netherlands and Belgium. Mirta Campos comes to Amsterdam and will later teach with Lalo Diaz.
|Later the tango show Tango Argentino would play an important role in tango's reviving popularity. In 1973 Segovia and Orezolli started to work on a tango project, which was later to become the famous Tango Argentino show. In the decade that followed they did research how tango was experienced in Europe. They were also looking for a tango orchestra which could provide the music for the show. In Sexteto Mayor, founded in 1973 by José Libertella, they found what they were looking for. After many years of preparation and setbacks, in 1983 the show was performed for the first time in Paris at the Festival d'Autonome. It was a successful debut (and they returned to this festival several times). After the Festival d'Autonome they are invited to play at Biënnaal de Venecia in Italy. In 1985 the show visits America. After a week of try outs in New York's City Center, an again successful debut on Broadway followed. The five weeks that were planned in the Mark Hellinger Theatre resulted in a complete theatre season of performances. After touring through the rest of America and Canada, the show returned to Europe
After performing in Paris, the show toured through Europe and performed in dozens of cities in Germany, Italy, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The tango-show Tango Argentino finally fell victim to its own succes: a fraudulent manager, the death of Orezolli, the transfer from Sexteto Mayor to the Tango Pasion show and irritations/jalousie de metier between the dance-couples of the show, the wear and tear of several years of constant touring, forced Segovia to end the Tango Argentino show. Tango Argentino visited Netherlands a few times. The fantastic steps and spectacular choreographies inspired several dancers to decide to learn tango. Wouter Brave, Martine Berghuis, Rob Doolaard, Inez van Beusekom, Eric Jeurissen and others felt challenged and fascinated by the dance. At first they learned steps from antique dance manuals bought in secondhand bookshops and black & white Valentino movies, but later one after another decided to go to Buenos Aires and take lessons with dancers who had actually danced in la epoca de oro. Unfortunately most of these maestros are not alive anymore.
Not only dancers got fascinated by tango, but also musicians found inspiration in tango music. In the early eighties Carel Kraayenhof heard a bandoneon and decided then and there that he would become a bandoneonist. He is not the only musician who found inspiration in the early days of tango renaissance; also Leo Vervelde, Piet Capello, the recently deceased Dirk van Esbroeck (Belgium) decided to dedicate their musical career to tango.
Dutch tango music
Dutch tango music started again in the late eighties with El Choclo, later followed by Tango Cuatro and Sexteto Canyengue. An enormous boost to Dutch tango music was of course the double concert Astor Piazzolla and Osvaldo Pugliese gave in 1989 in the Royal Carre theatre in Amsterdam. The two giants of tango played together in a combination of Pugliese's La Yumba and Piazzolla's Adios Nonino, when the stage was populated with 6 bandoneons, 2 grand piano's, 2 violincello's, 1 viola, 3 violins, 2 double basses and 1 guitar and their players. In 1992 two Lucho CD's were released, titled Finally together, volume 1 (Astor Piazzolla & The New Tango Sex-Tet) and volume 2 (Osvaldo Pugliese Orquesta Tipica). This was the only time that the Duke Ellington of the tango (Pugliese as described by Piazzolla) and the Miles Davis of tango (Piazzolla as described by Pugliese) played together. Within a few years after the release of this double CD Piazzolla (1992) and Pugliese (1994) died (De Jong, 1992).
When in 1993 the Rotterdam Conservatory started a tango department, the tango music in the Netherlands and also in the rest of Europe got a strong boost. In the same year De Dagen van de Tango (the days of tango) are organized on December 10-11. It is a manifestation with a tango salon, some concerts and and a few lectures on tango from different perspectives (Tajes & Russo c.s., 1993). In the early nineties there were only a few tango orchestras. Nowadays there are dozens of tango orchestras, such as Tango Dorado, Quinteto Zarate, Quinteto Tango Extremo, Alfredo Marcucci & Veritango,, Cuarteto Lunfardo, Cuarteto Rotterdam, Mala Pinta, Trio Tincho, Juan Carlos Tajes & Wim Warman, OTRA, Racing Club Tango and many more.
Holland's own tango hero
|It goes without saying that Carel Kraayenhof plays an extremely important role in the development of tango music in the last twenty five years. In 2005 the book Het leven in 3 minuten (A life in 3 minutes), which is co written by Kraayenhof and Astrid van Leeuwen. At an early age Carel gets piano lessons. In the seventies he discovers the folk scene and starts practicing the concertina. In the beginning of the eighties he discovers the bandoneon and is fascinated. Soon he achieves a reputation with connoisseurs of tango argentino. In 1987 he is invited by Astor Piazzolla to play in the Broadway show Tango Apasionado. In 1988 he starts Sexteto Canyengue and plays with Osvaldo Pugliese. The rest of his career he meets and plays with a lot of famous artists. In the Netherlands he plays with Youp van ’t Hek, Herman van Veen, André Hazes, Bløf, Trijntje Oosterhuis, René Froger and Marco Borsato and abroad with Alfredo Marcucci, Yo-Yo Ma, Sexteto Mayor and Ennio Morricone.
In 1993 he is involved with the foundation of a tango department at Rotterdam's Conservatory, where teaches bandoneon and piano for ten years. Most people outside the tango scene get to know Kraayenhof when he plays Adios Nonino when prince Willem-Alexander and Máxima marry in 2002. After his performance in the Amsterdam's Nieuwe Kerk everybody knows his name. Carel Kraayenhof is been awarded several art prizes during his career. In 1993 he is awarded with the Gouden Notenkraker, the Edison Publieksprijs in 2003 and the Republica Argentina honors him in 2005 for his contribution to tango.
Other tango manifestations
It is not only dance and music but there are also other media in which tango has manifested itself. In the last two decades several tango documentaries and books on tango have been released in the Netherlands. In 1983 Ana Sebastian returns to Argentina after an absence of seven years. Cherry Duyns films her reunion with Buenos Aires in a series of documentaries titles De Terugkeer (part 10). In the same way Leendert Pot makes the documentary In de greep van de tango (1990) in which he films Sexteto Canyengue's first tour in Argentina. In 2002 Wouter Hasebos releases Nostalgia and in 2005/06 Peter-Jan van der Burgh and Chiem van Houwelingen's Het leven in drie minuten followed.
In April 1985 the University of Utrecht releases a book for its Studium Generale, titled Tango. This collection of essays on tango (editors Ria Lelieveld and Monique Woltring) is (as far as I know) the first publication on tango in the tango renaissance. A few years later the first 'real' books on tango appear: Ana Sebastian and Luis Labrana's 'De geschiedenis van de tango' in 1988 and Horacio Ferrer and Wouter Brave's Tango. Muziek, dans en lyriek' in 1989. Both are translations from Spanish, which are adapted for the Dutch market. From mid eighties there is a regular flow of Dutch books on tango.
In the early nineties the Lucho label releases a series of tango records. The Lucho label was a branch of the Amsterdam Boudidisque label, but was incorporated in EMI in the mid nineties (Polling, 1996). The Sexteto Canyengue CD's Por el tango (1992), Tiburonero (1993) and Piazzolla Bien Canyengue (1995) are released by Lucho. Characteristic of these CD's are the sleeve designs by Joost Swarte, a famous Dutch cartoonist and graphical designer, whose style of drawing resembles to some extent that of Hergé (creator of Kuifje). And of course Lucho is also famous for releasing in 1992 the double CD with the 1989 live recording of Piazzolla and Pugliese in Royal Carré Theatre (Amsterdam).
In 2007/08 the first Dutch documentary on the everyday life of a tango school is released: This is El Corte is filmed by Ellen Kocken and Dziga Productions. A few years earlier Kunstburo Lucien Lecarme made a documentary on the Tango meets flamenco festival.
The first tangoschools
As early as 1986/87 the first Dutch tango-schools are founded in Maastricht, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Eindhoven, Groningen and Nijmegen. In these years there are also several Argentine maestro, such as Gustavo, Todaro, Pepito who come to the Netherlands to teach. From the time Tango Argentino started its road to succes and the performances of Astor Piazzolla & Quinteto Nuevo Tango, the phenomenon tango in the Netherlands gain a lot of momentum and couldn't be stopped anymore. In 1986 Wouter Brave & Mirta Diaz start the Academia del Tango in Amsterdam. Ricardo & Nicole leave for Buenos Aires, where they become a famous tango couple. Many other dance teachers and dancers travel to the Mecca of tango to learn tango.
In the following years dozens of tango-schools are founded and especially after Carel Kraayenhof's Adios Nonino in 2002, many people want to learn tango. The last few years it seems that the tango market, a niche market in optima forma, is stabilizing. The credit crisis will undoubtedly weed out several of the weaker tango initiative, but this is a normal phenomenon in economical crises. So we don't have to worry. Tango is not dying. tango always had an up and down evolution.
In 1987 Eric Jeurissen started to teach tango to some friends. A year later this grew out to lessons from wednesday till friday. In 1988 El Corte was made official by a notary. Pepito & Suzuki visit El Corte for the first time. After having taught tango in several venues in Nijmegen (such as pop-podium Doornroosje), Eric rents a hall at the Knollenpad. This is the first permanent place, where El Corte grows for almost five years.
The Knollenpad is opened on 22 September 1990 by Osvaldo Pugliese. In 1991 El Corte starts the international salon on the first saturday of the month. In the same year Eric travels to Buenos Aires for the first time, where a case of hepatitis spoils his stay and dancing is out of the question.
In the following years a lot of first times occur: a workshop by Gustavo and the X-mas ball (1991), a milonga with a performance by Osvaldo Pugliese and the famous tuesdaynights in cultural centre O'42 (1992), the Marathonsalon (1993), the Orange Ball and the friday night practice salons (1994), the International Week (1995), the Goffertpark salon (1997), the chained salon (2000), the Doble Ocho festival (2004) and the Teachers Week (2005).
After some years the Knollenpad location can't cope with the amount of people who visit the milongas. In 1994 El Corte moves to a venue in the Pater Brugmanstraat, but this is not a succes. Half a year later Eric found El Corte's present location; the Graafseweg 108. This venue offers so much space, that it seems that El Corte can go growing for many years. In 2004 it seems that El Corte's expansion reached its limits when a chained salon was visited by 430 dancers. And since this was an unworkable situation, limits to the maximum number of visitors were set.
In 2003 El Corte was 15 years old. Sexteto Canyengue performed and during the break Eric asked publicly if Sexteto wanted to compose a tango song for El Corte. And surprisingly they promised to do so. Next year Sexteto Canyengue made their promise come true. During the first version of the Doble Ocho festival El Corte is performed for the very first time. In the same year Eric is awarded by the city of Nijmegen with the Zilveren Waalbrugspeld.
In 2005 Eric and Henry buy the building which lies behind El Corte and two years later the house above El Corte is also purchased. The plans for the realization of a long cherished wish of Eric (a tango community for old tangueros) can be fulfilled, although the credit crisis do postpone Eric's plans. In 2008 El Corte exists for twenty years. From teaching tango to some friends El Corte grew to a tango centre with both national and international allure. El Corte is alive and kicking.
some photos are copies from a website with the history of Carlos Gardel
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text editing : Stephen McCay
Correction : Wendy Martin