The tango gets an artful twist

Lynne Curran describes this small, early tapestry as "in anticipation of what it would be like to dance the tango ... which is why it's incorrect."

When she made it, she had yet to start ballroom-dancing classes with the ambition to learn, in particular, the impassioned intricacies, precise nuances, and calculated spontaneity of this mystique-laden dance. Nor had she learned what she knows today about the various kinds of tango.

She sees three types: the "clipped" Germanic or European, the "sinuous, smoldering" Cuban, and the romantic kind performed in 1940s movies.

This taut but sensitive tapestry somehow holds within its careful fibers the "slow-slow, quick-quick, slow" of the dance itself. It depicts man and woman moving both with and against each other - struggle and cooperation. It aims to capture the European ballroom type of tango. But the vaporous movements woven into the background and the clothes; the border of dancing shoes; and "Tangos and Mangos" scrawled at the foot like a song title, all suggest a rhythm and moody vitality belonging to steamier settings.

Curran says now that, whatever the successes of the piece, "the hand- movements are more like directing traffic!"

All the same, she points out, people read the image as typical of the tango.

And, typically, the tango resides in popular imagery as somehow funny as well as intense. Curran's work often recognizes the hair's breadth that separates the fiercely felt from the irresistibly comic.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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