Category Archives: music

Let’s Tango!

I still plan to write a post on Buddhism, and I have one other idea in mind too, but I thought we could have some fun looking at how the Tango relates to the show. I do not consider myself anything more than a person who enjoys listening to music. I love musicals and I love to dance too. I can’t say that I’ve ever danced the Tango. Salsa, yes, but no Tango so far. (I tried Body Jam for the first time yesterday and I struggled with getting the steps right. I can do Zumba though.)

I decided I could use some education about it. You guessed it — I read an article in the NYTimes that got me thinking. The article is really about being uprooted and that’s why I found it quite interesting. It begins by noting that the Tango is related to men who came to Argentina as immigrants looking for work. “They’re people who have gone through the meat-grinder of uprooting and survived it; they’ve come as close to death as one can without dying. It seems that the memory of a personal catastrophe, followed by a miraculous survival, has somehow remained inscribed in the dance’s movements. Part of what makes the Tango so erotically charged is that death is always so close at hand. To this day the Tango has carried with it this uncanny mix of vulnerability and strength.” (I couldn’t let that go by without noticing that is exactly what I mentioned when describing ME as an antihero.)

I remembered that in a comment to my post on what makes DM so appealing Carol wrote about the importance of the music. I had totally overlooked the way music might play a role in our overall appreciation of the show. She stated: “I have seen an interview with the composer and he says something about a type of Tango rhythm that they used that seems to be the rhythm of Martin and Louisa’s relationship (I forget exactly how he said it) but the “back and forth” movement is so important.” I decided I should watch the interview with composer Colin Towns to see what he said. In the interview I found, Towns recalls that it was the editor, Nick (McPhee), who came up with the idea of using the Tango. Towns thought it was a great idea because Cornwall would usually be associated with folk music. Also, “you have a really dignified man” in a village in Cornwall and “the Tango is powerful and reflects how this man would relate to Cornwall.” Oddly enough, on the KQEK website, Towns is quoted as saying: “The acoustic guitar fits very well for what I need, and the Tango (which was Martin’s idea) carries a dignity, slightly overpowering aloofness that matches Martin’s character of an established surgeon sent from the city to deal with a local community – a quirky doctor who is caring but difficult, out of step sometimes, doesn’t suffer fools, a bull in a china shop, but ultimately very human. The Tango is not Cornish but works great with the story. So yes, small community, small band – for this it works.”

Regardless of whose idea it was, I want to say that probably the most important reason the Tango was chosen for the show is because it is so alien to Cornwall and doesn’t fit the setting. Not only is this another subtle way to get a laugh, but also it reflects the incongruity of Martin Ellingham becoming a GP in Portwenn. It’s also amusing because he is anything but graceful and would never be found dancing the Tango. That goes along with the notion of ME being dignified that Towns expresses. On the other hand, the way the Tango is constructed is like the push-pull of Martin and Louisa’s relationship with the power struggle at its core. In most examples of dancing the Tango the man is the leader and the woman mirrors his steps. In DM the courtship dance between Martin and Louisa is rarely led by Martin, but the step by step movement of the Tango has potential as a counterpart to their relationship. First of all, Martin’s posture works perfectly because the proper Tango posture is your head held high, your spine straight, your core strong and chest lifted, and confidence oozing from your body language. (OK, the confidence part is a little questionable.) The steps for both parties: slow, slow, quick, quick, slow. But for the leader it’s:

Forward with your left
Forward with your right
Forward with left
To the right with your right
Feet together, moving left to meet right.

Forward slow, slow, quick, then quick to the side, then together. I think we can make that work for them as a couple.

We actually have one scene in which Martin and Louisa dance (at their wedding reception) and Martin takes the lead with Louisa having trouble following. Nothing too strange about that, huh?

The NYTimes article is more about how exile can be beneficial in that “exile gives you a chance to break free. All that heavy luggage of old ‘truths,’ which seemed so only because they were so familiar, is to be left behind…The redeeming thing about exile is that when your ‘old world’ has vanished you are suddenly given the chance to experience another.” What the writer, Costica Bradatan, argues is that “uprooting is a devastating blow because you have to separate yourself overnight from something that, for as long as you can remember, has been an important part of your identity.” Bradatan acknowledges that “to live is to sink roots. Life is possible only to the extent that you find a place hospitable enough to receive you and allow you to settle down. What follows is a sort of symbiosis: Just as you grow into the world, the world grows into you. Not only do you occupy a certain place, but that place, in turn, occupies you. Its culture shapes the way you see the world, its language informs the way you think, its customs structure you as a social being. Who you ultimately are is determined to an important degree by the vast web of entanglements of ‘home.'” However, “uprooting gives you the chance to create not only the world anew, but also your own self. Deprived of your old world, your old self is left existentially naked. It is not only worlds that can collapse and be rebuilt, but also selves. Selves can be re-made from scratch, reassembled and refurbished. For they, too, are stories to be told in different ways. Often with uprooting there also comes a change of languages, which makes the refashioning all the more fascinating. You can fashion yourself in very much the same way a writer fashions her characters.”

In the end, Bradatan believes that the Tango “is sadness itself that is danced.” For him that is its strength. So the Tango is erotically charged, and associated with catastrophe and survival. And now I’ve gotten way too serious, but you have to admit all of the connections we can make with the Tango also relate to other discussions we’ve had before. Martin’s uprooting has shaken his sense of identity but also given him an opportunity to remake himself. He left behind what he was familiar with, both the good and the bad, and now has established a new home in a different world where he can attempt to create a new self and write a new story. He doesn’t need to change so much as reclaim who he is. Out of the somewhat catastrophic events that brought him to Portwenn he can renew himself. Let’s Tango!

Originally posted 2014-08-19 21:21:41.