The blog of author Dennis Cooper

David Ehrenstein presents … Tango Day


Wiki sez: Tango is a partner dance that originated in the 1880s along the River Plata, the natural border between Argentina and Uruguay, and soon spread to the rest of the world.

Early tango was known as tango criollo (Creole tango). Today, there are many forms of tango extant. Popularly and among tango dancing circles, the authentic tango is considered to be the one closest to the form originally danced in Argentina and Uruguay

Tango is a dance that has influences from African and European culture. Dances from the candombe ceremonies of former slave peoples helped shape the modern day Tango. The dance originated in lower-class districts of Buenos Aires and Montevideo. The music derived from the fusion of various forms of music from Europe. The word “tango” and “tambo” around the River Plate basin where initially used to refer to musical gatherings of slaves, with written records of colonial authorities attempting to ban such gatherings as early as 1789.

Initially, it was just one of the many dances, but it soon became popular throughout society, as theatres and street barrel organs spread it from the suburbs to the working-class slums, which were packed with hundreds of thousands of European immigrants.

In the early years of the 20th century, dancers and orchestras from Buenos Aires travelled to Europe, and the first European tango craze took place in Paris, soon followed by London, Berlin, and other capitals. Towards the end of 1913 it hit New York City in the US, and Finland. In the US, around 1911, the word “tango” was often applied to dances in a 2 4 or 4 4 rhythm such as the one-step. The term was fashionable and did not indicate that tango steps would be used in the dance, although they might be. Tango music was sometimes played, but at a rather fast tempo. Instructors of the period would sometimes refer to this as a “North American tango”, versus the so-called “Argentine Tango”. By 1914, more authentic tango stylings were soon developed, along with some variations like Albert Newman’s “Minuet” tango.

In Argentina, the onset in 1929 of the Great Depression, and restrictions introduced after the overthrow of the Hipólito Yrigoyen government in 1930, caused tango to decline. Its fortunes were reversed as tango became widely fashionable and a matter of national pride under the government of Juan Perón. Tango declined again in the 1950s, as a result of economic depression and the banning of public gatherings by the military dictatorships; male-only Tango practice—the custom at the time—was considered “public gathering”. That, indirectly, boosted the popularity of rock and roll because, unlike Tango, it did not require such gatherings.

Here’s discourse on the Tango in L’homme de sa vie, a marvelous movie by Sabou Breitman with Charles Berling and Bernard Campan.


(L’Homme de sa vie Tango)


A very important figure in Tango history — Carlos Gardel —


(Carlos Gardel)

Carlos Gardel “Por una Cabeza”)


Here’s a famous performance of that Tango —


(Scent of a Woman Tango)


Would you believe that Luis Bunuel made a Tango film?


(Liberta Lamaque in Gran Casino)


Here’s Rudy!


(Valentino in The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse)


Here’s a scene from woefully neglected auteur Jan-Daniel Pollet’s most important dramatic film.




Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider can’t dance.


(Last Tango in Paris)


Queer tango is a new way to dance Argentine tango free from traditional heteronormative codes. It offers the chance to dance tango without pre-established roles according to the gender of the dancers and change the roles of leader and follower, even in mid-dance. It is thus also called open role or same-sex tango. The queer tango movement permits not only access to tango for the LGBT community, but also opens up new possibilities for heterosexual dancers; women learn to lead and men learn to follow.

Dominique Sanda and Stefania Sandrelli CAN dance.


(The Conformist)


Another Queer tango courtesy of the great Wong Kar Wai —


(Happy Together Tango)


Astor Piazzola — as Jacques Rivette said “Ni L’egliseni bordel” —


(Astor Piazzola “Libertango”)


Finalemente — Peggy Lee evokes the murder of Ramon Novarro.





p.s. Hey. ** Today the honorable David Ehrenstein freshens up the blog by coaxing our attention towards the tango of all crazy things. I’m excited, and I hope you are too. Please reroute whatever you were thinking about before you loaded this page and let his exploration of and paean to this venerable dance form take hold, and, of course, report on the effects to Mr. E. Thank you, and thank you very much, David! ** Steevee, Hi, Steve. Thanks for investigating. How was your big film of yesterday? Any luck or news re: your doctor’s new proposal? ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! Very nice to see you, of course, and I’m glad your internet connection de-shittified. What do you think was the problem with the latest group meeting? Could you tell? Whoa, you’re working on the edit! Excellent! I think you know editing is my favorite part of writing, so just reading that gave me a rush. I didn’t end up doing anything for the Night of the Museums because nobody I knew who was in town was in the mood, and the idea of going alone just didn’t get me out the door. Oh, well. I think my weekend and yesterday were pretty even-keeled and unmemorable in general. But this morning at 10 am Zac and I start editing our film, and I’m jumping out of my epidermis in excitement, although I’m sure the laboriousness of the actual editing process will sober me up quickly. Still, the wait is over! How did Tuesday suit you, pal? ** David Ehrenstein, Hi, David. Thank you once again for this fine and super fresh post. I saw your comment yesterday, and I did go ahead and restore your LaTouche Day. A few of the links are dead, so I had to create some detours, but I think it’ll be just fine. I’ll launch it here on Tuesday, June 6th. Thank you for the great suggestion! ** Amphibiouspeter, Hi, welcome back! I’m so happy that Peter Campus’s work interested you. Very interesting about that perceived loss of all sense of desire in art. I think that’s very true. What that means will now be haunting me all day, for which I’m grateful. It is very funny, that. I guess I figure it’s some kind of pragmatism = salvation thing. Yes, there’s definitely a connection between my theater writing and the film work, not as much in the detailing, I don’t think, but more in the sense that writing film seems kind of like a perfecting of the theater writing. Or something. I don’t know if my GIF work has clear connection to the film work. Off the top of my head, I would say no, but that ‘no’ doesn’t feel very confident. ‘TVC’ was suppose to play in Lisbon just the other day, but apparently the shows got cancelled a while back due to the usual budget cutbacks at the venue, and Gisele forgot to tell me about the cancellation. So, yeah, it was supposed to but didn’t, sadly. Thanks a bunch. It’s great to get to talk with you. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. My pleasure, and I hope his work shows up in your vicinity so you can see it in person, which is, as I said, kind of key. I haven’t watched the new ‘Twin Peaks’. I suspect I’ll probably have to wait until there are a bunch of episodes available before I start. But, yes, the reports I’ve read have removed all wariness from my expectations. It sounds to be what I had hoped it would be. Great! ** Jeff J, Hi, Jeff. Excellent to see you, man. I don’t know if the French Campus show is traveling. It certainly should. There’s a really fantastic catalog — this — put out by les presses du réel whose books and catalogs are always pretty amazing. Thanks so much for the good words about ‘DC(Y)’. I really appreciate it. No, other than thinking idly but deliberatively about writing about the GIF work, I’ve had no time and brain space to be practical about that good idea. I am looking into doing more GIF work-related live events like the one that happened at the New Museum, in Paris and maybe other places. I think that event was not only quite interesting and fun but also a good way to explain the GIF works in a way that’s conducive to the form itself. No, haven’t seen the new ‘Twin Peaks’ yet. From everything I’ve heard, yes, I’m pretty excited and hopeful. My fear was the it would be too dedicated to the pre-existing series and operate within a nostalgia, and I’m relieved that isn’t the case, yeah. ** MANCY, Hi, S! Cool, yeah, Campus’s stuff is pretty great. I’d known his work before I saw the retrospective, but the totality and consistency/ development in his work was pretty revelatory. Yes, I thought a lot about your GIF work’s use of yellow when I was making ‘Dunce Codex’, and those thoughts were very shaping. Sucks that we can’t just meet up for a coffee and blab about this stuff. Internationality blows sometimes. ** Misanthrope, Hi, G. It’s kind of true about most visual art vis-a-vis the blog format, which is why I don’t put as much art I like here as I want to. Bad translation. Yeah, I think I live in this kind of rarefied world at this point in my life for whatever reason because I don’t hardly ever, and even kind of never, meet people who aren’t already familiars with gays and artists and so on. Re: your fiction question, yes, that novel-in-progress you describe is still, at this moment, my next novel. It has been pushed into the background because I’m just feeling much more interested right now in making films and making fiction with GIFS, and I honestly haven’t even opened the doc it’s in for about two years. But I definitely intend to go back to it, and, assuming it still looks as good to me as it did, finish it. I still have my longish standing plan to write one more novel then stop writing novels, and I still think that unfinished one is the one I want to close with. So, hopefully, that’ll be the case, although I don’t know when I’ll return to it. It could be a while, or I could just jump back into it any minute. Thank you for asking about it, George. ** Jeff Coleman, Hi, Jeff. Thanks a lot for that alert. I didn’t know. Everyone, Jeff Coleman alerts all of us to a new fiction piece by the awesome writer and local James Nulick that’s newly up and accessible on the Fluland site. It’s called ‘SIDEWALK PENTAGRAMS’, and it’s here, and I highly recommend you get your butts over there and read it post-haste. Thanks again, man. I hope all is super well with you. ** Okay. Return to or begin your blog affair with the tango and Mr. Ehrenstein’s wonderful directives in that regard. See you tomorrow.


  1. My medication didn’t work at all last night. Sometimes it really knocks me out within a few hours, but I took it at 6 PM yesterday and I was still up at 12:30 AM (which was not what I wanted.) So I E-mailed my doctor about this and I think it will definitely have to be replaced.

    The description of the film I saw yesterday, NOWHERE TO HIDE, turned out to be somewhat inaccurate; for the first half, the subject uses his camera to document the way the war has ruined the lives of his neighbors, daily bombings, etc., but then in the second half he becomes a refugee himself and the privilege afforded by his profession and control of the camera mostly fades away. According to an end title, he’s still living in a refugee camp (or was when the film was completed in 2016.) The film could’ve used more political analysis and I was curious about the director, an Iraqi who now lives in Scandinavia, and his relationship to the subject, which is never explained, but it did a good job of providing an insider’s view of what it’s like to flee ISIS and various militias that are supposedly fighting it but really making people’s life more dangerous too.

  2. Tango music, overall, is pretty great. Wasn’t Valentino a professional tango dancer? And I really like the Peggy Lee “Tango.” “Is That All There Is?” is an incredible record. Leiber and Stoller was a good mix with Peggy.

  3. Here’s my review of Lav Diaz’s THE WOMAN WHO LEFT: http://gaycitynews.nyc/settling-score/

  4. Hey, man,

    Long time no see. Missed you a lot.

    How have you been?

    How have things going with your film now that shooting ended?

    This may sound weird, but, I was wondering if you could put me in contact with Zac. I’d like to talk to him about a few things and ask him a few questions. You think that could be possible?

    Either way, thank you very much.

    Lots of love and hugs,

    Good day; good luck,

    Your friend,


  5. David E – Really enjoyed this tango day. I’d forgotten about those wonderful dance scenes in ‘The Conformist’ and ‘Happy Together.’ Also had no idea Bunuel made a tango film! Need to check out Pollet’s work, which is new to me. ‘L’Acrobate’ is the place to start?

    Many thanks for this!

    • Pollet is best known for the featurette “Mediterranee” — no story or characters, just select images with a score by Antoine Duhamel and a text by Philippe Sollers as narration. He did other films with Claude Melki . My fave is “L’Amour C’est Gai L’Amour C’Est Triste” with Chantal Goya and Marcel Dalio. He even arranged to “make” a film posthumously “Jour Apres Jour” It consists of a series of instructions and illustrations for its production.

  6. Dennis – Thanks for the link to the Campus catalog. That thing’s a beauty. Hope the editing goes well & you and Zac are off to swift start. Have you seen many of the dailies already? How do you all start this part of the process?

    Be curious to hear your thoughts on ‘Twin Peaks’ whenever you get to it. I just finished the 4th episode which was completely story-driven, as compared to the previous ones which were more visual & experimental. Some very slack and drawn-out dialogues scenes and odd performance style where each actor noticeably pauses before delivering their line. A bit troubling, but I’m still excited to see how it all develops.

    Are you familiar with work of Italian writer Claudio Magris? Apparently mixes fiction and reportage. Sebald-ish, maybe? FSG published ‘Danube’ which is apparently his big book but Yale University Press is releasing new titles now.

  7. the radio here goes from take me breath away to salsa. bailar is a fascinating verb to me for some reason. my spanish is coming back to me. i like seafood i eat everything i see. steak tartar in paris last time was awful so much ketchup. i was furious. always loved shrimp and clams. fish is new for me. so went investigating verified one haunted hotel the vinoy. got some great head too lol. and ive found a vortex of haunted near my house. its always talking with that knowledge of the dead speak. its so strong its scary when i get the balls im going checking it out. twin peaks sounds promising. wanting to go back to hoppegarten really bad. some stories to wet your willies coming up soon. good luck with the editing

  8. I’ve done a lot of dancing in my time, but never the tango. It’s a shame how the partner dance has died out.

  9. DC-

    Hello. I’m finally done with the show and all the show-related stuff I have to do. I just emailed you shots of all the pieces. Hope you like and/or at least think they are interesting. I always love to hear your take about what I’m doing.

    I’m super tired and I need a break. I’m going to Las Vegas next week so I can be stupid for a few days. Can’t wait.

    EDIT – Actually that email just bounced back. Do you have a new email address? The one I have is dcooperweb one.


  10. DavidE, Maestro! Unfortunately, I don’t dance, but I appreciate those who do and especially those who do it well.

    Dennis, Cool about the on-the-burner novel. Good to hear. Thanks for talking about it.

    Seems my mom’s pretty ill. Her hiatal hernia is acting up. I might have to take her to the emergency room. So I’m on standby for that. If it’s not one thing, it’s another, you know. Ugh.

  11. chris dankland

    May 24, 2017 at 6:23 am

    @David Ehrenstein:

    just wanted to thank u for putting this together, this was such a beautiful injection of something different into my evening — i love the music that goes along with tango but i never exactly know what names to start with, so i’m very grateful for the songs u included


    hey Dennis !! how’s the editing going so far?

    this evening i listened to GBV’s ‘alone, stinking & unafraid’ like 30 times in a row, that song is so great

    hope ur having a good morning — in my imagination i’m clinking coffee cups with u, cheers

  12. Lovely tango day, David.

    Hope the editing was off to a splendid start, Dennis. Very hectic week ahead, then it’s the long weekend, whew.

    The Lynn Hershman show was very interesting; looks like it originated in a recent show at ZKM. I would have handled some of the presentations differently; it can be tricky to display older video-based pieces these days and not have them look unintentionally quaint. But maybe that’s just me being grumpy…

    Started the Cosey Fanny Tutti autobiography. Some great stories of course, but after just 80 pages I’m getting worn out by all the gossip.


  13. Dear Dennis:

    How did your editing start out? I hope it was exciting and smooth. When do you think you will finish it, if you don’t mind answering?

    I’m sorry I couldn’t comment a few days. I might not be able for about a week. But I read the blog on metro because finest media distraction is quite needed on NYC subway.

    Even while being busy with film school thing, I’m managing okay to retrieve (and hopefully refine) young Ashbery, young Tate, young Auden, etc. in the state of my mind. Speaking of Auden, I don’t really like his poetry. The forms and sentiments are too standard(ish) for me. Did you like Auden’s work?

    PS. Very nice Tango day — really love Happy Together Tango.

    • Yes, the weather, for a few days, has been perfect here — a little gloomy and springy cold — I had to take a day off to walk about the city

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