Tag Archives: review

Review of the book “Finnen von Sinnen”

Author of the review: Małgorzata Halaba.

A book by Wolfram Eilenberger Finnen von Sinnen is, as its title says, a book about Finns, not about the tango. But since Finns have developed their own, unique version of this dance, it would be unforgivable to miss this interesting albeit short description. According to the author – a German who married a Finnish woman and has moved to Finland – “in musical terms, the Finnish tango is a combination of Russian romance and German military march. In terms of lyrics, it combines nature-praising Scandinavian poetry (A Rose of an Eagle) with exotic, sensual fantasies (Mirage); idyllic love (Night outside the Window) with frustration caused by modern technology (Why the Telephone is Silent?)”.

Steps in the Finnish tango are not very complicated – two long ones, three short – and any crazy distortions from the scheme are strictly forbidden; all gestures are to remain restrained. But, in the author’s opinion, without the tango Finns wouldn’t survive as a nation because the dance’s main purpose is to pave a man’s way toward active sex life. But beware! In Finland, nothing happens fast. So, even if anyone gets interested in a particular person, he has to wait to the last dance.  Because only then, when a lady accepts the invitation, she may also mean consent for further, more intimate cooperation. She might. But doesn’t have to.  I wonder, what experts in the Finnish tango would say? Below, see the most popular Finnish tango, Satumaa.

Review of the book “Heart of Tango”

untitledAuthor of the review: Małgorzata Halaba.

Buenos Aires, the twenties of the last century. Natalia is nineteen; she lives with her father in La Boca, takes care of the household and spends her free time with friends learning how to dance the tango. She dreams that maybe, one day, she will be able to dance with a man. At the same time, her wedding day approaches – she is to marry El Rojo, much older immigrant from Germany. Natalia has no idea whether she loves this red-haired giant, but a respectable girl has to get married, right? And love? Well, surely it cannot be more but fiction, an invention of sentimental novelists. And El Rojo is a good man. But fate decides to play a cruel trick here – on her wedding’s eve Natalia meets Diego – although “meets” is an exaggeration – and she instantly knows: novelists were right about this strange thing called love. Diego is a tango dancer and, by sheer coincidence, has a chance to dance with Natalia at her wedding. This one tanda is enough to make them both realize that they are meant for each other, albeit this is not to happen.  They will re-emerge many years after – in another place, in another time, at another milonga. Only their tango will remain the same.

Heart of Tango is a beautiful, sad novel full of love and magic. But first of all, this is the story about the tango and what it could be in someone’s life: a passport to a better word, never ending dream and love, but also despair, longing and death. Also, Barceló wonderfully captures vibrant Buenos Aires of the beginning of the last century – this Mecca of immigrants from all over the world who had come there in search of their destiny. 

And last but not least – Heart of Tango contains probably the most beautiful description of the perfect connection in a dance:  “She became a silk handkerchief against my body, a flame enveloping me, a wise flame that understood my movements and burned me a little bit with every step, with every turn. Our breathing grew laboured and I let myself be led into a dark, smooth tunnel from which I could never emerge”.

Review of the book “The Return of the Dancing Master”

Author of the review: Małgorzata Halaba.

Herbert Molin is an-ex policeman, who, after retirement, decides to hide in his remote farm in the northern forests of Sweden. Here, he spends his nights fighting insomnia and days – doing puzzles and dancing Argentine tango. One day, Molin is found brutally murdered and police discovers strange bloody tracks in the snow — as if someone had been practicing the tango. Stefan Lindman, Molin’s former associate, decides to join the investigation which would disclose totally surprising side of his older colleague. Coincidently, he also discovers many disturbing facts about his own family and country. At the same time, it becomes clear that Molin’s death, albeit pointless at the first glance, is fully rational and its reasons go back to war-time Berlin and one dancing teacher…

In The Return of the Dancing Master Mankell confirms his great shape – the book is a real page-turner, with an interesting, multi-layered plot. Thus, lovers of Scandinavian mystery books will not be disappointed. But I don’t know about the tango lovers… Once again, the tango is used here as a background, although in a rather innovative way. One can draw the following conclusion: it is not true that music makes people better. In some cases, music just reveals the darkest side of a human being, for instance by giving unnecessary self-confidence to make use of the evil. Good news is that  leaders can find a practical receipt for an ideal dancing partner – the one who will follow each step and will never talk back in case of any misunderstanding :)

And the most sophisticated macabre lovers can find a real treasure – a nitty-gritty description of a hangman’s work and professional dilemmas. Ugh…

Review of the book “El tango de la guardia vieja”

Author of the review: Małgorzata Halaba

A book by Arturo Perez-Reverte El tango de la guardia vieja is a fascinating story about human relations, unthinkable coincidences, unexpected meetings between lovers every twenty or thirty years… And a book about chess, as well. It’s a slow-paced, delicious, subtle tale one reads with great pleasure. Its characters are unconventional and full of surprises, so are their walks of life.

Meet Max Costa: a gigolo who makes his living dancing at a luxurious liner cruising between Europe and South America. As it turns out, dancing is just one of his many talents – Max, an Argentinian immigrant, is a former solider of the Foreign Legion, a gallant, a thief, a burglar, a crook and even an occasional spy – but, first of all, he is a charmer, with impeccable manners.

There is also a mysterious She –  Mecha Inzunza de Troeye, a woman coming from totally different world: beautiful, wealthy, elegant wife of famous Spanish composer. Theoretically, chances for Max and Mecha to meet are close to zero. But since real life is full of surprises, they not only meet, but build unusual, decades-long relationship – based on love, friendship and a good dose of perversion.

But despite the title, the book is not about the tango. Since the author wanted to write about male-female relationship, about emotions and sex – well, what could be a better background than the tango? According to conventional wisdom the shortest way to the bed starts at the dancing floor… Fortunately, the author has spared us the rose and La Cumparsita… :)

Review of the book “Astor Piazzolla. Memorias”

astor-piazzolla-moja-historia-pyta-cd_25021Author of the review: Małgorzata Halaba

Astor Piazzolla. Memorias, is an interview with the musician written by an Argentinian journalist Natalio Gorin. Frankly, the book is rather difficult and hermetic one for someone who does not professionally deal with music, or better – with tango music. But professionals will find it truly fascinating. Piazzolla talks about his artistic way, admitting that it was an easy one as he had to struggle for wider acceptance – many found his approach to the tango rather shocking. As Piazzolla says, nothing could irritate him more than a request made after a concert: “Maestro, and how about playing some tango now?” And he had to deal with that quite often.

Piazzolla had two principal teachers and musical guides: Nadia Boulanger who „has shown him the way” and who has discovered “the real Piazzolla”, and Alberto Ginastera. Ginastera has given Piazzolla basics and technics to be fine-tuned later, with Nadia Boulanger. But at the same time Ginastera has opened Piazzolla’s eyes to other fine arts, showing that a good musician cannot reduce his knowledge to key notes and maybe soccer, if he is an Argentinian musician, of course.

But non-specialist will find a lot of interesting stuff as well – Piazzolla vividly describes his stormy childhood in New York City, admitting that had his parents not decided to come back to Argentina, he would most likely ended up behind the bars – just like most of his friends.

We could also find out why young Astor used to hate bandoneon so much; why Anibal Troilo had to throw young Astor out from his orchestra and why a short meeting with Artur Rubinstein has turned his life upside down.

The book is also available as an audio-book and this version is worth recommending: the text is read by Waldemar Malicki, topped with recordings of Piazzolla’s compositions played by Piazzolla himself, by Malicki and by other performers, including Kevin Keener, the 2nd prize winner at International Chopin Piano Competition in 1990.

Review of the book “The Meaning of Tango. The Story of the Argentinian Dance”

Meaning of tangoAuthor of the review: Małgorzata Halaba.

The Meaning of Tango. The Story of the Argentinian Dance by Christine Denniston is a solid set of information about the Argentine tango. Here, we can find a history of tango – the dance which, from backstreets of Buenos Aires came to Europe and today is danced all over the world. The book explains various definitions, provides basic information about tango styles, composers and singers. One can also get familiar with descriptions of basic steps and find out why learning the tango is not about learning its steps or sequences, but rather about learning a completely new language. The book could also be considered a manual of tango savoir-vivre. I strongly recommend it to everyone – including those who are already the tango dancers, but also those who just think about it or want to expand their knowledge beyond Hollywood-imposed stereotypes.

The author has been tango dancer for many years, has taught the dance on five continents. Some will like her explanations why she considers those who practiced martial arts her best students :). Mind you, the explanation has nothing to do with a widespread view that the tango is a fight between a man and a woman. :)

Review of the book “Eight steps of tango” (“Osiem kroków tanga”)

osiem kroków tangaAuthor of the review: Małgorzata Halaba.

In Cracow, Marek Halicki, an investigative reporter, gets killed. Police says it’s a suicide, but this version doesn’t convince his friends. Thus, Piotr Nadolski, a former commando and truck-driver, now a consultant, a musician and an Argentine tango dancer, decides to solve the mystery surrounding his friend’s death. While decoding a chain of hints left by Halicki, Nadolski starts to follow some ominous cargo which takes him to Istanbul, Kurdistan and eventually to Baghdad.

Eight Steps of the Tango by Krzysztof Mazurek is a well-written detective story, with an interesting plot and intense, vivid characters. The tango is just a background here, but the background that certainly contributes to the book’s overall charm and depth. And it’s not only that the main characters are the tango dancers: here, the tango is present everywhere, as excerpts from factious tango guide by Ruben Sotero, Argentine Tango Basics. Sentences from the manual open each chapter; they serve as a motto, a keynote, a good or bad augury, a guideline for the future. What about this one: “In the tango, there are no wrong steps. If you take a step you didn’t want to take, don’t worry – just go on with your dance”. Just like in real life, isn’t it?

Review of the book “Black tango”

Czarne tangoAuthor of the review: Małgorzata Halaba.

Black Tango, the recent book by Lena Oskarsson, is a mystery story as bleak and black as the tango in the title. On Midsummer’s Eve a group of strangers come to Skirjesjön Lake sharing one goal – to take part in the Black Tango marathon. The very next day one of the participants finds a small girl’s body… But this is just a beginning, because – as the genre requires – dead bodies keep mounting, fresh blood keeps flowing and each murder is even more cruel and sophisticated than the previous one. Needless to say, coincidental tango lovers turn out to be not such coincidental, after all. The group itself is quite unusual one and includes “The King of Real Estate”, suspected of pedophilia; his wife – impoverished aristocrat, kleptomaniac and a dedicated peeper. We also have a married couple with eating disorders and emotionally deprived daughter. There is an owner of an obscene tattoo on her calf – a drug-addict-turned-into-prostitute who, in order to keep in business, lures potential customers with private tango classes. One can’t also miss the newly divorced writer-alcoholic, the rat-catching village fool and the divine, dark-skinned Alejo from Buenos Aires.

As for the tango itself – in the book the dance is nothing more but an exotic background, something to spice up the atmosphere and make it more mysterious. It’s obvious the author is no tango dancer thus dancing scenes are full of stereotypes. However, one can always learn something new – in my case it was the following piece of advice: the best way to avoid sore feet is to splash them with hair spray, wait until it dries and only then put high-heels. I definitely have to try that – maybe during some marathon :). And the book’s main message: Queridas tangueras s queridos tangueros! Remember! Casual sex with unknown dancers may lead to very unpleasant consequences!