York hosts special 100-year commemoration of the tango

A celebration of tango and its place in Hispanic culture was marked by York University’s Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics (Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies) on Nov. 28 with the screening of two short films.

Hosted by the Spanish Program, the event was a special commemoration marking the 100th anniversary of the compotion of the “La Cumparsita”, the “tango of all tangos”, which was celebrated around the world with tango festivals, film screenings, concerts and more.

The event “Tango in the River Plate” was held in the Kaneff Tower from 5:30 to 8pm, screened films about two genius composers who represent the historical extremes of tango – its inception in the early 20th century as a dance that took Paris by storm, and its most modern innovations fused with jazz and blues in the latter part of the century.

Maria Figueredo with Spanish Program students Jacob Faryna, Justin Alchteh and Natasha Sarazin

It was co-organized in collaboration with the Consulate General of Uruguay in Toronto and the Consulate General of Argentina in Toronto, and also commemorated the legacy of Astor Piazzolla, the world’s most innovative tango composer and a virtuoso on the bandoneón.

La Cumparsita, directed by Rosario Infantozzi (2002), the grandniece of the composer, is a short fictional representation of the genesis of the most famous tango of all time. Amidst the delirium caused by his illness, Gerardo Matos Rodríguez finds solace in hearing a tune in his imagination with which he composes “La Cumparsita,” a tango melody that has become the second-most interpreted song of all time (second to “Yesterday” by The Beatles). The great nephew of Infantozzi, Gabriel Algorta who lives in Toronto, was a special representative of Gerardo Matos Rodriguez at the event.

Sintiendo a Piazzolla (Feeling Piazzolla), directed by Pablo Rho (2016), was screened in the latter part of the event. This documentary analyzes melancholy in the music of one of Argentina’s most internationally acclaimed composers. While exploring Astor Piazzolla’s personality, it relates certain episodes of his life with some of his artistic creations. The film, which presents little known material, is a unique opportunity to understand Piazzolla’s music and its capacity to thrill the whole world.

Tango is a dance with origins blending African and European cultures. 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. Tango is 150 years old, and the most famous tango of all time, “La Cumparsita,” celebrated its 100th year in 2017. Since the late 19th century and early 20th century, the tango was influenced by the flows of immigration often besot by melancholy, passion and the search for belonging.

In the case of the expressions showcased at the event “Tango in the River Plate,” it unites two countries that share a common stretch of river and estuary formed by the confluence of the Uruguay and the Paraná rivers, known as the Río de la Plata or River Plate.

In Uruguay, a young man named Gerardo Matos Rodríguez (1897-1948) composed music that would become the world’s most recognizable tango and one of the songs most performed worldwide. In Argentina, Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) ushered in a revolution in tango through its fusion with jazz, blues and the new expressions of being porteño.

Several special invited guests attended the event to enliven the conversation and interact with the music and dance of tango. More than 70 community members, students, faculty and staff were present.

The program included a welcome by Spanish Program Coordinator-DLLL, María Figueredo, who organized the event in collaboration with Consul General of Argentina in Toronto, María A. Lonardi de Duardo and Consul General of Uruguay in Toronto, Silvana Montes de Oca.

Associate VP York International, Marilyn Lambert-Drache, Associate Dean, Global and Community Engagement, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, Narda Razack, as well as Chair, Deptartment of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics, Roberta Iannacito-Provenzano, all shared how tangos in some way has touched the lives of their families.

The event also included a riveting dance performance by internationally acclaimed Tango de Oro, Roxana y Fabián Belmonte, who direct a tango institute in Toronto and who have performed in such prestigious venues as Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto, Luna Park in Buenos Aires, Royal Theatre Carré in Amsterdam and Shiba Mel-Park Hall in Tokyo.

The event closes with a reception and globalized tango music by York University alumna and singer Ella Farida and classical and Spanish guitarist Peter Mathers.

The Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics’ Spanish Program students Justin Alcheteh, Jacob Faryna, Samantha Felix, Mahdis Hibininia, Sophia Lulla, Jacqueline O’Neill, Luisa Paez, Maria Romios, Natasha Sarazin and Catherine Sawyer, assisted with preparations.

The event was co-sponsored by the Consulates of Uruguay and Argentina in Toronto, in collaboration with the Spanish Program of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, and received the generous support of the Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics and the Centre for Research in Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CERLAC).