'Dance What You Read': a short film as promotional material for the recently published book
The short film I present here was intended to be placed at the intersection of art and commerce, with the initial idea of introducing market awareness of 'Tango Intoxication' as recently published book and presenting it in a non-traditional manner. The film attempted to focus the attention of viewers in 'imagining theirselves' reading the book and 'experiencing' its content, in particular by imagining the possibility of dancing tango with the author himself.
Because the 'golden age' of tango is in the past, the film approached the tension of promoting a contemporary product released in NYC and written by an American author, about a dance that had its origins in Buenos Aires and Montevideo more than a century ago. This tension is approached by shooting in black and white format, with an opening scene at a cafe (coffee shop) placed in a corner of the city. Cafes (coffee shops) were one of the places were people socialized and danced at the time in Buenos Aires and Montevideo. The intention of the opening scene was to place viewers into this 'hybrid sensation' of present and past, and also a melancholic view of a women (interpreted by Gayle Gibbons Madeira) reading a book alone, fantasizing about its content as she looked through the window. The choice of a sober and mysterious sound piece 'Ocho, Octubre' by the tango band 'La Tabu' certainly added a nostalgic feeling to the scene.
Nostalgia immediately gave place to playful fantasizing when music changed and featured 'Che, Papusa Oi' by Donato Racciatti, and the scene transitioned towards the reader walking towards her partner to dance on the street. Interestingly, her dance partner was Batt Johnson himself, the author who wrote the book she was reading at the cafe. In this scene a second tension was explored, that between 'what is real' and 'what is fantasy'. This tension was extended to a second reader (interpreted by Jusleine Daniel) who was also reading the book alone inside a cafe, with the scene focusing on the reader from the inside of the cafe as opposed to the first reader that is highlighted through the outside. This dichotomy continued throughout the film, with one character reading and dancing outdoors, while the other character read and danced indoors.
A third tension that was explored throughout the film was focused on how the female characters experienced differently what they were reading on the book, thus a distinct tango song was assigned to each of them as they read different sections of the book. Although they both fantasized about dancing with the author of the book, they did so in different ways. For instance, the second character, prepares herself to go out dancing as portrayed on the scene in which she painted her lips in front of the mirror on the coffee shop's restroom. While the second character is quietly reading inside the cafe, the tango song 'Fuegos Artificiales' by Donato Racciatti is played, with the rhythmic accent of the music 'emulating' the active thought process of the character while reading the book despite her quiet behavior. This behavior changed to an active role when the character fantasized herself dancing socially with the author at a popular milonga in New York City.
There is a short scene highlighting the lower body of the second character, standing alone on the street outside the coffee shop were she was reading the book, waiting for the author of the book to come and start dancing on the street with her, which did not happen. Thus, this scene was intended to add an element of tragic feeling, so characteristically associated with tango lyrics and portrayed in personal stories described throughout the book.
The film ends were it started, with the image of the first character highlighted from outside the coffee shop, looking at her through the glass as the life in the city happened unmodified by her thoughts and fantasies.
I want to thank Marina Zurkow (Prof. at ITP/NYU video & sound class) as well as my classmates for their constructive criticism. Special thanks to Gayle Gibbons Madeira, Jusleine Daniel and Batt Johnson for their willingness to act the piece.
Batt Johnson (2017). Tango intoxication: wit, wisdom, stories and secrets of the world's most intimate dance. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, South Carolina. URL: https://www.amazon.com/Tango-Intoxication-Stories-Secrets-Intimate/dp/197428803X
Keywords: Argentine tango; tango; New York tango; short film; Martin Calvino; Batt Johnson; Tango Intoxication; Donato Racciatti;