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Capturing the world of Tango

A photography exhibition at Sufi Bookstore explores the passionate dance of Tango

The exhibition invites the viewer to experience the tempo and movement of the Tango (Photo by Laurence Underhill)
The exhibition invites the viewer to experience the tempo and movement of the Tango
(Photo by Laurence Underhill)

In the 1890s, something was created along the borders of Uruguay and Argentina that greatly impacted the world of dance, the Tango has left its unique stamp. Due to its sharp movements and the intimacy between dancers, it is celebrated in many parts of the world as the dance of love – said to portray the intensity of this fickle emotion, as well as its frailty.

An exhibition currently running in Zamalek’s Sufi Bookstore showcases the passion of this art form. The project brought together three unique talents: dance instructor Kanako Ito, writer Consuelo Costa and photographer Laurence Underhill.

The images scattered across the bookstore’s walls are linked together by poetic blocks of words written by Costa. One of them declares the cardinal rule of Tango:

“There is only one rule.

But rules are made to be broken…

This is a story existing in between:

Between reality and fantasy,

Inhibition and seduction,

Infatuation and love”

The photographs show Ito as she ties her shoe and dances with eager students. They also focus on intimate details, like the way the dancers hold each other, the intensity of expression on their faces and the different turns and swerves of their bodies and clothing.

Underhill was first worried when he took up the project: “The main challenge was portraying the emotion of Tango dancing through still images. I achieved this by going to Tango classes at the Dansation studio in Mohandeseen and looking for the photographic rhythm of Tango. That is, everything has a rhythm. So, to take good photos you need to appreciate and have a sense for the rhythm.”

He further explains: “To capture the movements I concentrated my lens on the parts of the body that were making the movements, rather than always trying to capture the whole of the dancer’s bodies as they made the moves. By focusing on the arm, or leg, or hand, I was able to isolate the series of movements that altogether made up the Tango dance.”

When asked if he used any special gadgets, he said: “just a good camera and wide aperture lenses that allowed me to work in low light conditions”. Underhill used a certain technique to show the movement of the dancers: “I used a relatively slow shutter speed (1/60 of a second) to freeze the body in mid-movement, while at the same time giving the leg or arm a slight blur of motion.”

The exhibition’s eclectic and thought-provoking combination of imagery and words will appeal to dancers and laymen alike, showing off the irresistible pull of Tango, which is interesting and thought provoking. Dance students as well as amateur dancers will find inspiration to explore the complicated world of Tango.

The exhibition will continue in Sufi Bookstore in Zamalek until 8 July.

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