El Gancho, a film by Jan van den Berg

The Gancho or The Hook is a film about the role of the women in the tango. It?s never done before, the men always got all the attention. The dance was often seen as very simple: the man pushes the woman backwards until he has his leg between her legs.

There are several myths about The Hook. One is that it was invented by the famous dancer Copes, to give more balance to the stage dance, so much dominated by men. Others say that in the old days women used it in brothels to check ? with a quick movement of their legs ?if the men really had some money in their pockets.

17 years ago I travelled to Argentina and made his first film about tango: El Abrazo, The Embrace. In that film some performances of a such a Hook:

El Abrazo

In El Abrazo we only spoke with the men, with the heroes of the forties and the fifties, the golden era of the dance. But we did not talk to the women. It is typical for the tango: people look at the women, while the men do the talking. In El Gancho I have to correct this.

The old dancers of El Abrazo are dead. We dedicated the film to one of them, the famous dancer Virulazo, who already died during the editing. His widow, Elvira, is still alive. She is 73 years old now, and she still teaches. She needs the money, because there is again a very serious economic crisis in Argentina. But most and for all: Tango is her life and her soul.

Her granddaughter ? Pepita - also dances, like again so many others of her generation. She teaches and performs, but the dance has changed, also in Argentina, and took over new fashions from Amsterdam and Paris.

Nuevo Tango

Like in the new dance, Nuevo Tango, the role of the women became more important, influenced by other dances like hip hop. What would Virulazo have said of this? He didn't approve of anything like that. Tango was tango, and he hated these changes. They are puteando el tango, he said.

For The Hook I'll travel again to Buenos Aires and find out - with people like Elvira and Pepita ?how the old generation thinks of these changes now.
In the film they will talk and dance and we get to know them better, in their daily life and their struggle for survival.

The film

In El Gancho we see the young dancers slide, kick and try to seduce the old teachers to betray the old secrets of the Gancho. Intense accelerations and slow motions in the steps bring up beautiful stories about the dance in which individualism, loneliness, pride and surrender are expressed. These stories are tide in with images of past and present dancers.

In Europe the dance is gaining popularity. In our northern countries this sensual dance gives us something special which seems lacking: emotion and passion. Last month, the closing party of the Thessalonica film festival was dedicated to the tango and in the city of Utrecht, where I live, are 4 competing tango schools. It is like that in other European countries as well as in Canada and the USA where many tango schools can be found.

DVD of El Abrazo

For those who are interested, a DVD of El Abrazo, a film of 50 minutes, is available.
Once El Gancho is finished there will be 2 DVD's: the men, the history and unique archive footage in El Abrazo, the women and the future of the dance in El Gancho, men and women in one DVD box together.

Pitch at the Festival de Cine in Malaga, org. by EDN, 2006-08-25

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