Twelve minutes of love - A Tango story by Kapka Kassabova








Este livro é um autêntico compêndio sobre o Tango pois trata de tudo o que se refere a esta dança.

Mas é muito mais do que isso.

É uma autobiografia da autora (nascida em 1973) desde os seus 30 anos até perto dos 40. Dos seus 18 anos e da década seguinte ainda nada contou ficamos à espera de próximos livros.

Bem se pode dizer que neste período Kapka Kassabova viveu para o Tango começando em Auckland na Nova Zelândia depois em Buenos Aires Nova York Londres Paris Marselha Sofia Edimburgo Montevideu e Berlin. Encontros e desencontros amores e traições tudo isso lhe acontece em torno dos salões de baile. E tudo isso ela conta num estilo muito atraente porque nos parece totalmente sincero.

Há uma faceta do Tango que me parece ela ter omitido: o machismo no Tango onde o homem convida com um aceno (cabezeo) e guia o par do princípio ao fim.

A autora conta também no livro da sua amizade com o escritor australiano Clive James que também a referiu várias vezes nos seus escritos.

Achei estranho que o Guardian desse tão pouca atenção a este livro relegado para uma pequena nota nos livros de bolso. Merecia mais sem dúvida.






Twelve minutes of love

A Tango story

Kapka Kassabova


Tuesday 10 July 2012 

Alfred Hickling


The tango has been called the vertical expression of a horizontal desire. But if Kassabova's experiences are anything to go by you don't sign up for classes in order to forget about your troubles and have a good time: "The tango is about your troubles. It's where you go to process your troubles " she writes. Beginning her odyssey in the enthusiastic though limited tango scene in Auckland New Zealand the Bulgarian-born writer navigates three continents in search of the perfect dance (or "tangasm"). She comes close in places as diverse as Edinburgh Berlin and the home of the dance Buenos Aries before limping home to Auckland with little to show for it other than bigger blisters. But the prose is steeped in the exquisite melancholy the Latin Americans call duende; and the wider the search becomes the smaller the global tango community feels witnessed by the number of times she runs into fellow tango-addict Clive James whose witticisms provide a delightful comic counterpoint: "Come on kid it's late. Let's go before I turn into a pumpkin. Hang on I have turned into a pumpkin."


 Friday 9 December 2011

   Kapka Kassabova travel writer

I'm not a shoe fetishist. I'm a tangoholic – or was until I wrote a book about how tango made and unmade my life. My collection of tango shoes is a bitter-sweet souvenir from my 10-year obsession a metaphorical trip that involved actual trips to Buenos Aires the pilgrimage of every tanguero. On each trip a visit to a specialist tango shoe shop is compulsory even if you blow your budget in one transaction and end up not eating a single Argentinian steak. All my shoes were bought at Buenos Aires's two most exquisite tango-shoe shops.

Comme il Faut (commeilfaut.com.ar) makes shoes that make you dance like tango royalty. Madreselva (madreselvazapatos.com.ar) is favoured by actual tango royalty Mora Godoy known as "the inflated diva" – Buenos Aires is the capital of tango psychoanalysis and plastic surgery too. But my favourite pair by the Munay label comes from the dusty window display of a nameless cobbler in San Telmo district. Two ancient cobblers blew away the cobwebs then placed the shoes delicately in a string bag as if they were living things. They are.

Kapka Kassabova's book is Twelve Minutes of Love: A Tango Story (Portobello Books £18.99  tinyurl.com/tangokapka)





 Sunday 6 November 2011

Twelve Minutes of Love: A Tango Story By Kapka Kassabova

A dance to the music of lust and loss

 Doug Johnstone 


As the enormous popularity of Strictly Come Dancing proves there's a huge interest in all things ballroom these days.

But for anyone craving something a tad more substantial than the kitschy celebrity sparkle of that show this book is definitely one to seek out.

An exquisitely crafted blending of travelogue memoir dance history and some seriously good writing on the human condition it delves deep into the obsessive nature of tango fanatics and vividly depicts a world full of beauty and heartbreak of love and loss. The 12 minutes of love that the title refers to is the length of time that it takes for a succession of tango dances.

This mix of travel writing personal experience and history is something that Kapka Kassabova has done before and she's frankly brilliant at it. Bulgarian by birth she was raised in New Zealand and has spent her adult life dealing with some heavy duty wanderlust winding up in Edinburgh most recently. In her 2008 memoir Street Without a Name she revisited Bulgaria a trip that was bittersweet to say the least. A similar mix of conflicting emotions pervades Twelve Minutes of Love in which the author details her decade-long obsession with tango and travels the world in search of the perfect dancefloor embrace confusing lust for love and sex for dancing along the way.

We open in the unlikely tango backwater of New Zealand but within six months of being bitten by the bug Kassabova is in Buenos Aires where the gutsy dance was born in grimy port backstreets invented a century ago by hard-bitten immigrant sailors in need of a way to forget their woes and a means to express their heritage.

From there Kassabova has tango-based sojourns in New York London Paris Marseilles Sofia Edinburgh Montevideo and Berlin but she always returns to Argentina. After her peripatetic upbringing and never feeling at home anywhere she is drawn to Buenos Aires a capital city with similar outsider status built by immigrants with no deep indigenous culture of its own and with a rootlessness and melancholy mirrored in the tango Kassabova spends seven sweaty nights a week dancing.

Twelve Minutes of Love is sharp clever and engaging a wonderful mix of self-deprecating humour and genuine insight. Kassabova brings the people and places she encounters to life with vivid precision and strikes a near perfect balance between her own personal experiences and the wider context of the dance.

The complex psychology of tango is picked apart and the combination of physical mental and emotional extremes on display on the world's tango dancefloors is startling. The book is also very funny – not least for the occasional appearances of Clive James a long-time friend of Kassabova's and an equally fanatical tango fan. Ultimately it is a tale of obsession a quest for happiness and a look at the contrariness of the human psyche all rolled into one. You'll never look at Strictly Come Dancing the same way again.





Twelve Minutes Of Love: A Tango Story By Kapka Kassabova

Susan Jeffreys 


A prince came into the Milonga last Sunday night. He was slavonically handsome and a beautiful dancer. "He won't bother with us " I said to Ayshega an elegant women and like myself no chicken. The young men only dance with us fading shades when they're beginners. They use us for target practice. They kick our frail shins drag us round the floor and then when they can dance they spurn us for the sloe-eyed young beauties.

This young man though was a true tango gentleman. He came to our dark corner gave Ayshega a cabeza - that look and nod of the head that is the tango invitation to dance - and swept her on to the floor. The sloe-eyed beauties looked on in amazement. When the tanda of dances was up he brought Ayshega back to the table and gave me the cabeza. My how that boy could dance!

Only then did he turn attention to youth and beauty. At the end of the evening he came to our table made a little bow to both Ayshega and myself and said it had been a pleasure and an honour to dance with us. Sloe-eyed beauties don't look so good when their mouths are hanging open in amazement. Then off he swept into the night possibly into an awaiting troika. A true tango gentleman.

I mention all this a) to have a bit of a vent and b) to point out that Kapka Kassabova writer of this tango book is judging from her cover photo a sloe-eyed beauty. She is also by her own admission one of those dancers who tangos with closed eyes and turns down offers from those she considers beneath her. It's a combination of self-absorption and unkindness that you see a lot in the tango world and is never attractive. I have then a number of reasons to take against Miss Kassabova but I won't - because this is a very good book indeed.

It's an account of her own obsession with tango which has had her wandering the world her dance shoes in a bag looking for the perfect dance partner and the perfect milonga. She whirls us round the globe and through a complex pattern of relationships. She never overburdens her narrative and yet gives us a clear account of the history of tango and her own often tear-filled emotional journey on and off the dance floor. Clive James a suave soft-footed tango obsessive flits in and out of the story

Kassabova gets the drug-like quality of tango across with ferocious vividness. Like all addicts we travel with our paraphernalia - a pair of dancing shoes - and we know where we can get a tango hit within 20 minutes of arriving in any major city. So I find myself liking Kassabova a lot and I find we share a hallucination. Just sometimes when I'm absorbed in the music and the precision of the steps I seem to see in the dark corners and loitering by the door ghosts. Kassabova sees rain-soaked young dead Argentinians. I see men in khaki. Perhaps each dancer sees his or her own dead.

"Tango" as the great tango composer Astor Piazzolla said "is darkness made light through art" and that's a theme Kassabova weaves through the book. Tango is an art forged out of desperation by African slaves and European immigrants. It's a dance for troubled times and as Kassabova points out just right for now. I just ask gents if you're thinking of taking it up: be like the prince of Sunday's milongas. Be a tango gentleman to us fading blooms over in the dark corner near the ghosts.



           Scottish review

of Books

NOVEMBER 12 2011

Volume 7 – Issue 4 – Reviews





PORTOBELLO BOOKS 336PP ISBN 978-1846272844


Twelve Minutes of Love is a memoir a poem a philosophical meditation not only on tango but on life and love. It is a strangely moving book Kassabova’s sensibility running throughout the pages like a melancholy tango melody. The author is intelligent sensitive and romantic and colours the content with her own elegiac perspective. With a variety of aphorisms and insights – tango always the overarching metaphor – she examines her own life with an objective wry humour. Nothing is under- or over-stated. The core of this book is a romance – a romance with tango and a romance with the illusion of love.

Her pursuit of dancing tango takes her all over the world from New Zealand where she grew up to Buenos Aires from Berlin to Scotland. She follows her fascination with tango wherever it takes her. Her dancing becomes an obsession as she goes from milonga (a gathering of tango dancers) to milonga having love affairs- platonic and otherwise – with the various unsuitable men she meets.

Tango is a dance of sex and longing where the sexes are sharply defined within the two roles of leader (male) and follower (female) and Kassabova seems to be seduced by the very narrowness of these parameters. It is a macho dance the ‘cabezeo makes even a little man with a pot belly look simultaneously dignified and smooth’. She sometimes seems oddly passive in her relations to men and I wish she could break the occasional heart once or twice instead of having her’s constantly broken.

But tango is also the dance of loss and illusion (you will find in this book that tango is a lot of things) and she dances out this sense of suffering and pain not only throughout the tango halls of the world but in the details of her relations with men. Everyone wants something from tango she writes. ‘Glamour melancholy erotic thrills some other thing without a name.’

Tango is one long seduction a cycle of ‘Longing seduction engagement rejection fall longing.’ that she proceeds to enact in her own life too. When Kassabova hurts she hurst badly and as she watches her ex-love Joshua dance the tango with his new ‘squeeze’ you do wonder why she doesn’t just get up and leave. But as she herself says there is a fine line between stoicism and masochism and this book treads it. Tango like life is pitiless and non-judgemental. There is no morality to it. It just is.

And it is the heterosexual sensuality of tango that truly intrigues her. Moving into her personal encounters with tango instructors she writes ‘Chicho and Lucia’s sacadas are feather-light barely there a suggestion of moving legs. “You sacada her very very very delicately ” Chicho says and invites Lucia to move her leg out of the way out of the way out of the way.’ Even the shoes are amusingly suggestive. ‘The open toe is to tango what the bikini is to swimwear and there are variations of exposure culminating with the G-string of the tango world the tango sandal.’

Kassabova is expert at interspersing history with her personal life the movement like the intricate dance steps of the tango. One seems to reinforce and shed light on the other. She has a perfect sense of timing knowing when to bring nuggets of tango lore into the narrative of her life. Tango is multi-cultural a ‘hotchpotch of oddballs cultural hybrids and shipwreck survivors’. The origin of the silence and frozen expressions of tango comes from the Kongo. Kongo dancing also favoured blatant sexual moves She tells of how certain invasive steps were invented in the late nineteenth century by men dancing with each other in the Buenos Aires slums ‘unwashed men with knives and cowboy boots dispossessed gauchos from the Pampa deracinated working-class immigrants from Europe desperado sailors and the descendants of slaves’. In other words there is an initial elision in tango between machismo and homoeroticism.

Kassabova’s book abounds with literary philosophical and psychoanalytical allusions – Melville Isherwood the Bible and Borges are all quoted. One of her many wise oddballs ‘Lorca says duende is power but not work. Struggle but not thought. Like falling in love… It makes you happy and sad at the same time.’ Even Plato gets a mention. ‘Plato says there are three souls in humans. Mental soul emotional soul and soul of desire. When there is too much of one soul we are off-balance.’ And citing Freud she writes ‘that the aim of psychotherapy is to replace neurotic misery with a common unhappiness. I had a psychotherapist. It didn’t work. But tango works.’

These allusions and references – literary and historical – give impressive interesting substance to her personal history. But above all this book – in spite of the comforting rationality of its happy ending – is an entertaining hymn to her individual addiction. Her addiction to tango and her addiction to romantic love. ‘Tango addiction is when you’re crazy about tango – that’s everyone here including me. Tango Fever however is when you act out your craziness to the full. When you live out the tango fantasy as if it’s real.’




 17 December, 2011

Twelve Minutes of Love: A Tango Story by Kapka Kassabova review

      Francesca Horsley 

Kapka Kassabova worships before the tango.

TWELVE MINUTES OF LOVE: A TANGO STORY, by Kapka Kassabova (Portobello).

‘Tango is a hall of mirrors. Some of them are distorting, others show us the truth,” Kapka Kassabova asserts in her homage to tango, Twelve Minutes of Love. A blend of memoir and social history, the book criss-crosses timelines, personalities and locations, circling in and out of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, as Kassabova traces the origins of the tango, its music, its pioneers and the fervour of its current devotees.

A Bulgarian émigré, poet and writer, Kassabova came as a teenager with her family to New Zealand. Her collections of poetry explore exile, disconnection and loss; her novels and travel writings are rich in imagery and insight, conjuring vivid, unsettling worlds. Now living in Edinburgh, she brings these elements together in this exhilarating account of tango’s addictive character. Beware all those who enter this parallel universe – you may well be taken by the dance.

Twelve Minutes of Love alludes to the tanda, the 12-minute dance combined into a set of three or four, usually danced with the same partner, to songs chosen by a DJ. Songs shape tango as much as its steps, and Kassabova profiles the remarkable composers and classic songs of the 1920s, 30s and 40s, which tell of love lost, of living with your demons. She writes, “Tango is the music of the urban loner, which we all are. The milonga [social tango event] is our secular church. The tandas are the ticking hands of our clock. The dance is our prayer.”

In Auckland in her solitary mid-twenties, Kassabova began her decade-long encounter with tango. Having barely mastered the basics, she headed off to Buenos Aires, seeking out tango’s intricate subtlety and smouldering origins. There began a pilgrimage of travelling to milongas in exotic cities – Berlin, Sofia, Marseille, Quito, Edinburgh, New York – all the while seeking to perfect her technique. In vibrant, poetically inspired sketches, she brings to life an array of extraordinary characters moving in and out of turbulent relationships, driven by the need to experience tango’s momentary transcendence.

Tango’s key elements are addressed – the feet, heart, mind and embrace. Kassabova writes that her “bird-bony feet” become adjusted to the tango sandal and its towering stiletto heel that “makes you look like a million-dollar slut and … makes you dance like royalty”. She is at once alluringly beautiful yet fragile and her heart is broken. “New relationships … blossomed in the wreckage of previous ones,” she recalls of the tango world. “Love that turned out to be nothing,” a song concurs.

Tango is a dance of longing, of being somewhere while wishing to be somewhere else. Tangueros – committed dancers – suffer from existential displacement and are in dire need of therapy, Kassabova suggests. “The tango embrace … heals and shatters at once.” It can be closed or open, traditional or new (nuevo), and at its pinnacle reaches tangasm, where bodies unite in sheer perfection of the dance. Yet “tango is art, not sex. Yes, it is art made with your body and someone else’s. But not sex.”

Buenos Aires remains a magnetic force, and Kassabova, along with other tangueros, is drawn there on frequent pilgrimages. With scarcely more than a dress or smart trousers and a pair of tango shoes, they lodge in cheap hotels, spend their money on private classes rather than food and dance through the night.

Some of the book’s devices impede the flow of the narrative. Kassabova’s use of pausa – an interlude for including additional material – at times disturbs the rhythm of the writing, and in the end she gives too much space to the tangueros’ myopic and self-absorbed exchanges. But these moments are fleeting in Kassabova’s quest to capture tango’s inimitable core. With a neat twist, she ultimately exposes its illusions, locating its place in a journey that is both personal and universal. In this beautifully crafted book, she expresses tango’s power and ritual, and its ability to reveal each person’s unique dance personality.

Francesca Horsley is the Listener’s dance writer.