Elie Nadelman carved this couple dancing the tango, a ballroom dance that first appeared in 1900 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Nadelman carved each figure from a single block of cherry wood and painted their hands, faces, and the man’s shirt. For this sculpture, Nadelman chose a moment in the dance when the couple separates, perhaps as they prepare for their next move. Even though the couple’s hands and heads come close, they do not touch.
Put on some music and find a dance partner! Take turns performing an original dance for each other. While your partner is dancing, make a pencil sketch inspired by your partner’s movements. Use a variety of marks, such as curved, wavy, zigzag, or squiggly lines, dots, dashes, and scribbles. Next, do a short dance together, then each make your own drawing inspired by your dance. Compare your work. How are your sketches similar? How are they different?
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Elie Nadelman, Tango, 1920–24. Painted cherry wood and gesso, three units, 35 7/8 × 26 × 13 7/8 in. (91.1 × 66 × 35.2 cm) overall. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Mr. and Mrs. Arthur G. Altschul Purchase Fund, the Joan and Lester Avnet Purchase Fund, the Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch Purchase Fund, the Mrs. Robert C. Graham Purchase Fund in honor of John I.H. Baur, the Mrs. Percy Uris Purchase Fund, and the Henry Schnakenberg Purchase Fund in honor of Juliana Force 88.1a-c