The Argentine Tango originated in the streets of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Montevideo, Uruguay, in the late 19th century. The roots of this dance lie in African candombe, Cuban habanera as well as waltzes and polkas.
It was a popular dance among European immigrants, former slaves and the working and lower classes. It came about through the nostalgia and melancholy felt by those who were far from home.
During Argentina’s political struggles with prohibition and dictatorships, the dance was forced underground where some say performing it was considered an illegal act. It later came back to light in the 1980’s and its popularity soared again before spreading throughout the rest of the world
Tango is one of the most influential and famous dances of the modern history, originating from the streets of 18th century Buenos Aires in Argentina and Montevideo in Uruguay as the favorite dance of the European immigrants, former slaves, working and lower classes of people.
Original tango was given birth by the mix of styles that were brewing in the port cities and lower-class districts of Buenos Aires and Montevideo. The early versions of the dance are not recorded in history, and only the most popular type of dance managed to survive as Traditional Argentine Tango, which also continued to morph and change into other styles over the many years of modern tango’s history.
It is important to mention that the initial burst of popularity of Tango dance was fueled with the emotions of thousands of young immigrant men who arrived in Argentina searching for better life. Hundreds of their influenced re-shaped original tango into a modern form that managed to eventually capture the imagination of wealthier Argentine citizens, who managed to spread this incredible dance around the world, starting with their visits to Paris in the early 1900s where this dance quickly became an overnight sensation.
Tango would never be born without the influences of immigrants who arrived in Argentina in 18th and early 19th century
The history of Argentine tango is a rich and fascinating journey that spans over a century. It emerged from the diverse cultural influences of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and eventually gained international recognition as a passionate and intricate dance form. Here’s a brief overview of its history:
- Early Roots (Late 19th Century – Early 20th Century): The roots of tango can be traced back to the late 19th century in the working-class neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. These areas were a melting pot of cultures, with influences from European immigrants, African rhythms, and indigenous music. The dance that eventually became tango was a fusion of these diverse elements. It started as a social dance in brothels and lower-class gatherings.
- Rise in Popularity (Early 20th Century): Tango gradually gained popularity and began to spread beyond the lower classes. It entered more mainstream venues and was embraced by the middle and upper classes of Argentine society. Around this time, tango music and dance were also making their way to Europe, particularly to Paris.
- European Influence (1920s – 1930s): Tango’s popularity soared in Europe during the 1920s and 1930s. It became a sensation in Paris, and many European composers and musicians incorporated tango elements into their work. The dance underwent some refinement and changes as it adapted to European tastes.
- Golden Age (1930s – 1950s): The “Golden Age” of tango is considered to be the peak of its popularity. In Argentina, orchestras led by legendary figures like Carlos Gardel and Astor Piazzolla created iconic tango music that is still celebrated today. This era also saw the development of a more structured dance style, characterized by close embrace, intricate footwork, and dramatic expressions.
- Decline and Revival (1950s – 1980s): After its golden age, tango faced a decline in popularity due to political and social changes in Argentina. However, a revival movement began in the 1980s, led by dancers and musicians dedicated to preserving the authentic essence of tango. This revival movement emphasized the traditional styles and techniques of tango.
- Modern Tango (1990s – Present): The revival of tango brought it back into the international spotlight. Tango festivals, workshops, and performances became popular worldwide. While traditional tango styles are still celebrated, there has also been a space for innovation. Nuevo tango, a style pioneered by Astor Piazzolla, fuses tango with elements of jazz and classical music, creating a more contemporary sound.
Throughout its history, Argentine tango has evolved as a complex cultural expression, reflecting the social, economic, and political changes in Argentina. It has gone from being a marginalized dance in the slums of Buenos Aires to a global phenomenon that continues to captivate people with its sensuality, emotion, and intricate choreography.
Countless influences of native and European cultures formed the origins of Tango
There are numbers of theories about the origin of the word “tango”. One of the more popular in recent years has been that it came from the Niger–Congo languages of Africa. Another theory is that the word “tango”, already in common use in Andalusia to describe a style of music, lent its name to a completely different style of music in Argentina and Uruguay.[
Dubai is a boiling pot of nationalities, cultures, traditions and beliefs, those people who wish to dance tango, must appreciate the very nature of the dance, and respect their partner especially if it should be the first time you have danced together.
There are many forms of Tango of which Salon Tango is the style most commonly danced in Dubai, with its open embrace it gives you an opportunity to get to know your partner and learn the limits of closeness at which they are comfortable to dance.
Asking people to dance
In tango, in its most traditional form, a man will ask a woman to dance through subtle eye contact. If the woman does not want to dance, she will simply look away.
Today people tend to be more direct and women are as free to ask as a man as it is traditionally. However guys, still there are women who expect the gentleman to ask.
Accepting and declining dances
It’s ok to decline a dance; though, since it can be a blow to the asker’s ego, it’s nice to accept dances as much as possible, especially from newcomers and beginners. Having declined a dance, it is good etiquette to not dance that same song with someone else.
Tandas and cortinas
Music at a milongas are often arranged in tandas (sets of 3 or 4 songs) with a cortina (a short piece of non-danceable music) played in between each tanda.
If you accept a dance from someone, you are expected to dance with that person for the rest of the tanda. If you do not finish the tanda, it is interpreted as a very dramatic gesture that you did not like dancing with that person.
When the cortina plays, it is good practice to leave the floor, even if you intend to dance the next tanda with the same person. Saying “thank you” is the signal that you are finished dancing with your current partner.
Flow of the Floor
A social dance floor moves counter-clockwise, and attention to this movement is just as important as attention to your partner.
Try not to stop in one place for a long time. If there’s space open in front of you, try to fill it. If you can’t keep up with the flow, try to dance in the middle of the circle.
It is not appropriate to zigzag around haphazardly, disrupting other couples, nor venture in to high kicks, spins lifts and jumps – save this for an empty floor.
Special responsibility for leaders
Leads (normally the man), it is your responsibility to protect your partner. Keep your attention on your partner while you dance, and watch the dance floor to avoid collisions with other couples.
In theory, a follow (normally the lady) should be able to dance with their eyes closed and not have to worry about being banging into anything, well that’s the theory.
Dance to the situation
Due to its diversity and style, Tango can be tailored to the situation with flexibility to dance in a way that will fit in the space that you have. A crowded social floor is probably not the best place to perform boleos or gaunchos.
Know your skill level. It’s ok to be a beginner, we were all there once and we all still have much to learn. However, in a social setting, it’s best to stick to what you know and the level of your partner is. Simple movement done well is far more enjoyable and impressive than complex movement done poorly.
Separate practice time and social dance time
A milonga is a social event. It is a time to relax and enjoy your dancing and your fellow dancers. It is not really the right time to ask for or give advice or work on “new moves”. You should set aside other time for practicing, either on your own, with a friend, or at a organized tango class
Principles of common courtesy do not go out the window just because you’re dancing. Be considerate of other couples on the floor. If you step on someone’s toes say “excuse me” don’t pretend it didn’t happen.
Its hot out there on the dance floor,….so take it easy and try not to over do it. Close up and personal to a hot sweaty partner is not every ones dream night out so be prepared bring a towel and even a chance of cloths if need be, skip out a few dances and watch, it’s not a work out nor is it a disco.