TANGO (Argentine Tango)

Tango is a popular or folk art form originated in Argentina and Uruguay in the late 19th century.

Nowadays, Tango is a very well developed art that includes music, singing and dance.

The musical part of Tango had its golden era from 1935 until 1950 approximately.

And the dancing had it for the second time from around 1985 and keeps developing.

ORIGINS OF THE WORD "TANGO"

"The tango dance was created before tango music and music before tango lyrics... all this represent a need of expression.

But the word Tango existed long before all this and has an amazing reason...

Some of the black people who came as slaves at the time of the Spanish colony were coming from Congo. For the people from Congo expressing their feelings through music and their bodies was very important thing! Their bodies were pure rhythm, and every action of their lives was transformed into a dance: death, life, war, sex, religion, joy, and thanks to these dances they manage to endure the painful difficulties of life in front of white eyes full of racial prejudice and hatred.

The first record of the "Tango" word in Buenos Aires, is the name of house in a document when it was sold in 1802. This is a domestic inventory that we have as a prove, and it was showing the meeting point of a place called "Casas y Sitio e Tango" It is the first appearance we have of this word TANGO related to the meetings of black people. They were know for express through the touch, to feel, to have contact. Is not amazing? Those are the roots of this fantastic dance and culture that is tango.

Tango the dance of the embrace, contact and expression of your feelings. That Tango still growing and evolving at the rhythm of Buenos Aires, a city that in it chaos always is looking for embrace!

Marisol Morales

Marisol Morales (Tango dancer, teacher and historian)

TANGO DANCE

What does the tango dance symbolize?

Tango dance symbolizes the connection between two persons. We could try to be more specific and say that this connection is a physical connection, but we already know that Tango is a lot more than a simple body-connection. This connection requires that these two persons find (through the Tango embrace) a successful medium to dance. In a way, Tango dancing is a very intimate moment.

Many people tend to give a special meaning to dancing Tango and also to what it symbolizes.

And they may be right, but only up to a certain point. Because the truth is that Tango is a popular dance, and as such, it’s a dance from the people. For this reason, there are hundreds of thousands of symbols according to different types of persons. And also according to a certain historical moment: it’s not the same the meaning of dancing Tango in the late 1800, than around 1940, 1980, 1995 or in 2020!

I guess we’re supposed to agree that dancing Tango have to a a common denominator for everyone: it’s just so fun to do it! But there are also other reasons for people to dance Tango...

For many, dancing Tango symbolizes or represent a moment of relax and break from the every day life (like any other hobby). For many others, Tango dance is mainly for socialising, meeting friends, make new ones, etc. For single people it’s also a chance to find a love partner, a love relationship or even to find a husband or a wife! For others is simply a lot of fun to just go and dance Tango because of its incredible choreographic and improvisation richness, subtleties and possibilities.

And you? why do yo love dancing Tango?

What does the tango dance symbolize?
What does the tango dance symbolize?

 

The meaning of Tango
The meaning of Tango

Is Tango a fast or slow dance?

Tango is fast and slow! And because of its characteristics, it's a very particular dance.

First of all, its embrace. It’s the only dance that actually uses a REAL embrace as the engine of the movement. This means that the Tango embrace it is NOT a dance position (like in Ballroom Tango, for example). Instead (and again) it’s a real embrace slightly modified to make the dance richer (and following historical roots)

Now, in terms of its speed, Tango is also very special. Because you can be a very good Tango dancer either if you like to dance it slow, moderately fast or mainly fast. The speed doesn’t really matter. What matter is if you dance according to your personality and if your partners enjoy it.

And, if you train smartly, you can dance Tango very well and decide how fast you want to dance it according to your mood, your partner, the music, the dance floor, etc!

Is Tango a fast or slow dance?

What are the Tango steps?

Tango is a dance of improvisation and you’re free to dance with any sequences of steps you want. As we said before, you can dance it slow or fast, according to your taste, the music, etc.
Nevertheless, there are some figures that are more common. After about 25 years of exclusive dedication teaching and performing Tango around the World, I can tell you that the most common step is the simple walking (leader mostly walking forward and follower walking back).
The Tango walking can be done in what is known as “parallel system” or “crossed system”. Parallel system is when the leader moves his right leg and the follower moves her left leg (meaning, the leg in front). The crossed system is when the leader and the follower take a step with the left or right leg at the same time (that is: the leader takes a step with the left leg and, simultaneously, the follower also takes a step with the left leg.
The second famous step (or position) in Tango is the cross of the follower. Commonly known simply as “the cross”, it’s a moment during the basic step or basic sequence where the follower crosses her/his left leg in front of the right leg, so that her/his feet are more or less together.
And the third most famous movement in tango is the “ocho” (meaning the number 8). The “ocho” can be back or forward and it’s mainly executed by the follower. The back ocho is simply two back steps with a back pivot in between. The forward ocho is two forward steps with a forward pivot in between. The resulting shape of this combination reminds the shape of the number 8, and therefor its name.
Tango steps

Where did Tango originated?

Tango originated in Buenos Aires and Montevideo (Capital cities of Argentina and Uruguay respectively), and historians agree that it was around 1850.

But the history of Tango is not very clear because we don’t count with enough trustable documentation of it. We certainly should distinguish the origins of the word “Tango” (to which many attribute an African root) from the Spanish Tango.

The Tango dance origins are also not super clear, but we know it originated in the lower social classes of those two cities.
And about the period of its origins, we can say that it was a process, not a specific date. Because Tango is the result of a mixed of different musics and, because of this, the resulting dance also was changing accordingly.

Where did the dance tango originated from and the time period?
Geographical origins of Tango

GEOGRAPHICAL ORIGINS OF TANGO

Tango, as a musical genre, emerged on the Río de la Plata between 1850 and 1890. At that time there was a large influx of Africans and Buenos Aires received ships full of European immigrants.

The fusion of the different cultural origins in Argentina gave rise to a musical fusion that first created the milonga, with an agile rhythm, and then the tango. The drums, flutes and guitars were quickly replaced by the piano, the violin and the bandoneon: the 3 basic instruments of tango.

TANGO IN EUROPE AND BACK TO ARGENTINA

What not many people know, is that, since Tango was initially danced in the brothels and at some of the lower social classes, its music and lyrics were pretty simple and rude. In fact, some Tango lyrics were modified later to be socially accepted.

The Tango genre was transforming itself little by little, until it became a true urban art (where it keeps developing!). And it was not only expressed in Buenos Aires, but it was also frequented in Montevideo, Uruguay.

In its beginnings, it was a marginal music and dance, practiced by the lower social classes. Then, in the second decade of the 20th century, Tango arrived to Europe and it was danced in the high societies of Paris because they found it exotic and fun. As a consequence, the enthusiasm for Tango began to grow in Europe, and with this "social approval", it was also finally accepted in the Argentine society.

The mythical Carlos Gardel

Carlos Gardel

TANGO IN BUENOS AIRES

Throughout the years Tango spread all over the world. The dance appeared in some Hollywood movies and its artists began to travel internationally.

The first big and still mythical forerunner was Carlos Gardel, an extraordinary singer with great carisma who also starred in some movies.

With this, the Golden Age of Tango began in Argentina: music, poetry and dance and culture flourished everywhere. Great musicians, directors, composers and poets were the first root impulse of Tango.

The stages of Tango

THE STAGES OF TANGO

The evolution of Tango is generally divided into different stages. Each historian divides this evolution differently. However, beyond the denominative differences, three or four stages are generally accepted in the Tango history:

The Proto-Tango (until 1900), the "Guardia Vieja" (until 1925), the "Guardia Nueva" (until 1950), the "Vanguardia" (until 1970), The Modern Period (until 2000) and The Contemporary Stage.

In each stage we can find different composers and musicians and, because of this, different styles of Tango. Of course, as many social and artistic processes, this division is not so easy to determined in terms of exact years or even in terms of its protagonists. Because some of them took part in more than one stage and even changed their own style.