TANGO (Argentine Tango)

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

Nowadays, this dance 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.

This is 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)

STORY OF ARGENTINA & TANGO

The generation of the 80's
The generation of the 80's that designed Argentina.

From 1810 to 1816, the war of independence and then the civil wars for the national organisation, made the country unable to enrich itself or develop properly.

There was no road or rail system, nor was there an educational system or national currency, nor was there an armed or security force that depended on the federal government, and its territory was 30% occupied.

From 1880 onwards (later called the generation of the 80's), the creation of the modernised society was set as an objective.

This project, which lasted for the next 50 years, was very successful: Buenos Aires alone already had 2 million, and it became a great capital of Latin America.

Rich Buenos Aires downtown
Rich Argentina

Argentina had become a rich country, one of the richest from the point of view of its gross product. But not in a developed country.

Its wealth came from taking advantage of the nature of the Argentine geography. Then the plan to massively educate its inhabitants was carried out.

Argentine society was shaped by:

- A certain spill of that great wealth that the country received
- The work of millions of immigrants
- A dense network of public and, above all, private institutions (unions, sports clubs, political parties, promotion societies, non-profit institutions, mutual aid societies)

If the Argentine ruling class had devoted part of its efforts to developing the industry, its destiny as a nation would have been different. But the ruling class was satisfied with the conversion into an agro-exporting country that disregarded the benefits of the industry, and commercialised only its natural resources.

Massive immigration to Buenos Aires
Immigrants and Tango

The federal government promoted European immigration.
But the expected immigrants did not arrive: Germans, Belgians, French, Scottish, Nordic. Immigrants from the Mediterranean arrived (especially Italians and Spaniards)

This immigration is triggered by the failure of the European harvests in the 1870s. The arrival of immigrants from the Mediterranean area was decisive in shaping Argentine culture.

The culture of Argentina is born from the fusion between the culture of the local inhabitants that mixes with that of the immigrants in the last third of the 19th century.

It is when lunfardo and the development of its arts (music, poetry, literature, European theatre (especially Spanish and Italian)) were born. But the educational institutions were also born and that international contribution enriched the Argentine society.

One of the consequences of this new culture was the appearance of new artistic phenomena, Tango was one of them.

ORIGINS OF TANGO

Understanding Buenos Aires between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th

Origens of Tango

Why did Tango appear?
In its lyrics, Tango dealt with sentimental failure and the destructive effect that the passage of time has on people and things. 80% of the tangos deal with these two themes. Some Tangos, like “Esta noche me emborracho” deal with both themes at the same time.
For Tango, the passage of time is very important, and it has to do with the history of the social formation of the city of Buenos Aires in the last third of the 19th century and the first years of the 20th century. Especially until the outbreak of the first world war, when immigration suffers a hiatus, an interruption. If Argentina hadn't had the number of immigrants it had, perhaps Tango wouldn't even have existed.
Tango found something in the pain and drama of immigration and the immigrant found in Tango a way to channel his anguish. On the other hand, a curious situation arose regarding the appearance of Tango as an entertainer of social parties. In the carnivals of the 30s and 40s, millions of people went to dance with the Tango orchestras.

ALL ABOUT TANGO DANCE

What does the tango dance symbolize?

This 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 this dance is a lot more than a simple body-connection. This connection requires that these two persons find (through its 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 it's just 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 have a common denominator for everyone: it’s just so fun to do it! But there are also other reasons for people to dance it...

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, it's 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

What is Tango dance? Is Tango a fast or a slow dance?

Tango dance is an opportunity to find yourself through the embrace. Receiving the reflexion from your changing partners to map your own humanity.

At the same time, 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 this embrace it's 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.

Now, in terms of its speed, Tango is also very special. Because you can be a very good 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 it very well and decide how fast you want to dance it according to your mood, your partner, the music, the dance floor, etc!

As in any social dance, the most important thing is that you enjoy it a lot. And if you take lessons to keep improving, is even better: because the more you learn, the more you'll enjoy it!

We suggest practicing slow, so that you can gain awareness on your movement. Once you do it ok and feel good, then accelerating would be very easy and natural. We also suggest that one part of your practice is without music. It can be in complete silence or using the special Audio Tracks to Practice. These are special audio tracks recorded by a bandoneonist under our directions, for our students to really focus on each practice session: you'll improve much faster in much less time!

Is Tango a fast or slow dance?

How do I Tango?

It certainly take two to tango! But you can also start by practicing some basic exercises by yourself. For example, you can play any tango song you like and simply walk around your room as you follow the melody. Feel free! One simple and great rule is to walk as you sing, when when you make a pause in the singing you also stop walking/moving!

If you get used to do this, then it will be a lot easier to lead or follow your partner and you both will enjoy it much much more!

Do you want 5 free Tango lessons? Request your Tango Challenge Transformation (don't worry: it's for all levels!)

How long does it take to learn it?

Short answer: it depends on you. The answer you expect: 1 year.

It will all depend on your own talent, who is/are your teacher/s and how much you practice it.

But the actual truth is that you never finish learning. Why? Because it's a path to find your self. Pretty much like in martial arts or any other art or even any other profession.

So, if you need a more sharp answer regarding the Tango social dancing, then again... I guess that will be around 1 year of at least 1 lesson per week and practice another 1 time per week.

I actually asked myself that when I started, and month after month, after learning and practicing and becoming better and better... I was still asking myself the same question!

 

Tango: How long to learn Tango?

What are the steps?

Argentine 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 particular 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) 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 its history 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 origins of Tango as a dance 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 this dance 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?

ITS GEOGRAPHICAL ORIGINS

Geographical origins of Tango

As a musical genre, Tango 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.

Around the second decade of the 20th century, this dance arrived and became pretty successful in Europe. From there, Finland started to develop their own way to dance it, and today is very different from the original Argentine version.

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.

This dance 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 this dance began to grow in Europe, and with this "social approval", it was also finally accepted in the Argentine society.

From then, it kept growing and growing, and many artists and dance teachers were able to spread this beautiful culture everywhere.

Nowadays, you can dance it pretty much in every capital/big city of almost every country. In most of them you can even dance every day of the week and find good dancers and teachers. Many of which are actually Argentines!

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

This growing times started to declined from around 1970, and kept asleep during the military dictatorship in Argentina and Uruguay.

When the military left the national power in 1983, our beautiful dance blossomed again and it kept growing slow at first, and then it was like an explosion. And this growth spread all over the planet.

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 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.

HOW TO CIRCULATE THE FLOOR WHEN SOCIAL DANCING

how to cirulate on the dance floor

Argentine Tango is danced counterclockwise, all the dancing couples should be moving following a non-explicit lane. Pretty much like the cars on the road, but without the lines marked on the floor.

The main difference is that, while in the milonga (social dancing), you shouldn't cross to another line (at least when the dance floor is crowded).

But before you jump into the dance floor, you want to make sure you know some of its basics elements: walking, back ochos, distinguish between Tango, Vals and Milonga.

If you need it, here I leave you a link where you can check all the milongas in Buenos Aires

TANGO STYLES

First of all, we have to make clear that the original and only Tango is the one from Argentina and Uruguay. The Ballroom Tango, is just a simplification of it (in the same way the British simplified other dances from Latin America)

So, how many styles of Tango there are?

Many people still like to divide this dance with labels... like

  • Canyengue
  • Salón
  • Orillero
  • nuevo
  • Escenario (Stage Tango)

But the truth is that nowadays we're all starting to agree that there is only one Tango. The technique you choose to use will allow you to express yourself in this dance, and this fact will define YOUR STYLE.