TANGO HISTORY | Dancelovers Dance History

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The history of the Tango


The deep roots of Tango lie in African slavery. The Tango is a mixture of dances peculiar to Blacks in Haiti, Cuba and Argentina. Both the music and the dance were intense and erotic. Tango was first danced in Europe before World War I. It originates from Buenos Aires (Argentina) where it was first danced in the ghetto of Buenos Aires. It was then known under the name of "Baile con corte" (dance with a rest). During the Spanish American War, a popular dance called the "Habanera del Cafe" appeared which was the prototype of the Tango. The "dandies" of Buenos Aires changed the dance in two ways. First they changed the so-called "Polka rhythm" to the "Habanere rhythm" and secondly they called it "Tango".


In 1907 the dance was introduced in France; by 1912 it crossed the channel to England. The dance was so popular in France and England that Tango teas became the rage. It was danced in the United States first by the Castles who elevated it to a dance accepted in any ballroom, by purifying it of its coarse associations and turning it into a thing of beauty. The Broadway show, Tango Argentino, helped to rekindle enthusiasm for this exciting, sensual dance.


The image so often associated with Tango is that of a cat stalking its prey. This is, however, no tame pussycat; imagine the sensual movement of a wild tiger and you begin to approximate the correct movement. Tango is not as flowing as Foxtrot or Waltz; it has an intense staccato quality that makes it unique. It is a dance of stops yet it is also a smooth, fluid dance.


There are essentially three types of Tango - Argentine, American and International Style.


Argentine Tango: A dance created by the Gauchos in Buenos Aires was actually an attempt on their part to imitate the Spanish dance "Danza" except that they danced it in a closed ballroom position.


American Tango: Unlike the Argentine Tango, in which the dancer interprets the music spontaneously without any predetermined slows or quicks, the American Tango features a structure which is correlated to the musical phrasing. The dance is executed both in closed position and in various types of extravagant dance relationships which incorporate a particular freedom of expression that is not present in the International style.


International Tango: This is a highly disciplined and distinctively structured form of the Tango which is accepted worldwide as the format for Dancesport events. The dancers remain in traditional closed position throughout and expresses both the legato and staccato aspects of the music.


The Tango has continued to enjoy undiminished favor throughout the United States.


Reprinted with permission of Ron & Rebecca Kellen & Bogie of the Mile High Ballroom of Prescott, AZ

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