The Tango, Argentina’s Sultry Dance
PHOTO: The tango! (Courtesy YouTube)
Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow.
And so begins the tango, a sensuous dance that once titillated Parisians and turned average Europeans and Americans into supple dancers.
With eight counts and a graceful curve to the left, tango dancers glide and curve their way around the room in an elliptical shape, while still “facing the line of dance.”
This is the soul of Argentina, and Aerolineas Argentinas can bring you to the heart of where the dance is most famous.
The tango is notable for several characteristics, including quick staccato footwork, a distinct lack of sway in the dancers’ bodies, and a walk that begins and ends with flexed knees, and beginners are often taught to dance in a rectangle until they master the steps.
Its origins date back to the late 1800’s when scores of immigrants (mostly single young men) from Italy and Spain made their way to South America’s Rio de la Plata, landing in Montevideo, Uruguay, and Buenos Aires, Argentina.
In addition to their dreams of fortune, these immigrants brought with them their music and traditional dances. Blending the flamenco guitar, bandoneon and violin with local folk music and the sounds of the Cuban habanera and African candombe, they created a dance to accompany these new rhythms. And while the music that formed was the perfect marriage of sultry and exciting, there was a definite problem—an overall (and distinct) lack of women.
This new “mating dance” found young men dancing with barmaids and even more frequently each other. As young men practiced together, beginners would often be forced to follow for up to a year before being taught how to lead. While the elder statesmen of the newly minted upper classes eschewed this new dance, the younger set found it exciting and would show off their new moves on visits back to Europe. Parisians were horrified and yet they couldn’t look away. Soon, the “tango craze” was sweeping across Europe, finally reaching the United States just before the outbreak of the First World War.
By the 1940’s, the Golden Age of Tango was in full swing and nightly competitions were the rage. Tango orchestras would be booked for more than a year out. What’s more, so fanatical were the dancers, that neighborhoods would develop their own spin, escalating rivalries into riots and creating rules of conduct that governed the dance gatherings known as “milongas.”
The tango craze waned in post-World War II Argentina, but again found its footing after the Falklands War, when young Argentinians, infused with hope and social freedom, sought to reclaim their heritage. Interestingly, and simultaneously, the tango resurgence occurred in Europe and North America, as well. Today, tango clubs and classes are the norm and people in communities across the country meet to share “the three minutes that can last a lifetime.”
More by Kristina Rundquist
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