History of Argentine Tango

Weathered political map South America - home of Argentinean tangoTango evolved in Argentina before the invention of the phonograph.  In the mid-late 1800's a gathering of musicians who could play rhythm, melody and tune in harmony played improvised tango music - dance music - to entertain.  A ménage of African slave dance, Cuban habanera, French colonial dance and European Polka all contributed to the unwritten score.

Displaced gauchos from the receding pampas of Argentina gathered in the bordellos of the poorer barrios (districts) of Buenos Aires to enjoy a little leisure time with the ladies.  It is hardly surprising that the dance was scorned by the elite, upper class that considered such behavior deplorable.

 

Argentine bandoneonist
Argentine bandoneonist

The dance craze in Europe and the United States between 1912 and 1915 significantly influenced the social acceptability of Argentine Tango, and by the early 20's new instruments were finding their voice in tango. The piano, the German accordion known as the bandoneon, violin and flute created a new genre of music, with a unique sound, and composers began to write music for the budding small orchestras.

 

Music provides the rhythm and the conversation that is expressed visually in dance.  Phrases are often repeated from one instrument to the next, signifying the dialogue.

The steps of the tango dance began with a simple walking step.  The synchronized body movements evolved, accentuating lines, in a conversation of body language.  New steps developed to accommodate crowded dance floors, and artistic embellishments added for unique style and flare.

It takes two to tango. Described as the seductive dance of one body with four legs, tango is intimate and private - the observer, the voyeur.  The tango embrace is close, soft and warm.  Complicated improvised patterns are executed with precision and elegance; the tangling and unraveling of intertwined legs, deliberate and poised.  Smooth directional changes are integrated into a sensual, passionate chase that climaxes in the occasional dramatic, passionate pose.