The History of Tango: What You Need To Know


The history of tango is culturally rich and full of different styles originating in the 1880s along the border between Argentina and Uruguay. Unlike other dances such as the waltz which were characteristic among the aristocracy and saved for formal occasions, the tango was something much different. In fact, the tango originated in poverty-stricken streets and was often danced in bars and brothels for entertainment.

The influences for the tango are rooted in several different ethnicities including European, Native American, and African. It’s not an understatement to say that Africans who were enslaved in South America at the time had a formative impact on the creation of tango. While the tango was a rather unknown dance at the time, found mainly in the poor neighborhoods of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, it quickly spread into theater acts and other cities.

Tango soon broke out beyond South America and became internationally known in the 1900s. However, in Europe, the dance was regarded as highly inappropriate for its overtly sexual-tinged nature. Unsurprisingly, tango had great success in Paris, a city where most exotic arts could thrive like nowhere else. It soon continued to spread to Berlin, London, and New York City. However, the dance saw a sudden drop in popularity during the Great Depression, only regaining its fame in the 1940s.

History of Tango

history of tango

There are many different styles of tango but they are mainly distinguished by how close the dancers are to each other. For example, open embrace tango, as the name suggests, is when space remains between the two dancers. On the other hand, in close embrace tango, the dancers must be connected hip to hip or chest to chest. The structure of these embraces is known as an “abrazo” literally meaning “hug” or “embrace” in Spanish. Because tangos can differ so vastly from type to type, the techniques of the dance also differ.

Tango steps are meant to glide across the floor but the steps may vary in their speed. Usually, the rhythm of the dance and steps can be improvised according to the music. Ballroom tango was an Americanized style that was adjusted to suit a more formal ballroom environment and was therefore less intimate than other styles. In contrast, the River Plata Tango, which never parted from its Argentine roots, was full of complex techniques such as the gancho, which is when one partner hooks their leg around the other partner.

Tango is traditionally danced between a man and a woman, but two women or two men might also dance together. The concept of two men dancing together originated in the 1900s when there were more male dancers than female. Since its origination, tango has had great influence on other arts such as figure skating and gymnastics.

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