Mention tango and many immediately think of its beautiful presence on the dance floor between two refined dancers; however, tango is much more fascinating and complex.
Travelers in Argentina marvel at the sight of performers in the street sharing their talents. Elegant partners dramatically glide across stages in Buenos Aires. But, where did this passionate dance form come from?
The exact origins of tango have been lost among unrecorded history and myth. The
generally accepted history is that African slaves, who had been brought to Argentina, shared their culture with local Argentinians. The word “tango” may be of African origin, meaning “closed place” or it may have been derived from the Latin verb tanguere meaning “to touch” and was then picked up by Africans on slave ships.
During the 1800s and early 1900s, Argentina underwent a massive immigration. This resulted in a melting pot of cultures, and each borrowed dance and music from one another. Much of footwork was developed in Argentine dance venues – bars and dance halls. It was in these tenements where African rhythms met Argentinian milonga music and the choreography took form. Tango is widely known to have started in the poor barrios and it was not until the beginning of the twentieth century that high society fell in love with its music and dance.
By 1930, Argentina reached its Golden Age. The country became one of the ten richest nations in the world and music, poetry and culture thrived. Unfortunately, tango’s popularity and fortune have always been connected to economic conditions. This became evident in the 1950s once again when tango was taken underground since large dance venues were closed. During this time, the tango survived in smaller venues and in the hearts of its people.
The dance lived on in smaller venues until the 1980s following the opening in Paris of the show Tango Argentino, the Broadway musical Forever Tango, and in Europe, Tango Pasión. Today, tango triumphs in the hearts of its dancers. Many believe it is more than just dance and music, but it is a way of life.
Experience the heart of tango – perhaps even take a class – during one of our South America voyages this fall or winter: