Written by Lori Heikkila
Tango (the dance with the stop "Baille Con Carte") is one of the most fascinating of all dances. Originating in Spain or Morocco, the Tango was introduced to the New World by the Spanish settlers, eventually coming back to Spain with Black and Creole influences.
In the early 19th Century, the Tango was a solo dance performed by the woman. The Andalusian Tango was later done by one or two couples walking together using castanets. The dance was soon considered immoral with its flirting music!
Ballroom Tango originated in the lower class of Buenos Aires, especially in the "Bario de las Ranas". Clothing was dictated by full skirts for the woman and gauchos with high boots and spurs for the man.
The story of Tango as told is that it started with the gauchos of Argentina. They wore chaps that had hardened from the foam and sweat of the horses body. Hence to gauchos walked with knees flexed. They would go to the crowded night clubs and ask the local girls to dance. Since the gaucho hadn't showered, the lady would dance in the crook of the man's right arm, holding her head back. Her right hand was held low on his left hip, close to his pocket, looking for a payment for dancing with him. The man danced in a curving fashion because the floor was small with round tables, so he danced around and between them.
The dance spread throughout Europe in the 1900's. Originally popularized in New York in the winter of 1910 - 1911, Rudolph Valentino then made the Tango a hit in 1921.
As time elapsed and the music became more subdued, the dance was finally considered respectable even in Argentina.
Styles vary in Tango: Argentine, French, Gaucho and International. Still, Tango has become one of our American 'Standards' regardless of its origin. The Americanized version is a combination of the best parts of each. The principals involved are the same for any good dancing. First, the dance must fit the music. Second, it must contain the basic characteristic that sets it apart from other dances. Third, it must be comfortable and pleasing to do.
Phrasing is an important part of Tango. Most Tango music phrased to 16 or 32 beats of music. Tango music is like a story. It contains paragraphs (Major phrases); sentences (Minor phrases); and the period at the end of the sentence is the Tango close.
For exhibition dancing, a Tango dancer must develop a strong connection with the music, the dance and the audience. The audience can only feel this connection if the performer feels and projects this feeling. So it is when dancing for your own pleasure -- and your partner's!
"The Tango is the easiest dance. If you make a mistake and get tangled up, you just Tango on." (Al Pacino in "The Scent of a Woman.") Movies that featured Tango dancing include "The Scent of a Woman", Madonna's "Evita" and "True Lies" starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis.
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