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Tango dancing is a form of couples dance with a rich tradition and history. It has captured the popular imagination with the image of a man and woman dancing dramatically, the woman clutching a rose between her teeth and being "dipped" by her partner. This may be an amusing image, but it doesn't actually bear much resemblance to the real dance.
Tango dancing originated in Buenos Aries, the capital of Argentina, in the late nineteenth century. It began as a street dance and was practiced in bars and brothels. The dance made its way to Paris and then to America by the early 20th century, where it became popular among the "sheiks" and "flappers" of the Jazz Age. This is where the stereotypical image of the dance first came into being.
Tango dancing lost some of its prestige in Argentina after the Great Depression in 1929, but resurged in popularity after Juan Peron came to power. It became a matter of national pride to be able to tango. After numerous dictator governments in Argentina again repressed the dance, it came back to life in the 1980s after the premiere of the Broadway musical Forever Tango.
It might well be said of tango that it takes a short time to learn, but a lifetime to master. It is a highly syncopated dance with staccato steps. The couple dances it with a sensual, dramatic flair, in a close embrace, their faces pointed in the same direction, arms extended, hands clasped or palms together. In true Argentine tango, the couple dances with full upper body contact, while in the American ballroom style, the couple does not maintain upper body contact. The dance involves several specialized steps, including the woman hooking her leg around her partner's, and one partner dragging the back foot in rhythm.
Tango dancing also has its own particular style of music. Its timing and rhythms match the steps of the dance, and musicians specialize in composing and playing music suitable for tango. There are tango dancing clubs all over the United States, and the dance is still popular in its birthplace of Argentina. There are numerous Web sites dedicated to its music and technique, as well as the culture surrounding it.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the origin of Tango dancing?
Tango originated in the late 19th century in the working-class port neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Montevideo, Uruguay. It was born from a fusion of various dances and rhythms brought by immigrants, including African, European, and indigenous influences. Tango reflects a blend of cultures and was initially considered a dance of the lower classes before gaining popularity worldwide.
What are the key characteristics of Tango music and dance?
Tango music is characterized by its dramatic and passionate sound, typically featuring instruments like the bandoneón, violin, piano, and double bass. The dance itself is known for its close embrace, precise footwork, and intricate movements. Dancers often improvise within the structure of the music, leading to a highly expressive and intimate performance that communicates subtle emotions and storytelling.
How has Tango evolved over the years?
Since its inception, Tango has evolved into various styles, including Argentine Tango, Uruguayan Tango, and Ballroom Tango. Each style has its own distinct characteristics and techniques. Argentine Tango, for example, remains closer to the dance's roots with a focus on improvisation and connection between partners, while Ballroom Tango has a more formal structure and is often seen in competitive dance settings.
What is the cultural significance of Tango in Argentina and Uruguay?
In Argentina and Uruguay, Tango is more than just a dance; it's an integral part of the cultural identity. It represents the history and emotions of its people, from longing and melancholy to joy and passion. Tango has been recognized by UNESCO as part of the world's intangible cultural heritage, highlighting its significance and influence on the global arts scene.
Can anyone learn to dance Tango, and what are the benefits?
Yes, anyone can learn to dance Tango, regardless of age or prior dance experience. Tango classes are offered worldwide, and the dance community is known for being welcoming to newcomers. Benefits of dancing Tango include physical exercise, improved balance and coordination, mental stimulation from learning new patterns, and the social aspect of connecting with others through dance.