Learn Tango! The Music & Dance of European Immigrants in South America

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Introduction to Argentine Tango

In the late 1800s, European immigrants brought their music and dances to the port cities of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, leading to the emergence of Tango. This dance developed in the seedy waterfront areas and became a “mating dance” in shady nightclubs. Initially shunned by the upper and middle classes, Tango gained popularity as Argentina became wealthy, and it was embraced by all social classes.

The Tango gained international attention during the “Tango Craze,” with privileged young men showcasing it in Paris. The dance’s raw and sensuous nature shocked and intrigued the Parisians, leading to its spread throughout Europe and America. A sanitized version of Tango found its way into dance academies, becoming a fixture in ballroom competitions.

In Argentina, the popularity of Tango grew, and it became the courtship ritual of the middle class during the “Golden Age” of the 1940s. Every night, hundreds of thousands of people would dance Tango until the early morning hours. Tango orchestras were highly sought after, and neighborhoods had their own variations of the dance, leading to intense rivalries and occasionally resulting in riots.

However, Tango faced a decline due to repressive military dictatorships after World War II, which imposed curfews and restrictions on public gatherings. Tango music separated from the dance, developing a concert-hall tradition. The culture of late-night dancing moved underground, and most regular milongas (Tango dance gatherings) closed their doors.

During the period of repressive military dictatorships in Argentina, which followed World War II, Tango faced significant challenges. Curfews and restrictions on public gatherings made it difficult to continue the tradition of late-night dancing. As a result, many regular milongas, the dance gatherings where Tango was practiced, had to close down.

However, Tango managed to survive underground, kept alive by a dedicated community of dancers and enthusiasts. Despite the obstacles, Tango continued to evolve and adapt, developing a rich concert-hall tradition for its music. Tango orchestras and composers gained respect and admiration, even as the dance itself faced limitations.

In recent years, Tango has experienced a resurgence both in Argentina and around the world. Efforts have been made to preserve the traditional Tango styles and techniques, while also exploring new interpretations and fusions with other dance forms. Tango festivals, workshops, and social events have become popular, attracting dancers from different backgrounds and countries.

Today, Tango remains an important cultural symbol of Argentina, representing passion, emotion, and the country’s history. It continues to captivate audiences and inspire dancers with its sensual movements and expressive music, serving as a testament to the resilience and enduring appeal of this iconic dance form.

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