Tango is a sensual and intimate dance performed by couples, born during the 1800s in lower-economic communities of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Tango is a sensual and intimate dance performed by couples, born during the 1800s in lower-economic communities of Buenos Aires, Argentina. These communities had a rich diversity of people which included African Argentines, indigenous Argentines, and Caribbean people. Poor European immigrants also began arriving here in huge waves toward the end of that century. The graceful and passionate motion of tango dance emits the exotic cultural mix of these first tango dancers. The solemn melodies of tango music offer the listener a glimpse into the sad and desperate lives of early homesick Argentine immigrants.

The tango later spread to wealthier areas of Buenos Aires, and to Montevideo. It continued to spread and by the early 1900s, this dance with humble beginnings had become a sensation all over Europe and the United States. The golden age of Argentina (1930s-1950s), a period marked by prosperity in the country, witnessed an explosion of tango popularity and new Argentinean tango styles. A successful 1955 coup, ousting General Perón from power, along with the popularity among Argentinean youth of the newly emerging Rock and Roll dance clubs caused the tango to experience a dramatic decline. The new military regime persecuted tango dancers, associating the dance with tango-loving Perón, while young Argentines associated the dance with an outdated older generation.

From the 1980s to today, the tango is once again gaining popularity thanks in part to international exposure through successful stage performances and its appearance in several Hollywood movies. Tango dance studios have opened up all over the world and in 2009 UNESCO included the tango in their intangible world heritage list.

Dancing or watching this Argentinean dance makes it easy to understand its world-wide popularity. Tango partners make an intimate connection. This is a flexible dance, open to spontaneous creativity which means the leader can lead in any direction. The follower must be aware of sudden changes in direction almost before they happen, which calls for an almost innate comprehension of the leader’s intention to create a smooth flow of movements. The leader also must pay close attention to how his partner is following and make subtle adjustments accordingly.

The dance that crossed economic class boundaries in Buenos Aires and international borders around the world has, of course a wide variety of styles. Different types of tango dance draw different shapes on the floor, as some styles adapted to suit different venues, from crowded dance halls to open ball rooms. Couples also embrace differently depending on the style. In some styles, dancers embrace in a V shape, in others in a square shape, some styles call for a close embrace and others an open embrace. Sometimes in tango, partners hold each other in a reverse embrace, although usually partner’s chests face each other, inviting intimacy and encouraging the mutual comprehension of body language.

No matter what the style, tango always appeals to the senses and creates a tender bond between partners. Lost in gentle movement and soft touch, tango dancers around the world have fallen in love on the dance floor with their partners, and with the dance itself, and have tangoed their way into a world of passion that must be experienced to be understood.


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