A short history of tango
Argentine tango is a partner dance that developed over the last century in Argentina's capital city, Buenos Aires. It allows the dancers to develop a deep connection between themselves, the music, and the environment in which they are dancing.
Exactly when and where the various forms of dance and music combined to create what became widely understood as tango is unclear. What is clear was that tango was considered a dance from the poor barrios (neighbourhoods).
By the beginning of the twentieth century, the tango as both a dance and as an embryonic form of popular music had established a firm foothold in the city of its birth. It soon spread to provincial towns of Argentina and across the River Plate to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, where it became as much a part of the urban culture as in Buenos Aires
By 1913, the tango had become an international phenomenon in Paris, London and New York. The tango spread worldwide throughout the 1920s and 1930s. The dance appeared in movies and tango singers traveled the world. By the 1930s, the Golden Age of Argentina was beginning. The country became one of the ten richest nations in the world and music, poetry and culture flourished. The tango came to be a fundamental expression of Argentine culture, and the Golden Age lasted through the 1940s and 1950sIn the 1950s, in a period of political repression, the dance and its music went underground and the tango survived in small, unpublicized venues and in the hearts of the people until the mid-1980s when the stage show Tango Argentino opened in Paris. The show toured the world and stimulated a world-wide revival of tango that we are part of today.
Why dance tango?
Argentine tango, as a ‘partner’ dance, provides opportunity for safety in close personal contact. Such close personal contact is largely lacking in people without partners. In a safe Club environment people are afforded opportunities for personal contact which encourages conversation and interaction.
Many avenues for such interaction these days very often include alcohol as a normal feature. Alcohol is not served at the Club and alternatives in the form of ‘pod’ coffee, specialist teas, and filtered water are always available. Anybody learning or dancing tango understands very well the disastrous effect on balance and concentration even a small amount of alcohol has.
Tango, a difficult but fascinating dance, affords people the opportunity to learn new skills, leading to increased personal esteem. Anyone who has mastered a difficult project or even has managed to do something to an acceptable standard that they have never done before, realises the huge boost to their confidence it can give. It lays the groundwork for increased confidence that they can go on and do other things that they thought, or feared, might be out of their reach. This can only have a positive impact on their thoughts, their lives and their close friends and family. People are happier, more fulfilled and more willing to try something new once they master a new skill.
Having at least one thing in common (tango), members can progress to learning about others’ interests and activities. This can lead to joining in other activities and thus forming social networks with other members but outside tango. Such networks can provide social and personal support in times of adversity, loneliness and stress.
Tango increases fitness, (through anaerobic exercise), muscle strength, balance, flexibility, co-ordination, cognition, leading to a greater chance of people staying healthy and self-reliant as they age.
Dance naturally promotes health; improving posture, circulation, balance, and muscle tone, but the growing practice of Argentine tango has led medical researchers to discover added health benefits specifically linked to this particular dance practice.
A substantial range of clinical studies have demonstrated that Argentine tango practice is beneficial in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, for example; patients responding better to tango than to standard physiotherapy. In fact the Argentine Tango Foundation in Buenos Aires offers free tango classes to people with Parkinson’s.
Research has shown tango useful in lowering blood pressure, improving circulation and overall cardiac health, and fighting arteriosclerosis; while some researchers found that practicing tango improved balance and coordination in ageing patients. Studies at Washington University showed tango helping balance more than comparable exercises. Research even hints that tango could reduce memory loss for those suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Mental health can also improve with tango. To begin with, some of the physical changes just listed can reduce anxiety, stress and depression. Tango is now being included as a helpful therapy by practitioners treating social phobia, depression, and even schizophrenia.The dance has also been found helpful for those suffering from trauma and a wide variety of relational problems, and there is growing interest in the use of Tango as couples therapy.