Perth Tango Club

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) which were melting pots of cultures from Africa, Spain, Italy, Britain, Poland, Russia and native-born Argentines. Traditional polkas, waltzes and mazurkas were mixed with the popular habanera from Cuba and the candombe rhythms from Africa.

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 1950s.

In 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.

While Argentine tango dancing has historically been danced to tango music, such as that produced by such orchestra leaders as Carlos di Sarli, Juan d'Arienzo, Osvaldo Pugliese, in the 1990s a younger generation of tango dancers began dancing tango steps to alternatives to tango music: music from other genres like, "world music", "electro-tango", and "blues". Tango nuevo dance is often associated with alternative music but it can be danced to tango as well.

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