Tango Roots: Men, Poverty, and Forbidden Passion

The nobles were disgusted by tango dance, the right-wing government forbade it, but the immigrants who came to Argentina expressed themselves through this dance and sought the warmth of women. Now Argentine tango is popular all over the world from Tokyo to Paris. However, until the moment the tango gained worldwide recognition, this dance was […]

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Tango Roots: Men, Poverty, and Forbidden Passion

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The nobles were disgusted by tango dance, the right-wing government forbade it, but the immigrants who came to Argentina expressed themselves through this dance and sought the warmth of women. Now Argentine tango is popular all over the world from Tokyo to Paris. However, until the moment the tango gained worldwide recognition, this dance was considered dirty and unacceptable. Immigrant Dance...

The nobles were disgusted by tango dance, the right-wing government forbade it, but the immigrants who came to Argentina expressed themselves through this dance and sought the warmth of women. Now Argentine tango is popular all over the world from Tokyo to Paris. However, until the moment the tango gained worldwide recognition, this dance was considered dirty and unacceptable.

Immigrant Dance

Exact information about when tango was started to dance and what its origin is, is not clear. But there are theories that immigrants from the Northern Africa were the first who started to dance the primary form of tango. Other theories derive this dance from the history of immigrants from other South America countries. In the middle of the 19th century, the dwellings of Buenos Aires, called conventillos (large houses, usually for several families), were crammed with locals and surrounding residents, foreigners who had just disembarked ships and so-called porteños, residents of the port city.

Tango was danced by everyone and everywhere: on dance floors, in markets and, of course, in the southern conventillos. Even then, the dance stood out with its own codes and language. In the late 19th century, the people of Buenos Aires gradually discovered the theater. Various genres – from comedies to dramas – have become unimaginable without tango. So, in the past, mostly suburban audiences danced, and the central part of the city gradually flooded with tango.

Forbidden Dance

It is said that the popularity of tango was determined by the small number of women, because immigrants were mostly men. According to the demographic data of that time, the number of men in Buenos Aires was 100 thousand larger than the number of women. Naturally, men had two ways to touch a woman: either go to the brothel and pay for love or go to dance tango. Therefore, it is not a surprise that tango is full of passion. Dancing was forbidden to members of the upper social classes because it was considered scandalous and represent a low level of morality.

In 1955–1983, tango moved to the underground in Argentina due to the political regime introduced in the country. The right-wing politicians tried to destroy the tango culture, as this dance was a favorite one of the former country leader Peron. The dancers were persecuted, tango music was banned, and the dance lost its popularity for a while, but did not disappear.

Music and Improvisation

Tango choreography, rhythm and melody are said to unite different styles of music. Here intertwines milonga, and melodic, emotional, and sentimental habanero music. The first composer of tango music is considered to be the composer Juan Pérez, the author of the song Dame la Lata. But it is quite possible that tango music has been written before.

Music and Improvisation
Music and Improvisation

Tango is said to be the first European dance to allow improvisations. Until then, the dance moves were pre-aligned, the pairs had to move according to a pre-determined sequence of steps. Tango has become an authentic and artistic way to show emotions, awaken passion, and feel the love for life.