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Hints & Myths about Argentine Tango

The Dance

Tango is an improvised dance built step by step as a couple within the mood of the music and ability of the dancing couples and the constraints of the dance floor.

It can also be an obsession; the music erotic and passionate, haunting and melancholy; this world of spiked heels, sexy clothes, and the bandoneon.

For a chosen few it is a profession.

The leader's gentle torso movements inspire his follower step by step so their upper bodies move smoothly as one while their legs move more freely, intertwining more and more as each dance progresses to its climax.

Senor Tango, Buenos Aires


Small wonder that milonga convention dictates that no couple dances more than a handful of dances together before moving on to the next experience. Cold showers are optional!

Tango's movements and rhythms were born around 1900 in the brothels along the River Plate as a male-dominated under-class of European immigrants vied for the attention and favours of the best looking women at a time when women were rare - and often raw.

The movements were refined in the 40s and 50s into the tango we recognise today by a group of young tangueros determined to involve women more equally in the dance. Many of the steps and moves have names and variations and combinations abound.

The Tango rhythms were crystallised from the contredanza, candombe, fandango, habanera, and milonga by the Orquestas Typicas Creole of Maglio, Greco, Arolas, Victor (Nino Bien, El Portenito, Ventarron, Adios Buenos Aires), Carabelli (Felicia, Mi Refugio, El Cabure, Cuatro Palabras) , Lomuto, and Firpo and began to find their way out of Argentina to Paris and other capital cities of the world.

The traditional Tango line was taken into the so-called Golden Age by the bands of De Caro (El Monito, Colombina, Derecho Vieja, Boedo), Fresedo (Tigre Viejo, Poliya, Pimienta, Arabelero), Aieta, Filiberto, Lomuto, and Canaro (Viento en Popa, Don Esteban, Champagne Tango).

The Golden Age spawned sung Tangos from bands led by Fresedo, Cobian, Canaro, Tanturi, Demare, De Caro, Maffia, Di Sarli, De Angelis, Vardaro, Troilo, Pugliese, and Calo. This was when Carlos Gardel became the voice of Tango and a movie star. Even now, years after his death, portenos still ensure that the statue on his grave has an ever-burning cigar or cigarette.

In the 40s a group of dancers, led by Petroleo, reconfigured the dance moves to work better with the new rhythms of d'Arienzo and Biagi and include the woman as more of an equal; transforming the former vice-like grip and finger-pressure leads into the invitational leads that make up the body language of modern tango. Mingo Pugliese is the last surviving teacher from this group.

Milongas were driven underground and tango venues went bankrupt in the mid 50s when assemblies of more than a few people were banned for decades by military juntas and, of course, Rock and Roll took its toll of Argentina's youth.

Piazzola, Rovira, Salgan, and Stampone incorporated jazz themes to develop avant-garde Tango. The style lacks the strong rhythmic beat of earlier tango leading some to question whether or not it really is Tango. Dancers found that incorporating contemporary styles of movement and improving their body control allowed them to exploit the pauses and rhythm changes. Some still refuse to accept this style as tango.

In the late 70s, political change created the environment for a revival of Tango led by stage shows such as Tango Argentino, Forever Tango, and others focused on dancers such as Miguel Angel Zotto, Milena Plebs, Osvaldo Zotto, Gustavo Russo, and Alejandra Mantinan. These, and the movies "Naked Tango" and - even more - "The Tango Lesson" with Pablo Varon, Gustavo Naveira and Fabian Salas, took the Argentine Tango message back around the world, often finding it alive and well, if subdued or dormant.

At the beginning of the 21st century, Tango thrives world-wide, although a fatal fire in a Buenos Aires night club in 2004 closed many of the milongas, some for a while, many forever.

Explore and enjoy!      
How my journey started
What you must do first
Getting around
Intertwining those legs
Having real fun
Swirling around the room
No limits
Tertulia Tango Bar
The Cambridge Tango Bar
Circulo de Belles Artes
Stunning UK Venue
Tango's nerve centre
Fun City
Friendly Natives
Close embrace maestros from Amsterdam
Teaching excellence
Teaching fun
Teqaching fantasia
Petroleo's apprentice
Milonga star
My first tango teachers

Marta y Manuel


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©2002-2013 Frank Morris