The Story of the Argentine Tango

The Argentine tango is an iconic form of dance, famous the world-over for its passion, rhythm and skill level. Here at pampeano, a company with its roots firmly in Argentine culture, the Argentine tango is our favourite dance in the world. Tango itself has a rich history spanning the globe; the whole world seems to have fallen in love with the mesmerising dance. 

The tango derives from the Cuban dance the habanera, the Argentine milonga, and the Uruguayan candombe. The music used in tango is inspired by the African community in Buenos Aires, and is said to use elements from African rhythm, European music and of course South American songs. The first recorded use of the word tango in Argentina was in the late 19th century. From 1902, when tango began to be used at the balls at the Teatro Opera (a large theatre in Buenos Aires), the Argentine tango gained in popularity throughout the city and the country. At the time, the outskirts of Buenos Aires were filled with immigrants from all over the globe - particularly Europe - which influenced the development of the tango with elements from many different cultures. Dancers soon began to travel the world and tango became popular in the great cultural cities; Paris, Berlin, London, and eventually New York. By now, the dance had evolved into ballroom tango, using less body contact. But in Argentina, the same Argentine tango remained. 

Where the Argentine tango differs from ballroom tango you might watch in film, on stage, or on Strictly Come Dancing, is the fact that traditionally Argentine tango is improvised, rather than choreographed. It’s an intimate expression of emotion and meaning through the power of dance; this raw, unfiltered element makes it unlike any other form of dance in the world. It is also partially for this reason that Argentine tango is usually considered to be more difficult than ballroom tango; it requires the creative skill to be able to improvise a beautiful routine with no prior rehearsal. An Argentine tango dancer also usually has more advanced dance moves in their repertoire, allowing them to form a more complex routine with their partner. While ballroom tango is designed for the ballroom - and therefore has the dancers often moving around the room in gorgeous sweeping motions - Argentine tango has been developed in social tango parties called milongas, and the dancers usually dance on the spot performing skillful embellished movements. 

With the Great Depression in 1929, the growing popularity of cinema and the new music form of rock-and-roll in the 50’s, the tango became less popular over time. However, milongas remained open and particularly in Argentina the intense love for the art form lived on. In the 1980’s, tango exploded back onto the scene with the wildly successful runs of shows like Tango Argentino and Tango Forever, which went on global tours and reignited the international passion for tango. These shows took the UK by storm, prompting the birth of many Argentine tango classes and venues. The popularisation of Argentine tango was aided by depictions in popular culture, such as the famous scene in the 1992 film The Scent of a Woman, where Al Pacino and Gabrielle Anwar dance the Argentine tango.

Tango is very culturally important to the people of Argentina; it is a national tradition that expresses and celebrates their heritage and national identity. While the lyrics to Argentine tango songs tend to be sad laments, the spirit of tango is far from sad; it’s a symbol of the love held by people all over Argentina. The Argentine tango is still danced in milongas and party halls throughout the country, a hobby celebrated and loved by many, young and old. 

If you are considering attending a milonga to dance the night away, or a local tango class with your partner, you have to look the part. Nothing would look better on an Argentine tango dancer than an authentic Argentine leather polo belt from pampeano. We stock a variety of colours and styles, perfect for any dance outfit.

From all of us here at pampeano; keep dancing!

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