Argentina and the Tango

The dance form of tango originated from which country?
And the answer: Argentina.
Photo credit: Manticora87.

The tango evolved in the late 19th century in the streets of Buenos Aires in Argentina and Montevideo in Uruguay. The dance evolved from the South American milonga, the Cuban habanera, and the traditional rhythms of the Argentinian African population.

There's no doubt you've seen the tango performed in a movie (or maybe you've danced one yourself). These days, the tango is one of the most popular dances in the world, and is celebrated for its fire and passion. Yet, its origins were far from glamorous.

Along the La Plata River lies the border which separates Argentina and Uruguay. In the 19th century, as part of a development program, immigrants flocked to the region looking for work and prosperity. However, opportunities were not as bountiful as promised, and many were forced into poverty. To find relief, the people of the region turned to music and dancing. In the halls of saloons and restaurants, African styles blended with South American and European influences, such as the polka and the waltz. Slowly but surely, a new dance was born: the tango. Soon after, the dance was accompanied by the distinctive sounds of the German bandoneon, an instrument similar to the accordion.

In a tango, the dancers' torsos remain steady with the partners closely embracing. One partner will feel the other's movements and follow them, taking steps that alternate between long and smooth, and short and snappy. The passion of the dance is used to express melancholy, nostalgia and sensuality.

The conservative 19th century upper class rejected the dance as wild and scandalous, but in France, it drew enthusiastic fans. Before long, the tango had taken off in Paris. It made its way throughout Europe, as it was adapted to be more socially acceptable.    

Learn more about the history of the tango here.


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