Argentine Tango

by Phoebe Southworth on Thursday, October 10, 2013


The Cradle of Tango

Buenos Aires, the Argentinian capital, has long been an attraction for worldwide tourism due to its beautiful architecture and rich culture. However, one of this metropolis’ most impressive boasts is, undoubtedly, being the birthplace of the Argentine tango.

The ‘Festival Mundial de Tango’, which takes place annually in Buenos Aires (this year from 14-27thAugust), is one of the crucial events in the tango calendar, with more than 500 dancing couples from 37 different countries, including the USA, Japan and Chile, competing in two categories of the exquisite dance:
Tango Salon: Salon tango is the most traditional form of the Argentine Tango as it was performed in the dance halls of Buenos Aires. Couples have a relaxed embrace and move smoothly and eloquently with the music.
Tango Escenario: Show tango is a more theatrical form of the Argentine tango and adapted for stage performances. It includes embellishments which require more floor-space than would be available in the traditional dance halls.

The aim of this yearly festival is to re-enact the historic background of the Argentine tango, as well as to celebrate the cultural diversity of the participants and add to the dance’s ever-evolving repertoire of movements and figures. Filled with music and color, the Festival Mundial de Tango is a tantalising attraction to dancers and tourists alike.

Argentine tango has its roots in the working class districts of Buenos Aires during the late 1800s. It emerged during the time when the capital was amass with settlers who came from all over Europe and, in turn, mixed with the existing South American immigrants, creating a melting pot of culture and racial diversity. In some districts of Argentina there was a distinct shortage of women with whom to dance, which resulted in ‘male-only practicas’ where men would dance together to improve their tango technique. Same-sex dancing is still practised today, although the gender ratio is generally far better balanced, so this is less common.


This passionate dance has gained an enormous number of followers over the years not only for its sensual movement and fluid pace, but also for the music to which it is danced. The merging of European and South American culture was responsible for what is known as the ‘milonga’ genre of music: a variation on the sultry stringed instrument music of traditional tango. There is also variation between the way the tango is danced to these different music genres; while traditional tango can be danced in an open or close embrace and involves long languid movements, the milonga style consists of short and sharp stepping movements while the couple holds one another in a close embrace. Today, the term milonga is also used to refer to a gathering of ‘tangueros’ (Tango-dancers) for an evening of dancing - and there is no doubt that milongas are in their abundance across Europe. Spain, for example, is the home of some of the best milongas in the world; notably, Barcelona and Madrid are a hive of activity when it comes to tango classes and milonga evenings.

From its humble roots in Buenos Aires to dance halls across the world, the Argentine tango is undoubtedly one of the most influential dances ever to emerge and is at the heart of a constantly evolving dance community which is gaining increased membership year by year.

Keywords: tango,buenos aires,argentine tango,milonga,tango argentina,south american culture


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