Part 17: Origins of Argentine Tango Dancing

Lidia and Hector Legrand

If you are interested in learning more about Argentine Tango and Argentine Tango events in SaddleBrooke, please visit our website where you can also read Parts 1 through 16 of this series.

From the 1870s to the 1910s tough times in European countries were the origins of emigration to mainly two countries: The United States and Argentina. Most immigrants entered Argentina via the port of Buenos Aires and the majority stayed there.

Initially all the jobs most of them could find were related to the processing of beef. Wages were extremely low and the working conditions borderline inhumane.

After work these men would get together to sing and dance to the songs they brought with them from their native countries. Many of these songs gave Argentine Tango its sad melody, reflecting the disillusion of not finding the opportunities they had heard of in Europe about the Americas.

Early Argentine Tango dancing was simple, mostly walking back and forth, an aspect of the dance that still prevails today.

During these decades there were two other forms of musical popular expression: Candombé, the music and dance of African slaves and Milonga, the music and dance of the residents of the interior. The dance of the immigrants slowly merged with Candombé dancing and Milonga dancing to evolve into the Argentine Tango of the 1920s.

Argentine Tango dancing was by then exported to Paris, France, by the spoiled adolescent children of the upper classes sent to European universities. These young men and women had learned about Tango in the nightly escapades to the bars and brothels of Buenos Aires. Argentine Tango was embraced enthusiastically by the upper classes of Paris who developed a more refined version of the dance.

Being accepted refined by French high society, all Argentina residents, rich and poor, adopted Argentine Tango De Salón (dance hall Tango).

Because Argentine Tango dancing is basically improvisational (in Jazz the improvisation is in the music), Argentine Tango dancing is considered also an art form and every competent Argentine Tango dancer is therefore an artist.

As it would be expected, Argentine Tango dancers have come up with new dancing styles as time goes by. In Buenos Aires, seven out of 10 dancers prefer to dance the De Salón style over Milonguero, Canyengue, Orillero, Villa Urquiza, New Tango, Fantasia and Stage Tango styles.

In the United States there are other Argentine Tango dancing styles, the most popular being American Argentine Tango. Other styles in the U.S. are indirectly related to Argentine Tango, i.e., Ballroom Tango, Hollywood Tango, American Stage Tango, etc.

About the authors: 2014 is Lidia and Hector’s eleventh year as SaddleBrooke Argentine Tango Dance Instructors of both group and private students. They have been teaching Argentine Tango dancing for sixteen years. They also offer seminars and workshops on Argentine Tango Music, History, Culture and Cuisine Please visit their website