One of the most fascinating of all dances, the tango is a sensual ballroom dance that originated in South America in the early 20th century. Tango is usually performed by a man and a woman, expressing an element of romance in their synchronized movements.
Originating in Spain or Morocco, the Tango was introduced to the New World by the Spanish settlers, eventually coming back to Spain with Black and Creole influences.
Originally, the tango was performed only by women, but once it spread into Argentina, it developed into a dance for couples.
The story of Tango as told is that it started with the gauchos of Argentina. They wore chaps that had hardened from the foam and sweat of the horses body. Hence the gauchos walked with knees flexed. They would go to the crowded night clubs and ask the local girls to dance. Since the gaucho hadn't refreshed, the lady would dance in the crook of the man's right arm, holding her head back. Her right hand was held low on his left hip, close to his pocket, looking for a payment for dancing with him.
The man danced in a curving fashion because the floor was small with round tables, so he danced around and between them.
The dance spread throughout Europe in the 1900s. Originally popularized in New York in the winter of 1910–1911, Rudolph Valentino then made the Tango a hit in 1921.
As time elapsed and the music became more subdued, the dance was finally considered respectable even in Argentina.
Styles vary in Tango: Argentine, French, Gaucho and International.
Still, Tango has become one of American "Standards" regardless of its origin. The Americanized version is a combination of the best parts of each.
The principles involved are the same for any good dancing. First, the dance must fit the music. Second, it must contain the basic characteristic that sets it apart from other dances. Third, it must be comfortable and pleasing to do.
Argentine Tango is much more intimate than Modern Tango, and is well-suited to dancing in small settings. Argentine Tango retains the intimacy of the original dance.
Although it seems now to be the only possible hold for couple dancing, Tango is only the third dance in history done with the man and woman facing each other, with the man holding the woman's right hand in his left, and with his right arm around her.
The first dance done in this hold was the Viennese Waltz, which was a craze across Europe in the 1830s. Couple dancing before the Viennese Waltz was formal, with couples performing choreographed steps, and generally with no more physical contact than holding hands.
The second couple dance to use this hold was the Polka, which became the fashion in the 1840s.
Tango, as the third, was radically different from anything that came before it because it introduced the concept of improvization for the first time, and was a huge influence on all couple dancing in the 20th century.
Phrasing is an important part of Tango. Most Tango musics are phrased to 16 or 32 beats of music. Tango music is like a story. It contains paragraphs (Major phrases); sentences (Minor phrases); and the period at the end of the sentence is the Tango close.
The basic Tango dance step has five components. The rhythm is paced slow-slow, quick-quick-slow. Some dancers keep track of the five parts by saying the letters T-A-N-G-O as they follow each part of the sequence. The lead steps forward three steps, beginning with the left, as his partner follows by stepping backwards. Next, the lead steps to the right side and brings the left foot to meet the right. The Tango moves around the floor, rather than staying stationary.
For this step, both partners move ahead facing the same direction, turned to the side. The first two steps are slow steps forward. Partners then turn to face each other again (she does a pivot step), and the last step of the Basic is done by bringing the feet together. The Promenade is a dramatic way to move across the room and is one of the most well-recognized Tango steps.
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