Tango, A Short History

Tango, A Short History

The tango practice nowadays in the most popular and greatest dance venues as a form of ballroom dancing originated in Latin America.

It is believed to have evolved in the dance halls and brothels of working class districts in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Other scholars believe that the tango arose from cross-cultural influences in the Rio de la Plata region, which compromises parts of modern day Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil.

Tango worldwide

Whatever its origins are, the tango is a beautiful, highly stylized form of dancing that has gained a considerable following worldwide.
"Follow your intuition. Be smart, be brave, tell the truth, and don't take any shit."

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In 2009, the tango included in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list, which honors significant intangible cultural products across the globe.

There are many variants of tango today such as the Argentine tangoUruguayan tango, Ballroom tango (which is the American and International version), and even Finnish tango.

Eras del Tango, Tango Axis
In Eras del Tango,  show directed and produced by Tango Axis 
three couples explore the history of tango 
by profiling different eras through dance and costume

Tango Art Form

El Tango, José Alberto Marinas
Tango: The Art History of Love
Tango as an art form probably arose from European and African influences in Latin American culture. The dances of African slaves and the waltzes of European origin somehow merged in the urban centers of Rio de la Plata, thus producing tango.

Moreover, Vaudeville Theater and street performers helped spread tango to other urban centers, and it soon gained popularity among European immigrants such as Italians and Spaniards.

At the turn of the 20th century, dancers and orchestras from Latin America travelled to Europe and introduced the art form to the continent. This sparked the first European tango dance craze in major cities like Paris, London, and Berlin. By 1913, the tango craze had spread to New York City.

In the United States, the term ‘tango' was often applied to other dances in the 2/4 and 4/4 rhythm such as the one-step. This does not indicate that tango steps were used in the dance. In many cities, dance lessons conducted by foreign instructors during this time were sometimes called the Americanized version of the tango as "North American tango" as opposed to the authentic tango that came from Rio de la Plata.

The onset of the Great Depression in 1929, as well as the repressive regimes of the Argentine government, stalled the development of tango for decades. However, its fortune was reversed upon the election of President Juan Perón (husband of the famous Evita Perón). Once again, tango dancing flourished in Argentina and in major cities accross the globe became even more popular.


Dancing the tango is enjoyed by many people, especially couples, and has major health benefits. Tango dancing can aid in the healing of neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease and also provides great exercise.

Please take a moment to tell me about your observations or any particular comment on Tango, A Short History.

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Martin Sotelano said...

I am from Argentina; also, I used to work, in the 80, in San Telmo in places such as Union Bar, Bar Sur and El Viejo Almacen.
Now I am working as movement therapist using tango as a pathway in palliative care, mainly with Parkinson’s patients (Tango Therapy UK).
The author of this article has no idea about the origin of the tango.
In addition, the videos that you use to illustrate the article are wrong.
Those videos not show the real tango, just the tango for tourist/shows. Even more, the first one is not a tango, it is a Candombe, in Argentina and in Uruguay, and the candombe is a rhythm for the murgas / carnival.
Soumalainen tango is not an Argentinean tango either; it is the nort-american version of the tango, called also tangó and Rodolfo Valentino popularized it.
If you want to know about tango I will recommend you a book called “The meaning of TANGO, the story of the Argentinean dance” by Christine Denniston.
If you want to see real tango, you must go to “not for tourism” milongas in argentina.
It is also very important to know that the tango that we use in order to help people with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and older people is NOT this tango.
It is a special developed technique that use special exercises, very special selected tangos and delivered by professional therapists, no tango dancers or tango teachers.

Martin Sotelano
Co-director Tango Therapy UK
Chairman International Assoc. of Tango Therapy

Tilarenn Solèy said...

Martin, I am really pleased about the information you provide as to how Tango is use in your practice as a professional movement therapist since this very concise article did not give such detail. Tango is a marvellous dance. I can feel and respect you passion and concern for the right information to be shared as well as the truthfullness of the culture.

You are absolutely right about Argentine Tango and your precisions are value added information for everyone. At a very introductory level, this article emphasize the spread of Tango in the world (particularly popularized american, Uruguay, ballroom, Finnish and even Vaudeville theater) and the videos illustrates this actual diversity. The title of the first video, the Cadombe, is confusing and it is a controversial reality. The links in the article, for those interested, brings to deeper information about Tango. Also, your reference to Christine Denniston's book is most valuable for everybody who wants to learn more. I certainly will read it...

Thank you so much for your contribution...!!!

Anonymous said...


thank you for accepting the constructive criticism. As a "cosmopolitan girl", dancing tango the one Martin is referring to, let me suggest some videos to "correct" your impression(s) and infect you with the feverish virus that makes me travel throughout Europe in 11 out 12 months :-)
Let me introduce you to the connection one can make by "teaming up" with somebody by the blink of an eye no matter what time, which place and whom you're dancing with.
Please start with this http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=-p7KO7xu0EQ (Italian-French couple performing in southern Germany)and search for the music by following either his or her feet (steps). Go on with this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sna9fv95hvQ (Argentine couple performing in London) and finish with this one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYrRxh4bnlk (Argentine couple performing in the USA).

Regards, the ATfE
(anonymous tanguera from Europe)

Tilarenn Solèy said...

Thank you ATfE for sharing your , if I may say. It is indeed infectuous but truly the kind of infection that I never mind... This is one of the main purpose of this blog... discover, share, explore deeper to the bone of the matter. Through sound knowledge of a dance particularities, we unfold such a wealth of cultural heritage... and Tango is no exception...

Let's see if there will be more input in regards to the emotions and thoughts these beautiful performances bring...


Tilarenn Solèy said...

Just find out how to bring easy acces to the video, the ATfE (anonymous tanguera from Europe), is so passionately sharing with us.

Here we go:
(Italian-French couple performing in southern Germany)
(Argentine couple performing in London)
(Argentine couple performing in the USA)

Thanks again, Anonymous tanguera from Europe

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