In the late 1800s and early 1900s Argentina experienced massive immigration and consequently the population grew rapidly. Many had emigrated to Argentina because of the promise of jobs in the cattle and lumber industries. They were mainly young single men coming from Europe (especially Spain and Italy) who were looking to earn their fortune in the new world. Usually poor and keen for work they hoped to return home eventually or be able to bring out their families to Argentina. It was this longing and loss that can be sensed in the origins of tango.
Argentina’s new population was a mixture of indigenous, people from African descent as well as Spanish, Italian, British, Polish, Russian and other Europeans. This mixture of cultures and history meant they all borrowed dance and music from each other. All this mixing lead to the creation of the Argentine Tango.
Tango probably started in the African-Argentine dance venues which were frequented by compadritos (young native born, mixed ancestry men). They took the dance to the Corrales Viejo (the slaughterhouse district of Buenos Aires), the docks and industrial areas. It was enjoyed in the bars, dance halls and brothels and new steps were continually being invented. As tango was considered to be a dance from the poor barrios a stigma was attached to the dance and the Argentine upper classes spurned the tango regarding it to be vulgur. However well-heeled sons of these upper classes were not averse to slumming it and at the start of the 20th Century the tango became very popular in Buenos Aires and then spread to the provincial towns of Argentina and also over to Montevideo, Uruguay.
Next it started to spread worldwide when wealthy young Argentine males headed to Paris and introduced the tango there and wealthy European travellers also took it back to the European capitals and it became the rage of the Roaring 20s in Paris, London and New York. Those rich Argentines who had shunned it previously were now promoting it with pride.
The Golden Age of Argentina started in the 1930s when it became one of the ten richest nations in the world. Their music, poetry and culture all flourished as a result. The Golden Age lasted through the 1940s and 1950s. But it was all change during the 1960s when the political situation in Argentina began to deteriorate and society became more repressed. As the lyrics began to reflect the general mood they started to be banned. Large dance venues were closed and gatherings in public were forbidden so the dance and its music went underground. However tango did survive - smaller, quieter locations were used and of course it still remained and in the hearts and soul of the Argentine people.
Meanwhile on the international stage, rock and roll was emerging and this is what the younger Argentinian generation were more interested in. Consequently tango became a hobby of the older generations only.
By the mid-1980s tango started to have a revival when the stage show Tango Argentino opened in Paris. The show toured the world including all over Europe, North America and Japan. As a result so did the desire to learn how to dance the tango spread throughout the western world. People also headed to Argentina to study in the birthplace. Tango stills enjoys adulation today with lots of opportunities to learn it all over the world and particularly so in Argentina.
Obviously for those interested in lessons there is no better place to learn than in the birthplace of tango itself, Buenos Aires. Overcome all sensibilities, throw caution to the wind and learn how to tango properly in the hot and steamy Argentine capital. You can take group lessons, solo lessons and technical classes and one of the many establishments found in Buenos Aires. And then once you have mastered the steps you can tie in with a trip to the Pampas or even further afield as you will need to have some relaxation time after all that dancing….
For some accommodation inspiration have a look at Historic Haciendas.
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