Tango Tribu

The History of Tango: a journey into Argentina’s iconic dance

In the heart of Buenos Aires, where the cobblestone streets echo with the whispers of history, Tango was born. This dance of passion, born in the late 19th century, emerged as a vibrant expression of the cultural melting pot that defined Argentina’s capital. From its humble origins in the impoverished neighborhoods of Buenos Aires to its status as a global phenomenon, Tango has woven itself into the fabric of Argentine identity and captured the imagination of people around the world.

 

History of Tango

 

 Proto-Tango: The Origins… (before 1895)

Angel Villoldo. The grand father of Tano
Angel Villoldo

During the Proto Tango era, a pivotal period spanning the late 19th to early 20th centuries, the dance form gestated within the vibrant cultural landscape of Buenos Aires. Enriched by a fusion of European and African influences, Proto Tango manifested in syncopated rhythms and improvised movements. Ángel Villoldo is the mos frequent reference of that era of Tango since he played an instrumental role in shaping this formative phase. Tango’s initial association with the marginalized classes led to its birth in taverns and brothels, fostering a raw and passionate energy in its choreography. The embrace in Proto Tango was notably more open, enabling greater freedom of movement and expression. These years laid the groundwork for the eventual evolution of Argentine Tango into its emblematic form, marked by intense partner connection and was already predicting its future intricate footwork.

 

La Guardia Vieja (The Old Guard: 1895-1925)

Francisco Canaro. La Guardia Vieja
Francisco Canaro

During La Guardia Vieja, or the Old Guard period of Argentine Tango, which flourished from the early 20th century to the 1920s, the dance underwent significant refinement and popularization. Influential figures such as Carlos Gardel, Francisco Canaro, and Juan Maglio (“Pacho”) continued to leave their indelible mark on Tango’s evolution. This era witnessed the emergence of the bandoneón as a central instrument in Tango orchestras, infusing the music with a hauntingly melancholic resonance. Artists like Gardel, renowned for his emotive vocals, helped propel Tango to new heights of cultural significance both locally and abroad. The dance itself evolved with more structured choreography, characterized by intricate footwork and dramatic poses, setting the stage for Tango’s ascension to global prominence.

La Guardia Nueva (The New Guard: 1925-1950)

The Big Four of Tango
The Big Four of Tango

During La Guardia Nueva, or the New Guard period of Argentine Tango, which dawned around 1925, Tango underwent a transformative journey characterized by innovation and experimentation. Influential artists like Osvaldo Fresedo and Julio De Caro spearheaded this evolution, introducing complex musical arrangements that incorporated elements from jazz and classical music. This era witnessed a refinement of Tango’s structure, emphasizing precision, elegance, and technical mastery in both music and dance.

The exaltation of Tango, heralded as the Golden Decade of Tango, reached its zenith in the 1940s, marking a period of unparalleled cultural significance and widespread acclaim. This era, also known as “la década de oro del Tango,” saw the emergence of the “Big Four of Tango”: Juan D’Arienzo, Osvaldo Pugliese, Anibal Troilo, and Carlos Di Sarli. Each maestro brought forth a unique musical style, ranging from D’Arienzo’s energetic and rhythmic arrangements to Pugliese’s intricate melodies and Troilo’s emotive interpretations. Di Sarli, on the other hand, crafted a smoother, more melodic approach to Tango music.

Tango’s Golden Decade was a time of artistic flourishing, with dancers and musicians alike contributing to its cultural prominence. The music became more complex and sophisticated, while the dance retained its passionate and sensual essence. Tango permeated all aspects of Argentine society, from the milongas of Buenos Aires to the concert halls of Europe and beyond, solidifying its status as one of the world’s most beloved dance forms.

Astor Piazzolla Tango
Astor Piazzolla

The Avant-Garde Period: 1955-1970

During the Avant-Garde period, spanning from 1955 to 1970, Argentine Tango underwent a profound modernization, yet faced significant challenges that led to a decline in popularity, earning it the moniker “the fateful decade”. Political instability, exacerbated by the loss of support from the dictatorial government, cast a shadow over Tango’s cultural prominence. Additionally, the emergence of new musical tendencies further diluted Tango’s influence, leading to a period of transition and uncertainty.

Despite these challenges, visionary artists like Astor Piazzolla, Mariano Mores, and Horacio Salgán, among others, played pivotal roles in reshaping Tango’s musical landscape.

The Contemporary Period: 1970-2000

The Avant-Garde period, while marked by tumult and uncertainty, laid the groundwork for Tango’s renaissance in the latter part of the 20th century. Despite facing challenges and setbacks, Tango persisted as a symbol of Argentine identity and resilience, setting the stage for its resurgence on both the national and international stage in the years to come.

During the Contemporary Period of Tango, spanning from 1970 to 2000, Tango underwent significant shifts in its cultural trajectory, marked by two distinct phases: the Universalisation and the Continuation.

The Universalisation phase (1970-1985)

The Universalisation phase, roughly from around 1970 to 1985, unfolded against the backdrop of Argentina’s militaristic dictatorial regime. Tango faced a challenging period during this time, as it was largely suppressed and marginalized by the government. In its place, alternative music genres like Rock & Roll emerged, capturing the imaginations of Argentine youth and overshadowing Tango’s traditional allure. Despite these obstacles, Tango endured as a cultural symbol, kept alive by passionate aficionados who preserved its legacy amidst adversity.

Some of the musicians on this phase were:

Astor Piazzolla: Renowned for his innovative compositions, he revolutionized Tango music with his Nuevo Tango style, blending traditional Tango elements with jazz and classical influences.

Mariano Mores: A prolific composer and orchestra leader, Mores created numerous Tango classics and contributed to the genre’s evolution during this period.

Horacio Salgán: Known for his sophisticated compositions and virtuosic piano playing, Salgán played a key role in shaping Tango music during the 1970s and 1980s.

Aníbal Troilo: Though his prime was in the earlier decades, Troilo’s influence continued into the 1970s and beyond. He was revered for his emotive interpretations and skillful bandoneón playing.

Osvaldo Pugliese: Another maestro whose influence spanned multiple decades, Pugliese’s orchestras were known for their powerful and rhythmic arrangements, making him a beloved figure in Tango music.

The Continuation phase (1985-2000)

The Continuation phase, from 1985 to 2000, marked a resurgence of Tango’s popularity and influence, albeit in a different guise. With the return of democracy to Argentina, Tango experienced a revival, fueled in part by a renewed interest in its dance aspect. Tango underwent a global renaissance, propelled by the success of Tango shows such as “Tango Argentino” and “Forever Tango,” which captivated audiences worldwide with their captivating performances and sensuous choreography.

During this period, Tango transcended its traditional boundaries, captivating audiences across continents and cultures. Tango’s dance aspect, in particular, played a pivotal role in its newfound global appeal, as enthusiasts around the world embraced its passion, elegance, and intimacy. Tango became more than just a dance—it became a cultural phenomenon, celebrated and cherished by people from all walks of life, cementing its status as a timeless art form with universal resonance.

 

Orchestra La Juan Darienzo
Orchestra La Juan Darienzo (named in homage of Juan Darienzo)

The Current Period: 2000 onwards

Since the turn of the millennium, Tango has continued its global ascent, solidifying its status as a cherished cultural treasure while undergoing a remarkable revitalization in its dance form. The resurgence of Tango’s dance aspect has been instrumental in its widespread success, with enthusiasts around the world embracing its passion and elegance. This renewed interest has led to the emergence of new Tango shows and dancers, whose captivating performances have reignited Tango’s allure and attracted a new generation to the dance floor.

As Tango’s popularity surged, a small group of dancers began to explore the rich choreographic possibilities inherent in the dance, uncovering hidden pearls within its traditional framework. This exploration gave rise to what was initially termed “Tango Nuevo,” perceived by some as a new style of Tango. However, as more dancers delved deeper into Tango’s intricacies, it became evident that Tango Nuevo was not a new style per se, but rather an evolution—an update—of Tango in general. This realization has helped Tango to transcend its traditional boundaries and reach even greater heights of artistic expression and global appeal.

At TangoTribe.net, we embrace this holistic approach to Tango, recognizing its rich heritage while celebrating its ongoing evolution. Our mission is to share the beauty and intricacies of Tango with enthusiasts worldwide, fostering a community of passionate dancers and aficionados who appreciate Tango in all its forms. Whether you’re a beginner eager to learn the basics or an experienced dancer seeking to refine your skills, TangoTribe.net offers comprehensive resources and guidance to help you embark on your Tango journey with confidence and joy. Join us as we continue to explore the timeless elegance and profound emotion of Tango, uniting dancers across continents in a shared love for this extraordinary dance form.

Legacy of the History of Tango

Today, Tango stands as a living testament to the power of art to transcend borders and unite people across cultures and continents. From the milongas of Buenos Aires to the concert halls of New York City, Tango continues to enchant audiences with its timeless beauty and emotional depth. It serves as a reminder of the universal language of music and dance that binds us all together, inviting us to embrace our passions and connect with one another in the shared joy of movement and rhythm.

As we reflect on Tango’s intricate path of evolution, let us celebrate the countless dancers, musicians, and enthusiasts who have dedicated their lives to preserving and promoting this cherished art form. Their passion and dedication ensure that Tango will continue to thrive for generations to come, inspiring and captivating audiences with its enduring allure.

Tango vive, Tango resplandece—Tango lives, Tango shines on.

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