The Origins of The Tango
Both the music and the dance have indirect
influences from the African candombe, the Cuban Havanera, the
Andalusian tango, the chotis and the
added to regional music and popular
Is has been
attempted to reconstruct the history of the tango but it turns
out impossible to determine a date of birth due to the fact that
there is no written and/or proven information about it.
There has also been a speculation that Cuba
was the country where the tango was danced for the first time.
Nevertheless, most experts coincide
that Buenos Aires, during the decade of 1880 marked the starting
point of the music and the dance. In those years there was a
proliferation of brothels in Buenos Aires, mostly sustained by
immigrant women from Spain, France, Italy, Germany and Poland,
whose clientele were also immigrants that had left their
families and wives in search of new opportunities.
Initially, the tango was played in brothels
with a violin, a flute and a guitar, and if a guitar was not
available, it was replaced with a comb turned into a wind
instrument alongside a cigarette paper and a expert blower that
marked the rhythm. The mythical instrument, the bandoneon, was
not a part of the tango until a couple of decades later, around
1900 approximately, and little by little it started to replace
As time went by, tango shows at brothels
became monotonous and in an effort to avoid the publics boredom,
the brothels' management hired trios or different musicians'
groups, who inspired the public
to start dancing. Unexpectedly, these shows became so successful
that they started to be more frequent. It is said that this is
how tango was originated. Afterwards, the first tango ballroom
dances were organized at tango academies, for men only.
The first tango composer is considered to
have been a man called Juan Perez, author of the song "Dame la
lata ", sometime around 1880; though it is not discarded that
other authors and other songs have existed. It is likely that
the first tangos were "Dame la lata ", "El Tero" and "Andáte
a la Recoleta ".
The tango grew in the suburbs and followed
its way to the streets. Some time later it spread to the city
and arrived at places like the
known as the
Kiosquito, La Glorieta, La Red and El Velódromo. It was at that
time when women were added to the dance and gave it its final
started to get popular, occasionally accompanied by a flute, a
violin and a guitar. In 1904, Casimiro Ain appeared at the Opera
Theater as a dancer of tango joined by his wife and since that
moment dancers like Ricardo Güiraldes, Florencio Parravincini
and Jorge Newbery rose.
The first tangos lacked lyrics but in some
musicians improvised them in the spare of the moment. The first
written lyrics described the brothels environment and were
vulgar, obscene, and showed lack of education. Some of the
titles were "Dos sin sacarla", "Qué polvo con tanto viento",
"Con qué tropieza que no dentra" and "Siete pulgadas", among
On the other hand, in some parts of Buenos
Aires, poetry began to spread in the lyrics of tango. Thugs were
introduced and described as "compadritos" (arrogant, womanizer,
drinker and aggressive men who always carried a knife).
Pascual Contursi was considered the most
important lyricist of the tango and introduced, in 1920, the
lyrics with argument and narrative, being "Mi noche triste" his
most successful tango lyrics. Nowadays, there are very few
The tango is said to have been born in Buenos
Aires, on the shores of the Riachuelo; in brothels and in
squats of southern Buenos Aires. The social class in which it
developed was a mixture of regional people and immigrants made
up by sailors, craftsmen and working class people.
They were mostly lonely men who had left
their families at their natal countries and frequented clubs or
dance ballrooms for fun. Many tango lyrics are inspired in these
groups of men who became the "guapos", "malevos" and
"compadritos". Some meeting places of these characters were the
Café Sabatino, the Almacén de la Milonga and the Viejo Bailetín
del Palomar. This portion of society felt identified with the
tango lyrics because they talked about the "hard or bad life".
The First Tango Bands
The first tango bands were the Trios, which
included a flute, violin and guitar players and performed in
around 1870. Towards the end of 1890 the bandoneon was added to
the lineup, sometimes replacing the flute. However, it appears
to be that bands changed constantly and they were formed by
whoever showed up on the day of the show.
At the beginning of 1900 many quartets and
quintets were formed, but this fact didn't stop the duos from
staying on board. Through the years, small bands gathered up and
formed the "Orquesta Típica" (Typical Orchestra) that became
very successful among tango fans.
representative artist in the history of the Tango was
whose charisma and talent managed to conquer the lovers of this
of the characteristics that better define the Tango is its
choreography. The dance is one of the most important expressions
of the tango and the visual beauty illustrates the spirit of the
A foot moves in every musical note, meaning that if a foot moves
in one note, in the following note the other one should, too;
similar to walking.
The famous "firulete" refers to the
steps that dance-couple make as a skill display to seduce and
beautify the dance, and it is the detail that transforms the
tango into a showy spectacle. The tango has wide range of
choreographic options, making it intriguing and of singular
visual beauty. It is important to differentiate the
choreographic dance from the improvised one. In the first one,
the dancers skills offer a specific rehearsed show, while the
improvised dance is unexpected and does not come out as a result
of rehearsals but shows creativity and expertise.
tango cannot be danced individually; the woman seduces and the
man leads. He protects and supports her, while she elaborates
and outlines the dance breaking balance and resting on his
In the 1990's the tango music and dance had
huge internationally success and many new artists surfaced in
Buenos Aires, while the passion has grown without borders.
The "Tango Day" is celebrated in Buenos
Aires on December 11th
information on classes, museums, radio, festivals, etc. visit
the Official Tango Portal of the City of Buenos Aires at