Tango was started by the Argentinian gauchos. When they went into nightclubs in Buenos Airies to ask local women to dance they were often unshowered and smelt none too good. Thus the women would dance holding their heads back.
The reason that men dance in a curved way was because often the floor would have tables on it which the man would have to move around.
The dance is a mixture of the influence of Africans and Europeans living in Argentina. The rhythm came from Africa and the instruments from Europe, the Salon music style was particularly influential.
The actual word Tango has two possible places that it could have come from. The first is that it comes from Africa and is related to the Niger-Congo language. Another possibility is that it comes from the word Tango which was already in use in Spanish but for a very different style of music.
Tango is a difficult dance and can be a real challenge both technically and musically. It is an extremely erotic and intense dance.
It started in the 1890s in Argentina then spread to Cuba and Haiti, and also Spain.
In around 1910 it was introduced to France and became very popular, a couple of years later it arrived in england and then shortly after in the USA. In all these countries it became mostly popular with the upper classes.
At one time, around 1910 it was so popular that around of a third of records released were Tango records, and the sheet music was also very popular.
Tango’s popularity has increased and then waned. In the fifties it went into decline, but in the 1980s it was revived and became very popular again.
There’s now 3 types of Tango – International, Argentine and American.m Find out information on watching or dancing Tango here.
Tango is a great form of exercise and also brilliant for your social life. And it’s not generally expensive. But what should you know before starting?
Do I need a dancing partner
The answer to this is generally no you do not, the majority of people who come along to tango lessons do not have a partner. And in most cases people who come along to social dances to Tango (these are called Milongas) do not have a partner either.
What should I wear?
The only thing that you definitely need is a decent pair of tango shoes. These are different to normal shoes in a few different ways. Hopefully a shop in your local area should sell the shoes, try googling it. If not you could buy a pair online. You can find some more advice on what to look for in choosing a pair of dance shoes here.
The best kind of shoes for male beginners are not actually tango shoes but rather ballroom shoes, which are more comfortable.
Women are best of buying proper tango shoes but should make sure that they don’t heels which are too high as this makes life more difficult.
The shoes can be expensive so it might be best to use normal sneakers/trainers for your first session or two so you know that you are going to enjoy it.
How to learn
Evening classes/group lessons
This is how most people start off. Try googling where your nearest class is it’s best to choose a dance studio that is a specialist in Tango. The cost is generally around $15 (£10).
You shouldn’t need to take along a partner and hopefully won’t need any specialist clothes or shoes when you are first starting off.
At first you may found it quite difficult to learn the steps, but if you stick at it you should be rewarded. Men will generally need to spend longer learning than women because they are the ones who have to take the lead.
This is a more expensive option but if you’d like some personal tuition to get on faster and iron out any problems more easily, this is the best thing to do. In group lessons it cane hard to get rid of any mistakes because the instructor has to watch too many dancers at one time.
These days it’s even possible to learn Tango online, you can get some lessons on this this site.
Social tango dance nights
These are specifically set up for learning and called Practicas. You can dance with other people and ask questions of them. Please don’t try this at formal Tango dances, it’s very much discouraged and you should be at a good level of dancing before you attend one of these
Formal dances (milongas)
If you’d like to go to one of these it’s a good idea to have quite a few lessons first. People generally dress up for them and it’s all quite formal, women wait for men to ask them to dance.
Similarly men lead the dance and women follow it. The dances are done anti-clockwise and there isn’t usually much conversation during the actual dance.
Dances are done in a group of 3-5 (this is called a tanda) and there is a break in-between them to allow people to have a rest and change partners.