Canyengue, Flamenco and Ballroom Tango all are adaptations of the original Argentine Tango. Once branded as an erotic dance, it was only performed in lower-class districts. Nowadays the dance has spread to all social classes and some people would even describe it as the most elegant dance of all.
Times have definitely changed. Although it is impossible to date the invention of Argentine Tango or to attribute it to a person in particular, Tange can be traced back to the end of the 19th century in Greater Argentina in Rio de la Plata. There and in Montevideo (Uruguay), different people and cultures collided. Europeans and African slaves were mixed with thousands of Peones (farm labourers) who moved to the seaport area to escape, hoping to find work and a better life. But slums (“the Barrios“) arose, a lack of women caused a prostitution boom and Tango became an expression for extended misery.
At the beginning of the 20th century, dancers and orchestras from Buenos Aires travelled to Europe. Because Paris was where trends were born and new fashions were immediately imitated, a “Tango de salon” needed to be developed. From the eyes of the upper social class, Tango was still seen as a vulgar dance, not suitable with the European social norms. Later, English dance teachers created a new version that led to standardised basic techniques and styles. Today, there are uncountable different styles of Tango. In September 2009, Tango was officially declared cultural Heritage by the UNESCO.
Liz Bayley and Doni Fierro, both professional dancers and instructors with long lasting experience, know all the differences between Latin and European Tango. “It starts with people‘s attitude to dancing in general“, says Liz, who was born England and travelled to over 40 countries. “While people in Europe plan to go dancing, in South America they turn on the radio and listen to the vibes whilst washing their car or cleaning the house. If you feel like dancing, you just do it”. Doni, who was born and raised in Venezuela, explains: “I can remember dancing with ladies who were three or four times my age when I was ten. The furniture was pushed aside and the whole family was dancing to the rhythm without having ever been to a dancing school. You do not think about steps and figures. You just dance where the rhythm leads you.” For people in South America dancing is part of life. They dance on the streets, at parties on the beach, during get-togethers with friends or family celebrations.” Liz describes the atmosphere in Argentina: “Tango music is everywhere, live performances on the street, posters and stickers from Tango stars like Carlos Gardel, Juan Carlos Copes or Maria Nieves are sold. People from South America are proud of their way of life, it can be seen as a cliché, but when you are in Buenos Aires, the only thing you want to do is dance”.
Beside the fact that Tango became more common than ever over the last ten years, it has been encouraged as a new treatment method for patients with neurological problems. In different studies, Argentine Tango was seen as a therapy to help heal disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer. Taking Tango lessons was proved to bring improvements in balance, walking backwards as well as in the feeling of isolation thanks to the physical and social context.
Doni and Liz try to promote the ‘Tango therapy’ in the UK as well.
If you would like to meet them or learn more about Tango, join Doni on Sunday’s in "Dance Works" in Oxford Street in London or go to http://www.doniandliz.com.
By Kathrin Wulf