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Dance Tango

What is Tango?

The Argentine Tango is, undoubtedly, the 20th century dance. The secret of its establishment was the inclusion of figures in the embraced partners position and the suspension of the movement. The aim of this work is to recover the oldest and most popular steps of the Tango, being that the reason for its title, Traditional Tango, refers to the Tango de la guardia vieja, which was danced during the first decades of 20th century.

The Tango phenomenon as a specific choreographic form is a combination of elements – way of dancing, music and name – with particular stories. Between the years 1870 and 1890 those elements became associated and resulted in the complete Tango (as Carlos Vega calls it) in order to refer to the definitively established dance. Later, the lyrics were added, thus originating the sung Tango. Following is a historical itinerary of the term tango, its meaning, synonyms and derived words:

  • 1788 – tambo: meeting, party, soirée or dance of black people in the suburbs of Buenos Aires.
  • 1807 – tambo is replaced with tango but it keeps the same meaning, which is also used all along the Atlantic coast up to Mexico; tangos de negros: parties of black people.
  • 1850 – American tango: name which the Cuban Habanera receives when it arrives to Spain.
  • 1850 – [Spain] Spanish or Andalusian tango: name with which the specific lyrical form in the Zarzuela is designated in order to differentiate it from the American tango-Habanera.
  • 1863 – Buenos Aires: the term candombe appears which, like tango, refers to the parties of the black people; both terms begin to be used as synonyms.
  • 1870 – [Buenos Aires] milonga: until 1880 a synonym for tango or candombe and also a rural lyrical form, later the name of the dance.
  • 1870 – Buenos Aires: the Habanera arrives from the European ballrooms, also with the name of American tango.
  • 1897 – [Buenos Aires] Tango Criollo (creole): name that our dance receives in order to differentiate it from the lyrical Spanish or Andalusian tango of the Zarzuela and from the American tango or Habanera. Later, the local names of Tango orillero, arrabalero and canyengue are added as synonyms of Creole Tango.
  • 1905 – [Buenos Aires] Tango Liso (plain): to dance with no complex figures.
  • 1910 – [France] Tango Argentino: name that our dance receives when it conquers the ballrooms of Paris.
  • 1913 – [Buenos Aires] Tango de Salón (ballroom): systematized way of dancing.

Choreography: It consists of figures and/or steps, suspension of the movement and nuances that the dancers perform spontaneously within the environment for dancing, popular name: pista de baile (dance floor). The partners – at the suggestion of the man – create their own choreographic version as they go along. Although these figures and/or steps may have a given musical length, the amount of repetitions will depend on the performers.

It has no introduction; once the music begins the partners start dancing when they wish to, being the man the one who takes the initiative. With his right forearm and hand resting on the back of the woman’s waist he guides the performance of the steps and the direction of the evolutions. The fact that several pairs of partners share a common environment for dancing does not imply interdependence with one another, except for the traditional rule that all of them shall move in a counterclockwise direction.

It is important to point out that the name of some of the figures or steps belong to the popular denomination (corte, refiloneo, molinete, firulete, etc.) while others belong to the technical vocabulary of sytematized dance (basic step, crossed step, etc.). Moreover, some figures or steps received more than one name and in many cases documents show the names without being specific on its form of execution.

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Historical and geographical location: It is born in the suburbs of the city of Buenos Aires between 1870 and 1890. Throughout its choreographic evolution we can distinguish three characteristic styles: Creole Tango, Plain Tango and Ballroom Tango. It is important to point out that the appearance of a new style did not imply abandoning the old one. It was widely spread among ballrooms and the rural areas of almost the whole country.

Classification: Embraced partners and independent dance.

Musical composition: Introduction: none. Musical phrases of 2 and 4 bars, depending on the version.

Musical accompaniment
: It has changed according to the times. The basic instrumentation consisted of guitar, violin and flute; later other instruments were added, such as the bandoneón, piano and double bass. It has no fixed melody or lyrics. The lyrics have no relation with the choreography. Some of the Tangos of the beginning of the 20th century had intentionally ambiguous titles such as The 69 – suggestive tango or What a ball we’re having!

Initial location: At any point of the environment for dancing.

Elements: Position for embraced partners; heads: Faces contact each other in two ways: the left side of the woman with the right side of the man for creole style and plain style, or both right sides touching each other for ballroom style. trunks: The right side of the man’s trunk touches the left side of the woman’s, thus forming an acute angle. The woman stands facing her partner and he is the one who forms the angle. In the ballroom style both trunks face each other. arms and hands:

The man puts his right forearm and hand over the woman’s back above the waist, in the imaginary line that passes below the shoulder blades. In this way he guides his partner using the following fulcrums: – the forearm – the tips of the three bigger fingers – the edge of the thumb, with the palm looking down – the edge of the little finger, with the palm looking up. The man’s left arm -with his hand looking up- forms a right angle over the line of his trunk and shoulder almost backwards, and at the same time offering his palm towards his front and taking the woman’s right hand.

This position must be firm in order to counteract the pressure from his partner’s right arm. The woman rests the palm of her right hand over the man’s left hand to support herself, while she exerts a slight pressure placing her semioutstreched arm, which will allow her to reinforce her balance. Her left hand may be placed in the following ways: – to rest her palm over the lower part of his right shoulder blade – to rest her palm over his back – to rest her palm over the back of his neck This position for embraced partners may vary according to the personal style of the dancers. hips, legs and feet:

In most figures legs work with the knees semiflexed while the hips may be placed in the following ways: – the woman’s left hip touches the man’s right hip forming an acute angle – facing each other – both right hips touching each other (refiloneo) The feet are always moved according to the 6th position of ballet, that is, parallel to each other, and they transfer the weight of the body leaning first on the half tips and then on the heel.

(by Héctor Aricó, 2005)

Where Sheffield Tango Began

In 2003, the Showroom Cinema was my chosen venue for the very first Introduction To Tango workshop in Sheffield; four consecutive Saturdays, four hours of tuition and a tango performance from the experts. This planted the seed in the city and now Sheffield is walking tango.

Great respect to my teacher Bianca from London plus tango stars Andres and Genoveva from Argentina for their expertise and inspiration at these launch events.
“So, Where is Tango in Sheffield Now?”

Argentine Tango now has three branches in Sheffield, so you have a choice of where to walk this beautiful dance. Don’t expect to master it in a hurry just enjoy the process of learning. You would also be wise to keep out of the tango politics…just enjoy the dance and the love of the music!

Our Instructors – our Team for your success!

Bill Newby Principal Instructor – Salsa/Tango

Jennie Davies Salsa Instructor

Monica Rico Tango Instructor

This month 10% off for all new members

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