Everyone Learns to Dance Tango
by Christine Denniston
Christine Denniston is author of The Meaning of Tango, Dancing Tango - Unlocking the Mysteries and Secrets of the Tango - 1914

From 1935 people again began to dance Tango in Buenos Aires in huge numbers, inspired by the powerful Tango dance rhythms of Juan D'Arienzo . D'Arienzo was unapologetic about creating the kind of Tango music that people wanted to dance to, even though his style was criticised as a backward step in the evolution of Tango music. And it was precisely the injection of energy that the Tango needed. The period between D'Arienzo 's recording contract in 1935 and the military coup that changed everything in Argentina in 1955 is generally considered to be the Golden Age of the Tango. It is the period when all aspects of the Tango were in the greatest harmony. Musicians played for dancers. Singers sang within the orchestra, as another instrument, rather than dominating the orchestra as the star. The dancers, inspired by the many great orchestras, created a massive evolution in the dance, and also provided the market for the many orchestras, encouraging them to compete and reach new heights in Tango dance music.

In the 1940s and the 1950s practically everyone in Buenos Aires danced the Tango. Generally those who did not dance Tango were the members of the upper classes, for whom the bulk of the population still represented the recent immigrants, whose culture was very different from their own. To the upper classes in Argentina, Tango, particularly the dance, was then, and remains today, at least as exotic and alien as it is to the bulk of people in Europe or the United States.

But for most of the people of Buenos Aires, Tango was very much a part of their everyday lives. I asked a friend of mine who began to dance Tango in 1940 how he managed to go out dancing every night when he also had a job to go to. He told me that he would go out dancing, then go home to shower and change, work from 6 or 7 a.m. until 2 p.m., go home and sleep, and get up in the evening, ready to go out dancing.

The Meaning of Tango
The real story of the great dancers of the Golden Age
Click here to learn more
Secrets of the Early Tango
How was Tango really danced at the time when the whole world went Tango Crazy?
Click here to learn more
Dancing Tango For Maximum Pleasure
A clear, straightforward guide to dancing the Tango, ideal for beginners, and useful for the experienced dancer
Click here to learn more

Buenos Aires is a huge city, and in any huge city you will find a variety of accents, perhaps even dialects. That is how it was with the Tango in the Golden Age, when everyone danced. I have been told that in the 1940s and 1950s you could work out not just which part of town a leader came from, but which of the many, many dance halls he favoured on a Saturday night, by the time he had taken two steps at the beginning of a dance. This did not mean that people were doing a different dance. Just as a language has certain grammatical rules and basic vocabulary that are constant across all its accents and dialects, so the Tango had fundamental rules much more important than the specific Tango dance steps that were being done.

Tango Dance Styles of the Golden Age

© 2003 Christine Denniston

Christine Dennniston is author of The Meaning of Tango

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