Tango has always been associated with the words "sensuality", "elegance" and "passion". It is no wonder that the dance has appeared in movies, music videos, and commercials due to these sentiments it evokes. Not to be mistaken for the ballroom tango as commonly seen in international ballroom dancing, the traditional Argentine Tango is an improvised dance ( although sometimes choreographed for performances), where the man leads the lady through an embrace, in a conversation of love, passion or just pure fun.
The Tango dates back to the 1800s where it began to be danced in the bars and brothels of Buenos Aires, Argentina, due to the huge influx of immigrants at that time, bringing to these places lonely men looking for romance. Originally danced by the lower class, Tango gained its reputation as a respectable dance and became widely popular among the general public after it spread to Europe. Argentine Tango reached its "Golden Age" in the 1930s- 1950s, the time when tango orchestras whose music we dance most often to today emerged, amongst which are the four great orchestras led by Carlos Di Sarli, Juan D'Arienzo, Osvaldo Pugliese and Anibal Troilo. Tango nearly disappeared after this period due to government suppression, but was revived in the 80s, and spread quickly to the rest of the world. Until this day, the Tango is still alive in Buenos Aires and in many cities around the world, danced in what we call “Milongas” meaning dance parties, where men and women, old and young, singles, couples or families, will sit, eat, drink, socialize and dance to the luring music of the Argentine Tango. To many, it has not just become just a hobby, but a lifestyle, or even an addiction.
In 2009, the tango was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.
Why Argentine Tango?
Forget about the rose in the mouth, or the paranoid head turns, or the dragging of the lady across the floor – all these stereotypical images of Argentine Tango created by Hollywood. Argentine Tango is an elegant and subtle dance, where the feelings felt between the couple is as important as how the dance looks.
Unlike many ballroom dances that require one to remember steps and choreography, Argentine Tango is improvised. To the girls especially, it is much easier to pick up. One can dance with a total stranger as long as there is good connection between the couple. This why many people enjoy going to the milongas as it is where they can meet and dance with many different people.
Secondly, many other dances are learnt for competition, examinations or performances. Tango is a social dance where you only dance for yourself and for your partner at that moment, allowing you to become liberated and connected to your own personal feelings much more than other dances allow you to do so.
Also, the breadth and depth of emotions of Tango music is very broad and very deep. The variation of Tango music is large, characterized by different orchestras, singers, periods, etc. One can feel and express a huge range of emotions – happy, melancholy, romance, passion.... thus, many people claim that they never get bored dancing a whole night of tango.
Furthermore, it is said that Tango brings out the man in him and the woman in her. Tango is actually a big metaphor for life, about how men and women should interact, and how a woman should be treated. In the milongas of the old days, women are treated as Goddesses. Many people gain higher confidence and self esteem after dancing tango, not to mention better posture, and nicer legs for the ladies. Another reason why people enjoy Argentine Tango is for the feeling of the Tango embrace. Tango is danced with the couple very close to each other, most of the time in close embrace. Hugging can give a huge “feel good” factor. For people in Asia, the close tango embrace may at first be a huge psychological barrier, but once overcome, tango starts to become addictive.
Argentine Tango is not hard to learn, and is suitable for people of all ages. In Argentina, where Tango was born, people start learning as early as the age of 7 and there are people still dancing in their 80s. As a big part of their culture, it is danced among couples, siblings, re latives, or friends. A beautiful dance which blossomed in the 30s to the 40s and was revived in the 80s, Argentine Tango is recognized as one of the world’s intangible cultural heritages by the UN, and many tango lovers now are working to protect this cultural treasure.
At Malevos Tango School, we try to bring everything that we felt from our trips to Buenos Aires to study Tango, back to Hong Kong. One of our teachers once said, most people usually just fell into Tango, without really looking for it in the first place. Hope that one day, Malevos Tango will stumble into your lives, and perhaps you will find something you never expected to find, as we all did.
In Hong Kong, around 300 people actively dance Argentine Tango, of which half are active dancers, danceing at least once a week at the milongas (tango party) in Hong Kong that are held almost every night in different locations. The average age of the tangueros in Hong Kong is around 25-45, with the community etting incresingly younger as more young people are becoming attracted to this unique dance.
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