Sunday, April 16, 2006

I am into the
TANGO ......

We have to remember that during the early part of the nineteenth century social dancing was done standing opposite to each other. These types of dances were generically called "Contradanza" . The progression of the dancers was somewhat lineal around the dancing floor. The contact among the partners was limited to touching the hands at certain moments. There were also "Round dances" in which there was a circular movement.

Minue (mee-nueh with accent in the final eh) was a very popular social dance during colonial times in Argentina. The habanera one of Tango's ancestors is also a contradanza.

The word 'Contradanza' might have originated from English Country Dance transformed into the French Contredanse and the Italian Contradanza. Mozart and Beethoven wrote Kontretanze. The Viennese Waltz and the Quadrille drove the contradanza out of the ballrooms.

The Viennese Waltz was the world's first popular dance to use the actual closed hold, the Polka was the second dance in Europe to use this scandalous new hold. European society had an ambivalent feeling about this somewhat immoral way of dancing which was taken with them as they moved to Argentina.

It was, if I remember correctly, that around 1850 when the Opera of Paris going through bad economical times it's director had the audacious idea of including V.Waltz in some of the performances on a trial basis. It was a great success, the curious public filled the theater again. Paris being the center of arts and refinement slowly made this dancing in 'Close hold' acceptable to the rest of the world.

It is then in this historical context that we have to judge the situation of tango at its beginnings and during the period 1880-1910 and the reason men had to dance with each other.

Viennese Waltz was the first social dance that used a "close hold" . This is the way we dance today...we think of it as the most logical hold for a couple to dance... but at the beginning ...during the second part of the 19th.century this proximity of the bodies in public was considered to be scandalous. It took many years for people slowly accepting it.

We arrive now at the period in which tango originated before or around 1880. The periphery of Buenos Aires, bars, gambling houses, brothels... lonely men spend time socializing, drinking, gambling, looking for some 'romance' in the company of women of ill repute, trying the steps of the new dance...the milonga and the tango. We can imagine that in those places, under those circumstances every experimentation as to dancing steps was possible irrelevant of good, bad taste, lewdness or even obscenity.