It is the goal and commitment of Escapeartist.com to bring you the most current and accurate information possible on the myriad investment and lifestyle opportunities that exist in this wonderful country. And to that end, Escapeartist and its readers serve as your eyes and your ears and your feet-on-the-ground; making connections, building relationships, and confirming the veracity and authenticity of these many opportunities so that you, our clients and friends, can make informed decisions. Investing, becoming an expat and turning over your hard-earned dollars—is a serious business, and our mission is to provide you with the best direction possible. However, relaxation, enjoyment, and pure unadulterated fun are important as well! For that reason, Escapeartist always encourages its clients and friends to truly indulge and immerse themselves in the expat lifestyle by becoming an active participant in the community which they have adopted. What does this mean where Argentina is concerned? You need only ask one question…..how do Argentineans spell fun? …the answer? …T A N G O!
With this in mind, I am going to attempt to discover for myself and teach you everything you have ever wanted to know about the Tango, but were too afraid to ask. …and that could be quite a challenge since, prior to researching this article, the ONLY knowledge that I had of the Tango was that the last Tango was held in Paris…or so I thought! Turns out that the Tango is still VERY much alive and well, especially in Argentina, where in 2009 even UNESCO approved the Tango to the “Intangible Cultural Heritage List” for Argentina. And additionally, I discovered that not only was the last Tango NOT in Paris, but that the first Tango was held in Buenos Aires! Furthermore, I have discovered by virtue of watching “Dancing With The Stars” that—humble, inept, and uncoordinated writers aside—the Tango is practiced by an assortment of personalities from actors and actresses (both young and old) to professional football players (both active and retired) and other sports figures and even politicians! So, without further adieu, let’s explore the history (past and present) of the Tango.
Argentina, sandwiched between the Andean mountain range and the Atlantic Ocean, is the second largest country in South America. Bordered by Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay, it encompasses the full variety of geographic and climactic zones; from hot arid deserts, to dank over-grown jungle, to the crystalline remoteness of the sub-zero Antarctic. Home to both the highest point (Mount Aconcagua at 6,960 m/22,834’) and the lowest point (Laguna del Carbón is -105 m/344’ below sea level) in the western hemisphere, it is a land of dramatic contrasts and spectacular beauty. Although known for its flavorful and tender Argentinean beef and popularized by the dramatic historical presentation, “Evita!,” and both cheered and booed for its beloved and talented “futbol” (soccer) star, Diego Maradona, what has truly become synonymous with “Argentina” is the Tango.
Argentina has a population of over 41 million (July 2010), with Buenos Aires, the official birthplace of the Tango, accounting for over one-third of that. The capital of Argentina, and also its largest city and seaport, Buenos Aires is located on the southern shore of the Río de la Plata, directly across the river from Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. Renowned for its rich cultural events, its vibrant night life, and its dramatic architecture, Buenos Aires is one of the most sophisticated and cosmopolitan cities in Latin America. Influenced heavily by European immigration and culture, Buenos Aires is sometimes referred to as the “Paris of South America.” But where the Tango is concerned, Argentineans are quick to point out that it was Argentina that brought the Tango to Europe (and the world!) and NOT Europe that brought the Tango to Argentina!
The fact of the matter is that the Tango, like so many other now socially acceptable activities of the cultural elite, had its beginnings in the lower-class barrios and brothels of Buenos Aires and the surrounding Rio de la Plata, quickly becoming popular with the “bad boys” and outer fringes of society. Today we tend to associate the Tango with high society, elegance, tuxedos and body hugging sequined gowns. Originally referred to as Tango Criollo, the Tango found its influences in the dances and ceremonies of the early European and African slave culture, with the name “Tango” first being used in the 1890’s. Originating as a parody or “acting out” of the relations between a prostitute and a pimp, the Tango in its early days was considered highly vulgar and was viewed as very obscene by society. But…..the Tango was fun, intoxicating, highly erotic and sensual. Not only that, it’s FREE for anyone with the inclination, skill, coordination, and courage to learn. So as is the case with many such things, it very soon found acceptance and favor even in high society.
It was during these early days that the “bandoneon” also found favor and became the instrument of choice for Tango music. Popularized by Eduardo Arolas, this German accordion-like instrument is said to be made for Tango music because of its sweet, melancholy tones. But the bandoneon’s roots are similar to that of the Tango, founded in poverty, although at the opposite end of the spectrum! The bandoneon was actually a religious instrument used in poor churches that could not afford an organ. Today, the bandoneon itself is synonymous with Tango music. So while both the Tango and the bandoneon had lowly beginnings, both have not only found acceptance in all walks of life, but are now even greeted with enthusiasm, pleasure, and awe.
So popular and important is the Tango to Argentinean culture that the two could never be separated. But if this is true of Argentina as a whole, it is exceedingly true of Buenos Aires where their famed Tango is a prominent and integral part the city’s life. Everywhere you go—everywhere you look—you encounter Tango. …from billboards and product advertising, to restaurants and clubs, to schools and private lessons, to performances and competitions…Tango is everywhere in Buenos Aires! In Buenos Aires alone it is said that there are over four thousand Tango related stores, clubs, schools, and other tango related venues. You will encounter the Tango at the many exclusive night clubs and restaurants in Buenos Aires, in the quaint boutique and specialty cafes, in the grittier pubs and bars, certainly in the many “milongas,” and in the barrio streets wherever you find a festive mood and the availability of music. …and Argentineans are ALWAYS in a festive mood!
“Milonga” actually has three meanings or definitions; referring to a place where one can Tango, or to a specific Tango event, and also to the music genre. Additionally, people who frequent milongas are referred to as “milongueros.” In Buenos Aires there may be as many as fifty milongas on any given day with thousands of milongueros attending. Following is a very brief listing of the more well known milongas in Buenos Aires:
- Confiteria Ideal: an old-fashioned milonga where dances are held afternoons and evenings, almost every day of the week. Confiteria Ideal was the setting for films like The Tango Lesson’ and Evita.
- Salon Canning: a meeting point for the best dancers of Buenos Aires on Fridays.
- La National: another traditional milonga.
- Nino Bien: another traditional milonga.
- La Viruta: a preferred place for the younger public; up to 200 people attend dancing classes here before the dance. The music includes electrotango and sometimes even salsa and rock and roll.
(List courtesy of: http://argentina-tango.com/index.htm)
The Tango became increasingly popular in Buenos Aires and throughout Argentina during the 1890’s, expanding first to Paris, then London, Berlin, and other European capitals before finally arriving in and becoming the rage of New York in 1913. Two of the most influential personalities in the Tangos development and popularity were Carlos Gardel and Astor Piazzolla. Gardel, known for his wonderful and sensual voice and his masculine good looks, became the reigning star of Tangos golden age, popularizing both the music and the dance around the world via radio, records, and movies. Tragically, Gardel was killed in a plane crash in June of 1935. In remembrance and commemoration of Gardel, a statue stands outside the Abasto Market in Buenos Aires, near where he had grown up. Still admired and remembered even today, it is said that those in Buenos like to say that “he sings better every day.”
Piazzola was known as having more of an ear for Tango than feet, and is credited with being the founder of Tango Nuevo (the new Tango). Composer, bandleader, arranger, and accomplished virtuoso and master of the bandoneon, Piazolla was tangos second reigning golden boy, carrying his music, and arrangements, and the Tango into the late 1980’s. Like Gardel, even today Piazzolla remains popular and dear to the hearts of his many fans nearly twenty years after his death.
Although Gardel and Piazzolla’s influence is undeniable, there have been countless others who have made their contribution to the history of the Tango as well. Big names, personalities, and orchestras such as Juan D’Arienzo known as the “King of the Beat,” or Francisco Canaro known for his easy milongas style. …then there is Anibal Troilo, Osvaldo Pugliese, and Carlos di Sarli with his heavy emphasis on strings rather than the traditional bandoneon. Dino Saluzzi, Rodolfo Mederos, Enrique Martin Entenza and Juan María Solare and many others all share a place in the history of the Tango. Of the more modern and contemporary musicians and artists, there is Carlos Libedinsky, Philippe Cohen Solal, Edouardo Makaroff and Christoph H Muller. Blending milonga, folk, and pop rhythm, Kevin Johansen is a relative newcomer to the Tango scene who has found favor with dancers and listeners alike.
Over the decades, the popularity of the Tango has come and gone, only to return again, time after time. In recent years there has been a strong resurgence of interest in and enthusiasm for the Tango. The younger generation has embraced the Tango as well, adding their own unique character and novel use of instruments to continue the ever progressing evolution of Argentina’s beloved Tango. While it is clear that the world “Mecca” of Tango will always be in Buenos Aires, world influences continue to alter, blend, and restructure this elegant from of dance and artistic expression. From its humble beginnings in the poor and destitute barrios of Buenos Aires, the Tango has been transformed into a multitude of styles.
While there may be a multitude of styles, it could be said that the Tango is danced in one of two basic forms (or a combination there of): “close embrace” and “open embrace.” As the names suggest, the close embrace form involves the dance partners dancing closely together, often chest-to-chest, hip-to-hip, or cheek-to-cheek, whereas in the open embrace form partners dance further apart, seemingly more formal but allowing for a broader range of motion. Beyond these two stylistic forms there is a myriad of styles. Styles developed from country-to-country as the popularity of the Tango found its way around the world. But different styles have also developed within the different regions of Argentina and there are even stylistic differences from barrio-to-barrio within the same city. These stylistic differences have developed as a result of music interpretation, culture, clothing fashion of the time, and even things such as how crowded the milongas and clubs had become, requiring more restricted movement.
Some of the more well known and established styles of Tango are: Tango argentino, Tango canyengue, Tango Oriental or Uruguayan tango, Tango liso, Tango salon, Tango orillero, Tango camacupense, Tango milonguero or Tango apilado, Tango Nuevo or New Tango, Show Tango or Fantasia, Ballroom Tango, and Finnish Tango. Each style has its own steps or variations of steps, its own rhythm, and usually its own specific style of music. And each style articulates a different expression, a different mood, a different message. But each style also paints a picture, portraying the simple elegance, the sensuous beauty, the sophistication…..the allure that is Argentina.
So, do you want to learn how to Tango? …then come to Argentina! With more than three thousand Tango schools and instructors in Buenos Aires alone, you are assured of finding precisely the kind of instruction that you need. Let Escapeartist help you experience the adventure of a lifetime. You will be greeted with the open arms and bright smiles of some of the warmest most welcoming people on earth. You will be dazzled by the beauty and majesty of the geography. You will be amazed at the variety of ripe opportunity that exists for investors. You will be entertained, inspired, and awed by the wonderful cultural events. And you will see, hear, feel, and experience more T A N G O than any other place in the world. So come—immerse yourself. …experience and enjoy your first tango in Buenos Aires!
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