Couple dancing was originally sequence-based where couples dance the same steps at the same time, except maybe the Boston which was a rhythmic dance that was a more difficult form of the Viennese Waltz but never really became popular. Then came Tango and it revolutionised couples dance into something that we all now know.
Tango really set the standard of couple dancing that is widely known in the world today. It was the first couple dance in Europe that involved improvisation. It came to Europe around the early 20th century and probably began in France when Argentine sailors arrived in the port of Marseille where sailors danced Tango with local girls. There had been evidence that Tango was danced on stage in Montmartre, Paris in 1905 but it wasn’t entirely felt until 1912, when Paris was taken over by the Tango invasion.
During that time, Argentina became one of the richest countries in the world. It was ranked seventh, even higher than Spain or Italy in terms of average per capita income. Although, the overall standard of living in Argentina was high, the poor became poorer whilst the rich became even richer. It became a trend in well-off families to send their children to Europe to either go to university or simply just to tour lavishly.
As expected, young men frequented places they weren’t supposed to visit and dated women their families would prefer they don’t marry. And it so happened that these young men were pretty good Tango dancers despite the fact that Tango was still not acknowledged by Buenos Aires’ elite society. But when these young men danced in Paris, the upper classes fell in love with it and became an instant hit.
1913 was the year Tango invaded the world. It was the couple dance that everyone was dancing throughout many parts of Europe. But of course, like all great things, there were many who disapproved of it. Nonetheless, Tango had already gained a foothold and grew quickly. Victorian corsets and hooped skirts were gradually changed into less constricting clothing to allow women to move freely when dancing Tango. Vertical feathers in women’s hats came into fashion to accommodate a partner’s embrace. Tulip skirts that opened at the front became the new trend as well as Tango shoes, stockings, hats, dresses, and basically anything that would make dancing Tango easier. This also meant that the majority of the outfits were in orange as it was the colour of Tango.
Tango’s popularity in Paris and throughout the rest of Europe has transformed it into an alluring couple dance that roused the interest of Buenos Aires’ upper class, which eventually swayed them into accepting the dance. And because of this, Tango was re-introduced to Buenos Aires, its original home. This has been evidenced by a book published in Buenos Aires around the First World War which says that it was written to teach Tango as it is elegantly danced in Paris. This turned into a total transformation of the dance as opposed to the tasteless, indelicate dance previously danced by the Buenos Aires’ lower class.