Tango is More Than a Dance

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Tango is much more than a lovely social activity that you can dance to a variety of beautiful music.

It is a great means to gain a better understanding of your body and how it works. It can help you develop better posture, balance, mobility, flexibility and general control of your body. It will sometimes show weaknesses in your body that need to be rectified or it may show up a postural problem with your dance which presents itself via pain or injury.

Perhaps even more importantly, it allows the expression of our emotional state that may not always be so freely shared. To be able to connect with another during a dance is a privilege with many health benefits. It shows how we connect and relate to others, particularly those of the opposite gender.

When totally immersed in the music with your partner, the dance can become quite meditative as we become totally present in that moment. This can be very similar to other forms of meditation that one can experience, for example, during a Yoga class, running longer distances, walking through a forest or simply sitting on a mat. The benefits of these meditative moments are many. To allow the mind to be free of the general thoughts of daily life for even just a moment are priceless, especially with so much stimuli generally around us.

dance classes tangoConsideration and care for others is sometimes lost in today’s busy, always ‘on the go’ lives that we often experience. Within the dance, however, your time is fully given to your partner with total awareness and consideration to them. From where they are in space (their axis) and working with and around that axis, to the continual communication of invitation and acceptance. As we allow ourselves to be fully present in those moments, the deeper they become. We also learn to become aware and give consideration to those around us by allowing them space so that we all move harmoniously around the floor.

There is now increasing amounts of research that dancing (and often specifically Tango) has many other health benefits including helping with Parkinson’s disease and delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s.

All this from such a simple act of connecting with another dancing to beautiful music!

Edmundo Rivero, More Than Just ‘El Feo’

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Born Leonel Edmundo Rivero, this Argentine tango, singer, composer and impresario was nicknamed ‘El Feo’ (‘The Ugly Guy’) for his appearance due to his acromegaly. However, Rivero is considered a great artist and his bass range is something of a rarity in the genre, where fans are used to hearing baritones and tenors.

Rivero was born on June 8, 1911 in Valentin Alsina, a suburb in southern Buenos Aires. Since he was a child, his parents, Anubal and Anselma, encouraged Edmundo and his siblings to become interested in music. At the National Conservatory, the young Rivero was disciplined in classical music, studying singing and then the guitar.

During his adolescence, Rivero’s family moved to the Belgrano neighbourhood, where tango was becoming a dancing phenomenon. Rivero’s first professional appearance was with his sister Eva on Radio Cultura. On the same broadcasting, the radio station hired him to play for accompaniment. He also started playing Spanish classical music at recitals in theatres.

Rivero first worked with Jose De Caro’s orchestra, then worked with Emilio Orlando and Humberto Canaro. Eventually, his talent piqued the interest of De Caro’s more famous brother, Julio, and drafted Rivero into his orchestra. From this point on, Rivero’s fame grew and his nickname of ‘El Feo’ stuck. Rivero also joined Anibal Troilo’s orchestra, creating more than 20 recordings, including duets with Floreal Ruiz and Aldo Calderon. The public started associating Rivero with tangos like ‘El último organito’ (‘The Last Organ’), ‘La viajera perdida’ (‘The Lost Traveler’), ‘Yo te bendigo’ (‘I Bless You’), but especially with ‘Sur,’ the tango by Homero Manzi and Troilo.

Dance Classes BrisbaneDuring these years, however, Rivero evidently didn’t last long in orchestras. He would claim that his deep voice–unconventional then–was something of a severe handicap. It was in the 1950s when he hit his stride as a singer and started his career as a soloist. In the 1960s, he was accompanied by another guitar group of Rafael Del Pino, Héctor Davis, Héctor Barceló, Rubén Morán and Domingo Laine. During a period in tango when orchestra dominated, a guitar-only accompaniment was considered a bold statement by Rivero and this associated him with the aura of the countryside.

In 1969, Rivero opened his own tango club, El Viejo Almacén (The Old Warehouse), located in the San Telmo district of Buenos Aires. Great figures in tango and art were recurring visitors, such as Joan Manuel Serrat and Camilo Jose Cela.

Rivero also worked on a number of films. In the 1950 film ‘El cielo en las manos (The Sky in Your Hands’), he sings the title theme composed by Astor Piazzolla and Homero Carpena. In Al Compás de tu Mentira, he sings ‘No te engañes corazón’ (‘Do Not Cheat Yourself, Heart’) by Rodolfo Sciammarella. He also appeared in the Armando Bo film, ‘Pelota de cuero’ (‘Leather Ball’).

Rivero was an author as well, writing two books: ‘Una luz de almacen’ (‘A Warehouse Light’) and ‘Las voces, Gardel y el tango’ (‘The Voices, Gardel and the Tango’). He was in the process of writing a third book on the Lunfardo language and poetry, but Rivero passed due to a heart ailment on January 18, 1986 at the age of 74.

Juan D’Arienzo, ‘King of the Beat’

‘El Rey del Compas’ (‘King of the Beat’ or ‘Rhythm King’) was what they called Juan D’Arienzo back in the Golden Era of tango. According to D’Arienzo himself, it was the famous singer and composer Angel Sanchez Carreño, a.k.a ‘Principe Cubano’ (‘Cuban Prince’)

“The nickname Rey del Compás (Rhythm King) was given to me at the Florida cabaret, the old Dancing Florida. There Osvaldo Fresedo played, while I performed at the Chantecler, which belonged to the same owners. Back around 1928 or 1930 I met the famous Príncipe Cubano (Cuban Prince), who was the show announcer. Julio Jorge Nelson was there, too. That happened when I replaced Fresedo at the Florida. The pianist was Juan Carlos Howard. It was on those days that Príncipe Cubano had the idea of calling me Rey del Compás, because of the style I had.”

But before his rise to tango fame, D’Arienzo was actually interested in jazz as a young boy. He started playing the violin at 12, and later the piano. The eldest of three children, his younger siblings were also musically skilled. Ernani was a drummer and pianist, while Josephine a pianist and a soprano. Despite this, their father, Don Alberto D’Arienzo had many disagreements with young Juan about taking up law. Juan wanted to pursue music, his father wanted him to be the owner of a major agricultural production plant. However, his mother Amalia, encouraged Juan and sent him to the Mascagni Conservatory when Juan was 8 years old.

Tango Lessons near meD’Arienzo started playing tango at 18 and by 1919, he was considered successful enough that the Teatro Nacional (National Theatre) took him in. He premiered with the Arata-Simari-Franco company, performing ‘El Cabaret Montmartre’, a comic play by Alberto Novión. D’Arienzo did not abandon his interest in jazz, though. Through the 1920s, the last few years of silent films, D’Arienzo played at theaters like Select Lavalle and the Real Cine.

In 1926, he returned to tango, playing at the Paramount with Luisito Visca and Angel D’Agostino. D’Arienzo says of the experience, “There I started to polish the style that later was distinctly mine, that one of highlighting the piano and the fourth string of the background played by Alfredo Mazzeo.”

The Golden Age of tango was from 1935 to 1955 and has been closely linked to D’Arienzo. While playing a new tango called ‘La Puñalada,’ the orchestra pianist Rodolfo Biagi recommends they change the 4/8 beat to a milonga of 2/4. D’Arienzo initially disagrees, but that night, he arrived late and found his orchestra playing the tango to this new style.

“July 9, the public danced with such gusto that when the crowd, shouting and clapping, asked D’Arienzo to continue with that new style, the director had no other choice but to play it all night.”

D’Arienzo’s style caught the attention of the youth, which reinvigorated the tango scene.

Young people like me. They like my tangos because they are rhythmic, nervous up-tempos. Youth are after that: happiness, movement. If you play for them a melodic tango and out of beat, they won’t like it,” said D’Arienzo.

D’Arienzo recorded more than 1,000 tangos, milongas and fast valses, and composed 46 tangos. He passed away on January 14, 1976 and is buried at the La Chacarita Cemetery in Buenos Aires.

The Origin of ‘Adios Muchachos’

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Composed by Argentinian pianist Julio Cesar Sanders, ‘Adios Muchachos’ was intended as a playful hymn for a group of friends, but since its inception in September 9, 1927, the tango has evolved in many ways.

One night, Sanders had been in a cafe with his friends in the Buenos Aires district of Flores. As the evening ended and they parted ways, one of them said, “Adios, muchachos (goodbye, boys).” Inspired by this, Sanders created the song on the piano and a friend, Cesar Vedani, added lyrics.

Brisbane Tango Classes near meWhen Sanders and his friends performed the tango in public, it was highly acclaimed. Many singers and orchestras recorded the tango, supposedly reaching 1,500 recordings within the first few months of its debut. However, a tango database notes that the song has had 118 distinct recordings.

The first recording was by Agustin Magaldi in 1927. Carlos Gardel recorded it as well in 1928 and the song became a hit throughout Europe when Gardel went on tour. The tango has appeared in numerous films as well as on television, including ‘Scent of a Woman’ (1992) and an episode of ‘I Love Lucy.’

The original lyrics portrays a very ill man on the verge of death, saying farewell to his friends while fondly looking back at his life. Below is a translation of Vedani’s lyrics.

Goodbye boys, fellows of my life,

Loved bar from those times.

It’s my turn, today, to commence the retreat

I have to move away from my good group of young people


Goodbye boys, I go now and I resign,

Nobody beats the destiny.

All the parties/mockeries are over, for me,

My ill body doesn’t resist anymore.


In my mind come memories from other times,

Of the beautiful moments that I have long ago enjoyed,

Close to my mother, old saint,

And to my beloved one, whom I have so much idolised.


They remember that she was beautiful, prettier than a Goddess,

And what a full of verve love, did my heart give her.

But, God, jealous of her charm,

Took her away, sinking me in cry.


God is the supreme judge, nobody resists in front of Him,

I am now accustomed, to respect His law,

Well, my life ended with His orders

Taking away my mother and my beloved one, also.


Two sincere tears cried at my depart

For the loved bar that never forgot me,

And giving to my friends, my last goodbye

I give them, my blessing, with all my heart.


Goodbye boys, fellows of my life,

Loved bar from those times.

It’s my turn, today, to commence the retreat

I have to move away from my good group of young people


Goodbye boys, I go now and I resign,

Nobody beats the destiny.

All the parties/ mockeries are over for me,

My ill body doesn’t resist anymore.

Tango Classes ToowongIn the United States, the jazz musician Louis Armstrong recorded ‘Adios Muchachos’ in 1951, but with the title changed to ‘I Get Ideas.’ Dorcas Cochran was credited as the lyricist and this version became an international hit. While it retained its title in Italy, the new lyrics have been criticized for straying too far from the original essence of the tango. The new words were more about a man about to be imprisoned for a year. This version was recorded by the singer Milva, whose interest in tango was so great, she was called “an Italian that loves Buenos Aires.” In Great Britain, two versions were recorded, one called ‘I’ll Always Keep You in My Heart’ and ‘Paul the Dreamer.’

After the 1943 Argentine coup d’etat, some changes to the lyrics were made by the military dictatorship. A 1945 recording by Enrique Rodriguez had the words ‘la barra querida (beloved gang)’ to ‘viejos amigos (old friends),’ ‘nadie la talla (no one size fits all)’ to ‘nadie batalla (no battle),’ and ‘todas las farras (all those binges)’ to ‘todas las fiestas (all those parties).’

Tango Reborn

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The rebirth of tango, or more popularly referred to as The Tango Renaissance, started in 1983 right after the fall of the military junta in Argentina. Suddenly, Buenos Aires basked in a joyful atmosphere and everyone was in the mood to dance as though an actual veil had been lifted off them. All dance and martial arts classes were filling up all over the city. People wanted to learn Tango all of a sudden when they realised that it’s all right to take pride in being Argentine again. And what better way to demonstrate this pride than to take part in Tango, Argentina’s symbol to the world.

Argentine Tango near meHowever, there had been some setbacks at the start. One of which is that there was no tradition of teaching Tango and that there had been no Tango classes for beginners during its Golden Age. There were virtually no teachers and no standard practices being followed. There was an incessant hunger for mentors that needed to be fed.

To address this unrelenting need, dancers started giving tango classes for those wanting to learn the dance. This is the same scenario everywhere in the world since Tango re-emerged in 1983. People taught not because they thought they were gurus and knew everything but because people asked them to. Aspiring dancers learned tango through going to classes and travelling to Europe. Very few were experienced dancers.

At the beginning of the Tango Renaissance, the first teachers in Buenos Aires were young dancers who didn’t know much about tango. Those who were dancing during the Golden Age did not dance anymore and those who did had been suspicious of strangers. So the first people who danced were newbies. Those who haven’t danced tango or haven’t danced with someone in the Golden Age. One problem was that “teachers” weren’t really teaching tango. Most of what they taught were only things that they had made up on their own.

Eventually, people who had danced in the Golden Age started dancing again after 3 decades of not dancing Tango. Thankfully, they re-discovered their passion for Tango and developed a desire to teach Tango to the new generation of dancers. Miguel and Nelly Balmaceda have played a vital role in re-establishing Tango during the renaissance era. For as much as they could, they tried to stick to the traditional way of teaching tango when organising their beginners’ classes. They only allowed students to dance with teachers until they thought they were ready. Even then, they still had to dance the most basic steps only. Many of today’s most prominent tango dancers were trained by Miguel and Nelly or trained by someone trained by them.

Complex dance steps ruled in the Tango Renaissance. There was an astounding excitement to doing these complicated steps especially when combined with the techniques of traditional Tango. It enhanced the emotional connection that defines the true essence of the dance.

Antonio Todaro was one of the most famous teachers of the renaissance period of tango. He was one of the few who danced Tango before the military regime started. He created challenging steps, incorporating it with the technique of the Golden Age. He frequently toured Europe and taught many of the professional tango dancers we know now. Shortly after his death in 1993, young dancers in Buenos Aires began to steer away from the steps he popularised. A few other dancing styles emerged in the following years.

The dancing of the people who were around during the Golden Age remained the same as they could still go to milongas in the outskirts of Buenos Aires and dance the complicated steps in its most authentic manner. However, by 1995, styles such as “Club Tango” or “Milonguero”, “Short Steps” and “Close Hold” dominated the dancing style of the people who were part of the Tango Renaissance in Buenos Aires.


Source: http://www.history-of-tango.com/tango-renaissance.html

Tango: More than just a dance

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Tango, once labelled as an erotic dance, was only performed in localities of lower class. Fast forward to the present, tango is now being danced by people from all social classes and is even dubbed as the most elegant dance in the world.

Private Tango Lessons BrisbaneTracing the roots of tango to the date that it was created or to identify the person who invented it is impossible. As far as we know, it originated in Rio de la Plata in Greater Argentina in the late 19th century. It was brought about by the collision of different people and cultures —a mixture of Europeans, African slaves and Peones (farm labourers) who all moved in to the seaport in search for a better life. This was followed by the emergence of Barrios (slums) and the sudden boom of prostitution that ultimately made Tango the artistic outlet of overall misery.

Argentine dancers and orchestras began travelling to Europe at the dawn of the 20th century. A “Tango de salon” was then developed in Paris as it was known to be the birthplace of trends and new fashions. However, it was still regarded by Europeans of the upper class as a vulgar dance thus it was not considered acceptable in the social norms of that time. In the later years, various standardised styles and techniques have been developed as English dance teachers formed a new version of the dance. Tango was officially announced cultural heritage by UNESCO in September of 2009.

Because new influences and techniques were mixed, European tango was born. Now, what is the difference between Latin Tango and European Tango? It’s all about the people’s attitude towards dancing. Whilst people in Europe prepare and make time to go dancing, things are far more casual in Latin America. People just turn on their radio while doing their chores and dance to the beat whenever they feel like it. It’s sort of a common occurrence in households where pieces of furniture are pushed aside to make room for the entire family. They never had to go to dancing schools or attend Tango lessons or classes to learn how to dance. They just allow themselves to be taken over by the rhythm. They don’t follow any rules and figures. They just follow where the rhythm takes them. They dance at family celebrations, gatherings of friends or even on the streets. Tango is virtually everywhere. It seems as cliché as a scene straight out of a musical but in Buenos Aires, dancing is basically their way of life.

In addition to the fact that tango has become more popular than ever in the last decade, it has now been regarded as a new method of treatment for neurological problems. A study has been conducted on patients with neurological problems and it was found out that dancing tango slows down the progress of some neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer and Parkinson’s disease. Tango improves the patients’ balance and enables them to walk backwards. And to top it all, it gives them joy and rids of their feelings of isolation brought about by their disease.


Sources: https://creativecultureint.com/tango-more-than-a-dance/


Learning Tango: More Than Just Learning a Dance

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Argentine Tango is classified as a dance, but what sets it apart from other dances is that the process of learning and teaching tango is unlike that of the rest. In fact, learning tango is not even comparable to learning a dance. If anything, it’s more akin to learning a language.

Tango Lessons near meA dance that’s more like a language—how do you learn that? Well, just think of it as similar to learning a new language. So, the basics are to first learn the vocabulary (steps), then the pronunciation (execution of steps) and then the grammatical rules (rules that apply to the tango style that you are dancing). Simple concept, right?

Now, here comes the challenging part. In learning a language, you have to have something to say in order to practice speaking with another person. And for you to be understood, you have to say it well. The ability to express yourself clearly has little to do with the language itself but comes from your innate ability to be creative in expressing yourself. The exact same idea goes with learning and teaching tango.

A language teacher would teach you the language with its structure and order. At the same time, they would try to teach you literature so you could understand and master reading in that language. When it comes to creativity, it is entirely yours to incorporate to the language but the teacher is still going to at least try to teach you how it’s done. A tango teacher can teach you the steps and how to dance them well. They can be a language and literature professor all in one and it’s a significantly difficult task that only few know how to do.

What I usually hear people complain about tango teachers is why they keep teaching sequences. Why they keep repeating the same sequence over and over like robots and that they never teach about the creative part of dancing tango.

You see, the equivalent “words” in tango is steps and the sequence its poetry. In order for you to create good poetry is when you have read countless poems by other people. Yes, you can write your own poems without being influenced by others but you could do even better with more ideas and styles learned from others. Tango teachers, especially in Tango classes, teach you sequences to inspire you to cultivate your own creativity not by showing you exactly how it’s done but by leading you in the right direction.

Not everybody can create their own sequence though and most tango dancers will only keep the sequences of others, even tango professionals. And that’s perfectly fine. Students who are aspiring to learn the dance must be able to reach a certain level of understanding in order for them to appreciate the small things in dancing Tango.

For you to enjoy a certain sequence of steps, you have to have tried other sequences created by other dancers to see what you like and suits you best. You can either stick to just one way of dancing or sequences that you like or create your own movement as you see fit. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are in the moment and experience the emotion brought about by the dance that is Tango.

In Tango lessons and classes at the Brisbane House of Tango, we endeavour to not only teach you how to move in a natural way but also encourage you to explore your own creativity in dancing Tango.