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.
Tracing 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.