For those of you who are curious about Tango dance and music, come to the third in our series of SkyPesher concerts and hear local aficionados Mandrágora Tango Orchestra heat up the James Turell’s sculpture. There will also be lessons taught by local instructor Lois Donnay before the concert begins. High heeled shoes, neckerchiefs, red roses and hats all not required for attendance but encouraged! The concert starts at 8:30pm, but lessons begin at 7:45pm.
I had some questions about the origins of Tango so I turned to Lois for answers. Read on. And, if you want a little sampling of Tango music, watch the YouTube video of an old Carlos Gardel movie. He’s considered one of the greatest Tango singers of all time.
Hope to see you Thursday!
What is the history of Tango dance?
Tango was born in Buenos Aires. Argentina was undergoing a massive immigration during the later part of the 1800s and early 1900s. Most immigrants were single men hoping to earn their fortunes in this newly expanding country, and make enough money to return to Europe or bring their families to Argentina. The evolution of tango reflects their profound sense of loss and longing for the people and places they left behind. Most likely the tango was born in venues attended by compadritos, young men, mostly native born and poor, who liked to dress in slouch hats, loosely tied neckerchiefs and high-heeled boots with knives tucked casually into their belts. The compadritos danced in various low-life establishments: bars, dance halls and brothels. It was here that new steps were invented and took hold. Although high society looked down upon the activities in the barrios, well-heeled sons of the porteño oligarchy were not averse to slumming. Eventually, everyone found out about the tango and, by the beginning of the twentieth century, the tango as both a dance and as a form of popular music had established a firm foothold in the fast-expanding city of its birth. It soon spread to provincial towns of Argentina and across the River Plate to Uruguay, where it became as much a part of the urban culture as in Buenos Aires.
What are the basic techniques of the dance?
Unlike ballroom tango, there are no basic patterns. It is all lead-follow. It is danced in a close embrace, and there is on the emphasis on the legs and feet.
How is it different from say Flamenco? People often get the two confused.
Tango is the dance of “one heart, four legs”. It is always danced in the “abrazo” or embrace. It truly does take two to tango! There are some similarities to the music or flamenco, and you can hear a little of the habañero rhythm in tango music. Many people confuse ballroom tango with Argentine tango. The competitive dance of ballroom tango is very different from Argentine tango-even the music is different, as is the posture. We often say that Argentine tango is during the honeymoon, and ballroom tango is after the divorce!
Who is your favorite Tango singer?
Often, people prefer not to dance to songs which have singers. They prefer to listen to these tangos. The music of tango is very rich, and you can hear the innovations that the tango orchestras made through the decades referred to as the “Golden Age of Tango“, the 30’s 40’s and 50’s. Some of the big orchestras are Di Sarli, D’Arienzo, Calo, Troilo and Fresedo. A very important element of any tango orchestra is the bandoneon, the accordion-like instrument that gives tango its mournful, pulsing quality.