History of the Tango
In the late 19th century, Buenos Aires was filled with immigrants and transients from Europe and Africa, many of whom found themselves lonely and looking for companionship in their new foreign habitat. Naturally, these forlorn people found their way to the saloon, seeking drinks to drown their sorrows, temporary friendship, and any entertainment to help distract their depressed feelings. The variety of cultures combined to bring about a new style of music, formed from African beats, Indian rhythms, Latin influences, and the popular music of the pampas (flatlands) in Argentina.
As you may guess, this new music was dubbed Tango. Historians argue the name comes from the African candombe drum beat known as "tan-go", or possibly from the Latin word "tangere" (to touch). The dance began as a pantomime of communication between prostitute and pimp. The improvisation was filled with emotional outpouring and suggestive gyration. This sexual choreography was accented by the melancholy drone of the bandoneon, a German instrument very similar to the accordion.
These crude beginnings developed into less obscene styles that symbolized the lower class of Argentina through the turn of the century. Throughout the Tango`s evolution, two things remained constant: the background music of the bandoneon, and the passionate translation of emotions into dance.
In the early 1900's, a less vulgar form of tango was exported to France, where it was further refined and quickly gained popularity with the Parisian high society. Adding classy clothes, ballrooms, lyrics, and an orchestra, the Tango was revolutionized for the rich and became popular all over Europe, the USA, and was even embraced by the upper class of Argentina
The present day Ballroom Tango is divided into two disciplines: American Style Tango and International Style Tango. Both styles are enjoyed as Social and competitive dances, but the International version is more globally accepted as a competitive style. Both styles share a closed dance position, but the American Style allows its practitioners to separate from closed position to execute open moves, like underarm turns, alternate hand holds, dancing apart, and side-by-side choreography.