The history of tango dancing has a very blurry origin in the early 19th century. The dance form evolved from a variety of dance forms. Therefore, there are many theories about its origin. However, the fact remains that tango dancing has been influenced by different dance forms which were already existing at that time. It had its early origin in Argentina, and its development into a dance as we know today can be credited to the Africans, Europeans, and of course the local population.
Tango Dancing Unraveled
The Argentine city places of Montevideo and Buenos Aires were inhabited by black slaves. This region was the only one where these slaves enjoyed some degree of freedom. They would often gather together and celebrate their little moments of free expression by dancing and merrymaking. The terms used or associated with Argentine tango dancing like Candombe, Canyengue, or Milonga had their origin in the African culture.
The dance forms originally had a spiritual, social, and also political reflections of the contemporary conditions. After some years, the Spanish gaucho community came and settled in Argentina, and formed their own subgroup and lived their life on their own accord. These people were forced to come to the colonies from their mother country. Naturally, they expressed their resentment spending most of the time playing music, singing, and dancing.
This community came in contact with the local culture, and the heterogeneous cultural exchange that evolved consequently gave rise to the basic elements of tango dancing. It was a crude art form initially, yet had a distinct identity. Later on, more and more European migrants flooded South America, bringing along a wealth of classy art forms typical of the higher class European society. The economic scene was not all too encouraging. The migrants therefore lived in large community houses or hostels. This led to a wide interaction between the local communities, and hence more refining of the tango dancing style.
The shortage of job and work opportunities gave them a big chance to perfect their dance moves and convert their hobby into a more organized and developed dance form. Also, during this period, Italian artists and musicians contributed heavily to the rise of the tango. Another major reason why the tango evolved manifold was the sex ratio of the region.
The influx of a huge migrant population led to a deeply uneven male-female ratio. Males outnumbered women by dozens. In order to win their girls there began a 'dignified' race amongst the young men to woo the girls. Dancing parties served as the right platform to impress the females. This made men practice dancing harder and harder, which eventually led to a glorious polishing and refinement of Argentine tango dancing. Similarly, prostitutes added the sensual flavor to tango dance by trying to entice good looking men by their sexually expressive moves.
Gradually, tango dancing grew in popularity and very soon there were musical shows, theatrical performances, tango music and orchestras, buzzing all over the higher class neighborhoods. Argentine tango dancing reached the zenith of its popularity when it took Europe by storm. Paris especially, was crazy about this dance form, along with tango stockings, tango shoes, hats, jackets, and orange, the color of tango, flooding its streets. Here, it also incorporated some features of ballroom dancing, waltz, and ballet dancing. The raw sensuality with a touch of elegance and class made it even more popular.
Tango dancing continued to flourish in the rich and poor societies alike, even during the times of the World Wars. It came back to Argentina as an exceedingly rich art, similar to a young lad who had set out of his homeland to seek his fortune and came back after amassing a lot of wealth. It suffered a slight setback in the 1970s, when the Junta rule banned its practice. Later, it was revived with efforts of many interested foreign artists, who spread its popularity to the US and the other corners of the globe.
Since then, it continues to hold the world in awe with its magnificent form, which is relaxing, entertaining, and arousing, all at the same time. Kudos to this beautiful art form!