Tango is a popular partner dance and social dance that originated in the 1880s along the River Plate, the natural border between Argentina and Uruguay.

It was born in the impoverished port areas of these countries, where natives mixed with slave and European immigrant populations.

The tango is the result of a combination of the German Waltz, Czech Polka, Polish Mazurka, and Bohemian Schottische with the Spanish-Cuban Habanera, African Candombe, and Argentinian Milonga.

It was frequently practiced in the brothels and bars of ports, where business owners employed bands to entertain their patrons with music. The tango then spread to the rest of the world. Many variations of this dance currently exist around the world.

On August 31, 2009, UNESCO approved a joint proposal by Argentina and Uruguay to include it in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.


Tango is a dance that has influences from African, Native American and European culture. Dances from the candombe ceremonies of former slave peoples helped shape the modern-day tango.

The dance originated in lower-class districts of Buenos Aires and Montevideo. The music derived from the fusion of various forms of music from Europe.

The words “tango” and “tambo” around the River Plate basin were initially used to refer to musical gatherings of slaves, with written records of colonial authorities attempting to ban such gatherings as early as 1789.

Initially, it was just one of the many dances, but it soon became popular throughout society, as theatres and street barrel organs spread it from the suburbs to the working-class slums, which were packed with hundreds of thousands of European immigrants.

Many Buenos Aires city neighborhoods have their particular tango history like for example La Boca, San Telmo or Boedo. At Boedo Avenue Cátulo Castillo, Homero Manzi and other singers and composers used to meet at the Japanese Cafe with the Boedo Group.

In the early years of the 20th century, dancers and orchestras from Buenos Aires traveled to Europe, and the first European tango craze took place in Paris, soon followed by London, Berlin, and other capitals. Towards the end of 1913, it hit New York City in the U.S., and Finland.

In the U.S., around 1911, the word “tango” was often applied to dances in a 2/4 or 4/ 4 rhythm such as the one-step. The term was fashionable and did not indicate that tango steps would be used in the dance, although they might be. Tango music was sometimes played but at a rather fast tempo.

Instructors of the period would sometimes refer to this as a “North American tango“, versus the so-called “Argentine Tango“.

It was controversial because of its perceived sexual overtones and, by the end of 1913, the dance teachers who had introduced the dance to Paris were banished from the city. By 1914, more authentic tango stylings were soon developed, along with some variations like Albert Newman’s “Minuet” tango.

In Argentina, the onset in 1929 of the Great Depression, and restrictions introduced after the overthrow of the Hipólito Yrigoyen government in 1930 caused tango to decline. Its fortunes were reversed as tango became widely fashionable and a matter of national pride under the government of Juan Perón.

Taquito Militar, by Mariano Mores, played a monumental part in the rise of it and a major effect on Argentinian culture as a whole. This song was premiered in 1952 during a governmental speech of President Juan D. Perón, which generated a strong political and cultural controversy between different views of the concepts of “cultured” music and “popular” music, as well as the links between both “cultures“.

Tango declined again in the 1950s, as a result of economic depression and the banning of public gatherings by the military dictatorships; male-only tango practice—the custom at the time—was considered “public gathering“.

That, indirectly, boosted the popularity of rock and roll because, unlike tango, it did not require such gatherings.

Tango influence

Music and dance elements of it are popular in activities related to gymnastics, figure skating, synchronized swimming, etc., because of its dramatic feeling and its cultural associations with romance.

Tango in society

Tango appears in different aspects of society: Regular milongas and special festivals. A very famous festival is the Tango Buenos Aires Festival y Mundial in Buenos Aires.

On a regional level, there are also many festivals inside and outside of Argentina. One local festival outside Argentina is Buenos Aires in the Southern Highlands in Australia.

Health benefits

It has been suggested that tango makes people feel more relaxed, sexier, and less depressed, and increases testosterone levels.

Dance targets six main areas considered to be important for high quality of life and successful aging:

  • physical exercise
  • social satisfaction
  • spirituality and mindfulness
  • cognition
  • meaningfulness
  • emotional and educational health

While all types of dance confer some types of benefits, Argentine tango dancing, in particular, has documented evidence that these areas are improved in both healthy and disabled populations.

Tangolates is an exercise method that combines the core stability of Pilates with the concentration, coordination and fluid movement of tango, designed in 2004 by Tamara Di Tella.

Utilizing a partner-method and incorporating the aerobic or cardio element of music, it started as a rehabilitation technique for patients with severe dysfunctions of the nervous system.


*This article was originally published at en.wikipedia.org.