Tango – June 2016
Drunk sailors and prostitutes.
Four words you didn’t expect to read when you opened up this blog! We’re all familiar with the national dance of Argentina; the Argentine Tango is common place these days with classes running up and down the country, stage shows and even Hollywood movies about it. There’s a particular Spanish language film called (conveniently, Tango) which is an excellent watch if you haven’t already done so and can put up with the subtitles. Interestingly there’s a significant dance within the film, where a group of men dressed in black and another group of fellas dressed in white all dance with each other. Kelly and I actually used this piece of music and part of the film as inspiration for our first Tango show dance. Writing this blog post made me have a little hunt around for a recording of our Tango to that particular song, and I did in fact find one from 2008! It’s included down below for you to see, along with the inspirational clip from the film, Tango. Please do excuse the quality of the recording as it was BRP (Before Rob Porter!).
Now, back to those fellas dancing together. This was actually common place in Argentina as it was thought the men needed extra practice (as if!!) especially with leading ladies around the dance floor. It was thought that beginner lady dancers could pick things up a little easier than the men (again, as if!!) and I suppose hauling a big hairy Argentinian around the floor was a good way to ready yourself for that special lady dancer. Rest assured we won’t be trying that technique in our classes any time soon!
So a dance that started in the slums of Buenos Aires, originally by slaves, eventually found its way to mainland Europe. Now my little take on this, alluding to the opening statement, is that the sailors of the day journeyed across the Atlantic to France and sailors being sailors fancied showing off and letting off (some steam). I’m not entirely accustomed to the conditions on a 19th century merchant navy ship, but I doubt it was all fluffy towels, spa experiences on deck and Molton Brown toiletries. Coupled with a pretty poor diet, needless to say I’m sure they whiffed a bit. Not ideal dance partner material. Anyway, it’s my belief that their grappling with the ladies and then their attempts to remove themselves from said naval grip, led to the development of the dance moves we all know and love! A Spanish Drag for example… If you don’t know what one is, ask me and I’ll show you. To ensure the most authentic of demonstrations please give me a days’ notice so that I can get myself suitably drunk and eat plenty of poor quality meat. 🙂
Of course the dance we teach you in class and perform in competitions is the Ballroom Tango – a dance that found its way to the ballrooms of England in the early part of the 20th century. Much the same as the Latin American dances, it was standardised, a syllabus created and then added to the Ballroom collection as a technical dance. It does still retain some of the historical elements, the Spanish Drag for example and the attitude of the movement and feeling is certainly a lot different to the smooth nature of the Foxtrot or the effervescence in Quickstep. Many Argentine aficionados will say that our Tango is not the ‘real’ Tango, but I would argue that it’s just a different interpretation. What we do know is that it’s a great lot of fun and as can be seen in the video below from our recent classes, certainly quite a challenge!
Talking of challenges, next week our classes will be filled will the romance of the Rumba!