The dark side of love in dance. Tango is a story of pain, unrequited love and passion on the boil. Tango in Argentina is a big deal and in Buenos Aires it is unavoidable. You will find it being danced on the streets at the markets you visit, wafting from open doors where classes are taking place and in the dark corners of cafes over a bitter coffee.
All year round
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From its late 19th century, poor immigrant origins, tango increased in popularity as a means to woo the women in the city. Music was only played live so men would take advantage of the live music in brothel waiting rooms to practice with each other in pairs. The brothel was one of the few places in society where the lower class mixed with the middle and upper class, thus popularising tango into the upper echelons, whom in turn then brought the tango to worldwide attention during their travels to Europe.
The tango broke conventions being the first improvised dance with bodily contact between couples, the controversy helping to boost its popularity. With the invention of recorded music tango became commercial, most notably through Carlos Gardel’s tragic love tango and Juan D’Arienzo’s orchestral tango among others.
Tango was popularised and encouraged by the Peronist government of the mid 20th century before being ostracised and tango halls being outlawed as illegal gatherings by the military governments that deposed Peron. When the military dictatorships fell in 1983 and democracy returned to Argentina, tango emerged again but a whole generation had missed growing up with tango culture the dance never regained its popularity. Today though tango dance and tango music remain very important to the Argentine people and their national identity.
The attraction of tango today in Buenos Aires is being able to dance in the original milongas (dance halls) of the golden age of tango inhabited by the romantic and passionate devotees to the dance, and walk among largely unchanged cafes and bars of the tango neighbourhoods.