Ballroom Tango was born in the slums of Buenos Aires in the late 19th century. Argentine gauchos and migrating blacks met and mixed in the infamous Barrio de las Ramas, trading cultural rhythms and dance steps in and around the area’s well-known brothels. From this melting pot emerged a highly passionate dance, one that the respectable classes of society shunned. But as with the Waltz, there is nothing like controversy to make a dance triumph.
In the United States, Tango became all the rage right before the First World War. Vernon and Irene Castle made their fortune from Tango, becoming America’s sweethearts of the dance. There was a flurry of Tango dance hall openings and Tango teas became popular in big hotels. Couples even danced between courses at the finer restaurants. Rudolph Valentino did his part performing a sensual Tango in the silent film “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”. The dance varied greatly from performer to performer and was eventually standardized in the 1920’s by the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing.
Tango is characterized by a close hold, a low center of gravity and an emphasis on Contra Body Movement. Movement in Tango is stealthy, almost cat-like and has an unmistakable staccato feel.