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It Takes Two: Argentina And The Tango

1791 words - 8 pages

The curtain rises on the streets of late 19th century Buenos Aires as a simple quadruple meter begins to ring. Two figures emerge from the darkness and begin to flow into a sensual, impressive dance. As he artfully guides her body around his own figure, a crowd begins to form, and soon there are more couples that join into this social dance. This is the scene for the beginning of the Argentine tango. The tango was not always the elegant dance reserved for famed ballrooms, but rather, it had its début on the streets of Buenos Aires with the poor of Argentina. Tango was the result of a booming agricultural economy with no one to work for it. The poor of Argentina were simply the already poor immigrants from Europe who sought a better life in the richness of Argentina. The influx of immigrants created dominantly male cities, and consequently, there were no women for the amount of men. Tango became the only way for men to express themselves romantically in a city where hardships flourished and hyper-masculinity was the key to survival. Although the tango was created in Argentina, it was not solely inspired by Argentine culture, but rather by a melting pot of cultures that were found in the community. The Argentine tango originated through the European immigrants who came to Buenos Aires, and eventually evolved into a dance, lyric poetry, and music that became a connotation for sensuality and joined the ranks of the waltz, the polka, and the foxtrot in the esteemed ballrooms of the world. (Denniston 11-4)
The tango was a tool of seduction even in its most early forms; its nature is to be used to attract. In Christine Denniston’s book, The Meaning of Tango, she describes the dance as “ a cornerstone of Argentinian culture” (15). The tango kept the Argentinian culture alive and reproductive. Denniston clarifies that men had to dance well and be confident in order to find a girl in Buenos Aires because there were an abundance of men. The tango was the only way for a man to stand out among other men (15). The learning of the tango is unique to other dances—it embodies itself in the form of an apprenticeship, called the prática. The amateur goes to an all men’s dance, where an older man begins to teach him how to follow. The process of learning to follow can last several months, until a man has learned all of the fundamentals, which include: how to stand, how to walk, and the correlation of the bodies during the dance (15). Eventually, the master will release the novice to begin learning to lead another man who is learning to follow. After much practice, the master and the novice attend what is called a “milonga”, which is a dance event that included women. The first milonga is like a test for the novice to see if he can entice women to dance with him based off of his acquired skills. If he fails, he is sent back to his prática until he can pass the milonga (15). This apprenticeship is unique not only in its form, but in the way that it gives women...

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