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The Tango

The Golden Age

As the First World War raged on, people sought distractions from its horror and, despite the turmoil of the time, the Tango was far from forgotten. The mood of the time was changing and there was a new sense of freedom in the air. The adventure of the Tango reflected that mood, and the demand for it continued to grow. As the war came to an end, Tango entered its golden age of the 1920s. As it became more and more popular in Europe and North America, in Buenos Aires its popularity had reached unprecedented heights. Some musicians strived to interpret it in new and innovative ways as a musical art form. These musicians and composers were greatly admired and became household names in Buenos Aires and beyond. Bandoneon players became almost like gods. But it was not only the musicians who captured the imagination, the great dancers too, were adulated by the people.

Perhaps the best known and most enduring reputation was held by the legendary El Cachafaz (Jose Ovidio Bianquet). Dancing with Carmencita Calderon, El Cachafaz was revered by the public. The greatest Tango dancers of recent times must be Juan Carlos Copes and Maria Nieves. They are the embodiment of the dance, and never fail to inspire and touch those who witness their Tango. I In more recent times, there have been many Tango dancers made famous by their appearance in spectacular shows around the world. Their style, however, is Show Tango, and over the years, it has grown less and less to resemble the authentic Tango of Buenos Aires. This is in no way to diminish the expertise and quality of the performance, but this chapter is about how two ordinary people can come together to dance the authentic Argentine Tango.

A military coup on 6 September 1930 in Argentina heralded a period of unsettled government during which the authorities, nervous and anxious to control any possible criticism, started to ban any Tango which had any political innuendo or sang of social injustice.

In Europe, the Tango had undergone a massive evolution. The Argentine Tango did not accord with the long-held European ideas about dancing, and the authentic style was quickly and ruthlessly changed. Walks were introduced to make the dance progress around the ballroom floor, and the seductive character of the Tango was suppressed beneath a faster, harsher, more aggressive beat. Drums, which were hardly used in the Argentinian Orquesta Tipica, added to the staccato, march-like quality of this "modern" Tango, and encouraged a sharper interpretation, including the highly stylized head jerks associated with the modern international style of competitive Tango.

During the 1950s in Buenos Aires, the Tango went into decline. Peron fell from power, and the health of the economy moved precariously downwards. The immigrants no longer viewed themselves as immigrants, but as Argentinians, and the power of the Tango to console nostalgic longing had waned. With economic decline, there were less funds to promote the huge Tango events and orchestras typical of the 1940s. Tango was still played by smaller groups, but now the audience listened rather than danced.

By the 1960s, musicians and composers were experimenting with "el Nuevo Tango", a new style of Tango music for listening to. As this grew in popularity, so the interest in Tango as a dance declined. Some notable orchestras and composers, including the celebrated Osvaldo Pugliese, continued to play for audiences both in Argentina and abroad. During the 1980s, large-scale productions went on tour around the world, stimulating a revival of interest outside Argentina. Such was their effect, that a new generation discovered Tango for the first time.


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