A little history of tango
The tango Rioplatense is the authentic tango, as it was born in the 19th century on both sides of the Rio de la Plata river, in Buenos Aires and Montevideo. The music and the dance both have strong influences from Africa and Europe. Although the tango was born in lower-class districts, it soon spread to all classes of the society, with a peak of popularity in the golden age (1940ies).
As of the 1920ies, tango also became popular in the rest of the world, and Europeans began to inject their own culture, style and technique into the dance. They created a standardized version of the tango. Today, both the dance and the music used in the European, American, ballroom or standard tango are very distant of the original Argentinian tango.
At the end of the forties, the rise of the military dictatorships after World War II and the breakthrough of jazz and rock music brought the decline of tango for the next 40 years.
The end of the Falklands War in 1983 and the return of democracy and liberalization in Argentina relighted the interest in learning and dancing tango. Simultaneously, the Paris debut of the show Tango Argentino brought the dance back to worldwide awareness.
Since then, the interest in Argentine tango has been constantly growing all over the world and nowadays almost every city has its tango community. In 2009, tango was added into the list of Wolrdwide intangible cultural heritage of Unesco.
Tango is for everybody
Whether you are young or old, in a relationship or single, manager or unemployed… tango is for everyone. No common range of characteristics can describe the tangueros: they are a random sampling of individuals sharing this passion.
Tango is a couple dance based on walking together. Thus, to a certain extend, tango can be considered as a “simple” dance, built up with only 4 steps: front, side, back and closed.
No dancing experience is needed to start tango, and many of today’s best dancers don’t have a background in dance. No need either to have a perfect body to dance tango, nor to be flexible (e.g. watch this milonga performed by Aoniken Quiroga & Alejandra Mantiñan).
On the other hand, because tango is an improvisation dance, without pre-established steps, rules or regulations, it is also one of today’s richest and most varied couple dances. New steps and figures are created and invented on a daily basis by thousands of professionals and amateurs from all over the world. Therefore, tango keeps inspiring its dancers and can hardly become boring: each tango is different, to be created in the moment itself, by two dancers who melt into a mysterious embrace where many imperceptible signals are transmitted to the sound of music.
Benefits of tango
Dancing tango is commonly considered to be a very healthy activity, for it provides physical and mental exercise and it improves balance and coordination. It is even considered to have a healing effect on several medical diseases, as well as on more common realities such as stress, depression, insomnia…
Tango in specific contains some additional elements that can increase the quality of life:
- social satisfaction through interaction with people of different ages, cultures and social classes, who share the same interest; to become part of a tango community can help individuals to come out of isolation
- spirituality and mindfulness, because the interaction between partners helps dancers to focus on the present moment and the task at hand, rather than being busy with unsolvable problems
- cognition, since tango dancers train on doing several things at once: navigating in space, being in synchrony with the partner, listening to the music
- meaningfulness, because dancers practice a new activity, search to achieve a good connection with their partner, learn steps and practice to execute them gracefully
Tango as a therapy
In several case studies, it was proved that various aspects of mental and physical fitness are more prominent among tango dancers, with a lower risk of heart disorders and defective blood pressure. To dance tango is helpful to improve balance and mobility for older persons, thus lessening the risk of injuries from falls.
More specifically, quite a few inquiries have been investigating the healing benefits of Argentine tango for patients of Parkinson’s disease and dementia. Likewise, a university in Maine found out that tango can improve walking and thinking activities in people with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
According to further academic investigations, to dance tango helps get rid of anxiety, stress, insomnia and depression, and a recent research on ‘Tango therapy’, found that this healing method is increasing the quality of life of many patients, as dancing stimulates the mind and helps people to recover from distress, phobias and schizophrenia.
The tango embrace makes people feel more secure and happy. This effect is produced by a hormone called oxytocin, which prevents heart attacks, hypertension, etc.
And when it comes to marriage and relationships, therapists found that focusing on the trust needed in tango’s close embrace and backward movement was useful for couples to restore harmony and manage conflicts.
Dance competitions and championships are traditionally part of the circuit of Ballroom and Latin dances and are basically contrary to the philosophy of tango, which was born as a popular dance, uncodified and not standardized.
Although nowadays in some circles people have started to organise Argentine tango championships, the majority of the best dancers in the world don’t participate to competitions and rather prefer to cling to the freedom of this dance. As long as there are no rules or coded figures, it is impossible to judge someone’s tango as being right or wrong, better or worse… It is up to each dancer to decide how to walk, in which embrace to dance, the tools of communication to use, what technique to apply, which figures to create… As such the title of (Belgian, European, world) tango champion becomes quite trivial.
Why WE love tango
Tango is a living dance, in constant evolution… today, many different styles are practiced, with variable embraces, techniques, figures and steps. To us in La Tangueria, this freedom of tango is the main richness. As opposed to some of the more rigid schools, we don’t pretend to teach THE ONLY or THE REAL tango. We don’t support those who want to regulate and codify the tango dance by writing rules, essays and books with the do’s and don’ts, by handing out diploma’s to allow someone to teach, by organising competitions, etc.
To us, tango is an individual interpretation of a universal dance, it doesn’t belong to an individual, a place or a group, it is a free-flowing art that allows people to express themselves.
We want everybody to experience and dance their own tango. Therefore, our milongas are relaxed and open-minded. We don’t impose dress codes, all dancers (ladies also) may invite by mirada and cabeceo, as well as verbally. We incite ladies to lead and males to follow. To gain space, we encourage the close embrace, but a more open style is also practiced. Everybody is welcome in our milongas. There is only one, very simple rule: please respect the other dancers and their freedom. 😉
We care about the richness and variety of Argentine tango. Therefore, our aim is to encourage creativity, originality and individuality. We deeply respect the roots, but we also strive to integrate modern influences into the dance. We don’t stick to one technique, but we rather explore all aspects of tango, both in our own dancing and in our teaching didactics at all levels.
In our classes we focus on social tango, thus we mainly start from the closed abrazo of the tango de salón, like it is danced in the traditional milongas all over the world. Although we often use the subtle and playful movements and rhythmics of the entangled estilo milonguero, we also give tools to a flexible and open embrace to execute tango fantasía figures, such as a boleo, sacada, giro… Occasionally we also teach neo tango elements (colgada, soltada, etc.), as they improve individual balance and the complicity between the dancers.
As of the very first introduction into tango, our goal in the classes is to allow beginners to explore the freedom of the tango. We put the emphasis on the creative and improvisational aspect on the dance, we encourage interactivity, rather than a passive role of the follower. In the intermediate and advanced classes, we gradually teach more complex sequences, but always with the aim to improve the quality of each movement and to explore in-depth the different tools for connection.
Based on 20 years experience in tango and a background of professional dance with Rosas, Oliver and Marisa are renown for their pedagogical qualities to analyse, explain and individually correct each movement. Posture, technique and body work within the couple connection are fundamental issues in our classes, as well as the analysis of the structure of tango and the improvisation tools.
Our dancing style
Since we became ‘Oliver & Marisa’, the tango couple in 1996, we have explored all kinds of different embraces, postures, styles, techniques and movements. To us, tango is a never-ending research and we continue to evolve and grow with each new experience.
Many Argentinian and European teachers and dancers have inspired us over the years, in particular Gustavo Naveira & Giselle Anne, Natalia & Gabriel, Julio & Corina, los Totis, Geraldine & Javier, Biki & Muzo and many others.
Today, we don’t want to choose for one or the other style… We rather extract from each technique the elements that correspond best to our needs to create our own tango:
– in a flexible embrace
– connecting both via the body contact and the frame
– playing with distances, angles and axis according to our needs
– mixing steps of milonguero, tango de salón, fantasía, and neo tango
– switching styles according to the music, the context, our mood…