Tango is a dance that has influences from European and African culture. Dances from the candombe ceremonies of former slave peoples helped shape the modern-day Tango. The dance originated in lower-class districts of Buenos Aires and Montevideo. The music was derived from the fusion of various forms of music from Europe. The word “tango” seems to have first been used in connection with the dance in the 1890s. Initially, it was just one of the many dances, but it soon became popular throughout society, as theatres and street barrel organs spread it from the suburbs to the working-class slums, which were packed with hundreds of thousands of European immigrants, primarily Italians, Spanish, and French.
In the early years of the 20th century, dancers and orchestras from Buenos Aires traveled to Europe, and the first European Tango craze took place in Paris, soon followed by London, Berlin, and other capitals. Towards the end of 1913, it hit New York in the USA and Finland. In the USA around 1911, the “tango” was often applied to dances in a 2/4 or 4/4 rhythm such as the one-step. The term was fashionable and did not indicate that Tango steps would be used in the dance, although they might be. Tango music was sometimes played, but at a rather fast tempo. Instructors of the period would sometimes refer to this as a “North American Tango” versus the so-called “Argentine Tango”. By 1914, more authentic Tango stylings were soon developed, along with variations like Albert Newman’s “minuet” tango.
In Argentina, the onset on 1929 of the Great Depression and restrictions introduced after the overthrow of the Hipolito Yrigoyen government in 1930, caused Tango to decline. Its fortunes were reversed as Tango became widely fashionable and a matter of national pride under the government of Juan Peron. Tango declined again in the 1950s as a result of economic depression and banning of public gatherings by the military dictatorship; male-only tango practice – the custom at the time – was considered public gathering. That, indirectly, boosted the popularity of rock and roll because, unlike Tango, it did not require such gatherings.
American Tango is a ballroom dance that branched away from its original Argentine roots by allowing European, American, Hollywood, and competitive influences into the style and execution of the dance. The present day ballroom Tango is divided into two disciplines: American Style and International Style. Both styles are enjoyed as social and competitive dances, but the International version is more globally accepted as a competitive style. Both styles share a closed dance position, but the American style allows its practitioners to separate from closed position to execute open moves (like underarm turns), alternate hand holds, dance apart, and perform side by side choreography.