Musical selection for the International Day of Tango

In mid-December, on the birthday of the Argentine singer and film actor, the famous "King of Tango" Carlos Gardel (1887-1935), the International Day of Tango is marked — celebration of a dance whose philosophy is based on confrontation. Life is booming in the tango; Man and Woman are in center of this dance. Their relationships, passions, conflicts, reconciliations, love, “the third is a crowd”, jealousy, hatred - all the feelings that fill human life.

It was Gardel who brought tango to Europe from Argentina, where the dance originated, and made it a heritage of world culture. Argentines celebrated Tango Day for the first time in 1978, and a few years later the holiday became international.

According to Jorge Luis Borges*, the tango is the "son" of the Uruguayan milonga (a cheerful South American dance with fast tempo) and the "grandson" of the habanera (a Cuban folk dance). The word "tango" itself appeared in the 1890s. If we summarise the existing points of view on the origin of tango culture, we can conclude that it is a synthesis of European and Latin American choreographic tradition, dance forms and figurative rhythmic expressions, combining waltz, habanera, candombe and milonga. When merged, these rhythms led to completely unexpected results. Initially, the dance developed in the poor port neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires, in small bars and restaurants. Quite quickly it conquered the more respectable sections of society. This is evidenced by the fact that "Tango Academies" where one could learn this dance, opened one after another in the city.

In 1907, the dance was performed for the first time in Paris. The history of European tango choreographic tradition development begins in this period. In 1909, tango for the first time participated in the dance programme of the first unofficial World Dance Championships in Paris, together with the English waltz (slow waltz), foxtrot and one-step (in the future, the quick-step). During that period, the competitive ballroom dance tradition was born and established. It was then that the tango took its European form. The French composer and choreographer Camille de Rinal transformed the tango in the tradition of the French ballroom school, adapting its performance for European audiences. It was he who created the ballroom (classical) tango.

In Europe, the dance was not appreciated by everyone for a long time. In Italy it was considered unacceptable at court, and in Austria, Bavaria and the German Empire – among the officers. In Russia, the prohibition to dance tango applied not only to the military men, but also to ballet dancers. Against the "obscene" pas opposed and the clergy: partners in the tango move impermissibly close to each other. Despite this, the number of fans of the "dance of passion" was constantly growing in the Old World.

By 1914, tea tango salons appeared in Britain, then this fashion spread to America. The heyday of the dance popularity dates back to the 1930-1940s. Many ensembles were created, including famous composers and performers of tango, who have become classics of this style today: Aníbal Carmelo Troilo, Ástor Piazzolla, Osvaldo Pedro Pugliese and many others.

The development of the dance led to the formation of two trends — Argentine and European (classical) tango. Argentine tango is a person-to-person dance in which partners mainly improvise, while European tango is a sport ballroom dance.
In 2009, at the fourth session of the Intergovernmental Committee of UNESCO, tango was inscribed on the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The sensual and emotionally intense nature and essence of the tango has been reflected in movies and literature. Perhaps one of the most famous dance scenes in the history of cinema is the tango between Al Pacino and Gabrielle Anwar in “Scent of a Woman” (1992). The musical accompaniment is a composition by Carlos Gardel (1890-1935), whose birth date became the day of International Tango Day.

For the International Day of tango we have posted a musical selection "Passionate Tango" in the museum Phonotheque.