History of the Tango
Regrettably, the real origin of the Tango is not known. There are many stories and contradicting facts, but no-one agrees on the exact same version of the history. Maybe this adds to the mystery of the dance, making it all that more enticing. Regardless, the history (or histories) that we are providing here, are accounts from various long-standing tango societies around the world. Before discussing the history of the Tango, the dance, we should first examine the etymology of the word. Not a lot is known about the evolution of the word, except that it is from the Latin verb, "tangere" meaning "to touch". Further, the verb can mean, "to grasp" or "to evoke emotions". Even this has been disputed, as many believe it has African language roots. Their word tango is said to be "a place where they dance".
The dance is thought to have been created around the late 1880s, early 1900s, in Buenos Aires, thus the reason for the reference Argentine Tango. It was actually a compilation of various dances from numerous cultures living together in a very poor neighborhood. Basically, the residents were immigrants from countries such as Spain, Italy, Britain, other European nations, and Africa. They all brought their own heritages, and through dance and music, the tango was formed. At this point, it should be noted, that some history does show that Spain had a dance called "tango andaluza", which might have been the forerunner to the formulation of what we now know as the tango.
It is believed that because single women were few in numbers, the way that poor men attracted potential wives was through dancing the tango. Because it was so difficult to do, the men honed their skills, so that they could put on real performances for the women. Since the men had nothing else in terms of land or money, the dances became their assets. Women would choose them depending on how finely-honed their skills. As the men of the elite and aristocratic societies began to frequent the same neighborhood clubs, they, too, learned the tango and took it back to their own class of people. It is through the sons of the rich families that the tango finally found its way into the Paris night scene around 1910. It was also why the dance became one of refinement, and was accepted by the rich instead of being considered a "ghetto dance", only performed by the poor and destitute. It is believed that the dance finally reached New York around 1913. Oddly enough, the upper crest of Argentina denounced the dance as lewd and distasteful, only accepting it after seeing that the rest of the world thought it was wonderful and classy.
Because of its low moral standards, and risqué movements, the dance has seen censorship throughout its history, such as the ten-year banishment in Argentina commencing in 1930. At that time, also, the people of Europe had tired of the dance, and moved on to something new. The dance recovered anew in the 1940s with the Golden Age of Tango, but was again relinquished to the sidelines in the 1950s. In fact, it was again considered taboo in most public establishments in Argentina.
In the US, the tango became more popular with the 1921 filming of Rudolph Valentino, although many feel that he ruined the dance, because it was not at all an accurate rendition. Nonetheless, at that point, everyone wanted to learn the dance. Since then, at least in the US, the tango has remained an integral part of ballroom dancing with competition organizers and dance schools alike.