Tango: from the brothels to UNESCO heritage

Tango as an interesting cultural integration tool…

The tango was born at the end of the 19th century in Buenos Aires when the city was flourishing, welcoming ships full of European immigrants.
Tango has its roots in « habanera » and the « candombe » rhythms; the « habanera » is at the origine of guajira, tango flamenco or fandango. The « candombe » music comes from the african slaves and preserves the drums rhythm typical of african music.
All this mix of rhythms gave birth, in Argentina, to the « milonga » the very first version of tango.  The drums, flutes and guitars initially used, were later replaced by the piano, the violin and the bandonion: the three basic instruments of tango.

…tango has its own language

Tango, that combines dancing and singing, developed its own language: the “lunfardo ». This jargon mixes Spanish with other languages creating a very original « dialect » which left some traces in the language of porteños  –  people born in Buenos Aires.
For instance in Lunfardo language « work » translates « laburo ».

Tango is… »a sad thought that can be danced » (Discepolo)

For the script-writer Discepolo tango was “a sad thought that can be danced”. “Tango is the Argentine fifth essence. As no other genre, it transmits the character made up of sadness, rage and grace, however, they were painfully included”, wrote Saul Yurkievich in Los poetas del Tango (Tangos Poets, Gallimard). In fact, tango is a balanced aggregation of  music, dance and story telling. It sang stories about love disillusions and serious or sarcastic facts.

Tango was danced only by men at the beginning….

From the very beginning, the milonga and the tango were danced in couple and, curiously,  at the beginning the couple was composed by two men. They practiced on the streets, in the “conventillos” (tenements) – very poor houses where immigrants crowded together. They invented the dance as the music was being created. Then they went to dance to the brothels with the prostitutes from Italy, Spain, France… It was thanks to them that at beginning tango had a very bad reputation: it was the music and dance of poor neighborhoods and rogues.

Tango’s evolution : from poor neighborhoods to high society

When tango arrived in Paris during the Belle Époque (XX century) it became very popular in the society. It was very fashionable to be able to dance tango. This popularity caught Buenos Aires’ attention and, thus, tango received a « noble title » also in Argentina, where it had not been considered of good taste.

The most famous singer of all the times is Carlos Gardel. He knew a great  success in the 1920s and 1930s, up to his tragic death caused by a plane accident in 1935.

The neo-tango: Astor Piazzolla

In the 1960s and 1970s, clubs and ballrooms closed one after the other. Tango started to slow down. Big orchestras with fifteen musicians continued playing trying to change the repertoire to adapt it to the new taste of the public but tango in Buenos Aires was no longer danced. The big change came with the avant-gardiste musician, Astor Piazzolla who took tango to a new modern dimension. The arrangements by this great bandonion-player, deeply criticized by the “purists”, allowed tango, however, to evolve, get renewed, survive and obtain a new international acknowledgment of the tango, as once,  had done Gardel with his interpretations.

Where you can practice tango in Luxembourg?

If you want to be transported to the suburbs of Buenos Aires and try tango dance, you can join:

  • On Tuesdays at “Brasserie de l’Arret” (365, route de Longwy in the district of Merl Luxembourg), beginner’s course from 19 – 20: 20, after you have a Milonga at 20:30, with el Chino and Miho. For more information: cours@tangoargentino.lu.
  • On Sundays, “Scott’s Pub” (4 Bisserweg, 1238 Lëtzebuerg, Luxembourg) offers tango classes from 17:00 to 18:00. To practice and dance the tango from 18: 00-21: 00, Price: 15 € (Class + Practica), 5 € (Practica) el Chino y Miho.
  • Tango Academy: DANCE FACTORY, 5 rue du Saint Esprit, L1475 Luxembourg, Tel: +352-2899-8250, info@dancefactory.lu, www.dancefactory.lu

Integrating in Luxembourg : integration policy, organizations and musical activities

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