FREEZE| FACTS ABOUT TANGO The retro dance that never goes out of style

TWERK and Lambada are sensuous dance genres but could hardly be described as elegant – for now. In the future, they might be considered as too tame and quite decent by the standards of a distant generation.

Tango, on the other hand, has already achieved an elegant status without losing its sexy flavor on the dance floor. What started as a fun activity among the working class people in Buenos Aires, Argentina, has evolved into several forms that make people sweat it out from the late 1800s up to the present time. Ballroom tango appears to be un-scandalous because of minimal body-to-body contact as compared to International Tango or dance sports where prudes are likely to get shocked by the sight of legs wrapped around a dance partner’s body or groins brushed against thighs.

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SEASONED dance instructor Resty

Excerpts from Deb Sclar’s History of Argentine Tango say, “…Shunned by the upper and middle classes in Argentina, it nevertheless became a sleazy fixture of urban nightlife in Buenos Aires. Young men in neighborhood gangs would practice the steps with each other in order to become skilled enough to win the attentions of a woman. A beginner would often dance the follower’s part for six months to a year before being shown how to lead… As Argentina became very wealthy around the turn of the century, the sons of rich families would often look for adventure and excitement in the rougher parts of town, and learned the tango as part of their escapades. Some of these young men of privilege would show off the tango as a treat for their friends on their sojourns to Paris, then the cultural capital of the world. The Parisians were shocked and titillated by this raw, sensuous dance. This led to a tango craze that swept all of Europe, and reached America in the years just prior to World War I. New York newspapers in 1916 feature ads from over seven hundred tango establishments. While the original tango was disturbing to many arbiters of good taste, a heavily sanitized version of tango found its way into the European and American dance academies, where it remains a fixture in ballroom competitions today.”

“Influenced by the rise of repressive military dictatorships in Argentina after World War II, tango dancing slowly declined in the face of curfews and clampdowns on public gatherings… Accompanying the return of democracy and social liberalization after the Falklands War of 1982-83, a groundswell of interest in learning to tango surfaced throughout Argentine society. A younger generation of dancers and teachers began reclaiming their tango heritage while re-examining the structural underpinnings of the dance they had inherited… A new generation of Argentine tango dancers, tango teachers, and tango musicians found receptive audiences for their country’s primary cultural export. Audiences first enraptured by the stage spectacle of the bit tango shows discovered for themselves the passionate pleasures of the social dance connection, available to anyone willing to invest a minimum of time in learning the silent vocabulary of the dance. Today, major cities around the world feature active tango communities where strangers and acquaintances can once again meet to share the sweetness of the three minutes that can last a lifetime. – Brian Dunn and Deborah Sclar, Dance of the Heart.”

In Hollywood, numerous movies feature tango scenes like Scent of a Woman (Al Pacino), True Lies (Arnold Schwarzenneger), Take the Lead (Antonio Banderas), Moulin Rouge (Nicole Kidman), Chicago (Richard Gere, Renee Zellwegger, Catherine Zeta Jones), Shall We Dance (Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, Susan Sarandon), Mr. & Mrs. Smith (Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie), Upside Down (Kristen Dunst, Pablo Veron), Easy Virtue (Colin Firth, Jessica Biel), and many others that show the charm and passion of the tango dance.

In March 2016, then US President Barrack Obama danced the tango during a state dinner at the Centro Cultural Kirchner in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It can be seen on YouTube that Obama initially declined multiple times a sexy dancer’s outstretched hand inviting him to dance – but he eventually relented and joined her on the floor for about a minute. I’m not aware of any protocols broken there but criticisms did fly from different quarters.

Ballroom dance enthusiasts in Davao City find delight with tango music at several night spots but, perhaps, the most spacious dance floor could be found inside WAV Entertainment Central along Cayetano Bangoy (formerly Ponciano Reyes) Street – where ballroom nights happen every Sunday and Monday with former Wild 92.3 WT DJ Rockin’ Seesaw, live musicians, and veteran dance instructors.

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