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The Birth of Ballroom Tango, American & International Styles The Birth of Ballroom Tango, American & International Styles

The Birth of Ballroom Tango, American & International Styles

story by Danceus Staff for DanceUs.org

The Birth of Ballroom Tango

Ballroom tango style deviated from its Argentine ancestry as its steps and execution were altered by a number of different outside influences. Both American and European influences are noted in Ballroom Tango, as well.

How Ballroom Tango Developed

The history of Tango is less than clear, but it is widely believed that although it first became popular in Buenos Aires’s brothels, there are also significant African influences. The history of Tango was passed down orally for many generations which is why its earliest years are sketchy.

Tango was one of the first dances to bring couples intimately together in a passionate embrace and is likely one of the reasons that it has been shared and transformed in different areas all over the world. By the early 1910’s, Tango was making a trip overseas and to the United States. Because of its acceptance in global cultures, there are now numerous styles of Tango, including Ballroom Tango.

One Half of Ballroom Tango: American Style

The main purpose of the Ballroom Tango branching off from its Argentinian mother was to make it more standardized for competition. With more standardized steps, judges could better score the dance. However, there were several influences on American Tango, including Hollywood. As a matter of fact, Rudolph Valentino is largely responsible for introducing Tango to the masses in his The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Naturally, the dance he portrayed was significantly swayed from the traditional Tango with the inclusion of social dance technique, as well as typical Hollywood style. American Tango is fairly relaxed compared to other Tango styles and may be danced in either the open or closed positions.

One Half of Ballroom Tango: International Style

Similar to the America’s first real experience with Tango, Britain was first exposed to this style through show business. Rather than through film, Brits witnessed the beauty of Tango on the stage in the musical The Sunshine Girl. Just as the American Style Tango diverged from the Argentinian Style, so did the dance in Europe. The culture of the country was injected into the Tango creating another style altogether, now known as the International Tango.

The English also standardized their version, which was originally called English Tango. However, as this particular style was picked up as the go-to Tango for international competitions, it later took the name of International Tango. Although American and International Tango were both developed in much the same ways, the International style is much more disciplined.

Ballroom Tango Indicators

To tell this type of Tango from other styles, remember that Ballroom Tango is very theatrical. The very purposes of this style are to make adjudication at competitions easier and to perform for audiences. Therefore, the style has changed little over the past several decades. The steps are based on specific patterns and are very stylized.

The Author of American Tango

Although there are many famous Tango dancers, one of the pivotal people in the creation and establishment of American Tango is Arthur Murray. He is largely responsible for the standardization of Tango in America through his dance schools.

Tango in general has a long and complicated history. However, the development of Ballroom Tango is fairly recent. Entertainers in both the United States and in Europe began to take portions of Argentine Tango and mold them to fit their needs in the early 1900's. This is how both International and American Tango were conceived, which when combined are known under the same umbrella term of Ballroom Tango.

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