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Jenny and Toby

Tango

American Style Smooth

Ballroom Tango was born in the slums of Buenos Aires in the late 19th century. Argentine gauchos and migrating blacks met and mixed in the infamous Barrio de las Ranas, trading cultures rhythms and dance steps in and around the area's well known brothels. From this melting pot emerged a highly erotic dance, one that the "respectable" classes of society shunned. But as we've seen with the Waltz, there is nothing like eroticism to make a dance triumph.

In the U.S., Tango became all the rage right before the First World War. Vernon and Irene Castle made their fortune from it, becoming America's sweethearts of the dance. In New York City some 700 dance halls opened, and Tango teas became popular in big hotels. Couples even danced between courses at the finer restaurants. Rudolph Valentino did his part, performing a sensual Tango in the silent film "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse."; The dance varied greatly from performer to performer, and was finally standardized in the 1920,s by the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing.

Today, there are three commonly taught types of Tango: American style, International style, and Argentine style, most notable for its intricate, high speed kicks. American style Tango is characterized by a close hold, a low center of gravity, a stealthy, almost cat-like attack and an emphasis on Contra Body Movement. The music is in 4/4 time, with an unmistakable staccato feel and the tempo is about 32 bars per minute.

Dance histories supplied by Diane Jarmolow of the Ballroom Dance Teachers College and reprinted with permission.