Growing up, I watched my parents dance the Tango in our living room to the famous French Argentine singer and songwriter, Carlos Gardel, the most prominent figure in the history of the dance. At night, I remember as a child sitting on the plush red carpet, listening to Por Una Cabeza, as his sorrowful voice filled the night air. For hours, my mother and father would move seamlessly across the floor, lost in love, tangled up in a mesmerizing mating dance.
It’s easy to get caught up in the Tango, a partner’s dance filled with passion, sensuality and romance. The Tango is a powerful form of expression and forces us to surrender to the primal attraction between a man and woman. It’s also emotional and melancholic. Enrique Santos Discépolo, author of renown tangos such as “Cambalache” once said, “The Tango is a sad thought that you can dance.” If you watch any of the films famous for their tango scenes, you will discover just how sad, moving, and seductive the tango can be in all its various renditions.
What I appreciate about the Tango is that its cultural influence transcends social and economic divides. For most, the Tango conjures up images of glamour and elegance with men in tuxedos and women in their long beaded evening gowns, but the Argentine Tango was actually born out of the poor neighborhoods of Buenos Aires and celebrated out of society’s underbelly, the brothels. Rich or poor, over time, the tango became widely accepted, as theater performances spread from working-class slums where a large population of European immigrants lived in the more affluent suburbs. By the mid 20th century, tango dancers had migrated to Europe where a tango craze caught fire in Paris, then London, Berlin, and other large cities, eventually striking New York and major metropolitan American cities.
Today, you can find active tango communities in major cities around the world as dancers “share the sweetness of the three minutes that can last a lifetime,” Although my mother and father, who are now well into their 80’s, can no longer dance the Tango, it gives me great satisfaction to know that one of their burning Argentine passions breathes love and desire in America and beyond.
The Tango, the mystical dance I witnessed as a child, will stay with me until my very last breath.