ABC's Definition of Tango

Me

New Member
#1
I had heard their account of tango in the Dancing with the Stars commentary, but had never visited their 'About the dances' section on their Web site, which may be found here:

http://abc.go.com/primetime/dancingwiththestars/index?pn=dances&g=8179&c=8259

I've pasted below what may be found there.

Tango

Fast Facts:
  • The gauchos (cowboys) of Argentina wore chaps that hardened from the foam and sweat of the horse's body, causing them to walk with flexed knees. Of a night they would go to crowded night clubs and ask ladies of the night to dance but since the gaucho hadn't showered, the lady would dance in the crook of the man's right arm, holding her head back. Her right hand was held low on his left hip, close to his pocket, looking for a payment for dancing with him.
  • No rise and fall in the steps. This should be a very level, flat dance. The legs are therefore always slightly flexed (i.e. the knees should be slightly bent at all times).
Distinctive moves:
  • The Tango is a very emotional dance and this should be conveyed.
  • Must see lots of clipped movements.
  • The action must always be staccato.
  • Look out for sharp head turning and stops.
  • The hold is different in the tango. The man's left arm is more towards head level. The general hold is far more compact and the couple are much tighter together.
  • Walks - Should be done with the heels leading.
  • Rock turns - the dancers should rock while turning.
  • Look out for the Links - these are the sharp movements in-between the walks (the head turns from the girl). These are also known as staccato movements.
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#2
Yes, well, this is one of the many reasons I don't bother to look at "Dancing with the Stars".
I'm not going to go find it again (this is a quick reply"), but Robert Powers of (is it? Stanford has argued that this style of tango is in fact a snap shot of how it was danced in Argentina back around the time the dance became popular in Europe. What we now know as Argentine Tango is the product of decades worth of evolution.
 
#3
This is an excellent and accurate description of the look of modern Tango; not 'Argentine' but English or International Style.
 

Angel HI

Well-Known Member
#4
As many of us have discussed in other threads, this is absurd. Letters, calls, etc, have been made to DWTS and ABC, but have not reached the right persons, evidently.

I am not prone to novels, but to put this to rest, again...though we are not the ones who need to hear it.....

Canyengue is the style of tango most referred to as the basis for modern tango until around the 1920s. Supposedly, the style of the ladies' dresses of that era restricted their movements making the knees slightly bent, and the steps relatively short when moving. Partners would dance in a closed embrace, and slightly offset, like american social (...not ballroom).

There are other forerunners of today's tango. Orillero refers to the style of the dance as it developed in the outskirts and suburbs of the city (BsAs). Most importantly to this discussion, is that the style was (and still is) danced in an upright position, --not the flexed knee stance of international-- yet oftens uses some of the embellishments and fast foot movements that we see today.

This story about the ladies dancing with their heads turned away and noses up in the air, sufaced very recently (within the past 5-10 years), probably in an attempt by ballroom dancers to justify the american and international dance postures, after questions arrived as to why it is different from the AT which was/is being touted as "original" or "authentic" tango. It only takes one to look at AT to know that this story of smelly gauchos (though perhaps having some truth to happening) is not how tango should be danced. If so, it would still be danced today.

In France, and seemingly, this is the most favored story, we learned that the international dance frame was developed because tango in paris became popularized by the bourgeosie, who, because of breeding, status and/or position, adopted the popular upright torso and pompous posture. It is furthered, though with less emphasis, that the lady's position is the same as the man's to imply that they are not subserviant, as was perceived in the AT postures and movements.

We know that in AT, the dancers' torsos are closer to each other than are their hips, and often there is contact at the chests, depending on the height of the leader and the closeness of the embrace. In the open embrace, there can be as much space as desired between the partners. IMHO, the embrace of AT allows a better communication between the partners than the amer/international counterparts. Also, the term "embrace" is better because it defines a soft communication between partners, whereas "frame" depicts a squared and rigid holdwork without bend or flexibility...hardly a communication, at all.

Since AT is almost entirely improvisational, there needs to be clear communication between partners. There can be no argument that it works. Even when dancing in an open embrace, AT dancers do not hold their upper bodies arched away from each other. In Argentina, AT is not, and was not, danced in the bourgeois Euro hold or posture.
 

Peaches

Well-Known Member
#5
Canyengue is the style of tango most referred to as the basis for modern tango until around the 1920s.
This was my first thought in response to the smelly gaucho theory of the dance. It makes absolutely no sense if we accept that Canyengue was the forerunner of modern AT (I will grant that there has been plenty of evolution), which we know to be true.
 

Peaches

Well-Known Member
#6
This is an excellent and accurate description of the look of modern Tango; not 'Argentine' but English or International Style.
Yep. At least based on my understanding of it. Which, I suppose is OK, given that DWTS only did ballroom tango, no AT. No clue about SYTYCD, though.
 
#7
This story about the ladies dancing with their heads turned away and noses up in the air, sufaced very recently (within the past 5-10 years), probably in an attempt by ballroom dancers to justify the american and international dance postures, after questions arrived as to why it is different from the AT which was/is being touted as "original" or "authentic" tango. It only takes one to look at AT to know that this story of smelly gauchos (though perhaps having some truth to happening) is not how tango should be danced. If so, it would still be danced today.
It only takes one look at the other four ballroom dances to see where the posture came from: competitive evolution of the British dance teaching tradition.

The inspiration is perhaps a second generation import of an Argentinian dance, but the mechanics are ballroom.
 

Angel HI

Well-Known Member
#8
Though, I believe to understand what you are saying, "competitive" ballroom was not such a factor given the timelines of the transition of tango from BsAs to Paris. I can clearly see hwo the 'development' of the hold and posture in later years fused with the mechanics of ballroom.
 
#10
The extreme "out" rather than "in" of the head positions is a competitive development, but the basic idea of looking past rather than at would have been there quite early in the transplantation to Europe, if not before.

In terms of "out" vs "in" - fundamentally, most AT is a private moment shared between two people. It may be done in public but the act itself is private. Ballroom is based around a different assumption, that dance is a public act and so fits more constrained ideas of public behaviour - it may still be intensly personal, but that aspect is a private secret between the dancers, not their public face.

Also, the term "embrace" is better because it defines a soft communication between partners, whereas "frame" depicts a squared and rigid holdwork without bend or flexibility...hardly a communication, at all.
Communication does not come from position, communication comes from the intention to communicate, and especially willingness to receive communication in both directions. An embrace is a workable means of communication, but so is a position with enough tone to maintain a presented topline. Some may believe ballroom is not a fully lead and follow dance, but that's because they've only been been exposed to the degenerate dancing of those who never really learned the full set of skills. And while it may deserve a bit of a reputation for it, ballroom teaching doesn't even have a monopoly on memorized figures done in gross ignorance of partner...
 

Larinda McRaven

Site Moderator
Staff member
#11
I don't understand what the hoopla is over the description. The performers are dancing a mix of American and International style. And, with the exception of the purported historical blunder, the description is very accurate of what the TV Show is presenting, American and International .
 

Me

New Member
#15
My intent is to point to the blatantly incorrect and highly disrespectful account for the roots of ballroom tango. Not only is it silly and incorrect (Argentine cowboys in bent chaps - give me a break) but it insinuates that a dance that identifies an entire country was born of a people who do not bathe and engage in prostitution. Lovely! What a quaint little story about where our ‘cleaned up’ and ‘refined’ version of tango comes from. We took it from the dirty immoral people and made it better.

I won't even touch the issue of how little research ABC must do for them to post something so incorrect in the first place.
 
#16
I won't even touch the issue of how little research ABC must do for them to post something so incorrect in the first place.[/COLOR]
Seems to me you are making quite a few assumptions yourself. I don't think the ABC summary is exactly scholarship (and a few bits seem rather silly), but it's typical of commentary and probably does contain some hints to some of the settings in which some tango precursors were danced.

You know, there are still frontier situations without running water today...
 

Ampster

Active Member
#17
My intent is to point to the blatantly incorrect and highly disrespectful account for the roots of ballroom tango. Not only is it silly and incorrect (Argentine cowboys in bent chaps - give me a break) but it insinuates that a dance that identifies an entire country was born of a people who do not bathe and engage in prostitution. Lovely! What a quaint little story about where our ‘cleaned up’ and ‘refined’ version of tango comes from. We took it from the dirty immoral people and made it better.

I won't even touch the issue of how little research ABC must do for them to post something so incorrect in the first place.
FYI, when I had my ties with the Arthur Murray studios (a long past forgotten memory), this was also how they describe Tango's roots (in verbatim). Kinda makes you wonder...
 

Me

New Member
#18
The information provided on the ABC Web site is heinously incorrect, as AngelHI has already described. There is no assumption involved on my part, and none on his, either.

As to that blanket account being justified by it possibly containing "some hints to some of the settings in which some tango precursors were danced" then what of the following?

"Jive is an International dance - derived from American swing dances. The Jive is a refined dance, with much energy and bounce. This is different from the swaying and rocking motion found in original American Swing. This swaying and rocking originated from wild parties with much drinking, where drunken teenagers would hold onto one another and attempt to keep their balance. The open hold originated from the 'drinking hand' from where the couple shared a bottle of alcohol."

It's all complete trash and I'm sure you'd tear it up if ABC published it, and you'd be perfectly justified in doing so. I think for me to defend the above make-believe description by saying, "But, I'm sure some of the people who danced swing were drinking" would be a little lame, yes?
 
#19
The information provided on the ABC Web site is heinously incorrect, as AngelHI has already described. There is no assumption involved on my part, and none on his, either.
Actually the dates in his message are substantially later than many known tango origins, which suggest you are both still making a lot of assumptions about what was going on before that...

Another theory I found in a quick web search that has some plausability: it wasn't that tango originated in the bordello, it was that such establishments were where there was enough class mixing going on that the upper class gained exposure to what the lower classes had been having fun with. We could say the same thing about a lot of the components of Jazz, and by extension the dances that launched.

The thing about dance origins is that it is impossible to know when or where something orginated; all you can know is when someone noticed it and bothered to write about the fact.

As to that blanket account being justified by it possibly containing "some hints to some of the settings in which some tango precursors were danced" then what of the following?

"Jive is an International dance - derived from American swing dances. The Jive is a refined dance, with much energy and bounce. This is different from the swaying and rocking motion found in original American Swing. This swaying and rocking originated from wild parties with much drinking, where drunken teenagers would hold onto one another and attempt to keep their balance. The open hold originated from the 'drinking hand' from where the couple shared a bottle of alcohol."

It's all complete trash and I'm sure you'd tear it up if ABC published it, and you'd be perfectly justified in doing so. I think for me to defend the above make-believe description by saying, "But, I'm sure some of the people who danced swing were drinking" would be a little lame, yes?
I don't know how much of that is accurate and how much isn't; what I do know is that a lot of mainstream entertainment got its start on the margins of perhaps over-regulated society.
You had racial politics, prohibition, the NYC cabaret laws... lots of development going on outside the annuls of formal history. When things did cross over to the mainstream, it was in a very trivialized form, yet still controversial.

The ballroom dances then take those watered down antecedants as inspiration and construct new, evolved dances from their. They are no longer trite immitations of ethnic dances, and nobody with a clue would pretend that they are - instead, they are something in their own right and earn their legitimacy from what they have built, not from what they claim to copy.
 

tangotime

Well-Known Member
#20
The thing about dance origins is that it is impossible to know when or where something orginated; all you can know is when someone noticed it and bothered to write about the fact.


Chris I completely dis agree with that statement .That is your " opinion ", to which you are entitled .

Now here are some facts.

There is chapter and verse written about Lindy, Intern. Rhumba, and the origin of a Whisk and Rev. Wave-- could go on -- point is-- there are things that have established roots.

Dont even want to get into Mambo / Salsa --- Danzon etc.
 

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