The Origin of the Tango - Its Introduction to England via France - How it Should be Danced - Why it can Never Become Universal in the Ballroom - The Steps

The Argentine Tango, as its name suggests, comes from South America. Some people imagine that it has some kinship to the dance known as the Yankee Tangle; but this dance, which has only been seen on the stage, is a purely fanciful, acrobatic measure, and has nothing to do with the Argentine Tango, which is intended for ballroom use in this country, France, and South America.

A Maltreated Dance

Frankly, I do not approve of the Tango. And my principal reason for so doing is that this erratic and peculiar dance, to be properly performed, must be learned and practised. From long experience I know that such a thing cannot be expected from male dancers; and therefore I say that the perverted and utterly false representations of the Tango which have been seen, and will be seen in our ballrooms can only bring sorrow in their train. They are antics, nothing more nor less; performed by men and women, boys and girls, without the slightest idea of the steps and form of the dance they are wilfully and wickedly ruining.

It is possible to scrape through a valse, or muddle through a two-step at a pinch. An ignorant dancer or a bad dancer may possibly pass muster when performing ordinary round dances. But when he comes to such a dance as the Tango, he is doomed, unless he is prepared to learn and practise.

The Tango is far too difficult and complicated to be "muddled through" in the usual can't-be-bothered style adopted by the male youth of to-day. Either it is well and correctly danced, when, although a little outre and flamboyant in comparison with other ballroom measures, it is both graceful and invigorating to watch. Or it is incorrectly danced, when it becomes something merely vulgar and decidedly ugly.

It is because I know so well that the Tango is, and will be, incorrectly danced by the great majority, that I say I do not approve of it, nor welcome its arrival on our dance programmes.

What It Should be

A short conversation I had with the mother of one of my pupils, only the other day, may serve as the best illustration of my feeling in the matter. This lady said to me, talking of the Tango:

"I will never allow my daughter to learn that horrid, vulgar dance!"

I answered, "I know quite well how you feel about it. But come upstairs and see it correctly danced by my pupils and students."

She came; and after watching for some time in silence turned to me, with amazement written on her face, and said, "Why, it's charming, Mrs. Wordsworth!" And so it is; quite charming when properly performed by two people who both know exactly what to do and how to do it.

Children as they complete the circle and turn to face the audience again. Sixteen

Fig. I. Step I. The circle step (Spanish). The position of the dancers stamping steps complete the circle

Fig. I. Step I. The circle step (Spanish). The position of the dancers stamping steps complete the circle

Photos, Stephanie Maud

This particular parent had only seen the Tango danced incorrectly, and had formed the opinion that such a "vulgar" dance should never be learned by her daughter. In which feeling she will be joined, I know, by many other parents, who have only seen the Tango as it should not be danced.

Having seen the proper version, the parent in question was anxious for her daughter to learn such a graceful dance, but could not help wondering how she would fare when meeting partners who had not been properly instructed? To that riddle I can give no answer, except by begging every man who intends to dance the Tango to learn it first. The best way, of course, is to learn and practise assiduously with one partner; dancing with him through the entire season, whenever the Tango is on the programme. In this way alone can perfection be attained, and the dance saved from disgrace.

A Suggestion

In former days ladies were expected to dance with many partners at every dance; but latterly it has become the custom, owing to individuality of taste in Bostons and one-steps, for a girl to dance practically an entire programme through with one partner. Let me advise those who intend to dance the Tango not to attempt it without practising together, as the whole charm and swing lies in the perfect fitting together of steps and movements.

To its South American origin the Tango owes much of the Spanish verve and swing which so markedly characterise it. The rapid and graceful swaying movements of the body, and abrupt changes of position are essentially Spanish in character; and the whole of the first steps might have been taken bodily from a Spanish cachuca. In South America the Tango is danced to-day, as formerly, in dancing halls and pleasure resorts of a somewhat doubtful description. But as it has reached us it is a carefully modified and edited version of the Tango of the Argentine. It retains all the best points of the original, omitting anything like vulgarity. Therefore, I am forced to admit, without approving of the dance, that, properly performed, it is both graceful and fascinating; but danced by ignorant couples, without a notion of its real form, it is liable to drop back to the pronounced and outre style of its original conception.

How The Dance Came To Us

A short time ago a well-known French dancing-master, travelling in South America in search of novelties, saw the Argentine Tango performed with zest and abandon by graceful Southerners. Instantly, he thought that such a dance, modified and adapted to European requirements would be quite a novelty for our ballrooms. Accordingly, Paris reaped the benefit of his skill in adaptation, and now the Tango has reached us; to suffer, 1 fear, trouble to learn and practise, look extremely elegant while dancing such steps. It all depends on the individual; and I must confess that the majority of the sterner sex look anything but elegant, though there is no good reason why they should not do so.