Liberal Arts Blog — The Tango — So Much History, So Many Variations

Liberal Arts Blog — Saturday is the Joy of Sports, Dance, Fitness, and All Things Physical Day

Today’s Topic: The Tango — so much history, so many variations

Do you have a favorite tango scene from a movie? Perhaps Salma Hayek and Ashley Judd in “Frida,” or Antonio Banderas and Karya Virshilas in “Take the Lead,” or Al Pacino and Gabriele Anwar in “Scent of a Woman”? There are so many to choose from. Perhaps the funniest is from “True Lies” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis. In any event, have you ever tangoed? Any tips? Today, a little bit of history, and brief summaries of the basic steps of both the American and Argentine tangos. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.


1. Developed in the working class port neighborhoods of Buenos Aires and Montevideo (that is on both sides of the Rio de la Plata) at the end of the 19th century.

2. A blend of the Cuban “habanera, “ the Argentine “milonga,” and the Uruguayan, “candombe.”

3. Spread to Paris at the turn of the 20th century and made it to New York City in 1913. The exported versions were adapted to reduce body contact. Argentinian dictator Juan Peron made the tango an issue of national pride in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Popularity declined with the rise of rock and roll in the late 1950s and 1960s.

NB: The etymology of the word “tango” is disputed. Options include: a.) from the Yoruba word for “god of thunder” (shango), b.) from the Spanish word for drum (“tambor”), c.) from the Portuguese “tanger” meaning to play a musical instrument.

AMERICAN BALLROOM TANGO — Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow

1. Forward: two slow steps. (Men) Backward two slow steps (Women)

2. Forward-then to side: two fast steps (Men). Backward then to side. (Women)

3. Drag left foot to right without closing feet (Men). Drag right foot to left (Women)

NB: knees bent. Tango dance steps — Tango basic steps for beginners


1. Small back step with right (1), side with left (2) forward with right (3)

2, Forward step with left (4) bring right foot together with left (5)

3. Small forward step with left (6), side step with right (7), bring left foot together with right and shift weight (8).

How to Do the Tango 8-Step Basic | Argentine Tango

FOOTNOTE — The “Flamenco Tango,” “The Mask of Zorro”

1. There is something called the “Flamenco Tango” which I discovered only this morning. It is thought of as a major branch of the Flamenco Tree but is apparently not directly related to the Argentine tango.

2. “The Mask of Zorro” has a very memorable dance scene that is billed as “Spanish Tango” but it is not a standard tango. All I have found on it so far is this: “The music is credited as Spanish Tango. It has also been referred to as Malaguena, said to be derived from an old folk song called El Sombrero Blanco. As for the dance, those who are familiar with the tango say that the dance was definitely not a tango, at least not a classic tango. Other dances that have been suggested include the Paso Doble, the Flamenco, and the Fandango, or some variation of them.” Any experts?

Tango (flamenco)

Palo (flamenco)

President Obama does the tango:

Obama bailó tango en la cena de honor

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis

True Lies — Tango


History of the tango

Carlos Gardel — Volver — Tango

The Mask of Zorro (4/8) Movie CLIP — A Very Spirited Dancer (1998) HD

Click here for the last three years of posts arranged by theme:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive


Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to sports, dance, fitness. Or the coolest thing you learned about Sports, Dance, of Fitness in your life — whether on the field, on the dance floor or in the gym, whether from a coach, a parent, a friend, or just your own experimentation.

This is your chance to make some one else’s day. Or even change their life. It’s perhaps a chance to put into words something you have never articulated before. Or to cement in your own memory something cool you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart.



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