Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Takes two to tango

By Tom Clifford - posted Monday, 17 September 2012

For more than a century, Argentina and Uruguay have exchanged charges of cultural hijacking as they led each other a merry dance debating the origins of tango.

But this not just about bragging rights.

As tango becomes more fashionable, traditionalists in both countries fear its essence could be diluted. "Tango has never been more popular," said Guillermo Alio, an Argentinian tango artist and expert on the history of the dance. "But certain original elements need to be preserved. The dance can be adapted to particular circumstances but its core meaning must remain constant."


Alio teaches tango and paints dance scenes in a studio full of his artworks located in the heart of Boca, a poor Buenos Aires port suburb where many Argentines believe tango originated. He has little time for the wrangling that has characterised the tango spat with Uruguay.

"It was born on both sides of the River Plate, in Buenos Aires and Montevideo. That is where the massive wave of immigrants from Italy came ashore in the late 19th century. It is a River Plate dance, not just Buenos Aires or Montevideo but both."

History is repeating itself as tango sweeps the world's dance floors much as it did a century ago. It was a craze before the First World War in the ballrooms of Berlin, London and Paris before a decline set in.

Various military dictatorships, suspicious of any street activity that drew crowds, banned it in Argentina during the 1950s. Now it is stepping out with renewed confidence and vigour, but for all its rejuvenated global popularity, few Argentineans actually dance it.


"I would say about one per cent of Argentines can actually do a tango. It is not an Argentine dance as such, but a Buenos Aires one, and in the capital people watch it more than participate," Mr Alio said.


Nor is it a happy dance, but rather one of sadness and nostalgia.

"Apart from learning the intricate steps and discipline required, tango dancers must have experienced the hardships of life before expressing themselves on the floor. A young couple full of optimism cannot dance a tango."

Born in the slums of Buenos Aires and Montevideo around 1880 as waves of Italian immigrants sought a new life, the dance expresses longing for the homes and loved ones left behind.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Tom Clifford worked as a freelance journalist in South America in 2009, covering Bolivian and Argentine affairs. Now in China, he has worked for newspapers in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the Far East.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Tom Clifford

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment Comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy