Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Everything shows that this way of dancing was practised by “compadritos” at academies. These were just cafés, where women waited on men and music was played, generally on an organ pipe. It was a place where men could drink and dance with the waitress between drink and drink. These academies were also called cafés, waitress’s cafés and, later on, “peringundines”. All of them were places were prostitution was encouraged. if they were not real brothels.

The salons were not only concurred to by low-class people, but also by “aristocrats” who were more skilful and elegant when dancing tango. Some well-known names of people who worked in Government, even congressmen and military officers, are still remembered to be usual goers to these academies, and show the same pride shown by any good dancer. They didn’t care about the critics they could get, and they didn’t hesitate to begin a fight with anyone.

Later on, “peringundines” were the places for dancing tango in places far away from downtown. They were very popular, especially the one with the corridors of the old Lorea square, where Carmen Gómez was very famous for being a skilful “milonga” dancer.

Some time later, private parties were organised. In them, a pianist was hired to play tango. The most famous houses were “The house of Laura”, “The house of María the Basque”, “The Foreigner Adela”, “Adelina” and many others, that were rented to rich people to have their parties there, including wine, tango and women. When a composer dedicated his new song to some guest, this had to give the artist some money, as a retribution. At humble neighbourhood, the party was held at the backyard. The people who went to the party had to pay a ticket, and that money was used to pay the musicians and other things. By the end of the 10s, tango fever moved to cabarets. “The Abdullah”, “The Royal Pigall”, “Montmartre”, “Tabaris” and “Chantecler” were the most popular.

Around 1877, when carnival days arrived, candombe societies and Mondongo neighbourhood’s black people, went into the streets with their showy clothes and their feather hats, and danced for many hours to candombe music. As each society wanted to be the most important, rivalry was born among them, and as a consequence, there were many riots in the street. As this incidents were often repeated, the violent societies were dissolved and their candombes were closed. With the dissolution of these societies and the African expansion stopped, dance centres were created using the same elements. That is how tango was born, although it was very different from what we call tango nowadays. Couples did not dance very close, as a matter of fact they danced quite separated, imitating the figures and movements of candombe. The new dance became common, “arrabal” men adopted it and took it to the suburbs, where “peringundines” were already very popular, because “milonga” was danced there. Young men practised tango in the neighbourhood’s streets, dancing with each other with the organ pipe music, since there were not radios and albums yet. At parties, they chose their dance partners because of dancing abilities, instead of beauty. The original tango representation shows the man as the dominant figure and the woman as the docile one, who follows his orders and adds them beauty. At that time (1880), couples were totally embraced, and men and women danced head to head; that is why high society don’t think tango to be an honourable dance. Academies were places for drinking, dancing and listening to music, being served by waitresses. It wasn’t very different from a brothel. It would take, at least, 20 years for tango to enter into Buenos Aires houses. That was where tango lost all that was acrobatic in it, and became a dance in which elegance and synchronization were the most important elements, as happened with feelings and emotions.

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