Tango dancing is a form of couples dance with a rich tradition and history. It has captured the popular imagination with the image of a man and woman dancing dramatically, the woman clutching a rose between her teeth and being "dipped" by her partner. This may be an amusing image, but it doesn't actually bear much resemblance to the real dance.
Tango dancing originated in Buenos Aries, the capital of Argentina, in the late nineteenth century. It began as a street dance and was practiced in bars and brothels. The dance made its way to Paris and then to America by the early 20th century, where it became popular among the "sheiks" and "flappers" of the Jazz Age. This is where the stereotypical image of the dance first came into being.
Tango dancing lost some of its prestige in Argentina after the Great Depression in 1929, but resurged in popularity after Juan Peron came to power. It became a matter of national pride to be able to tango. After numerous dictator governments in Argentina again repressed the dance, it came back to life in the 1980s after the premiere of the Broadway musical Forever Tango.
It might well be said of tango that it takes a short time to learn, but a lifetime to master. It is a highly syncopated dance with staccato steps. The couple dances it with a sensual, dramatic flair, in a close embrace, their faces pointed in the same direction, arms extended, hands clasped or palms together. In true Argentine tango, the couple dances with full upper body contact, while in the American ballroom style, the couple does not maintain upper body contact. The dance involves several specialized steps, including the woman hooking her leg around her partner's, and one partner dragging the back foot in rhythm.
Tango dancing also has its own particular style of music. Its timing and rhythms match the steps of the dance, and musicians specialize in composing and playing music suitable for tango. There are tango dancing clubs all over the United States, and the dance is still popular in its birthplace of Argentina. There are numerous Web sites dedicated to its music and technique, as well as the culture surrounding it.