Argentine Tango

The tango is a late nineteenth century, Argentinian dance form.  People know the tango for it’s seductive, sexual relationships between male and female partners on the dance floor.   What people do not often see represented in this dance form are the underlying class and status struggles experienced by the original tango dancers.


For women within the Argentinean lower class, the tango was about more than sexuality. It was also about oppression.  Many females who were good tango dancers used their ability to enhance their prostitution clientele.  Some women chose to become prostitutes as a route to escape the depths of the lower class life.  Women could not gain any social status unless they utilized the resources of their male counterparts.  theory women who were good dancers were hired by wealthier men who would get them out of the slums to a better economic status.  For a lucky few this plan worked out to an extent, but for many this was not the case.  For most women the best they could do was just pray and hope for more, with little results.


The creation of the tango was influenced by a combination of three factors, the immigrants at the edge of the city, el compadrito, and el lunfardo.  It all started after years of internal turmoil as Argentina was working hard to unify and industrialize.  Immigrants flocked to the outskirts of Buenos Aires, after the 1870’s, in search of a better, more prosperous life.  Many were left feeling hostile because they had not improved there economic status with their move to Argentina, as they had hoped.  Along with the environment, the tango was affected by the male figure of el compadrito.  This was a man who helped the underworld of Buenos Aires flourish through leading by example.  He was known for being a pimp, robber, and bully.  El compadrito visually mimicked the wealthy by wearing the rings, perfume, clothing, and practicing the physical stature of those people.  In the brothels of Buenos Aires in 1880, el compadrito created the tango choreography based off of his attractions, to women in particular. The El compadrito also had their own unique vocabulary called el lunfardo.  El lunfardo, coming from los lunfardos, or professional thieves, was used for the lyrics found in the music of the tango.  People looked up to this powerful Argentinian lower class figure and continued to follow him through the development of this dance and music style.

The stories visually and vocally articulated in the lyrics of the tango came from the miseries and sexual desires of the lower class community.  Tangos “are public displays of intimate mysteries, shameful behaviors, and unjustifiable attitudes.”  Choreographically, dancers are first taught the basic steps and are then given artistic license to perform the basics in any order they please.   The tango depicts a strong heterosexual relationship where the male has power leaving the female to be submissive.  With this relationship, the male always leads while the female follows formulating her moves in accordance to her partner’s.  Held in a tight embrace, both dancers have an elongated, immobile upper body, that is tipped slightly forward. All the while smooth footwork is happening with the legs as the dancers glide through space.  From an observer’s point of view, the female appears totally overpowered by the male as he leans over her. As he advances through space, hardly ever receding, she is forced to follow.

By: Robin Wonka

Works Cited:

Tango: Theme of Class and Nation.  Julie M. Taylor. Ethnomusicology, Vol. 20, No 2 (May, 1976), pp. 273-291.  University of Illinois Press on behalf of Society for Ethnomusicology.

Whiny Ruffians and Rebellious Broads: Tango as a Spectacle of Eroticized Social Tension.  Marta E. Savigliano.  TheatreJournal, Vol. 47, No. 1 (Mar., 1995), pp. 83-104.  The Johns Hopkins University Press.


Classical Chinese Dance

Chinese dance is divided into two categories. One category is based upon the warrior exercises of Chinese warriors. The other is based on Confucian etiquette and ritual dances. The second form evolved over time to turn into today’s classical Chinese dance.

The history of classical Chinese dance date back to the Quin Dynasty of 220BC, where images of dancers in temple rituals were seen in artwork on pottery. Each dynasty that followed had their own specific moves or movement qualities that they favored and incorporated into their own ritual dances. Therefore Chinese dance ultimately was created by the 5,000 year old history of China.


Classical Chinese dance has three main components that the dancers focus on in their training. They are technical skill, form and bearing. Technical skill involves acrobatics such as flips, jumps, and front/backhand springs. It also includes leaps, aerial tricks and difficult turns that resemble the rapid turning of figure skaters in ice. Many of the difficult and more physical tumbling techniques were originally derived from the warrior form of the dance but were later added as warriors weren’t as necessary due to modern war technology. These acrobatic moves displayed the physicality of how to shield themselves and attack their opponent during man on man combat. The second aspect, form, refers to the pathway that the dancers take their bodies from one movement to the other. The pathway is always circular and full (not long and r

igid like ballet). Not only must the continuous path be circular but each articulated movement in the form of classical Chinese dance is specifically choreographed. This includes the specificity of the angle of the hand and wrist in relation to the angle, of the head, focus of the eyes and expression on the dancers face. Additionally the dancers are taught how and when to use their breath and knowing where exactly the movement comes to rest. Breath is one of the most crucial elements of Chinese dance. It leads the body through the phrases in a way that aids the fluidity of the circular motion. In the practice of the form dancers strive for excellence in twisting leaning roundness and flexion. In the east its is said that the is “beauty in roundness.” All movement pathways must be rounded and full. Bearing of the material is something that many believe makes classical Chinese dance special. It is the cultural heritage behind the movement that native Chinese dancers are able to bring to the material that they are performing. It could also be seen as the pride of dancing an art that your country has create.

In performance the character that which performed it alters many of the movement. For example a womanly character will flow through the movements and sustain others. While on the other hand masculine character movements may contain more sudden movement with accents

Chinese dance is intriguing to me because of its circular pathways. They are hypnotizing to watch. As I tried to recreate them myself I understood the importance of flexibility in Chinese dance. My joints were being used in every direction to imitate the fullness of the movement.

Posted by: Gina Krempasky