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Born in the slum districts of Buenos Aries in the 1700s, the Tango is a dance that was brought to Argentina by African Slaves and became popular worldwide in the early 1900s as it swept across the ballrooms of Europe.

Argentine Tango

A Brief History

There are many stories about the exact origins of tango: the truth is, that in 1770, African slaves were brought to Argentina and began to influence the local culture. The 1778 census shows that 30 percent of Buenos Aires residents were African, 50 percent native peoples (indios), and 20 percent immigrants (mostly single men from Europe.) The word tango may derive from Portuguese (and from the Latin verb tanguere, to touch) and was picked up by Africans on the slave ships. It is more commonly thought that etymology of tango is from Niger-Congo origin, where tamgu means 'to dance'. Or in other parts of Africa where its meaning is "closed place" or "reserved ground." In some tribes in parts of Africa (Congo and Sudan) tango means an enclosed area or a circle. During most of the nineteenth century, more than fifty organized African nations existed in Buenos Aires with the official name of African Associations. Africans were especially visible in and around the city of Buenos Aires, as domestic servants, day laborers, urban slaves, militia members, or as gauchos (cowboys), field slaves, and peons in the countryside. They were known by the popular names of tambos, tangos and, later on and more loosely, of candombes. Whatever its origin, the word "tango" acquired the standard meaning of the place where African slaves and free blacks gathered to dance and was widely used among Black communities. The name was also applied to the African dance form that is known world wide as Argentine Tango.

The tango was born in African-Argentine dance venues attended by compadritos, young men, mostly native born and poor, who liked to dress in slouch hats, loosely tied neckerchiefs and high-heeled boots with knives tucked casually into their belts. The compadritos took the tango back to the Corrales Viejos-the slaughterhouse district of Buenos Aires-and introduced it in various lowlife establishments where dancing took place: bars, dance halls and brothels (prostitutes served a dual economic function: one for their sexual and dancing skills, and second for enticing and stimulating their customers to consume alcoholic beverages. Where ever you go prostitutes learn quickly the language of their customers and at that time tango was the language of the consumer. Tango was offered as a way of entertaining patrons before or after a sexual encounters.) It was in the bars, dance halls and bordellos that the African rhythms met the Argentine milonga music (a fast-paced polka) and soon new steps were invented and took hold.

The tango music and dance evolved from many different influences beginning in the arrabal. Arrabal is a lunfardo word with several meanings. It refers to the Africans or someone from the slums, i.e. low class. It also describes a gathering where blacks from the slums dance. It is also a certain way to perform or dance the tango with a slum attitude. Finally, it is a rhythmic effect created by Leopoldo Thompson by hitting the string of the contrabass with the hand or the arch of the bow.

In 1802 a black establishment 'House of Tango' was functioning in Buenos Aires and by 1821 blacks were collecting money to support an organization called "Tango de Bayle" and that in Montevideo (Uruguay) public dancing of tangos by blacks was forbidden as prejudicial to society.

Canyengue is another name for a style of tango. It is a very old style of tango from the 1800s danced by the descendants of African slaves that lived in the working class areas in towns such as La Boca and San Telmo (but also in other catchment areas of the Rio de la Plata, including Montevideo, in Uruguay). In fact, in Montevideo, very interesting forms and variations of it survive even to this day. In this dance, there are lots of quebradas and movements of the upper torso which are rooted in the African dances.

During the eighteen hundreds; towards the end of the twenties and the beginning of the thirties another social class, consisting mainly of the white population, began to be interested in this dance of the blacks, or 'morenos', and with them, slowly, the Canyengue orillero evolved. Canyengue orillero is another name for a style of tango. It is called orillero because these descendants of European immigrants lived in the orillas, or outskirts, of the towns, where they came into close contact with the mixed race families who were mixtures of white and black, or of white and native peoples (indios).

Argentina was undergoing a massive immigration during the later part of the 1800s and early 1900s. In 1869, Buenos Aires had a population of 180,000. By 1914, its population was 1.5 million. The intermixing of African, Spanish, Italian, British, Polish, Russian, Jewish and native-born Argentines resulted in a melting pot of cultures, and each borrowed dance and music from one another. Traditional polkas, waltzes and mazurkas were mixed with the popular habanera from Cuba and the candombe rhythms from Africa. The early tango was accompanied by mixes of African drumming rhythms, Spanish and Italian melodies. As the musical accompaniment evolved, an instrument known as a bandoneon (a type of small accordion) was introduced which is now a key element of the Tango sound.

Most immigrants were single men hoping to earn their fortunes in this newly expanding country. They were typically poor and desperate, hoping to make enough money to return to Europe or bring their families to Argentina. The evolution of tango reflects their profound sense of loss and longing for the people and places they left behind. The separation from wives and female partners during their stay in Argentina is a key element of the tango which exudes passion, desperate longing and sexual innuendo.

Although high society looked down upon the activities in the barrios, well heeled sons of the porteño oligarchy were not averse to slumming. Eventually, everyone found out about the tango and, by the beginning of the twentieth century, the tango as both a dance and as an embryonic form of popular music had established a firm foothold in the fast-expanding city of its birth. It soon spread to provincial towns of Argentina and across the River Plate to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, where it became as much a part of the urban culture as in Buenos Aires.

The population of Argentine continued to grow the largest group of immigrants came from Italy staring in 1870. While the migration from Europe peaked Africans disapeared from Bueos Aries. The city census of 1887 showed only 8,005 blacks, 1.8 per cent of Buenos Aires' population. Most had been lost during the endemic warfare of the nineteenth century. Beginning with the English and French invasions of Buenos Aires in the century's first decade and continuing through the wars of independence, the civil wars, and culminating with the war against Paraguay (1865-1870), African-Argentines volunteered for and were conscripted into the military. Census data for the period 1810-1865 in Buenos Aires would suggest a disproportionate recruitment and deaths among African households (even after the official abolition of slavery, many blacks were still slaves and were granted manumission only by fighting in Argentina's wars); disease was a second major factor in the disappearance of African-Argentines (the yellow fever epidemic of 1871 took a heavy toll in the black community) Third many Africans relocated to Montevideo, which had a larger black community and seemed less hostile politically than Buenos Aires and fourth miscegenation. Ask the typical Argentine about what he or she knows of Argentina's black population or that country's African heritage and one is likely to receive the response of a categorical denial on the part of most Argentines of the existence, past or present, of African-Argentines. This opinion is especially common among residents of Buenos Aires; ironically, it was the port of Buenos Aires which served as an entry point for African slaves.

This process of the tango being taken over by a higher social class was repeated many times in the social and formal development of the tango. During the forties (the golden age of tango), a new richer social class, the middle class, began to emerge that wanted to distinguish itself clearly from the other, lower, classes. As a result the music and dancing of tango evolved in a new direction. Lunfardo was the slang and first dialect of tango. In its early days tango lyrics used the language of the people who were connected, played or danced this type of music. It was the language of members of lower socioeconomic strata. The common denominator was many tango titles had sexual or obscene connotations. For instance, there were 18 slang words in reference to a woman and 16 in reference to money. The use of Lunfardo dialect was so pervasive that immediately after the extreme right military coup established a Junta, on June 4, 1943, the government under the influence of a notorious anti-Semitic writer Hugo Wast (A.K.A. Gustavo Gonzales Zuviria) appointed Minister of Interior and Education Affairs, issued an edict forbidding the use of these words in the tango lyrics in order to preserve the purity of the Spanish language. The Jews and Lunfardo in tango lyrics became his common enemy. Not only did he dismiss Jewish teachers and professors from their positions but he also implemented the obligatory teachings of Religion and Moral in all public schools, meaning that non Catholics (Jews) had to be segregated to other classrooms. The censorship in tango lyrics lasted until 1949. It was an indirect attempt by the upper class to discredit tango music, its origins and its lyrics but after many years of its use, it was already too late. Lunfardo language was already part of Argentine culture but the orgins and the history of tango suffered a lost.

Only Gardel has been accepted and adored by all segments of society and his image and voice have remained unaltered, like suspended in space for eternity, with his smile, attractive face, peculiar hairdo, and his tuxedo. Even today, many years after his airplane crash--accidental death, people would say "that he sings better every passing day". Gardel receives flowers, and candles daily at his resting place. Even his birthplace is clouded in mystery. He had an Argentine passport stating he was born in TACUAREMBO (Uruguay) on December 11, 1887, but a will or testament found after his death marks his native city as TOULOUSE (in France) on December 11, 1890. No wonder since he was a child his nickname was El Francesito (the French boy). He had a great public appeal. He dressed and behaved well, had charm, was caring and loyal to his friends and was always surrounded by many beautiful women. But he never married and because of that and other facts, there were conflicting stories about his sexual orientation. Gardel rapidly achieved fame and wealth. From 1912 to 1925 he was singing in duets with Jose RAZZANO and many records made then for Columbia and Victor Records had been mastered and reissued. In 1928, he went to France as a solo singer for tangos. He achieved fame in Paris, sang with Josephine Baker, and became accepted by the upper class for his singing, distinctive personal qualities and elegant presence. Gardel participated in 1929 in the "BAL DES PETITES LITES BLANCS" at the Opera Theater in the presence of the President of France and its entire cabinet. He apparently obtained help from SADIE BARON-WAKEFIELD, the heir to the fortune of a tobacco tycoon Mr. BERNARD BARON. In 1931, Gardel was invited to sing at a party Sadie gave in Nice (France) in honor of Charlie Chaplin for his success in his new movie CITY LIGHTS. She was instrumental in financing one of Mr. Gardel's first films - Buenos Aires City Lights - with a title very similar to Chaplin's movie. Gardel achieved what he wanted to be, an International singer, and he used his talent as an actor to participate in movies to complete this goal. He was a born musician who had composed several tangos, but now at this stage of his career he needed a good lyric writer which he found in ALFREDO LE PERA, a former medical student and journalist. While in Paris he connected Gardel to the Paramount Studios through his American friends. In order to bring tango to International level, Le Pera eliminated the use of slang words and wrote in a Spanish that could be understood in all of South America and other Spanish speaking countries. Gardel's accidental death in 1935 cut short his stellar career.

Other great singers include AGUSTIN MAGALDI, IGNACIO CORSINI and CHARLO. Corsini was remembered not only for his unique voice, but for the political and Nationalistic themes, for the absence of slang words in lyrics and for the intense melodic lines of the songs.

There was subsequently a long list of great singers: FIORENTINO, MARINO, F. RUIZ, DANTE, MARTEL, HUGO DEL CARRIL, A. VARGAS, E. RIVERO, JULIO SOSA, GOYENECHE. None of them were as picturesque as ALBERTO CASTILLO, who started singing during his days in medical school. He later became a gynecologist. He sided with the working class, dressed in exotic attire of wide lapel suits, large hanging handkerchief in his front upper pocket, wide pants, wide ties with large knots. It was a new fashion of bad taste that went along with the political influence of Peronism. He scorned the upper class and his lyrics had a Nationalistic color.

The other two singers who made a mark in the history of tango were J. Sosa and E. Rivero in the 40s to the early 60s. Their distinctive low, grave baritone voices added an unusual tone to the singing of lyrics, since up the 1940s the register of the singers were tenor or alto tenor, a timbre that identified itself with tango singing.

The role of women in tango was related to the bordellos where prostitutes had a dual role as dancers too. The lyrics reflected that type of life and was demeaning to women. Women started to sing tango without shameful feelings in the 1920s when the lyrics were written without sexual connotations such as LA MOROCHA (the brunette). They displayed their singing talents first dressed and smoking like the men. It was in essence an early manifestation of what later on would be part of the sexual revolution and female liberation movement in the 60s. These singers even ventured to travel to Spain and France to sing tangos dressed as man or in gaucho attire. Gradually this changed to regular female attire. Their participation in radio programs made the activities legitimate and respectable.

In the past 70 years---from the 1920s, the shining stars were AZUCENA MAIZANI, ROSITA QUIROGA, MERCEDES SIMONE (from the 1920s to 1930s), ADA FALCON, TITA MERELLO (from 1930s to 1940s). AMANDA LEDESMA, SABINA OLMOS, AIDA LUZ, SOFIA BOZAN, NELLY OMAR and TANIA (there were more actresses in movies than singers during the 30s to 50s). AMELITA BALTAR and SUSANA RINALDI were the stars from the 40s to the 70s. Of them all, only three would stand out. One not mentioned is LIBERTAD LAMARQUE; the two others, are Tita Merello and Susana Rinaldi. Libertad Lamarque was a class in itself. Daughter of a second wave of immigrants, she was unrelated to the ill-reputed origins of tango. Starting in 1930, she tried to imitate the upper class with her refined behavior and demeanor, her elegant female attire, the absence of smoking during performances and an exquisite soprano voice that made her the darling of the middle and upper class women. In her lyrics she did not want to sing about the sins of the illiterate and the demeaning life of single women of the 1910s and 1920s. She chose to sing the grief, frustrations, aggravations and humiliations suffered by married women, the homemaker, the mother of many children, the victim of infidelity, male abuse and economic insecurity. She also sang about the women's ability to change their status by becoming self-supporting in the working place, something that was unthinkable and anathema for Argentinean males to accept in the 30s to the 50s. Unfortunately, her quarrels with Eva Peron obligated her to emigrate and take residence in Mexico City where she continued to sing and perform in movies and became an idol there too. She is still alive today, but retired from musical activities.

TITA MERELLO came from a very poor upbringing in an Italian slum. She had great sex appeal and played even dramatic roles in radio programs and movies, but it was the humor used in her lyrics that was her vehicle to make a point or express social criticism. She gained popularity during the Peronist regime and fell into oblivion after the dictator's fall. She had a short-lived success in theaters thereafter that rapidly faded away.

SUSANA RINALDI has become the preferred singer of the 60s and 70s. Extremely beautiful with great modulated voice and ability to time the words with the same precision of Frank Sinatra. She made movies and is currently the host of a well-known TV talk show program in Buenos Aries

Starting in 1936, Juan D'Arienzo (violin), Anibal Troilo (bandoneon) in 1937, Carlos Di Sarli (piano) in 1938 and Osvaldo Pugliese (piano) in 1939 set the tone for what was going to be one of the greatest periods in tango. They were followed by many other orchestras conducted by Osmar Maderna, Miguel Calo, Raul Kaplun, Alfredo Gobbi, Jr., Ricardo Tanturi, Jose Basso, Francisco Rotundo, Alfredo D'Angelis, Carlos DiSarli, Francini-Pontier and Osvaldo Frededo, all of which participated in the further evolution of tango. Troilo and Pugliese dominated the 40s and onward. Salgan was a shining star in the 50s and 60s and finally Piazzola the great innovator was the preeminent musician from 1960 until today. Of them all, five merit special attention.

1)Anibal Troilo born in 1914, began playing bandoneon at age 13 in a trio with another great musician and pianist, Miguel Nijensohn. Found his first orchestra in 1937 (at the Marabu dancing) but it was from 1956 until his death in 1975 that he became one of the greatest interpreters, conductors and composers of his generation. (He recorded 40 of his own compositions). He was instrumental to surround himself with the best group of musical arrangers that gave his presentations a "concert quality" and the best group of singers who were able to emphasize the music played by all.

2)Osvaldo Pugliese--if playing at Carnegie Hall is the sign of ultimate achievement in classical music, to play at the "Colon Theater" (the Carnegie Hall equivalent) is an event of equal significance, especially since we talk about a tango orchestra conducted by Pugliese in 1985, when he was 80 years old, an event similar to Benny Goodman playing at Carnegie Hall. He started playing piano at age 15 in a trio and then with small groups until he founded his orchestra in 1939. He gave to the music a particular rhythm, tone and accent, a sound that was the basis for his own composition entitled, "LA YUMBA". Pugliese's base of support was the working class since he was a supporter of Communist causes and spent many days and months in jail because of his political views. During the Peron's regime his music was paradoxically in demand because of his identification with the working class but not necessarily with the Peronist Doctrine.

3)Horacio Salgan--found his orchestra in 1944 and played until 1957 when he switched to quintet. He was one of the first to incorporate in tango the influence of jazz musicians like Duke Ellington, Art Tatum or Fats Walker. His characteristic piano sound was sharp, brilliant and surprising in his execution with some jazz color included.

4)Marianito Mores--a very short note should be made of M. Mores who was an extraordinary pianist and excellent composer, who had his own orchestra in the 50s and 60s, and whose music tried to bridge tango with the best period of piano romanticism of the 19th century. His compositions melodically and structurally appeared to have been written by Chopin or Liszt for the flavor and color of the music, not quite proper for an Argentinean tango composer.

5)Finally, the name who achieved International recognition and is now the baby pet of orchestras and soloists is Astor Piazzola. He represents the change, a new and different style that opened the door to tango musical experimentation and challenges. Born in 1921, lived in NewYork since age four where later studied with the best musicians, Bela Wilda (student of Rachmaninoff), in Buenos Aires with Ginastera, and in 1954 with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. It was she who influenced him to continue writing his new style which by 1960 was called "Jazz tango". In 1968, composed the opera Maria de Buenos Aires recently premiered at Symphony Hall in 1998, and wrote cello music dedicated to Rostropovich. His "Adios Nonino" and "Balada Para Un Loco" are now classic tangos. He moved from the 2/4 rhythm to the 4/4 rhythm and added syncopated rhythms that became the basis of his well-known music for which he paid a heavy price initially since nobody in Argentina was willing or ready to accept his style in 1960s. His music was a reflection of influences received in the U.S. during his childhood and adolescent years. In 1974, made recordings with Gerry Mulligan (saxophonist). He died in 1992 and it was actually after his death and just recently that he achieved National and International recognition. His music is now acclaimed in all music halls. The guitar player Oscar Lopez Ruiz said, "that Piazzola gave a universal dimension to the tango music and elevated it to eternity". As a result, he has created a legion of a new generation of musicians who played his style of music and Gustavo Fedel and Rodolfo Mederos (who played with Barenboim) are the best representatives of the new wave. .

The worldwide spread of the tango came in the early 1900s when wealthy sons of Argentine society families made their way to Paris and introduced the tango into a society eager for innovation and not entirely averse to the risqué nature of the dance or dancing with young, wealthy Latin men. By 1913, the tango had become an international phenomenon in Paris, London and New York. There were tango teas, tango train excursions and even tango colors-most notably orange. The Argentine elite who had shunned the tango were now forced into accepting it with national pride.

The tango spread worldwide throughout the 1920s and 1930s. The dance appeared in movies and tango singers traveled the world. By the 1930s, the Golden Age of Argentina was beginning. The country became one of the ten richest nations in the world and music, poetry and culture flourished. The tango came to be a fundamental expression of Argentine culture, and the Golden Age lasted through the 1940s and 1950s.

Tango's fortunes have always been tied to economic conditions and this was very true in the 1950s. During this time, as political repression developed, lyrics reflected political feelings until they started to be banned as subversive. The dance and its music went underground as large dance venues were closed and large gatherings in general were prohibited. The tango survived in smaller, unpublicized venues and in the hearts of the people.

The necessity of going underground combined with the eventual invasion of rock and roll sent the tango into decline until the mid-1980s when the stage show Tango Argentina opened in Paris. Once again Paris was ground zero for igniting tango excitement worldwide. The show toured the world and stimulated a revival in Europe, North America and Japan that we are part of today. The evolution of the dance, the quaint names that come with each transformation and new step continue to this day as the dance once again experiences a resurgence of popularity.




History of Swing Dancing By: Lori Heikkila

The history of swing dates back to the 1920's, where the black community, while dancing to contemporary Jazz music, discovered the Charleston and the Lindy Hop.

On March 26, 1926, the Savoy Ballroom opened its doors in New York. The Savoy was an immediate success with its block-long dance floor and a raised double bandstand. Nightly dancing attracted most of the best dancers in the New York area. Stimulated by the presence of great dancers and the best black bands, music at the Savoy was largely Swinging Jazz. One evening in 1927, following Lindbergh's flight to Paris, a local dance enthusiast named "Shorty George" Snowden was watching some of the dancing couples. A newspaper reporter asked him what dance they were doing, and it just so happened that there was a newspaper with an article about Lindbergh's flight sitting on the bench next to them. The title of the article read, "Lindy Hops The Atlantic," and George just sort of read that and said, "Lindy Hop" and the name stuck.

In the mid 1930's, a bouncy six beat variant was named the Jitterbug by the band leader Cab Calloway when he introduced a tune in 1934 entitled "Jitterbug".

With the discovery of the Lindy Hop and the Jitterbug, the communities began dancing to the contemporary Jazz and Swing music as it was evolving at the time, with Benny Goodman leading the action. Dancers soon incorporated tap and jazz steps into their dancing.

In the mid 1930's, Herbert White, head bouncer in the New York City Savoy Ballroom, formed a Lindy Hop dance troupe called Whitey's Lindy Hoppers. One of the most important members of Whitey's Lindy Hoppers was Frankie Manning. The "Hoppers" were showcased in the following films: "A Day at the Races" (1937), "Hellzapoppin" (1941), "Sugar Hill Masquerade" (1942), and "Killer Diller" (1948).

In 1938, the Harvest Moon Ball included Lindy Hop and Jitterbug competition for the first time. It was captured on film and presented for everyone to see in the Paramount, Pathe, and Universal movie newsreels between 1938 and 1951.

In early 1938, Dean Collins arrived in Hollywood. He learned to dance the Lindy Hop, Jitterbug, Lindy and Swing in New York City and spent a lot of time in Harlem and the Savoy Ballroom. Between 1941 and 1960, Collins danced in, or helped choreograph over 100 movies which provided at least a 30 second clip of some of the best California white dancers performing Lindy Hop, Jitterbug, Lindy and Swing.

In the late 1930's and through the 1940's, the terms Lindy Hop, Jitterbug, Lindy, and Swing were used interchangeably by the news media to describe the same style of dancing taking place on the streets, in the night clubs, in contests, and in the movies.

By the end of 1936, the Lindy was sweeping the United States. As might be expected, the first reaction of most dancing teachers to the Lindy was a chilly negative. In 1936 Philip Nutl, president of the American Society of Teachers of Dancing, expressed the opinion that swing would not last beyond the winter. In 1938 Donald Grant, president of the Dance Teachers' Business Association, said that swing music "is a degenerated form of jazz, whose devotees are the unfortunate victims of economic instability." In 1942 members of the New York Society of Teachers of Dancing were told that the jitterbug (a direct descendent of the Lindy Hop), could no longer be ignored. Its "cavortings" could be refined to suit a crowded dance floor.

The dance schools such as The New York Society of Teachers and Arthur Murray, did not formally begin documenting or teaching the Lindy Hop, Jitterbug, Lindy, and Swing until the early 1940's. The ballroom dance community was more interested in teaching the foreign dances such as the Argentine Tango, Spanish Paso Doblé, Brazilian Samba, Puerto Rican Merengue, Cuban Mambo and Cha Cha, English Quickstep, Austrian Waltz, with an occasional American Fox-trot and Peabody.

In the early 1940's the Arthur Murray studios looked at what was being done on the dance floors in each city and directed their teachers to teach what was being danced in their respective cities. As a result, the Arthur Murray Studios taught different styles of undocumented Swing in each city.

In the early 1940's, Lauré Haile, as a swing dancer and competitor, documented what she saw being danced by the white community. At that time, Dean Collins was leading the action with Lenny Smith and Lou Southern in the night clubs and competitions in Southern California. Lauré Haile gave it the name of "Western Swing". She began teaching for Arthur Murray in 1945. Dean Collins taught Arthur Murray teachers in Hollywood and San Francisco in the late 1940's and early 1950's.

After the late 1940's, the soldiers and sailors returned from overseas and continued to dance in and around their military bases. Jitterbug was danced to Country-Western music in Country-Western bars, and popularized in the 1980's.

As the music changed between the 1920's and 1990's, (Jazz, Swing, Bop, Rock 'n' Roll, Rhythm & Blues, Disco, Country), the Lindy Hop, Jitterbug, Lindy, and Swing evolved across the U.S. with many regional styles. The late 1940's brought forth many dances that evolved from Rhythm & Blues music: the Houston Push and Dallas whip (Texas), the Imperial Swing (St. Louis), the D.C. Hand Dancing (Washington), and the Carolina Shag (Carolinas and Norfolk) were just a few.

In 1951 Lauré Haile first published her dance notes as a syllabus, which included Western Swing for the Santa Monica Arthur Murray Dance Studio. In the 50's she presented her syllabus in workshops across the U.S. for the Arthur Murray Studios. The original Lauré Haile Arthur Murray Western Swing Syllabus has been taught by Arthur Murray studios with only minor revisions for the past 44 years.

From the mid 1940's to today, the Lindy Hop, Jitterbug, Lindy, and Swing, were stripped down and distilled by the ballroom dance studio teachers in order to adapt what they were teaching to the less nimble-footed general public who paid for dance lessons. As a result, the ballroom dance studios bred and developed a ballroom East Coast Swing and ballroom West Coast Swing.

In the late 1950's, television brought "American Bandstand", "The Buddy Dean Show" and other programs to the teenage audiences. The teenagers were rocking with Elvis Presley, Little Richard, and Chuck Berry leading the fray. In 1959, some of the California dance organizations, with Skippy Blair setting the pace, changed the name of Western Swing to West Coast Swing so it would not be confused with country and western dancing.

In the 1990's, dancers over 60 years of age still moving their Lindy Hoppin', Jitterbuggin', Swingin', and Shaggin' feet.


Savoy Swing: a style of Swing popular in the New York Savoy Ballroom in the 30's and 40's originally danced to Swing music. The Savoy style of swing is a very fast, jumpy, casual-looking style of dancing

Lindy: style is a smoother-looking dance.

West Coast Swing: a style of Swing emphasizing nimble feet popular in California night clubs in the 30's and 40's and voted the California State Dance in 1989.

Whip: a style of Swing popular in Houston, Texas, emphasizing moves spinning the follower between dance positions with a wave rhythm break.

Push: a style of swing popular in Dallas, Texas, emphasizing moves spinning the follower between dance positions with a rock rhythm break.

Supreme Swing: a style of Swing popular in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Imperial Swing: a style of Swing popular in St. Louis, Missouri.

Carolina Shag: a style of Swing popular in the Carolinas emphasizing the leader's nimble feet.

DC Hand Dancing: a Washington, DC synthesis of Lindy and Swing.

East Coast Swing: a 6 count style of Lindy popular in the ballroom dance school organizations.

Ballroom West Coast Swing: a style of swing popular in the ballroom dance school organizations and different from the style performed in the California night clubs and Swing dance clubs.

Country-Western Swing: a style of Jitterbug popularized during the 1980's and danced to Country and Western music.

Cajun Swing: a Louisiana Bayou style of Lindy danced to Cajun music.

Pony Swing: a Country Western style of Cajun Swing.

Jive: the International Style version of the dance is called Jive, and it is danced competitively in the US and all over the world.


The Foxtrot began with a man named Harry Fox, a longtime star of the vaudeville. By 1914, Fox was appearing in the New York vaudeville scene. A dancer for the New York theater, he married Yansci Dolly of the Dolly sisters and the two were seen doing a sprightly dance between regular shows at the theater. The result was a crowd pleaser, and the audience deemed Fox's dance the "Fox Trot." That same year, the American Society of Professors of Dancing standardized the steps of the Foxtrot. The dance was introduced to the public with Oscar Duryea, an established choreographer of the time. His dance team introduced the Foxtrot as a rolling smooth glide that moved in large steps across the room.

Why was this dance named the Foxtrot? Harry Fox's original dance was a series of trotting steps. When Durynea prepared his premiere, he deemed the trotting step too much for ladies, and turned it into a smooth glide. Therefore, the Foxtrot was known by this name, although the trot did not remain.

The Dolly sisters soon began dancing through New York in their own review. The dance quickly spread to London through the efforts of one American, G.K. Anderson. While performing the dance in London and American competitions, he solidified to dance for the audience. The Foxtrot was a smooth dance that would remain in a certain section of the floor. This made it easier to dance in social settings, and more appealing to the watcher.

The Foxtrot has a regular step of slow-slow-quick-quick. It is done in square step, in a circular motion. Music for the Foxtrot has a flowing, perky quality and adhered to 4/4 time, so that steps are regular. Because of its mixed slow and fast steps, it is easy to keep the steps in a contained area. This does not mean that the Foxtrot cannot cover a lot of ground, however. Anyone who has watched a dance competition knows that couples can clear a room when dancing in earnest. Dancers who do the Foxttrot have noted that there are an unusual number of variations that can be performed. For some, it is the hardest of the ballroom dance series. It is not uncommon for a dance team to espouse this one dance alone, making it their specialty.

Several versions of the Foxtrot exist. Faster foxtrots turn into Swing and Jitterbug. A fast Foxtrot known as a One Step is today the Quickstep, and faster version of the original set to waltz music. The Foxtrot itself can be known as the Peabody and the Roseland Foxtrot. The Foxtrot has a reputation for being an incredibly social dance, because of these variations and their popularity.


The mambo is a very popular and sensual dance, with African and Cuban rhythms.

Mambo is actually a name for a bantu drum. The word "mambo" means "conversation with the Gods," and these drums were used for sacred and ritual purposes. The mambo is a spinoff of the English country dance, which made its way to Cuba through immigrants. It was named the danza, or the dance of Cuba, and gradually its beat and movement became saturated with African and Cuban rhythms, creating an entirely new beat and style.

Mambo's origin lies in the early 1900's in Cuba. Oresta Lopez, a composer and cellist, created a piece known as the "mambo" mixing everyday Cuban rhythms with the African and south American aspects on the street. The result was a new fusion, and one that supported a continuous beat. Mambo became ever more popular when Prado Perez, a famous bandleader and a friend to Lopez, marketed his music under the name "mambo." It contained big brass and drum sound, and incorporated fast beats and runs on the instruments. In 1951, Perez Prado and his Orchestra took a tour of the United States, establishing Perez as a mambo king and mambo's as America's latest craze. Perez was actually the first to market the "Mambo #5," now popular again in the 1990's! Dancing houses and clubs began to improvise steps to the beat created, and the mambo was born.

This popularity spread to the United Stated very rapidly. It was actually not the first Cuban-African dance to achieve popularity in the United Stated. The rumba was introduced in the 1930's to the American public, and it took on like wildfire. During the mid-1900's, people danced up a mambo storm in Miami, New York and San Fransisco. The mambo was especially popular in New York dance halls, where dancers twisted and turned and threw their partners, arms, legs and hands in the air to win dance competitions. Mambo bands developed intense rivalries as to who could create the best mambo rhythm. Players like Ellington, Gillespie and Bob Hope were all part of this friendly competition.

Mambo is written to music in 4/4 time, but some of these beats call for the partner to hold. The first step on every 4/4 beat has no movement, followed by quick-quick-slow beats. Mambo is characterized by the hip movements that it entails. While moving forward and backwards to the beat, dancers "sway" with the hips, creating a fluid motion that flows with the music. The mambo can exist in different forms. One form, the triple mambo, is so fast that the beat is accelerated to three times its normal rate. Out of this fast-stepping dance came another genre, the cha-cha. What many people do not know is that the cha-cha is actually still a form of the mambo. It's music and beat structure make it a surefire relation.

Modern mambo is considered a New York creation. The fluidity of the dance entered the mambo scene shortly after its emergence into New York. The five note, two bar rhythm pattern known as the clave was the backbone of the dance, and from this New Yorkers like Lenny Dale, Cuban Pete and Killer Joe Piro added steps from jazz, tap and swing. By the mid 1970's, the hustle also became a favorite dance form in New York, and Latin moves were added to create the "Latin hustle." This dance form was the rage in the late 1970's, encompassing mambo with quicker rhythms and steps.

Mambo today exists mainly in competition. When dancing the mambo with a partner in competition, many couples strive for a sensual, Latin look. The mambo is quite different form other dances because it is blatantly sensual, instead of dramatic, fast or flowing. To win a competition in this genre, a full understanding of the sensual capabilities of this dance must be exhibited. For this reason, couples that win in this area tend to do slower, simpler dances with less flashy moves and more graceful simultaneous motions while staring into each other's eyes.

For the modern mambo dancer, while performing the mambo, certain rules of dance etiquette should be used. Public dance halls often have a raving mambo scene, meaning that dancers are moving closely in a crowded area, stepping on each other and executing moves that occasionally put another dancer at risk. To observe the proper rules of etiquette, be aware of the other dancers and the space that you have. Execute your moves accordingly. Practice moves beforehand, so that you don't do anything that may put another dancer at risk. Get a feel for your partner. Can they follow the moves that you are leading? If not, don't lead them. Move on to easier steps as to avoid embarrassment or accident.


Rumba is both a family of music rhythms and a dance style that originated in Africa and traveled via the slave trade to Cuba and the New World. The so-called rumba rhythm, a variation of the African standard pattern or clave rhythm, is the additive grouping of an eight pulse bar (one 4/4 measure) into 3+3+2 or, less often, 3+5 (van der Merwe 1989, p.321). Its variants include the bossa nova rhythm. Original Cuban rumba is highly polyrhythmic, and as such is often far more complex than the examples cited above.

Ballroom Rumba and Rhumba There is a ballroom dance, also called Rumba, based on Cuban Rumba and Son. Also, still another variant of Rumba music and dance was popularized in the United States in 1930s, which was almost twice as fast, as exemplified by the popular tune, The Peanut Vendor.

This type of "Big Band Rumba" was also known as Rhumba. The latter term still survives, with no clearly agreed upon meaning; one may find it applied to Ballroom, Big Band, and Cuban rumbas.

Gypsy Rumba In the 1990s the French group Gypsy Kings of Spanish descent became a popular New Flamenco group by playing Rumba Flamenca (or rumba gitana, Catalan rumba) music. African Rumba A style called "Rumba" music has been popular in Africa since the 1950s. Some of the more well known Rumba artists include Franco Luambo, OK Jazz, Dr Nico Kasanda, Sam Mangwana, and Tabu Ley Rochereau. Later, the music evolved into Soukous.

Cuban Rumba: Rumba arose in Havana in the 1890s. As a sexually-charged Afro-Cuban dance, rumba was often suppressed and restricted because it was viewed as dangerous and lewd.

Later, Prohibition in the United States caused a flourishing of the relatively-tolerated cabaret rumba, as American tourists flocked to see crude sainetes (short plays) which featured racial stereotypes and generally, though not always, rumba.

Perhaps because of the mainstream and middle-class dislike for rumba, danzón and (unofficially) son montuno became seen as "the" national music for Cuba, and the expression of Cubanismo. Rumberos reacted by mixing the two genres in the 30s, 40s and 50s; by the mid-40s, the genre had regained respect, especially the guaguanco style.

Rumba is sometimes confused with salsa, with which it shares origins and essential movements.

There are several rhythms of the Rumba family, and associated styles of dance: · Yambú (slow; the dance often involving mimicking old men and women walking bent) · Guaguancó (medium-fast, often flirtatious, involving pelvic thrusts by the male dancers, the vacunao) · Columbia (fast, aggressive and competitive, generally danced by men only, occasionally mimicking combat or dancing with knives) · Columbia del Monte (very fast) All of these share the instrumentation (3 conga drums or cajones, claves, palitos and / or guagua, lead singer and coro; optionally chekeré and cowbells), the heavy polyrhythms, and the importance of clave.

Rumba rhythm: The rhythm which is known now as "rumba rhythm" was popular in European music beginning in the 1500s until the later Baroque, with classical music era composers preferring syncopations such as 3+2+3. It reappeared in the nineteenth century


Salsa is a distillation of many Latin and Afro-Caribbean dances. Each played a large part in its evolution. Salsa is similar to Mambo in that both have a pattern of six steps danced over eight counts of music. The dances share many of the same moves. In Salsa, turns have become an important feature, so the overall look and feel are quite different form those of Mambo. Mambo moves generally forward and backward, whereas, Salsa has more of a side to side feel.

A look at the origin of Salsa By: Jaime Andrés Pretell

It is not only Cuban; nevertheless we must give credit to Cuba for the origin and ancestry of creation. It is here where Contra-Danze (Country Dance) of England/France, later called Danzón, which was brought by the French who fled from Haiti, begins to mix itself with Rhumbas of African origin (Guaguanco, Colombia, Yambú). Add Són of the Cuban people, which was a mixture of the Spanish troubadour (sonero) and the African drumbeats and flavora and a partner dance flowered to the beat of the clave.

This syncretism also occurred in smaller degrees and with variations in other countries like the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Puerto Rico, among others. Bands of these countries took their music to Mexico City in the era of the famous films of that country (Perez Prado, most famous...). Shortly after, a similar movement to New York occurred. In these two cities, more promotion and syncretism occurred and more commercial music was generated because there was more investment. New York created the term "Salsa", but it did not create the dance. The term became popular as nickname to refer to a variety of different music, from several countries of Hispanic influence: Rhumba, Són Montuno, Guaracha, Mambo, Cha cha cha, Danzón, Són, Guguanco, Cubop, Guajira, Charanga, Cumbia, Plena, Bomba, Festejo, Merengue, among others. Many of these have maintained their individuality and many were mixed creating "Salsa".

If you are listening to today's Salsa, you are going to find the base of són, and you are going to hear Cumbia, and you are going to hear Guaracha. You will also hear some old Merengue, built-in the rhythm of different songs. You will hear many of the old styles somewhere within the modern beats. Salsa varies from site to site. In New York, for example, new instrumentalization and extra percussion were added to some Colombian songs so that New Yorkers - that dance mambo "on the two" - can feel comfortable dancing to the rhythm and beat of the song, because the original arrangement is not one they easily recognize. This is called "finishing," to enter the local market. This "finish" does not occur because the Colombian does not play Salsa, but it does not play to the rhythm of the Puerto Rican/Post-Cuban Salsa. I say Post-Cuban, because the music of Cuba has evolved towards another new and equally flavorful sound.

Then, as a tree, Salsa has many roots and many branches, but one trunk that unites us all. The important thing is that Salsa is played throughout the Hispanic world and has received influences of many places within it. It is of all of us and it is a sample of our flexibility and evolution. If you think that a single place can take the credit for the existence of Salsa, you are wrong. And if you think that one style of dance is better, imagine that the best dancer of a style, without his partner, goes to dance with whomever he can find, in a club where a different style predominates. He wouldn't look as good as the locals. Each dancer is accustomed to dance his/her own style. None is better, only different. ¡¡¡Viva la variedad, ¡¡¡Viva la Salsa!!!


Many people consider tango to be the world's first "forbidden dance." This is not so. The first dance to earn this distinction was the waltz, due to its nature and origins.

Waltz comes from the German word "waltzen," which means "to turn." The turn is the essence of the waltz step. The waltz is done in 3/4 time with an accent on the first beat of every measure. Each series of movements is a turning step and a close. Today, it is often danced on a light foot, although this was not always the case.

Precursors to the waltz were the allemande and the minuet. The allemande was a stately dance done in two lines. Partners faced each other and moved back and forth, sometimes going under the arms of the other line, or processing down the middle. The minuet was a square-step dance performed in a rigid and stately manner. The waltz itself is Viennese, and it evolved in Austria and Bavaria under such names as the Dreher, the laendler and the Deutscher. It was created as a peasant dance in early Austria, and involved robust moves and lots of space. Often, partners were hurled into the air in moves that occasionally led to injury and miscarriage. Because peasants wore loud, thick shoes, it was also very noisy. When it first became popular in Viennese dance halls in late eighteenth century, these aspects began to change.

The waltz was termed the "forbidden dance" for one reason. When it moved into Viennese dance halls, partners were allowed to touch! This was unheard of, and led to the dance being slandered by many officials of the church and leaders of the Austrian community. Because it was a favored dance of the young, however, it continued to be danced. Because of its transition to dance halls and city gathering, it evolved into a light dance for polished floors and parties. Its music also changed, becoming more refined and orchestrated. Notable instruments used to play it were the piano, the violin and the bass. In 1787, it was brought to the operatic stage, inviting huge debate. Mozart was a huge fan of the waltz, and in one of his operas, Don Giovanni, three waltzes are played at once in one scene! Clearly, the dance could not be stopped.

By the 1800's, Paris had fallen in love with the waltz. It did not arrive in England until later, where it was first denounced, and then accepted. A final public acceptance of it in 1819 allowed the waltz to reach the popularity that it still has today.

Today, the waltz is danced in all corners of the world. Its predecessors have mostly died away, but in their place the waltz is acclaimed in Asia, Australia, America, Canada and South America as a favorite dance. Its label as the "forbidden dance" has been taken instead by the tango, a dance that arose from the slums of Argentina.