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Gambling on Tango: Casinos again the center for the Argentinian Dance

Gambling on Tango: Casinos once again becoming the center for the Argentinian dance

In the late 1800s, Argentina had become a place of cultural diversity with major influences from the Africans, one of which was their rhythmic drum beats that later developed into the most sensual dance that's known to man - the Argentine Tango. Because it was a dance deemed unacceptable among the upper white class, many young men that belonged to the upper class still scoured the corners of Buenos Aires to learn the forbidden moves. These men eventually traveled to Paris, bringing the seductive dance to theatrical venues, creating a hyperbole that surrounded the dance and thus becoming more widely accepted as an art form.

Fast-forward more than two centuries later, the dance still holds a certain appeal that has got people wishing they could move as smoothly as a dancer executing this wonderful art form. To bring the tango to a wider audience, casinos are now inviting people to their establishments so that they can join them in reveling in the culturally significant dance.

Perhaps it's the long history between casinos and the Argentine tango that has had casino providers reminiscing. For a time, the tango was only performed by the lower class in what was referred to as low-life establishments, such as dance halls, bars, and gambling houses. Casinos are now tracing back to their old Argentinian roots and celebrating the dance in leading entertainment hubs. Although the major incentive for hosting tango events could stem from the popularity of online casinos, a trend that started when InterCasino launched in 1996. Since then, operators of land-based casinos have had to diversify and look more appealing for people with different interests. Whether it is actually a strategy to increase both gaming and non-gaming income or not, a tango night in a casino aims to give participants a glimpse into the heritage of a once forbidden art form.

At the tango-themed charity event in Casino Shangri La, casino goers now have the chance to witness articulate and intimate moves of professional dancers, as well as have the opportunity to learn the steps of this beautiful Latin art.


Tanda 62: Francisco Canaro with Roberto Maida

This week's tanda is calm, rhythmic tanda by Francisco Canaro with Roberto Maida singing. It starts with the very popular "Invierno." It is such a sweet and smooth song. Click here for a great translation of the lyrics from the Poesía de Gotán blog.

You might notice that there are 5 songs here. No, this is not a 5 song tanda... but rather, I could not decide which song to end the tanda with. I think "Viejo Tiempo" is probably the best fit, but I also love "Paciencia." So, I put both on here so that you could listen and decide. "Viejo Tiempo / Old Time" makes sense because all of these songs have more in common with the "Guardia Viejo / Old Guard" period (1910 to 1925) than the Guardia Nueva or Golden Age period. To give a super brief and over-simplified explanation, the songs of the Guardia Viejo period would have focused more on the underlying rhythm while the music of the Guaria Nueva would have focused more on melody and harmony. Canaro is working with both here. 


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Here is one of my favorite all-time favorite performances by Pablo Rodriguez and Noelia Hurtado. It is such a sweet and tender performance. To me, nothing says tango quite like this performance. It also demonstrates the statement that "Tango is a sad thought that can be danced." You might notice how emotional they are after the performance. I do not know the details, but it is my understanding that this was their last performance together after many years of teaching and dancing with one another.

Performances and Demonstrations

Augusta, GA Tango Festival 2018

Colgadas Workshop Demo, Dec 2017

Spoleto Tango Festival Workshop Demo, May 2017

Columbia, SC Regional Tango Festival Performance
November 2014

We had planned on dancing to something very slow, but then we were asked to perform live with the Alejandro Ziegler Orchestra. So, we decided to be bold and dance to their arrangement of Astor Piazzolla's "Michelangelo '70." This is completely improvised and we have never danced to this song before, much less their live version. I do wish we had been able to practice to it a few times, because i feel like it started coming together about half-way through. Thanks to Martin Ahrens for the video.


DubStep Tango Performance for Daza Dance Showcase
June 2014
This is our performance from the Daza showcase. This was part of a showcase put on by Daza Dance to showcase the students and teachers of the studio. This was an improvised performance, except for the lift at the very beginning.


History of Argentine Tango Performance
May 2014

The concept of this performance is to show a progression of Argentine Tango from its early days up to today, demonstrating different rhythms, embraces and styles.


Vals Performance from Charleston, SC Spoleto Tango Festival
May 2014


Leg Wraps Class Demo from Charleston, SC Spoleto Tango Festival
May 2014


Tanda of the Week 61: Rodolfo Biagi con Alberto Amor

This week's tanda is low key tanda by Rodolfo Biagi with Alberto Amor singing. We usually think of Biagi as being more rhythmic and staccato, but with Alberto Amor his signature sound is more calm. The rhythm is still there, but more subdued. This is a great tanda for the end of the evening. "Seamos Amigos" is another great song that could go in this tanda.

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Tanda of the Week 60: Juan d'Arienzo with Alberto Echague

This week's tanda is spirited set by Juan d'Arienzo with Alberto Echagüe singing. "El Rey del compás" (The Rhythm King), as D'Arienzo was known, worked with many great singers. But, to me, Alberto Echagúe's canyengue style of singing was a perfect match for the rhythmic nature of D'Arienzo's orchestra. They recorded 27 records in the 1930's and "Trago Amargo," was the last before Echagüe left D'Arienzo's orchestra. He did return to D'Arienzo twice more, from 1944 to 1957 and 1968 to 1975.

Translation of Mandria: http://poesiadegotan.com/2009/09/03/mandria-1926


Tanda of the Week 59 - Anibal Troilo with Francisco Fiorentino

This week's tanda is a classic set by Anibal Troilo with Francisco Fiorentino singing. You don't get much more tango than this. Troilo and Fiorentino created some of the greatest tango music of all time. In these songs, Troilo is at the top of his game with some of the best musicians around, including Orlando Goñi on piano and Astor Piazzolla, along with Troilo, on bandoneon.

Translation of Gricel: http://poesiadegotan.com/2012/12/17/gricel-1937/

Translation of Barrio de Tango: http://letrasdetango.wordpress.com/2011/12/30/barrio-de-tango/



Tanda of the Week 58: Carlos di Sarli with Jorge Duran

This week's tanda is an elegant, lyrical set by Carlos di Sarli with Jorge Durán singing. I have been playing a lot of Di Sarli and Durán lately and Un Tango y Nada Más is one of my favorite tangos to dance to. These tangos have a solid rhythm and lots of drama. They are great for taking your time, dancing slowly and also for simple walking.



Tanda of the Week 57: Mixed Milonga Set (Lomuto, Sica, Canaro)

This week's tanda is an spirited, mixed orchestra milonga set. Mixing orchestras is more common in milonga and vals tandas than it is in tango tandas. For one thing, some orchestras recorded very few milongas and/or valses, so it might be difficult to find 3 or 4 songs that fit cohesively together.

This is a set for the serious milonga dancers. Some dancers might be legitimately challenged by the tempo of these three milongas. I would believe that most dancers should be able to dance well to these if they just do two things, keep it simple and take smaller steps. If you do thse two simple things and the leader and follower are in synch then you should be able to have a nice, unrushed dance.

A Brief History of Argentine Tango

Version 1.0 - May 2014
by Clint Rauscher and Shelley Brooks

The concept of this performance is to show a progression of Argentine Tango from its early days up to today, demonstrating different rhythms, embraces and styles. We also tried to work in the 4 primary orchestras of tango D’Arienzo, Di Sarli, Troilo and Pugliese.

Performance Notes: This is our first time attempting this performance. I finished editing the music on Thursday and we performed the very next night, at the Spoleto Tango weekend in Charleston, Sc. This performance is completely improvised, Shelley did not even know which songs I had decided on prior to the performance. Since this was our first time attempting this performance, we asked for feedback from the audience and got some great ideas. We ask the same from you, please provide us with any constructive criticism that you might have. We want to fine tune this concept and perform it again in the near future.

Chapter 1: Early Tango Criollo and Guardia Vieja (Old Guard) (1850s to 1925)
We did not include this period in our performance. The main reason is that we wanted to keep the performance around 10 minutes and we have not practiced this style of tango very often. We plan on adding it in our next iteration of the performance and will likely use:

The reason for choosing this song is the recording quality, tempo and rhythm. I have many early recordings going all the way back to 1907, but the recording quality was very poor on most of these recordings. The earliest tangos, were actually habaneras mixed with European and African musical influences such as candombe and polka, etc. In the sheet music at the time you can see some of these songs being labeled tango-milongas, tango-habaneras or tango-criollo. This music was in 2/4 time and mostly spirited and light in nature. It was faster than the modern tango of today, but slower than today’s milonga.

Tango Criollo Sheet Music

The earliest pictures that we have of tango are from 1903 and feature a well known dancer, and friend of Carlos Gardel, Arturo de Navas. In the pictures, he is dancing with another man and the dance is labelled “El Tango Criollo.” I would argue that there were many competing styles of tango during this period and that the general term Tango Criollo would have encompassed the styles of Tango Orillero and Canyengue.

Tango Orillero would have been more upright and the dancers would have danced in a more spirited and light manner. Canyengue would have been danced more down and with more attitude and swagger. Tango Liso would have also existed during this time and would have been a more calm and prim and proper way of dancing in the nicer dance halls. According to Carmencita Calderon, “It was always the dance hall on the one hand and the canyengue on the other.”

I think that Eduardo Arquimbau gives the best explanation of the difference between Tango Orillero and Canyengue in this video (jump to 57min 45sec mark and watch until he is done demonstrating the walk).

The primary orchestras of this period would be Aduardo Arolas, Roberto Firpo, Juan “Pacho” Maglio, Quinteto Criollo Atlanta, and Vincente Greco.

Chapter 2: Guardia Nueva (The New Guard) (1925 to 1935)
During this period, the habanera influence began to fade and the tempo of the music slowed down with the proliferation of "El Cuatro" or "The Four." "The four" consists of 4 equal quarter notes (beats) with 2 strong beats (down beats) and 2 weak beats (up beats). Along with the music slowing down, it also began to get more complex with the melodic structure having a stronger role.

This is where our performance begins. The song that we use in our performance is “Lorenzo” by Julio de Caro from 1926. I picked this song, because it has a classic rhythm of dance music from this period. Most of the music that people label as Guardia Vieja is actually music from the Guardia Neuva period being played in a Guardia Vieja style. This Guardia Vieja style was even used by Canaro’s Quinteto Pirincho in the 1940s and 1950s and by more modern orchestras like Los Tubatango in the 1960s and 1970s.

“Lorenzo” is a great example of how tango slowed down during this period and took on a more heavy feeling. It is still a very fun and playful song, but “Lorenzo” is more grounded than “Venus” and has more canyengue or swagger. Another important feature of this song is the use of the arrastre. You can clearly hear it for the first time in “Lorenzo” at the 45 second mark, it sounds like a stretch or drag and then a fall.

“Lorenzo” by Julio de Caro from 1926

Our dance in this section, is what I some would call Canyengue. To me, Canyengue is not a codified style but rather an attitude or expression. It is not an embrace or a particular set of steps. To dance Canyengue, you are dancing with a swagger and sway. 

Again, we are dancing with an embrace which is often associated with Canyengue, where Shelley is oriented a little more to my right side. We are dancing cheek to cheek with our heads pointed in the same direction. Our knees are slightly bent and we bring the open side of the embrace down to the man's left hip. While this might very well have been an early embrace of tango, there are plenty of pictures from the early 1900s where people are standing perfectly upgright while dancing. In this part of hte performance we dance playfully, with lots of swagger and sway often using the quick-quick-slow rhythm. I would argue that that is what makes it Canyengue.

Dancing almost died out during the Guardia Nueva period, because the musicians began playing with the phrasing, harmony and the melody instead focusing on a steady beat. People were buying records and listening to tango on the radio and dancers were not the primary concern. Orchestras like De Caro's were creating a music that was more at home in a concert hall than a dance hall. A perfect example of this would be Julio de Caro’s “Flores Negras.” Imagine trying to dance to this when you were used to the very clear steady rhythms of the Guardia Vieja period. Even today, this would not be a song we would dance to.

“Flores Negras” by Julio de Caro from 1927

Chapter 3: The Return of the Milonga
We did not use this in our performance. We cut it for time, but based on feedback I plan to add it back in our next performance. In the 1800s, gauchos, Argentine cowboys, would often sing songs while someone would play a habanera rhythm on the guitar. These boastful songs were performed as contests and were often referred to as milongas.


Poem from the late 1800s:

"You gentlemen confessing milonga,
Let’s battle right here.
Smoke us, milonguero,
if you dare."

During the 1920s, Tango slowed down and the habanera/milonga rhythm disappeared. It did not return until the early 1930s, milonga was reborn with Sebastian Piana’s composition “Milonga Sentimental.”

“Milonga Sentimental” by Francisco Canaro from 1933

Chapter 4: The Golden Age of Tango (1935 to 1955)

Part 1: Rhythmic Tango
As mentioned above, tango for dancers almost died out dying the Guardia Nueva period. But in the 1930s, Juan d’Arienzo came along and started playing more rhythmic tangos reminiscent of the old style. D’Arienzo’s music was not simple but it had a very clear and steady beat which dancers loved.

For our second song, we dance to “Pénsalo Bien” by Juan d’Arienzo with Alberto Echagüe singing from 1938. We now take a more traditional embrace and stand up straight. To this music, we try to express the rhythm of the music by remaining very playful and making small staccato steps without a lot of long pauses or fancy steps. It is more about expressing the rhythm.

“Pénsalo Bien” by Juan d'Arienzo from 1938

Part 2: The Elegance of Tango Salon
To explore this elegant style of tango, I chose “La Capilla Blanca” by Carlos di Sarli with Alberto Podesta singing, from 1944. The music of Di Sarli had a clear, danceable rhythm while being complex enough for advanced dancers to enjoy. He respected both the melody and the rhythm of tango. When dancing to D’Arienzo, dancers often step on most every beat, but when dancing to Di Sarli it is common to dance very slowly and to dance to the melody as well as the underlying beat, employing dramatic pauses. When dancing Salon Tango, dancers will often dance in a mostly close embrace, while expanding their embrace for more complex figures.

“La Capilla Blanca” by Carlos di Sarli from 1944

Part 3: Milonga of the Golden Age
After milonga’s return in the 1930s, it continued to speed up. We represent change in tempo by dancing to Aníbal Troilo’s “Ficha de Oro” with Francisco Fiorentino singing, from 1942. The important thing in milonga is not fancy steps, but respecting the rhythm of the milonga. If you listen carefully to the music, you can still hear traces of the habanera in most modern milongas.

“Ficha de Oro” by Aníbal Troilo from 1942

Part 4: Vals (Waltz) of the Golden Age
Vals had been around since the beginning of the tango, but here we are dancing to a typical Golden Age vals “Pobre Flor” by Alfredo de Angelis with Carlos Dante and Julio Martel singing, from 1946. In our performance, we try to demonstrate the rhythm and flow of the vals.

“Pobre Flor” by Alfredo de Angelis from 1946

It should be noted that there are many sub-styles of Tango-Vals to explore.

Part 5: Dramatic Tango of Osvaldo Pugliese
To fully understand, we must revisit our conversation about the Guardia Nueva period. Pugliese composed his first tango “Recuerdo” in 1924, when he was only 19 years old. “Recuerdo” was one of the most important compositions of the Guardia Nueva period. In this first composition, Pugliese revealed a revolutionary, polished structure. While one can dance to "Recuerdo," imagine what a departure it was from the simple music that went before it. Here is what Horacio Ferrer had to say, "One could speak, with total justice, of compositions before and after Pugliese's "Recuerdo" and the instrumentalists before and after "Recuerdo." The revolutionary conductor and composer Julio de Caro recorded it first in 1926.

“Recuerdo” by Julio de Caro from 1926

We picked his song “Chiqué” from 1953, to demonstrate this more dramatic form of tango. While his music is often associated with performance tango, he was an incredibly popular orchestra during the Golden Age and much respected by accomplished dancers. One of the reasons that we picked “Chiqué” was that it contains all the signature elements that make Pugliese’s music so special, at some moments it is soft and delicate and then bold and dramatic.

“Chiqué” by Osvaldo Pugliese from 1953

Chapter 5: Modern & Electronic Tango
In the final song, we chose “Los Vino” by Otros Aires, from 2007, to represent modern electronic tango. One reason that we picked this song is that it has a rhythm similar to the first song that we danced to. In fact, we start off “Los Vino” with the same steps that we used to start “Lorenzo.” You might also notice that the lyrics reference 3 of the orchestras that we danced to in the the performance Pugliese, Troilo and D’Arienzo.

In our performance, we tried to show some of the more modern steps of tango such as soltadas, volcadas and colgadas.

“Los Vino” by Otros Aires from 2007

Notes on the Performance

As I stated at the beginning, we appreciate any constructive criticism: clint@tangology101.com. If it is of a historical nature, please provide sources for me to review. We were concerned about the time of the performance, but no one complained about that. In fact, the main complaint was that they wanted more information. They wanted us to stop between each song and give a brief explanation. I am going to try to do this next time.

Again, this was the first time we ever attempted it and did not even rehearse before hand, but in the future I want to have some specific figures to work in to each period that are more representative of that period. I have a few more canyengue steps that I would like to work in and some enrosques, planeos and sacadas for the Tango Salon portion.

We also have an idea of just doing a performance that shows the history of just tango from the Golden Age.