Tango fever: global dance

Argentina’s most soulful dance has captivated the world over the last century and remains as popular as ever. Vision explores its evolution into modern-day entertainment

A handsome couple walks into the room. He is dashing in a finely-cut dark suit, his hair slicked back and a handkerchief in his top pocket; she, walking daintily on vertiginous heels, dressed in an elegant gown of black lace garlanded with blood red ribbons. They pause for a moment in the spotlight, then begin to dance: slow deliberate movements enacted with poise and precision unfold into a complex drama of intricate kicks, flicks and whirling torsos.

Over the last century, tango, the enduring dance craze from Argentina, has worked up a feverish following everywhere from Buenos Aires to Bordeaux. This month the dance is set to take Dubai by storm with an impressive line-up of international tango performers and a contemporary take on the traditional art form.

Fusing African and European rhythms, tango began as a spontaneous, popular dance in La Boca, the working-class port district of Buenos Aires. By the early 20th century the deft footwork and wistful accordion and guitar-based music was found in the most fashionable of settings. Elastic, elegant and romantic, the tango became the country’s most alluring export and is still a powerful symbol of Argentina today.

Tourists are treated to polished performances in city squares and glamorous bars but the true heart of the dance can only be found in unpretentious and authentic neighbourhood salons called milongas.

Today, aside from the enduring popularity of the classic form, another style of the dance is making a big entrance. “With more young people dancing, teaching and performing tango, they’ve created more fluid movements which are ‘nuevo’ new,” explains Eleanor Brodie, founder of Tango in Dubai and co-organiser of The Dubai Tango Festival. “In ‘Nuevo Tango’, the moves are still based on the traditional tango but with expanded interpretation.”

Dubai’s Tango Festival, running later this month, aims to recreate the passion of the age-old dance but focus on this more contemporary form of ‘nuevo tango’. The event combines shows, dance classes and a lavish ‘Gala Milonga’ event for both enthusiastic amateurs and expert dancers.

Led by renowned dancers on the international tango circuit, including Mariano ‘Chicho' Frumboli and Juana Sepulveda, Fernando Gracia and Sol Cerquides, the festival’s teaching sessions are a rare opportunity for tango enthusiasts to be taught by some of the best dancers. It aims to seduce would be ‘tangueros’ into the dance.

People the world over are captivated by the charismatic moves and as they dance on into the night there is always time for one more Tango before bed.