Tango in Cyprus
December 2007 issue
Cyprus has seen a steady increase of tango events and dancers over the last few years. At first thought, tango would not be a dance one associates with Cyprus, but then again, neither would Finland. Yet unknown to many, the Finnish Tango is a very well established variation of the Argentine Tango. Brought to Europe in the 1910s by traveling musicians, Finns began to take up the form and write their own tangos in the 1930s. By the 1940s about half of the entries on the popular music charts were occupied by Tangos. Since joining the European Union in 1995, Finland's version of the tango has begun to receive wider attention. To a much bigger surprise – the same happened in Japan - in a country with very rigid social habits and emotions not been habitually expressed in public Tango is currently regarded as almost a national dance.
In Cyprus as well Tango has a very long history: senior citizens at present were in their youth passionate and devoted tango dancers, tango being danced at dinners and parties and the most popular first dance of the newly wed couples was “La Cumparsita” – the most famous tango piece of all times.
So with Cyprus being the birthplace of the goddess Aphrodite, along with dancing being grounded into the roots of Cypriot society, it is not so far fetched for tango to be embraced on this island of love.
Tango is radically different from other dances that came before it because it introduced the concept of improvisation for the first time, and was a huge influence on all couple dancing in the Twentieth Century.
There is a cliché that Tango was born in the brothels of Buenos Aires. However, a more likely explanation is that the brothels were where people of the upper and middle classes first encountered it.
The earliest evidence of Tango being danced in Europe comes from the first decade of the Twentieth Century. It probably came into France first through the port of Marseille, where Argentine sailors would dance with the local girls, and Tango was the couple dance they prefered. There is evidence of a couple dancing Tango on stage in Monmartre in Paris by 1909. But it was in 1912 that the Tango took Paris by storm.
By this time Argentina was the seventh richest country in the world, with an average per capita income four times that of Spain or Italy. While the poor stayed poor, the rich got very rich indeed, and it became the fashion for families to send their young sons to Europe, either to go to university, or simply to do the Grand Tour and finish off their education.
Young men of good families have a tendency to spend time in places they are not supposed to visit, and with girls that their mothers would rather they did not marry, and as a consequence several of these young men were quite good Tango dancers, even though Tango was still completely unacceptable in polite society in Buenos Aires. But when these young men began to dance in Paris the upper classes were entranced, and Tango became a massive craze.
From 1935 people again began to dance Tango in Buenos Aires in huge numbers. In the 1940s and the 1950s practically everyone in Buenos Aires danced the Tango. That was the Golden Age of Tango.
The Dark Age of Tango started with the coup of 1955 that ousted General Perón and lasted until the fall of the military junta in 1983. It had profound consequences for Argentina as a whole, and for the Tango in particular, launching the country into a kind of modern Dark Age. The new military government, for whom the culture of the mass of the population was alien and dangerous. They did not understand the Tango. They did not dance it.
But during these years the Tango did not disappear. It was still possible to go out dancing, and many people did. But the Tango was pushed underground. In fact it was in the 1950s that the concept of the Tango choreography for stage seems first to have appeared. Before that professional dancers were always improvised.
Even in Buenos Aires, when the Tango Renaissance began, it was mostly young dancers who knew a little who were the first teachers. In 1983 many of the people who had been dancing in the Golden Age were not dancing, and those that were would still have been suspicious of strangers. So the first people to start dancing again in Buenos Aires would probably never have danced with someone who had danced in the Golden Age.
Everywhere in the world that Tango has begun since 1983 the story has been more or less the same. I taught my first Tango class in Cyprus in 2003 when I had been dancing tango seriously only for a few months, not because I thought I knew everything, but because I wanted to have people to dance with and there were no one in Cyprus. Very few Tango scenes anywhere in the world were begun by experienced dancers.
So the return of Tango in Cyprus began in 2004 and the interest from people is rapidly increasing. Anyone, irrespective of their age, experience presence or absence of a dance partner can now join the classes of Argentine Tango in Nicosia, Limassol and Larnaca. Guest maestros from Buenos Aires are coming with seminars and master classes. There is also a regular milonga (social tango dancing parties for all) in Limassol every Friday at Curium Palace Hotel from 22:00 till 01:00.
Tango Shows start extending their world tours to Cyprus. The latest one staged in Nicosia Municipal Theatre on the 8th and 9th November and Limassol Rialto on the 10th November “TANGO. Embrace – An Affair Of The Heart” with some of the best Argentine Tango Dancers from Buenos Aires (Alejandra Mantinian and Gabriel Misse, Fernando Serrano and Gachi Fernandez, Omar Ocampo and Monica Romero) was totally sold out long in advance.
For more information about Tango in Cyprus, please contact Mrs. Julia Gorina at Tango Cyprus Net
Tel: (+357) 25 822842