Most of the ballroom dances have changed dramatically over the past 90 years. They are faster, much more athletic, and considerably more refined technically than they were in the 1920’s. But surprisingly, while the Tango has also seen many changes, those differences are surprisingly subtle.
To see how little has changed, one only needs to look at the Tango scene from the 1921 file “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” starring Rudolph Valentino. In this scene, all the dramatic qualities of (Argentine) Tango are brilliantly displayed. Its passion and arrogance. Its interplay of control and submission. Its sensuality.
Take a look at the clip. It has all the character we see in modern Argentine Tango. It’s cool, sensual and powerful. Of course, today’s foot work is more intricate, but notice the flexed knees, the use of CBMP, the Legato movement carrying weight directly from one foot to the other and the lady’s position — exactly as we still dance it today. The hold has changed a little, but only to support today’s greater amount of Staccato changes. The basic steps and technical characteristics are still the same. And so is the obvious storyline that women love a man who can dance!
Rudolph earned the nickname “Rubber Legs” after this film captured the attention of audiences worldwide. The film followed a few years after a worldwide craze surrounding the Tango. Everything became Tango-oriented, from clothes to hairstyles to music to even menu items. Everyone wanted to dance Tango!
Note that the music in this clip is apparently not the original music.
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