Tango is more than just a dance - it's a cultural phenomenon that has captured the hearts of people all over the world. One of the key elements that makes tango so special is the relationship between the dancers and the orchestras that provide the music. In this article, we'll explore the history of tango orchestras and how they have evolved to include tango dancers in their performances.

Evolution of Tango Orchestras: From Small to Large and Sophisticated Ensembles

Tango orchestras emerged in the late 19th century in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where tango music and dance were born. These orchestras were typically composed of a number of musicians, including a bandoneon player, who played the characteristic instrument of tango music, as well as a piano player, a double bassist, and sometimes violinists and guitarists. As the popularity of tango music grew, so did the size of the ensembles that played it.

In the 1920s and 1930s, tango orchestras grew in size and sophistication. The most famous tango orchestra of this era was the orchestra led by Juan D'Arienzo, which became known as the "King of the Beat" for its fast-paced and rhythmic style. Other prominent tango orchestras from this period include those led by Carlos Di Sarli, Osvaldo Pugliese, Aníbal Troilo and later the revolutionary on Astor Piazzolla.

Orchestra from Juan D'Arienzo

These orchestras typically featured a large ensemble of musicians playing a variety of instruments, including bandoneóns, violins, double bass, piano, and sometimes a singer. The music was characterized by complex rhythms, virtuosic solos, and emotive melodies. Tango orchestras became popular not only in Argentina and Uruguay but also in Europe, where they performed in cafes and milongas.

In the 1950s and 1960s, tango music went through a period of decline, as rock and roll became more popular around the world. However, tango orchestras continued to perform and record, and the music experienced a resurgence in the 1980s and 1990s.

From Milongas to Theatrical Performances

In the early days of tango, orchestras played live music in milongas, which were social dance gatherings where people would come to dance and enjoy the music. They would play traditional tangos, vals, and milongas, providing the rhythm and melody for the dancers to showcase their skills on the dance floor. The music was an integral part of the milonga experience, setting the mood and creating the ambiance for the dancers.

However, as tango gained popularity beyond the milongas, it started to be presented in theaters as well. Tango orchestras began to perform in larger venues, where audiences would buy tickets to see a show that combined tango music with dance performances. This marked a shift from the traditional milonga setting, where the focus was solely on dancing, to a more theatrical production that aimed to entertain and captivate audiences in a different way.

With the advent of theatrical performances, tango orchestras also evolved in size and instrumentation. The arrangements became more complex, incorporating elements of jazz, classical music, and even electronic music, while still retaining the essence of tango. This evolution in instrumentation and arrangement allowed tango music to be presented in a more theatrical and entertaining manner, catering to a wider audience who appreciated the artistic and immersive experience of a tango show.

Forever Tango - the iconic show creating one of the most important orchestras of our time

"Forever Tango" is a world-class dance performance by Luis Bravo, featuring tango dancers, vocalists, and an orchestra with the iconic bandoneon instrument.

The show celebrates the passionate music and dance of Argentina, with original and traditional music performed in collaboration between dancers and Bravo. The story of Forever Tango traces the birth of tango in 19th century Argentina, its initial rejection by society, and its eventual global popularity.

Luis Bravo, a renowned cellist, is the creator and director of the show, and the design team includes experts in costumes, lighting, sound, and make-up, with Victor Lavallen as musical director/arranger and composer.

Forever Tango opened on Broadway in 1997, ran for 14 months, and has returned to New York multiple times. It has received rave reviews worldwide for its captivating performances and its portrayal of tango as more than just a dance, but as a feeling, a story, and a way of life.

Forever Tango orchestra - dancers: Hernan Lazart & Gisele Avanzi

Revolutionizing Tango: The Story of Astor Piazzolla and Bajofondo

The tango is more than just a musical style in Argentina, it is a way of life and a symbol of social order. When Astor Piazzolla revolutionized the tango in the 1950s with new works that challenged its traditional scope and structure, he faced backlash and criticism. However, his influence paved the way for other musicians, such as Gustavo Santaolalla (known for Brokeback Mountain, Babel, The Motorcycle Diaries), who formed Bajofondo in 2003, to push the boundaries of tango even further. Bajofondo, comprising of musicians from Argentina and Uruguay, brought the tango into the modern world by mixing it with rock, electronic, and hip-hop elements, creating a hybrid musical language that respects its folkloric roots while also experimenting with new sounds.

Despite concerns about potential backlash, Bajofondo achieved multi-platinum success with their albums and gained acceptance from the traditionally critical Argentinian and Uruguayan tango fans. However, Santaolalla is quick to point out that Bajofondo does not consider themselves as playing "new tango," but rather creating music that represents their diverse influences and backgrounds. Santaolalla sees himself as a mixture of various musical genres, including tango and rock, and believes that only time will tell if Bajofondo's music brings something truly new to the genre.

The tango has a rich history in Argentina, and musicians like Piazzolla and Santaolalla have pushed its boundaries, incorporating new elements and creating innovative sounds. Bajofondo's success and acceptance among tango fans highlight the evolution of the genre and the willingness of artists to experiment with new musical expressions while respecting its cultural roots.

Tango Tales: Arrabal - A Theatrical Dance of Love, Loss, and Passion in Buenos Aires

"Arrabal: A Tango-Infused Theatrical Dance Piece of Love and Loss in Buenos Aires" is a new dance production that tells the story of a woman seeking to understand the violence that took her father and disturbed her nation, all through the power of dance and the music of the Bajofondo band. Directed and co-choreographed by Sergio Trujillo, with music composed by Academy Award winner Gustavo Santaolalla, and written by Tony Award nominee John Weidman, Arrabal invites audiences to a mesmerizing journey through the exotic world of milongas in Buenos Aires, bridging the past and the present.

The NEM, a Canadian Orchestra seduced by the argentine tango

In residence at the Faculty of Music of the University of Montreal, the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne (NEM) is a chamber orchestra made up of 15 permanent musicians who perform in Quebec, Canada and internationally. Lorraine Vaillancourt is its founder and musical director. Since its foundation in 1989, the Ensemble has forged a solid reputation. An essential leader in its field, the NEM is recognized for its modernism and its excellence in all aspects of the interpretation, creation and preservation of musical works of the 20th and 21st centuries.

In 2019, the tango impregnate the creative direction at the NEM with the musical tale of Denis Plante, MAESTRO TANGO under the artistic direction of Normad Forget. 17 artists on stage including 14 musicians with renowned bandoneonist from Québec, Denis Plante. The show took place in Salle Claude-Champagne in Montreal (QC), Canada and the artists of Tango Show, Hernan Lazart and Marina Mauri, had the pleasure to represent the dance through the live music.

The Importance of Dancers in the Tango Music Experience

In theatrical performances, as we saw previously, tango dancers take center stage, showcasing their skills and artistry in choreographed routines that complement the music. The dancers respond to the music, interpreting its rhythms, melodies, and emotions through their movements, creating a visual and auditory feast for the audience. The dynamic interplay between the dancers and the orchestra adds an extra layer of depth and complexity to the performance, as the music and dance intertwine to create a captivating and unforgettable experience.

The interaction between the dancers and the orchestra is a crucial element of tango music. The dancers respond to the music, and the musicians respond to the movements of the dancers, creating a dynamic interplay between the two art forms. This interaction adds a level of improvisation and spontaneity to the performance, making each show unique.

Conclusion: Tango, More Than Just a Dance, a Cultural Phenomenon

In conclusion, tango is not just a dance, but a cultural phenomenon that has captured the hearts of people worldwide. The evolution of tango orchestras from small ensembles to large and sophisticated ensembles has been a significant part of its history. Tango music has experienced ups and downs in popularity over the years, but it has remained a vibrant part of Argentine culture. Artists like Astor Piazzolla and Bajofondo have pushed the boundaries of tango, incorporating new elements and creating innovative sounds while respecting its cultural roots. Tango-inspired theatrical productions like Forever Tango and "Arrabal" further showcase the enduring appeal and significance of tango as a dance form that conveys emotions, stories, and a way of life.

This article highlights the intricate connection between tango dancers and the music they dance to. Tango is not only about the physical movements of the dance but also about the emotional connection between the dancers and the music that accompanies them. The tango orchestra, with its unique instrumentation and style, plays a pivotal role in shaping the mood, tempo, and character of the dance. The dancers respond to the nuances of the music, interpreting it through their movements and expressing their emotions and storytelling through the dance. Tango dancing is not only a technical skill but an artistic expression that involves a dynamic interplay between the dancers and the orchestra, where each influences and inspires the other.

Today, tango shows with live orchestras continue to be popular worldwide, drawing audiences who are eager to witness the magic of tango brought to life on stage. These shows provide a unique and immersive experience, where audiences can appreciate the artistry and passion of both the musicians and the dancers. The transition of tango orchestras from milongas to theatrical performances has added a new dimension to the world of tango, expanding its reach and appeal to a wider audience while keeping its cultural roots alive.

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