A dance is a great and influential form of self-expression without using words. Various types of emotions can be relayed through dancing. Dances vary widely across different cultures with each culture having a certain unique dance style that identifies it. With the passage of time, there have been exchanges of dances across cultures all over the world. Through these exchanges, some dances have become more popular than others. This has led to the appreciation of other people’s cultures through learning the dances. As a result, these dances are preserved and passed on from one generation to the next.
Latin American Dances
Latin American dances are the result of the unique fusion of traditions, folklore, feelings and experiences of many peoples, their long histories and cross-cultural interaction. The paper discusses the origins of the Argentinean Tango, the Cuban Salsa and the Brazilian Samba. It explains the similarities and differences in the ways Tango and Samba crossed international and class boundaries and became accepted by the elite classes of Argentina and Brazil. The paper also explains the impact these dances and music had on their country’s national identity.
Tango and Samba
Prior to becoming popular and beloved around the world, Tango went through numerous rejections and bans. The history of Argentine Tango can be traced back to the appearance of African settlers around contemporary Buenos Aires. Christine Denniston describes in a very interesting way how Tango was invented and spread. According to her, Tango was born in Buenos Aires, where there was a lack of women and, therefore, brothels were very popular. Sometimes, there were long queues to these places and brothels hired musicians to distract angry men, who were dancing while waiting for a free woman (Denniston, “Clichés about Tango Origins of the Dance”). However unlikely, it seems to be true. In the 19th century, there was a wave of immigration to Latin America, caused by the construction of a railway road (Denniston, “Couple Dance Begins in Europe”). And the majority of immigrants were men who were looking for money and adventures. To know a woman, they had to have money to pay a prostitute or to learn dancing. Moreover, very often strangers did not know the language, which caused a serious barrier in communication. The dance made it simpler to know each other and to spend time together. Argentine Tango is a way of communication between people, their language. To their gatherings in Buenos Aires, people usually come not to dance in the first place, but to communicate with friends and acquaintances. During this dance, all techniques and roles in the pair are designed to provide an opportunity for the two to merge into one, to feel, to understand each other without words. Tango is communion between a man and a woman. It reflects the social role of Tango that historically formed Latin Americans.
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As well as the Tango, Samba was born in poor Latin American districts. Samba is an organic fusion of African rhythms brought to Brazil along with slaves from Africa. According to Vianna’s words referred to by Thomas Turino in his book, Samba was the product of “cultural mixing and complex social negotiations” (Turino, 2003, p.191). It is commonly thought that officially Samba was born in 1956. However, it occurred much earlier. In the 16 century, Portuguese conquerors brought with them to Brazil from Congo and Angola many slaves whose dances started to spread in South America. According to Thomas Turino, who cited Ibid’s words, “No sooner had Samba de Morro been invented than it became the very emblem of a pure and ancient Brazilian essence, uncontaminated by outside influences.” (Turino, 2003, p.189).
Both dances became famous due to their popularity among the higher social circles. Tango became known in Europe because of rich students from Argentina. Like many other new forms of self-expression, Tango received great interest in high circles and has gone through the periods of being in fashion and almost full oblivion. The history of Samba is very similar. Gradually after it appeared, higher society in Rio de Janeiro also began to dance Samba; however a closed dance position was added.
Various styles and types of Tango have developed in different regions of Argentina and Uruguay, absorbing the local features. The distinctive feature of Samba which distinguishes it from other forms of African American music and dance is a syncopated rhythm. According to the African tradition, there are poly-rhythms and cross rhythms in Samba. Rhythmic polyphony is created by wide array of percussion instruments. Argentine Tango in its classic form is the result of a mix of a wide variety of national and cultural traditions. Samba and Tango are the symbols of national identity for Brazilians and Argentineans.
The culture of Latin America has been through ups and downs, difficulties and happy moments during the long history of the continent. Many people associate Latin America with passionate dances. This is the homeland of Tango, which was born in Argentina, and Samba, formed in Brazil. Both dances exactly convey the nature of southern people. They reflect the expressive character, temper and feelings of Latin Americans and wealth of African customs. The combination of different traditions generated the acceptance of the dances like Samba and Tango by many people of different background, because, exactly, the intercultural communication between people of different social structures and races formed Samba and Tango.
Reflection of Salsa Dance
Salsa dance originates from the Cuban Son, it is also associated with other types of tropical music. Salsa dance needs a dance partner normally of the opposite sex. However, there are some forms of salsa such as line dance, “Salsa Suelta”. In this form of dance, the dancers dance solo. “Rueda de Casino” is a round dance from where multiple couples in a circle exchange dance partners (RichmondPianist510, 2013).
Salsa has gained popularity in many parts of the world. Therefore, it is open to many modifications and improvements. Many new salsa styles have emerged. In most cases, they are associated with their geographical origin, which also forms the basis of naming the style. However, regardless of the many modifications it has gone through there are specific attributes that never change. These aspects keep the dance authentic.
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At first, one can fail to see the impact that salsa has had on dance genre. This could lead people to interpret the dance as just an erotic dance. This to some extent is true. Salsa dance has some sleek sexy kind of style that exhibits sensual emotions between the partners. Though not necessarily meant to imply anything, salsa has been greatly appreciated as the dance needed to get people in a cool relaxed mood. This dance demonstrates the innate feelings of one individual to another. Some couples even use the dance to ease into intimacy. This is demonstrated by the close contact between the partners as they perform the dance. At the same time, the need to be in sync in terms of body movement demands both individuals to coordinate.
We can see the professionalism involved in this dancing technique. While some dancing styles could be simply eased into any music playing in the background, salsa movements dictate the kind of music that can harmonize a salsa dance routine. This also makes salsa dance moves easy to execute in predetermined salsa music with most of the dance moves fitting in almost all kinds of salsa music.
Thus, the dances are filled with traditional motives of African and Latin cultures and have received world-wide popularity. Tango, Samba and Salsa have brought to the contemporary days the spirit of immigrants and reminder of those sunny days at the time of colonization of Latin America by white Europeans.