The origin of the word 'Tango' is shrouded in mystery, and there are several possible etymologies and explanations, but one thing is certain: the word 'Tango' is of African origin meaning 'a place where black slaves were kept and sold', but it also came to mean 'a private space to which one must ask permission to enter'.
Tango music has a clear, repetitive pulse and beat, a strong rhythm which is based on the 2x4, 2 strong beats on 4. Can you imagine what it feels like to dance to this rhythm with Cholo?
Tango was initially danced in bars, cafes, gambling houses and quilombos (brothels). Yes, the name Cholo is Chilean/Argentine Spanish for pimp. To 'decent' families and women of good reputation the Tango was vulgar. So when a man wanted to practice tango he danced with men, mostly native born, who liked to dress in slouch hats, loosely tied neckerchiefs and high-heeled boots with knives tucked casually into their belts.

(click to enlarge)

These men took the tango back to the Corrales Viejos - the slaughterhouse district of Buenos Aires - and introduced it in various low-life establishments where dancing took place.

It was here that the African rhythms met the Argentine milonga music (a fast-paced polka) and soon new steps were invented and took hold. Groups of men would get together to practice, improvise and innovate, creating new moves, and this allowed a rapid development of this dance. What developed in these practicas was not just a basic level of dance, but a highly creative, powerful, athletic dance, and each dancer tried to outdo the other with his adornments, firuletes and footwork. Only the best male dancers were 'allowed' to dance with women as part of the formal procedures in the brothels. (Only in 1936 was legal prostitution abolished in Argentina).

During the early part of the 19th century social dancing was done standing opposite each other. These types of dances were generically called Contradanza, and the progression of the dancers was somewhat lineal around the dancing floor. The contact among the partners was limited to touching the hands at certain moments, and the proximity of the bodies in public was considered to be absolutely scandalous. Remember that at the time just to dance in front of each other the right arm of the man touching the back of the lady was a no go!
Now here we have a dance in which there is a close embrace, cheek to cheek, chests together, the legs invading each other's space, in a long conversation of love, lust and passion, with flirtatious looks and caresses.

It is danced in an embrace that can vary from open, in which leader and follower connect at arms length, to very closed, in which the connection is chest-to-chest, or anywhere in between. The dancers' chests are closer to each other than are their hips, and often there is contact at about the level of the chest. In close embrace, both the leader's and the follower's chests are in complete contact and they are dancing with their heads touching or very near each other. In open embrace, there can be as much space as desired between the partners, but there should always be complete contact along the embracing arms to give optimum communication. Since Argentine tango is almost entirely improvisational, there needs to be clear communication between partners. Very sexy, isn't it?

The original lyrics of tango music frequently were references to sex. But as tango became socially acceptable the dance and lyrics were later censored and/or totally changed. Some elements of them are still present, although they lost the original meaning. Today, tango is a dance of elegance.

I think that our Naked Tango captures it all - everything that tango is: raw, erotic, elegant and seductive. And our Cholo is sensual and seductive just as it is described in original songs.

Tango is love. Either if you'd like to share, express, resist, avoid, fall into or define love, do it with all your heart, ON and OFF the dance floor; take every step as if it is your last ...


  1. I am pretty sure I need a moment to cool off, A 'tango' with D'Onofrio would be the ultimate seduction, very HOT post jazzy!

  2. Very interesting post, Jazz. I learned something new today.

    I'm not sure I'd be able to dance a tango with Cholo because I'd be too much impressed! He's so sensual, virile, safe of him...He's a real man and I'm just a girl!

  3. I have 'a private space' to which Vincent would not have to 'ask permission to enter'.

    Sorry to take your erudite post to a lower level...

  4. Anonymous9:48 PM

    Wonderful post Jazzy. Love these kind of posts. I would love to dance the tango with Cholo, and perhaps end with horizontal tango.

  5. Oh I would love 'having contact' with Vincent.

  6. I'm not terribly coordinated enough to tango, but I'd let Cholo do other things to me.

  7. Thanks for a most interesting history lesson on the Tango ... and for those FABULOUS caps of our dear Cholo! Delicious!

  8. Maybe Vincent will offer tango lessons for a charity auction one day - i'd sell my soul for that one!!! Who am I kidding? I just wouldn't let anyone else get them!!!

  9. Anonymous9:57 AM

    I'd like to do the tango with him, either vertically or horizontally....

  10. Fascinating post, Jazzy!

  11. Hey, former Molly's girls, do you remember ManicBrit who actually went on a tango evening class because of this film?

  12. What a fantastic post. So informative and sexy. Loved it. Thank you for expanding my knowledge on the history of the Tango. Beautiful pictures too.

  13. Thank you all for your comments!