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History of Argentine Tango: Myth, Tradition & Identity Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Program Spring 2020 Semester - Buenos Aires

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History of Argentine Tango: Myth, Tradition & Identity

History of Argentine Tango: Myth, Tradition & Identity Course Overview


CEA CAPA Partner Institution: CEA CAPA Buenos Aires Center
Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Primary Subject Area: Cultural Studies
Other Subject Area: History
Instruction in: English
Course Code: CUL353
Transcript Source: University of New Haven
Course Details: Level 300
Recommended Semester Credits: 3
Contact Hours: 45
Prerequisites: Prior to enrollment, this course requires you to have completed introductory courses in Latin American history and/or cultural studies.


In this course, you explore the history and culture of the Tango genre of music, dance, and text from the late 19th century to the present and engage in a deconstruction of its complex myths and popular stereotypes. In search of historical insight into the tensions of contemporary Argentine identity, culture, and society, you will listen to Tango music, analyze lyrics to its many songs, observe its steps in film and play, and personally dance the Tango in the milongas (or ballrooms) of Buenos Aires. Your goal in this course is to investigate the complex cultural, social, and political meanings - in terms of identity, gender, and class - of what has become a global social phenomenon.

Born in the late 19th century among the lower classes of Buenos Aires and nourished from the confluence of Afro-American and Spanish rhythms, Italian immigrant nostalgia, and gaucho musical traditions of the Pampas, the Argentine Tango today expresses the myths, identity, and aspirations of the people who invented it. Powerfully evocative and visually synonymous with sensual and romantic dance - in part due to Hollywood scenes of impassioned dancers crossing ballroom floors - Tango was always more than a dance. Its intoxicating music and socially-charged lyrics - a reflection of its lower-class roots - challenged conventional notions of national Argentine identity and was rejected by the dominant classes in Buenos Aires until its Parisian and New York boom in the 1910s that made it a socially acceptable and global phenomenon.

From 1920, it therefore migrated from lower class suburbia to downtown Buenos Aires where it became the most popular music of Argentina - danced, sung, and played by all social classes. By the 1940s, Tango had become mainstream: a national icon expressing the character and culture of the Argentine people. Through the influence of innovative tango composers such as Astor Piazzolla in the 1970s, Tango became an international craze: now performed, sung, and danced across the world. Tango has since gone global and, in that process, has fused with jazz, rock, and electronic music. By the end of the course, you will acquire critical historical knowledge of this musical genre, cultural insight into the Argentine mentality, and practical experience at dancing the Tango and appreciating its cultural significance.

This course is cross-listed as HIS353

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