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Tango Vals History

Tango Vals, unlike the Argentine tango and the milonga, has a much more secretive past: it is more difficult to derive the path starting from the Waltz, to Vals Criollo, and finally to Tango Vals. But we shall try, nevertheless.

The European Waltz

The Waltz - the precursor of the Tango Vals - is much older than tango. It is of course one of the very first dances (the others being the polka and tango) in which the couple face and touch each other when dancing.

The Waltz was transformed into an independent, identifiable dance only at the end of the 18th century. Until then, the aristocracy permitted dances without any liberties; dancers had to be at a respectable distance to each other, with perhaps only very slight touching of hands. The Waltz turned this on its head! Couples suddenly started embracing each other, hands were placed around the bodies, and couples looked into each other's eyes.

The bourgeoisie adopted the Waltz as a more liberal way of dancing and it became a symbol of their attitudes: self-assured, emotional, free, erotic. Yet when it became fashionable in Vienna around 1773, where it was popularised, it was shocking to the masses and the aristocrats, and was considered 'riotous and indecent' as late as 1825.

The Real Academia Española defines waltz as a dance of German origin, performed by couples with rotating and gliding movements. It is accompanied by a music in 3/4 time, generally with 16-bar phrases, at a fast tempo. It originates from the Tyrol region and its name derives from the volte, a dance also in 3/4 time.

Vals Criollo

The word Creole (Criollo in Spanish) described those working class Argentineans of "old stock", often descendants of mixed race Spanish and Afro background. The term was somewhat negative, inferring someone who had lived for so long in Argentina that they had gone native. Creoles had very strong influence on tango - almost mythical - and even Carlos Gardel's repertoire, which was was known as Creole rural music, included Vals Criollo.

In the same way as Tango Criollo (the tango danced by the native Creoles) was the primitive and first form of tango - another words not a true tango, but a 'Darwinian' evolution of the tango if you like - there also appears in history what is called Vals Criollo (also known as Vals Cruzado).

The immigrants that entered Argentina naturally brought dances and music from their native countries. One of these dances was the Waltz. In fact by we know that by 1810, the European waltz was being danced in Argentina; Buenos Aires and Montevideo especially.

The Creoles grew up to the popular sounds of the waltz. As they did with other dance forms such as the Candombé, Cuban Habanera and the Polka, the Creoles began to incorporate and thus modify the Waltz being influenced by the environment of Argentina. Thus towards the middle of the 1800s was born the Creole variation of Waltz - the Vals Criollo.

Pabellon de las Rosas by José Felipetti is considered a good example of the Vals Criollo.

Pabellon de las Rosas

Here is another very great Vals Criollo: Palomita Blanca by Anselmo Aieta (sung by Ignacio Corsini in 1929).

Palomita Blanca

Tango Vals

As Vals Criollo continue to evolve, so did Tango Criollo in parallel, with Tango Criollo morphing into Tango itself around 1880. Once tango was firmly entrenched in Buenos Aires, it would have been only natural for the tango musicians of the day - who by and large would have had considerable exposure to the Waltz and its derivative the Vals Criollo - to incorporate it into their repertoires. In fact by 1910, quite a few composers were writing tango composition in 3/4 time, and the Tango Vals was born!

Polo Talnir describes the morphing of the Waltz into the Tango Vals beautifully:
People danced a [Waltz] in the patio of the conventillo (tenement house), and without even thinking about it, they borrowed elements of that dance into the early Tango dance. Nothing can be more natural than this as a way of one dance influencing another.
One interesting difference between the Tango and the Tango Vals was its intended audience; whilst in the early 1900s Tango was played for and danced by the lower classes, the Tango Vals was being adored by the aristocrats and upper class.

Vals beyond 1910

The Vals began to lose its appeal around 1917 when the American dances, such as the Foxtrot and the Charleston, started to become popular. However the Vals was reborn during the 1940s, during the Golden Age of tango, as a result of superb Vals compositions by Roberto Firpo, Juan Maglio, Francisco Canaro, De Angelis, D'Arienzo, Francisco Lomuto, Lawrenz and Troilo.

Renown Vals

Below are shown examples of world renowned Vals compositions.

Desde el Alma by Rosita Melo

Lágrimas y Sonrisas by Pascual De Gullo (made a hit by Rodolfo Biagi's rendition)

Orillas del Plata by Juan Maglio

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