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WOMEN AND TANGO

Long before the end of the century, men were practicing tango with men, learning from each other in the streets. The less experienced younger male dancers had to play the role of the woman when learning.

Women had not yet been formally introduced to the tango. At this point the dance was still not accepted socially. Young dancers might attempt the steps they knew at a carnival under the cover of the masses of people, or at a family dance with cousins in the afternoon. Because of its lack of acceptance it came to be danced in the outskirts of the city, not necessarily in the brothels as many people say. Tango's introduction to the brothels came at a later date when it was known to be danced in places like "Laura's" and "La Vasca's", brothels in disguise, where catering to their richer clientele might involve entertaining the client dancing the tango.

By 1909, tango had become a popular dance with dedicated tango venues and academies. Although women had became open tango participants, they were not yet considered partners to the men they danced with. The men simply needed someone to facilitate showing off their abilities. The nicknames of female dancers reveals their status, often describing their negative attributes: "Skinny", "Chatterbox", "Bowlegged" etc., Whereas the men were given nicknames which highlighted their manhood.

Even when the woman's role in tango began to become more equalized, those that danced tango weren't really considered "good girls" as the dancing was done after midnight. And so families looked down on tango dancing in halls, although they might allow it in their homes and would pass along steps from one family member to another. At that time, at the dances, woman were very outnumbered (about 10-1) and so only the best male dancers got to dance. So the tradition of men practicing with men was upheld.   

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