This is an interesting account of the earliest stages of tango by Christine Denniston

“There were simply not enough women for all the men who might have wanted to settle down and have children to be able to do so.
There were really only two practical ways for a man to get close to a woman under these circumstances. One was to visit a prostitute and the other was to dance. With so much competition from other men on the dance floor, if a man wanted a woman to dance with him, it was necessary for him to be a good dancer, and being a good dancer only meant one thing. It didn’t matter if he knew lots of fancy steps, or if the other men thought he was a good dancer.













The only thing that mattered was that the woman in his arms had a good time when she danced with him – because with so many other men to choose from, if she didn’t enjoy dancing with him she wouldn’t do it again, and neither would her friends.This meant that it was necessary for the men to practice together in order to be good enough to dance with the women. It is important to remember that this was a time before recorded music was available. The only kind of music was live music, and there would have been very little of it. So if a group of men heard music playing they would jump at the chance to dance to it. In the brothels there would be live music and other men waiting. So it seems to me quite obvious that the clients of the brothels would have danced together while they waited, making the most of the opportunity to practice, not because they wanted to dance with a prostitute, but because they wanted to be able to dance well when they got the opportunity to dance with a woman who was not a prostitute.

It was the potential wives and sweethearts that lived in the tenement blocks – conventillos – that they were hoping for a chance to dance with. A prostitute took money from a man in return for her favours – a clear and simple transaction. To win a sweetheart in the real world took something more, and being a good dancer helped a lot.

It was not in the brothels that Tango was born, but in the courtyards of the tenement blocks where the poor lived. With so many people living together in one building, it was very likely that someone might play the guitar, perhaps someone else might play the violin or the flute, and that from time to time they would get together to play the popular tunes of the time. And other people in the building would take the opportunity to dance, to have a moment of joy in what might be a terribly hard and lonely life.”