Argentine Tango (not to be confused with Ballroom Tango!) originated in Argentina in the mid-19th century. Originally Argentine Tango was danced by men, and one theory is that it began as a stylized way of teaching sailors the way to tie nautical knots. Tango's heyday in Buenos Aires was in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, when tango salons were everywhere and tango was part of the Argentine birthright. Though popular, tango had a stigma attached to it and many of the dance halls were seedy or were viewed as such, a stereotype that still persists to this day.
That changed dramatically in the 1950s when a series of dictatorships closed the tango salons and tight curfews kept people inside as night began to fall. At one point Argentine Tango was considered almost extinct, yet when rational government finally was restored in 1982, tango again began to thrive. There has since been a huge upsurge in Argentine Tango, spreading first through North America in the 1980s and 90s, and reaching Asia around the turn of the milennium. It is possible today to find a tango salon in almost every major city in the world, and in some cities, such as Seoul, Boston, or Tokyo, one can dance tango every night of the week. International Argentine Tango festivals bring world-class dancers together, and few sights are more impressive than an "elegant milonga" of 200 or 300 dancers, all dressed in black tie and fine evening gowns.
Today, despite changes in dance style, clothes, and attitudes, Argentine Tango remains as alluring as it ever was, and milongas are still at their core a social gathering: many people come as much for the chance to talk with friends and listen to the beautiful music as they do to dance.