Argentina, Uruguay


Included by UNESCO in the Intangible ‘Cultural Heritage list’ is a dance form known as Tango. This ‘Latin American’ dance style is said to have originated around the border that separates Argentina from Uruguay in the River Plate region. Apparently, this dance has been created using influences belonging to African as well as European culture. Furthermore, the music used in this dance style is heavily influenced by European melodies and rhythms. In addition, tango has gradually evolved over the years, as a result of which today there exists about 14 different styles of this “elegant” dance form.

a. History/origin of the Tango:

The Tango (initially known as tango criolio) was basically developed in the River Plate region (i.e. around the border that separates Argentina from Uruguay). Apparently, it was created by the lower middle-class community residing in cities such as Buenos Aires and Montevideo. Initially, this dance was mainly performed at musical gatherings that were organized by the labour class. It was eventually in the beginning at the 20th century, when dancers and musicians from Buenos Aires travelled to Europe that this dance form began to gain popularity. For example, it was in Paris, France that Tango first became popular in Europe, which was soon followed by London, Berlin, and by the end of 1913 New York too.

Between 1911 and 1913, American dancers became fascinated with tango dance, and they worked so hard to develop new styles of Tango dance that they earned the moniker “North American Tango.” This new type of tango style is well known for its faster tempos and uses 2/4 or 4/4 rhythms such as single steps, usually danced not with the tunes of traditional Tango music but with popular music styles. Traditional Argentinian tango and North American Tango settled in the year 1914.

In its native Argentina, the Tango’s popularity went through several ups and downs. While the dance is becoming more popular around the world, in Argentina it has become harder during several prolonged periods of economic hardship, including the Great Depression, the overthrow of the Yrigoyen government and during military dictatorships. Tango managed to thrive and was awakened a couple of times as a natural pride.

Tango Types/Styles

Tango is a diverse and rich dance style with many different performance styles. Each style has its own unique characteristics and techniques, but they all share a common emphasis on the connection between partners, the elegance of movement, and the passion of the dance. These are descriptions of popular types of Tango dances:

Ballroom Tango- This is the famous international version of the type, which originated in Europe and managed to become a famously simplified style that is used in competitions. The dance is used only as an ordinary social dance.

Salon Tango – This style of Tango is the most formalized and choreographed form of Tango. It is typically performed on a stage or in a ballroom setting, with dancers often wearing elaborate costumes. Salon Tango emphasizes precise footwork, intricate figures, and elegant arm movements.

Argentine Tango – This is the most widely recognized style of Tango and is the style danced socially in Argentina and around the world. Argentine Tango is a very improvisational dance, with dancers using subtle movements and intricate footwork to create a close and intimate connection between partners.

Nuevo Tango  – This is a modern style of Tango that incorporates elements of jazz, electronic music, and contemporary dance. Nuevo Tango dancers often perform in non-traditional venues and use a more fluid and dynamic approach to the dance.

Finnish Tango – This is a performance that gained popularity in Finland after the First World War with the development of a new Tango style that promotes contact dance, horizontal movements, and a low-standing stance that features no kicking.

Uruguayan Tango– a very old type of Tango, consists of sub-styles and can be danced on several types of music 

Tango Apilado– This performance is a close embrace of Tango, the best dance on a crowded dance floor.

Show tango– This is a performance-oriented style of Tango that incorporates elements of theatre and cabaret. Show Tango dancers often perform in elaborate costumes and use props such as hats, canes, and fans to enhance their performances. Show Tango emphasizes dramatic and expressive movements, with dancers often incorporating large gestures and bold movements into their routines.

Milonga-This is a fast-paced, upbeat style of Tango that originated in the dance halls of Buenos Aires. Milonga music is faster than traditional Tango music and features a distinct rhythm that is characterized by a strong emphasis on the downbeat. Milonga dancers often incorporate quick footwork and playful movements into their performances.

Tango Fantasia-This is a highly theatrical and choreographed style of Tango that incorporates acrobatic movements and elaborate lifts. Tango Fantasia is often performed in large-scale productions and is more commonly associated with stage performances than social dancing.

Styles used for Tango dancing by “Lead and follow dance”

Lead and follow are dancing with open space between each other’s bodies, which is known as “open embrace”

Either a chest-to-chest embrace or a more loose upper thigh and hip area (common in international and American tango) is practiced, which is known as “close embrace”


Styles of Tango Dance Performance

Tango music in the traditional style.

Alternative tango music, inspired by tango styles,

Tango-inspired electronic music

b. Costumes used in the Tango:

This dance is performed by both males and females, and so the costume worn varies according. They are as follows

1. For women:

The attire worn includes long/short skirts with openings, as well as dresses i.e. tops that are extremely sensual and usually expose the cleavage.

2. For men:

The attire worn includes a silk shirt, straight-cut trousers, and a pair of good dancing shoes.

c. Music involved in the Tango:

The major musical instruments used in this dance form include bandoneons, classical piano, Italian violin, string bass, and the Spanish guitar.

d. Training availability and technique involved in the Tango:

The basic technique of this dance basically involves the dancers (i.e. leader and follower) either positioned in an open embrace or in a closed embrace. In the open embrace, a distance is maintained between the bodies of the leader and the follower while in the closed embrace, the bodies of the leader and follower are in close contact with one another. As for training schools, there are many available around the world that provide for training in this extremely “romantic” dance style.

e. How to dance the Argentinian Tango (Tango dancing Basic tutorial video for beginners):

The following videos show the basic steps of the Argentinian Tango dance explaining how to do the Tango dance. All these YouTube channels provide extensive tutorials covering the basics of Tango dancing for beginners.

  1. Egils Smagris
  2. Helen Wang Tango
Antonio Banderas – Take the Lead – Tango Scene
Tango for Beginners
Beginner Argentine tango Basics
Argentine Tango “BASIC STEP”
How to Dance Tango Closed Promenade, Back Open Promenade, Open Promenade / Tango Routine
Tango – Natural Fallaway and Chasse to PP
Tango – Telemark to Same Foot Lunge
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