Styles of Argentine Tango
"Tango canyengue" refers to a style of Tango danced until the 1920s. Reportedly, the long tight fashion
in dresses of that era restricted the follower's movements. Consequently, the style involves short steps. The dancers tend
to move with knees slightly bent, the partners slightly offset, and in a closed embrace. The style tends to be danced to a
2/4 time signature. As the cayengue style was mostly not danced in ballrooms, but in taverns and on the street, the typical
soft feet movements with close contact to the ground were not possible, leading to a more "hopping" style.
Tango orillero refers to the style of dance that developed away from the town centers, in the outskirts
and suburbs where there was more freedom due to more available space on the dance floor. The style is danced in an upright
position and uses various embellishments including rapid foot moves, kicks, and even some acrobatics, though this is a more
Salon Tango was the most popular style of tango danced up through the Golden Era of the dance (1950's)
when milongas (tango parties) were held in large dance venues and full tango orchestras performed. Later, when the Argentine
youth started dancing rock & roll and tango's popularity declined, the milongas moved to the smaller confiterias in the
center of the city, resulting in the birth of the "milonguero/apilado/Petitero/caquero" style.
Salon Tango is characterized by slow, measured, and smoothly executed moves. It includes all of the
basic tango steps and figures plus sacadas, barridas, and boleos. The emphasis is on precision, smoothness, and musicality.
The couple embraces closely but the embrace is flexible, opening slightly to make room for various figures and closing again
for support and poise. The walk is the most important element, and dancers usually walk 60%-70% of the time during a tango
When tango became popular again after the end of the Argentine military dictatorships in 1983, this
style was resurrected by dancers from the Golden Era: Gerardo Portalea (still living), El Turco Jose (still living), Milonguita
(deceased), "Finito" Ramón Rivera (deceased), "Lampazo" Jose Vazquez (deceased), Virulazo (deceased), and Miguel Balmaceda
(deceased)in the milongas at Club Sin Rumbo, Sunderland, and Canning. One of the most famous examples of the elegant Salon
style is the [Villa Urquiza]' style, named after the northern barrio of Buenos Aires where the clubs Sin Rumbo and Sunderland
Tango milonguero (tango apilado/confiteria style)
This style developed in the 1940s and 50s in closely packed dance halls and "confiterias", so it is
danced in close embrace, chest-to chest, with the partners leaning - or appearing to lean - slightly towards each other to
allow space for the feet to move. There are not many embellishments or firuletes or complicated figures for the lack of space
in the original milonguero style but now also those figures are danced, which only at first glance seem impossible in close
embrace. Actually, a lot of complicated figures are possible even in milonguero.
Although the rhythmic, close-embrace style of dancing has existed for decades, the term "Milonguero
Style" only surfaced in the mid- '90s. Many of the older dancers who are exponents of this style of Tango prefer not to use
Tango Nuevo is a dancing and teaching style. Tango nuevo as a teaching style emphasizes a structural
analysis of the dance. It is a result of the work of the "Tango Investigation Group" (later transformed into the "Cosmotango"
organization) pioneered by Gustavo Naveira and Fabian Salas in the 1990's in Buenos Aires. By taking tango down to the physics
of the movements in a systematic way, they have created a method of analyzing the complete set of possibilities of tango movements,
defined by two bodies and four legs moving in walks or circles. This investigation provided a view of a structure to the dance
that was expressed in a systematic way.
In walks, their explorations pioneered what were once called "alterations" and are now called "changes
of direction". In turns, they focus on being very aware of where the axis of the turn is (in the follower/in the leader/in
between them). This tends to produce a flowing style, with the partners rotating around each other on a constantly shifting
axis, or else incorporating novel changes of direction.
Many of the recent popular elements in tango vocabulary, such as single-axis turns, owe their debut
on the tango scene to the popularity of Gustavo's and Fabian's approach.
From this teaching style, a new and unique style of dancing has developed, called by many a "tango
nuevo" style. The most famous practitioners of "Tango Nuevo" are Gustavo Naveira, Norberto "El Pulpo" Esbrés, Fabián Salas, Chicho Frumboli, and Pablo Verón. Interestingly enough, all of these dancers have highly individual styles that cannot be confused with
each other's, yet can be easily recognized as Tango Nuevo.
Tango Nuevo is often misunderstood and mislabeled as "Show Tango" because a large percentage of today's
stage dancers have adopted "tango nuevo" elements in their choreographies.
Show tango, also called Fantasia, is a more theatrical and exaggerated form of Argentine tango
developed to suit the stage. It includes many embellishments, acrobatics, and solo moves. Unlike other forms of tango, stage
tango is not improvised and is rather choreographed and practised to a predetermined piece of music.
The advent of "alternative Tango music"
While Argentine Tango has historically been danced to traditional tango music produced by such composers
as Osvaldo Pugliese, Carlos Di Sarli, Juan D'Arienzo, in the 90's a younger generation of Tango dancers began dancing Tango
to what was referred to as "alternative tango music"; music from other genres like, "World Music," "Electro-Tango," "Experimental
Rock," "Trip Hop," & "Blues," to name a few. Artists like, Kevin Johansen, Gotan Project, Tom Waits, Portishead & Louis Armstrong are among those favored in alternative tango music playlists.
Tango Nuevo is often associated with "alternative tango music," but depending on the dancers, any of
the other Tango styles may be danced to it.