Early tango was known as tango criollo, or simply tango. Today, there are many tango dance styles, including Argentine Tango, Uruguayan Tango, Ballroom tango (American and International styles), Finnish tango and vintage tangos. What many consider to be the authentic tango is that closest to that originally danced in Argentina and Uruguay, though other types of tango have developed into mature dances in their own right.
The dance originated in lower-class districts of Buenos Aires. The music derived from the fusion of various forms of music from Europe. Jorge Luis Borges in "El idioma de los argentinos" writes:"Tango belongs to the Rio de la Plata and it is the son of Uruguayan "milonga" and grandson of the "habanera". The word Tango seems to have first been used in connection with the dance in the 1890s. Initially it was just one of the many dances, but it soon became popular throughout society, as theatres and street barrel organs spread it from the suburbs to the working-class slums, which were packed with hundreds of thousands of European immigrants.
In the early years of the twentieth century, dancers and orchestras from Buenos Aires and Montevideo travelled to Europe, and the first European tango craze took place in Paris, soon followed by London, Berlin, and other capitals. Towards the end of 1913 it hit New York in the USA, and Finland. In the USA around 1911 the name "Tango" was often applied to dances in a 2/4 or 4/4 rhythm such as the one-step. The term was fashionable and did not indicate that tango steps would be used in the dance, although they might be. Tango music was sometimes played, but at a rather fast tempo. Instructors of the period would sometimes refer to this as a "North American Tango", versus the "Rio de la Plata Tango". By 1914 more authentic tango stylings were soon developed, along with some variations like Albert Newman's "Minuet" Tango.
In Argentina, the onset in 1929 of the Great Depression, and restrictions introduced after the overthrow of the Hipólito Yrigoyen government in 1930 caused Tango to decline. Its fortunes were reversed as tango again became widely fashionable and a matter of national pride under the government of Juan Perón. Tango declined again in the 1950s with economic depression and as the military dictatorships banned public gatherings, followed by the popularity of Rock and Roll. The dance lived on in smaller venues until its revival in 1983 following the opening in Paris of the show Tango Argentino created by Claudio Segovia & Hector Orezzoli. This show made a revolution worldwide, and people everywhere started taking tango lessons.
In 1990, dancers Miguel Angel Zotto and Milena Plebs founded the "Tango X 2" Company , generating novel spectacles and that a great current of young people incline for the dance of the tango, an unusual thing at the time. They created a style that recovered the traditional tango of the milongas, renewed it and placed it as central element in its creations, doing an archeological search of the diverse styles of the tango.
Tango consists of a variety of styles that developed in different regions and eras of Argentina and Uruguay as well as in other locations around the world. The dance developed in response to many cultural elements, such as the crowding of the venue and even the fashions in clothing. The styles are mostly danced in either open embrace, where lead and follow have space between their bodies, or close embrace, where the lead and follow connect either chest-to-chest (Argentine tango) or in the upper thigh, hip area (American and International tango).
Different styles of Tango are:
These are danced to several types of music:
The "milonguero" style is characterized by a very close embrace, small steps, and syncopated rhythmic footwork. It is based on the petitero or caquero style of the crowded downtown clubs of the '50s.
In contrast, the tango that originated in the family clubs of the suburban neighborhoods (Villa Urquiza/Devoto/Avellaneda etc.) emphasizes long elegant steps, and complex figures. In this case the embrace may be allowed to open briefly, to permit execution of the complicated footwork.
The complex figures of this style became the basis for a theatrical performance style of Tango seen in the touring stage shows. For stage purposes, the embrace is often very open, and the complex footwork is augmented with gymnastic lifts, kicks, and drops.
A newer style sometimes called "Tango Nuevo" has been popularized in recent years by a younger generation of dancers. The embrace is often quite open and very elastic, permitting the leader to lead a large variety of very complex figures. This style is often associated with those who enjoy dancing to jazz- and techno-tinged "alternative Tango" music, in addition to traditional Tango compositions.
Ballroom tango, divided in recent decades into the "International" (English) and "European" styles, has descended from the tango styles that developed when the tango first went abroad to Europe and North America. The dance was simplified, adapted to the preferences of conventional ballroom dancers, and incorporated into the repertoire used in International Ballroom dance competitions. English Tango was first codified in October 1922, when it was proposed that it should only be danced to modern tunes, ideally at 30 bars per minute (i.e. 120 beats per minute - assuming a 4/4 measure).
Subsequently the English Tango evolved mainly as a highly competitive dance, while the American Tango evolved as an unjudged social dance with an emphasis on leading and following skills. This has led to some principal distinctions in basic technique and style. Nevertheless there are quite a few competitions held in the American style, and of course mutual borrowing of technique and dance patterns happens all the time.
Ballroom tangos use different music and styling from Argentine tangos, with more staccato movements and the characteristic "head snaps". The head snaps are totally foreign to Argentine and Uruguayan tango, and were introduced in 1934 under the influence of a similar movement in the legs and feet of the Argentine tango, and the theatrical movements of the pasodoble. This style became very popular in Germany and was soon introduced to England, one of the first proponents being Mr Camp. The movements were very popular with spectators, but not with competition judges (Source: PJS Richardson, History of English Ballroom Dancing, Herbert Jenkins 1946, page 101-102)
The tango is danced in very close full upper body contact in a wide and strong frame, and features smooth horizontal movements that are very strong and determined. Dancers are very low, allowing long steps without any up and down movement. Forward steps land heel first, and in backward steps dancers push from the heel. In basic steps, the passing leg moves quickly to rest for a moment close to the grounded leg.
In Argentine tango, the steps are typically more gliding, but can vary widely in timing, speed, and character, and follow no single specific rhythm. Because the dance is led and followed at the level of individual steps, these variations can occur from one step to the next. This allows the dancers to vary the dance from moment to moment to match the music (which often has both legato and/or staccato elements) and their mood.
The Argentine Tango's frame, called an abrazo or "embrace," is not rigid, but flexibly adjusts to different steps, and may vary from being quite close, to offset in a "V" frame, to open. The American Ballroom Tango's frame is flexible too, but experienced dancers frequently dance in closed position: higher in the elbows, tone in the arms and constant connection through the body. When dancing socially with a beginners, however, it may be better to use a more open position because the close position is too intimate for them. In American Tango open position may result in open breaks, pivots, and turns which are quite foreign in Argentine tango and International (English) tango.
There is a closed position as in other types of ballroom dance, but it differs significantly between types of tango. In Argentine Tango, the "close embrace" involves continuous contact at the full upper body, but not the legs. In American Ballroom tango, the "close embrace" involves close contact in the pelvis or upper thighs, but not the upper body. Followers are instructed to thrust their hips forward, but pull their upper body away, and shyly look over their left shoulder when they are led into a "corte."
In Argentine tango open position, the legs may be intertwined and hooked together, in the style of Pulpo (the Octopus). In Pulpo's style, these hooks are not sharp, stacco ganchos, but smooth ganchos.
In Argentine Tango, the ball or toe of the foot may be placed first. Alternately, the dancer may take the floor with the entire foot in a cat-like manner. In the International style of Tango, "heel leads" (stepping first onto the heel, then the whole foot) are used for forward steps.
Ballroom tango steps stay close to the floor, while the Argentine Tango includes moves such as the boleo (allowing momentum to carry one's leg into the air) and gancho (hooking one's leg around one's partner's leg or body) in which the feet travel off the ground. Argentine Tango features other vocabulary foreign to ballroom, such as the parada (in which the leader puts his foot against the follower's foot), the arrastre (in which the leader appears to drag or be dragged by the follower's foot), and several kinds of sacada (in which the leader displaces the follower's leg by stepping into her space).
Finnish tango is closer to the Argentine than to Ballroom in its technique and vocabulary. Other regional variations are based on the Argentine style as well.
For 1978 FIFA World Cup in Argentina, Adidas designed a ball and named it Tango likely a tribute to the host country of the event. This design was also used in 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain as Tango Málaga , and in 1984 and 1988 European Football Championships in France and West Germany.
Argentine tango is the main subject in these films:
A number of films show ballroom tango in several scenes, such as:
Finnish tango is featured to a greater or lesser extent in the following films: