Argentine Tango or Ballroom Tango?

Do you prefer Argentine Tango or Ballroom Tango?

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I'm curious which one you prefer to dance and why.
I'm also curious if you think it is appropriate to dance Argentine Tango at a ballroom party or Ballroom Tango at a Milonga.
Your thoughts?

Note concerning the poll: I believe you have to be a registered member in order to cast your vote (probably to prevent people from voting twice).
I went to an Argentine Tango function, and not knowing any Argentine style, my partner and I danced the Ballroom style that we've known for a few years now. In my conversations with people at the function I got the impression that I would be better off going somewhere else. My question: Is this normal? Am I a dancer trying to have fun surrounded by purists who don't want me infuse my dancing with theirs? Will they come to accept me?

By the way I have signed up for an Argentine Tango class, but I can't imagine not mixing in some of the Ballroom style that I have come to love.


Staff member
Hi Alison and welcome to the forums! :D

While each venue is different, my guess is that what you experienced is pretty much the norm. From what I know the Argentinean Tango crowd & scene are the purists of the dance world – more then any other dancers/dance style, all they care about is Argentinean Tango. As with any such generalization there are, of course, exceptions (both locally and individually) but, by and large, I do not think that non-"authentic" elements will be very welcome.

The salsa scene is probably the next most simm8ilar in this regard but, from the people I've met and talked to, Argentinean Tango dancers – as a group – are more then content with nothing else and, in point of fact, prefer this purism/concentration.

At some level this makes some sense to me, since the lead and follow are actually of individual weight shifts (as opposed to of steps), so the room for intricacies and development therewith is, ultimately, of a different magnitude.

As far as the poll questions is concerned, I voted for ballroom but this is because I don't know more then three or so "patterns" (already showing a ballroom bent) in Argentinean. I love to watch Argentinean, however, and would very much like to learn when opportunity permits.
Concerning the poll: I am surprised to see that Argentine Tango even stands a chance against ballroom. I know the question is which one the voter likes to dance, but it would be interesting to see which one the voter likes to watch more. I voted for Argentine Tango, because it is so much more than any other dance. In fact, I do not consider Argentine Tango a dance at all. Why? The difference in one dance and the next are the particular steps and particular rhythm. We don't really have steps in Argentine tango, and the music can be danced with a million different rhythms. So, if Argentine Tango is not a particular dance because there are no steps and no rhythm (not to mention that there are several types of music, waltz, tango, milonga that use the tango dance system), then what is Argentine Tango? I suggest it is an entirely different WAY to dance. The way the leader just picks a direction to move and the follower follows without knowing any tiny choreographies beforehand is completley unlike ballroom style which is another WAY to dance. Now, we get to the question about AT dancers not accepting other WAYS to dance on the milonga floor. There are several issues. First is the music. A good AT dancer just lets the music do the real leading. If the music is sad, guess what, the dancer moves his body that way. If it is languid or sly or sophisticated or fun or even sexy, guess what, the dancer moves that way. The ballroomer is stuck with what he and his partner know beforehand. Even if they are double platinum 24 Karat syllabus, it is still so much less than a good AT dancer can do. So, the AT dancer takes up the slack by moving around the ballroomer on the floor. Because the AT dancer can. He/she can stop, start, move right , left, back whatever at any time without going through a pattern to get in the right position. And good AT dancers very seldom kick other good AT dancers in the head on the floor. The second point is that AT is a social dance. That means when a good leader goes to the milongas, ALL the ladies want to dance with him. The same with a good follower. And they all can dance with each other without asking questions about syllabus or whatever. So, if you are not prepared to be a part of the milonga, it is not a good idea to go. And it is impossible to be a part of what is going on in the milonga if you cannot dance with just any old body there. Here is another difference. It is a question of competition. Ballroomers love competition, but they don't understand the kind of competition that AT dancers love. The good AT dancer is always competing, with himself. It is a lifelong study and a quest to be the best one can be, not the best at executing someone else's plan. Because there is no plan, no syllabus, etc. Just the music and the couple. When I am at milongas, and a new leader comes in who is really good, I can hear the women start to whisper among themselves. The one who just danced with him says, "I really recommend you dance with him." It is not about how they show off together or how many steps he knows. He has a feel for the music and he lets it guide him, and the follower gets it(because a good follower has sensitivity). The follower understands what the leader is saying without a word. I certainly hope no ballroomers are offended by what I write, but ballroom dances are just dances, AT is a completley different way to dance and a different way of thinking about dance. It is the most social of social dances. The only thing that comes close is Lindy, and after all, it is not even close. Alison asks if AT dancers will ever accept her. I can only say that I think GOOD AT dancers accept one thing: dedication. That is dedication to the dance, the music, the partner, the floor on which it is practiced because there are others dancing too, and dedication to the culture from which the dance came. Even the best AT dancers that are famous and so forth still learn and adapt their dance to the music and to their partners. It is something to work on and create for the rest of your life, not something with a certificate of competence and a number pinned on your back at the end.
I'm not going to vote because I have never danced Argentine and I rarely dance ballroom tango. I think this is a really good topic for the tango lovers though!! :D


New Member
Either one, depending on the music. I've seen a really cool Tango routine by Georgiani and Manfredini, where they switch from Argentine to Milonga to Standard and back, as the music switches. The athletcisim and speed required for a strong standard Tango probably makes it my favorite though.

Think Foxtrot, without the rise and fall. There's no percussive beat to AT, the music is fairly smooth, so the dancers tend to move in a smooth fashion. All the other rules apply, regarding posture, center tone, leading following from the center, continuous weight transfer, etc. The hips usually are more neutral, rather than forward poised as you would have in standard. In the old-fashioned AT, the foreheads actually touch as the top lines lean towards each other, that's not the way it's usually danced, but I've run up on a few Argentine ladies who enjoy that style.

will typifies the attitude of many in the AT community. Whatever. It's a nice dance, but not really superior to WCS or Salsa, just different.


Staff member
Wow, must have been a great show! I've "only" seen them compete, but I imagine that if any couple could really do justice to such a crossover performance it would have to be them or Pino/Bucciarelli. I did see Georgiani/Manfredini when they won the 2002 World Classic Showdance title and man, that was something I'll never forget. The pure power, snap, and rotation of their pivot actions are something I've never seen duplicated. I'll have the chance to see them do a show in October so am really looking forward to that. :D
What do you mean by "continuous weight transfer"?

Well, still nobody is saying why they prefer to dance one or the other. Shows and routines are one thing. A social dance is another. Athleticism is fine. I like to watch Michael Jordan play ball, but I don't know if I want to dance with him.
Just so we don't argue over semantics here, I'd like to say that I don't recall writing in any post about better or best. If I did, I apologize. What I should say is that we might make a comparison between ALL ballroom dances and Argentine Tango. There is certainly no comparison between Argentine Tango and American Tango. If Argentine Tango is a dance, then American Tango is a little piece of a dance. People like to claim that American and French or International style tango have their roots in Argentine. I suggest they were completley uprooted when people started to teach and learn steps instead of learning HOW to dance the Tango. It happened in the early days in France and England, and it happens today when somebody who has never danced THE ARGENTINE WAY walks into a milonga and says, "Show me how to do a gancho." As though it would really do any good to gancho some poor lady to death all night without even knowing how to walk WITH a partner WITH the music around a room.
What MSC says is absolutely correct. Argentine Tango is different. It takes some time to learn just how different. Argentine Tango is the perfect popular artistic expression of a fantastic, diverse, fascinating culture. When we agree to the dance, we adopt the culture as our own for a few minutes. It would be quite an insult to do anything less. We are even allowed to re-create the culture expressing our own personailties in the dance. The milonga re-creates the art form every night. Every night, the Tango comes out different, but with what it was before and more. Argentine Tango is as nearly limitless an expression as a true social dance can be. American Tango simply is not.


New Member
Actually "continuous transfer of weight" was not the right phrase, but anyway, by continuous transfer of weight, I mean that the weight distribution should evenly transfer from one foot to another. You must pass through a split weight position, where the weight is 50% on either foot (and hence your torso is exactly between your feet,) and continuously or smoothly drive off the supporting foot and receive to the new foot. Hence you don't drive entirely off the supporting foot, then catch with the receiving foot, as many are wont to do. Of course, you should do this in every dance, as long as you aren't doing hopping/kicking/skipping movements.

Here's the point I wanted to make. The weight transfer is not heavily accelerated/decelerated, as is the case in International Tango, but more of a soft flowing nature, as in foxtrot. Also forgot to mention that the steps are taken on the ball of the foot, so that when stepping forward, although you may use compression, you don't stretch the stride out as you would in foxtrot.

The feature that makes AT unique, more than any other, is the emphasis on flicks and kicks. Often times the expression is entirely through the legs, although a trained eye could still detect subtle contractions through the center of a "keen" AT dancer.

One more thing for Alison ... imagine if you went to a Salsa club, and in the middle of the floor, you danced a West Coast Swing or a Lindy Hop. Even if you were right on time, you'd probably get less than friendly looks from the local partisans. That's essentially what you did, even if you didn't realize it at the time.

I'm not a big fan of American style Tango, you're certainly correct that it is mostly a show dance. It usually ends up being a watered down mixture of Paso Doble and International Tango, although a really talented couple can make it look quite nice. I also prefer AT to American Tango, no doubt. AT is far superior to American Tango as a social dance, indeed preferable to International Tango in crowded rooms. In fact AT is about the only "smooth" dance that really works in a smallish room.
I see what you mean about the weight transfer. A simple thing I have heard some teachers use is to teach the new dancers to "collect the feet" between steps. This keeps the follower ready for a movement in any direction. It also puts a little hitch in the step and is not terribly smooth until many hours of practice. But it works.
Certainly the great majority of the movement spectators see in Argentine Tango is from the waist down. But all the movement necessary to make it danceable comes from above the waist. The part about the flicks and kicks I can only call debatable. As a social dance (and I always speak of the Tango that way, even though I don't say it) is very versatile. I am not a very good dancer, and I have never been on a stage, but I can honestly say that I think I have done maybe ten ganchos in my life. My partners have done even fewer boleos. I am also not a fan of sacadas, though they are all lovely in the right place at the right time. I might be wrong about this, but I have found that the longer a person has been dancing the tango, no matter the person's age or generation or nationality, the fewer the kick type things the person does. The thing about a person's tango is that it gets simpler and simpler and almost always more beautiful with time.
From last post:
"no matter the person's age or generation or nationality, the fewer the kick type things the person does. The thing about a person's tango is that it gets simpler and simpler and almost always more beautiful with time."

I see I broke my own rule here. I projected my idea about what is tango onto others. A person's style does not necessarily grow simpler, it grows more "them". If a person is stylistically simple in his/her life, the dance becomes simpler. They have learned all the tricks and eschewed most of them to find their own style. On the other hand, some people get trickier and trickier as time goes by. This is also beautiful if it is sincere. It is a question of personality, and finding oneself takes a good long time.
I have always loved Argentine Tango, but I have never learned as much as I would like. I was already a ballroom dancer and I performed the tango at a nightclub weekly. I would learn Argentine tango and then incorporate it into my ballroom. I tried to do pure Argentine tango in my performances, but I would always go back to Ballroom. It's kind of like quitting smoking--very difficult. I voted for ballroom out of habit, but I really appreciate Argentine tango, though some may not believe me.
AT all the way

I'm an International Latin dancer so you might think I'd choose International/American Tango, but I'm also a hopeful tanguera. Dancing Argentine Tango is an experience unlike any other partner dance I've done -- including other Latin dances, Ballroom, Swing, WCS. When AT works you feel like your torso is being carried around the dance floor on someone else's legs. It's a very internal pleasure, and one that took me a while to achieve.

I'm such an AT dancer that I've danced AT to International Tango songs at a ballroom function, without too much negative comment. I do have to say that ballroom dancers are a much more tolerant lot than AT dancers: I wouldn't recommend the reverse.

The one thing I can't stand about AT is the pretentiousness and preciousness of the people who dance it. Yes, yes, so many people don't "get" the AT experience and what it's about, and the extraordinary concentration and focus you need to be a good AT partner -- that "living in the moment" thing that AT demands more than any other dance. But the buying into the AT lifestyle thing really turns me off. I DO intend to spend the rest of my life doing AT (not sure I can say that about other dances), but I hope to find other tangueros who are willing to lighten up and stop theorizing!

Hello Fellow dancers.

I really enjoyed what will had to say. He is right on. I started with Ballroom and slowly moved over to the Argentine Tango side. Now, I only dance tango (with my favorite being vals).
You have to understand where the tango comes from and that is Argentina. Yes, it was danced differently a hundred years ago when it was introduced to the Europeans than now, but the fact remains of its origins.
In Europe the elite wanted to dance this new hip dance and to make it easy to teach and learn it was standardized; steps were created, and the soul was stolen. For like Will said, every dance is different depending on music and partner. Even the same song played four times in row (as often is case at end of night) in different arrangements can be as different as night and day.
I do disagree with another poster that the emphasis of tango is in kicks. The emphasis is on the feeling; the connection. It is why it is called the Dance of the Heart. It is this connection that keeps me coming back. It keeps eluding me, which is why it is calling chasing the ghost (soon upcoming documentary on old Tangueros of BsAs). I have only had that undescribable feeling a few times since moving to Tango year and a half ago, but the promise of getting to feel that way again keeps me sucked in. It is that giddy feeling inside that makes you want to jump, to scream, to cry, and to laugh all at the same time.
It is true, that Tango community does not embrace ballroom tango dancers. Part of the reason is the difficulty of navigation with other styles of tango. Most authentic milongas are packed tight - like most Glen Miller Orchestra balls are, with the exception that tango dancers have floorcraft, and can adapt their style of dance to the floor conditions. You have lanes, you stay on your lane, you do not pass, you do not hold people up, you use corners, you ask for permission to enter the floor, etc etc etc.
Certainly the tango community could embrace few of the ethics from the ballroom side, such as dressing up, walking the woman off the floor, etc (I am one of the few to do both - fo which all of the women thank me).
I think for that reason it is easier for the ballroom community to ignore or to accept AT dancers at balls than for AT dancers to ignore ballroom dancers at Milongas; Tango dancers can navigate on the floor and do not cause conflict; even if they like to do gaunchos or boleos excessively. The few ballroom dancers that come to the events I attend cause many collisions and headache.
I didn't vote but I vote Tango! :)

oh btw, there are also a dozen styles to dance all three types of tango,
Salon, Milonguero, Nuevo, Fantasy, Stage, etc etc.

I am a professional ballroom competitor/instructor/studio owner AND a hopeless fanatic of AT. (Just so y'all know where I'm coming from). One of the observations I have made between the 2 scenes reiterates much of what I've already read, but here's my 2cents anyway.

I think that there is a HUGE misunderstanding by AT dancers that ballroom dancing is not lead. I beg to differ. I think that often, newer ballroom instructors teach steps instead of technique; however, anyone who had done ballroom dancing long enough (dedicated enough time) will come to understand all the subtle nuances of lead&follow that DO exist in ALL of the various forms of dance. It's ridiculous to think otherwise. I will admit that there tends to be too much emphasis place on patterns in the Ballroom World :oops: , but that does not mean that the top professionals can only do pre-patterned steps. In fact, to think that ballroom dances is just a bunch of choreography is the assumption that I find to be the most ridiculous :shock: . Might I remind people that ballroom is also a social activity. :lol:

I also have to reiterate that the AT scene could use some ettiquette lessons from the Ballroom scene. I do realize that there are many cultural differences and that the expectations and standards may not always be compatible, but I do feel like it IS important to dress up and to escort the lady on and off the floor.

Speaking of floor, I also have to beg to differ regarding the post that claimed that only AT dancers can manuver the floor. Again, anyone who has done Ballroom dance long enough learns proper floorcraft. Unfortunately there are not enough really good technicians that teach this skill and not enough people who will dedicate enough time to learning it :roll: . My experience with AT is that it is actually much less complicated to manuver and have good floorcraft than with other ballroom dances. (And yes, I've led both AT and Ballroom). So it might seem that all AT dancers learn how to manuver, when in reality it is just much easier to do so.

That's all for now.
I love AT. I enjoy ballroom too. I think AT dancers can be a bit difficult and sometimes I wish they would drop the attitude, but I still love it. I will say AT has improved my ability to follow. I am much more in tune with my partner because of AT.

Perhaps because I am such a big fan of AT, I think the American style looks too theatrical. It just doesn't resonate with me. But, I have seen beautiful American tango.

I would NOT recommend going to a milonga and dancing American style. My observation is AT people would NOT appreciate that gesture at all. I have danced AT at the ballroom studio where I take classes and no one seemed to object although it is important, as with all dance, to honor line of dance.

I have enjoyed the discussion. Thanks to all participants.
First, let me say that I only said I never met anybody who really liked both Argentine and American Tango. That does not mean it is an undesirable or impossible thing to do. If you like them both, good. I have yet to say that I dislike Ballroom Tango, either.
As to theorizing, I don't know what to say. I prefer to be on the floor, but you know how things are. We don't very often just exchange pleasantries and compliments when we talk about things we love. "The nature of criticism is that it is mostly bad", or something like that, said Flannery O'Connor.

"In fact, to think that ballroom dances is just a bunch of choreography is the assumption that I find to be the most ridiculous . Might I remind people that ballroom is also a social activity." -Tangogirl

Ballroom dance would be a much more social activity if someone could gather together all the syllabi and competitions and throw them in the trash. Or did someone who does not dance the ballroom dances infiltrate and destroy the fun by regulating everything years ago? Everywhere you look there are rules in ballroom. Step here, don't step there, wear the right clothing, smile, smile , smile. Look like you are having fun. The ballroom dances have themselves to blame for it. I could think of no more malicious slander than to call dance a sport. Yet, there it is. It does not come from the Argentine Tango "scene".

"I also have to reiterate that the AT scene could use some ettiquette lessons from the Ballroom scene." -Tangogirl

Possibly, but I was trying not to refer so much to the dancers as to the dance itself. I still maintain that the Argentine Tango, not the "scene" is the most social of all social dances.

"My experience with AT is that it is actually much less complicated to manuver and have good floorcraft than with other ballroom dances. (And yes, I've led both AT and Ballroom). " -Tangogirl

Well, you said it, not me. Just any old idiot who dances the Argentine can maneuver. Again, I am talking about the dance not the dancers. There are even some experienced Argentine Tango dancers who choose not to maneuver well.
Although I do escort my partners from the table and back, I think any girl who can get around the room with a partner can also do it alone. I have also noticed that almost all the misunderstandings that we Americans have with the acceptance and the end of a dance in Argentine Tango stem from the neglect of the Argentine way to do things. They call it the "cabeceo," and it works perfectly every time. Americans don't like it much, but we haven't come up with anything nearly as functional.
You may come to one of my milongas and dance the other tangos if I can dance at your dance parties with dirt all over my favorite pair of crusty, old jeans. And foul smelling breath, too. And barerfoot. With soot and ketchup smeared on my face. And little pieces of food falling from my tee shirt.

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