Different Styles of Argentine Tango?

Though I've flirted with Argentine Tango on multiple occasions, I don't consider myself an expert. I'm curious of the different styles of dance as well as the different dances in the Argentine Tango family.

First, I know there is a close embrace style, but what do you call it when it's not a close embrace?

Second, I know there is the milonga(?) style where you step to every beat evenly and the valse style in waltz timing. What are the main dances and how do you tell the difference?

Well, perhaps, I am not the one to be doing this, but I'll give the question about styles a shot. First of all, let me say that when I think of a style of tango, I think more in terms of the particular couple or dancer than about milonguero/salon/nuevo. That leaves room for a personal style. This also rules out the type of embrace defining what style a person dances. There is just too much variety to pin things down to three or four "styles". In the old days, from what I hear, the style was more a question of geography. People from, say, Parque Patricios had certain similarities in their dance styles, and so did people from Villa Urquiza or wherever. Of course, nowadays, there are a great many tourists, and so much more mobility. In the old days, a new person visiting in the barrio could be distinguished by his different style. Now, I am not certain.
People, Americans at least, tend to consider three different styles. Whether it is right or wrong to do so, I cannot say.
The milonguero style tends to favor a close embrace with deceptively simple footwork. I say deceptively, because sometimes it is highly synchopated, and sometimes even uses numbers of steps that run completely across one measure and into the next. Something like triplets in sight reading. You might find this in downtown Buenos Aires. Some people say the close embrace comes from the crowding on the floors, but I suspect not.
The salon style favors a little looser embrace to allow for showier footwork.
The nuevo style is fairly loose with many turns and fancy feet.
This just one way to think of things, and it has its limits.
The tango is sometimes written in 2/4 and sometimes in 4/8. The difference is sometimes related to the age of the composition/arrangement. Hence, the Guardia Vieja/ Guardia Nueva/ DeCarean schools of performance.
The milonga, I believe is always in 2/4. While the time signature does not necessarily say much about the feel of a piece of music, it is safe to say that the Milonga is quick and a little jumpy. The only way I know to tell the difference is to listen to a lot of it.
The waltz is, of course, 3/4. Its tempo is about the same as a viennese waltz. I normally step on the ones, that is, ONE, two, three, ONE, two three. But there are people who sort of specialize in the Tango Waltz. They could tell you much better how to dance it.
Well, that might have seemed long, but I guarantee it did not even scratch the surface of what there is to know about Argentine Tango. It was really quite a profanation. It is easy to see how some people can spend their lives learning how to dance just one dance. Of course, they are really three dances, tango, waltz, milonga. With so many variations in between.
Oops, I almost forgot. There is the milonga campera, which is a slow version of the milonga urbana. There are also chacarera and chamame, but not in the Buenos Aires milongas.
Maybe try "Bridge to the Tango" website. It is by an american who has tried for many years to explain this stuff much better than I just did. Also "Totango.net"
I forgot something else. If you want to listen to some music from all the different eras, try "Todotango.com". You can stream a little bit of everything. Try for variety, a Guardia Vieja type such as Roberto Firpo and one of the later innovators such as Pedro Laurenz. Both fantastic, just different. Mostly at the milongas where I dance, people love D'Arienzo and DiSarli. D'Arienzo has a sort of muddy sound that I don't like much, but it makes people dance.
That was a completely unsolicited opinion. So sorry.
Thanks Will. I've always been fascinated by Argentine Tango.

I learned a little from a couple from Argentina Kelly and Fercundo. I don't know their last names but they were such lovely people and Kelly was a dream to dance with.

I need to take lessons to get compitant at the dance, but I want to learn more about the history even if it comes without the skill in the dance.

"Bridge to the Tango" is Daniel Trenner's site yes?
I don't know much about the history of Argentine Tango as a dance. I am mostly interested in the way it is danced today. Of course, it is always interesting to learn new things. There is some information on the internet about the history. Most of it is connected to sites that want to sell you things. The best site is always todotango.com. Not much about the dance, but music with short biosketches of all the famous golden age orchestra leaders.
There are also books about the history. But the scholars don't even agree on where the word "tango" came from. Not much of a recorded history. If you invent a new dance, be sure to write your own book about it for posterity's sake.
I think Facundo's surname is Posadas.


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There are some Daniel Trenner live-action videos out there (no teaching, just dancing). Don't want to mention the company, but are these videos worth the cash?
I can't really say anything about Daniel Trenner. I have never seen him dance. There are lots of videos with just dancing and shows. It is not my place to say who are the good stage dancers, because I don't really get into that. I do enjoy seeing Copello and Monti dance, but maybe it is just the look on Copello's face and watching Monti's calves. What they call "Tango Fantasia" is completely out of my league.
Thousands styles!

Hi all,

I'm a german tango teacher and I just popped in your forum. As a teenager I also danced Ballroom, but now, since a few years there's only tango for me.
There are some interesting discussions going on here, so I will have to give my mite.

You were talking of different styles in Tango and how to define them. Well, in my opinion, there are as many styles as dancers. Every dancer will dance in a unique and individual way (given a little time and practice) and of course every dancer has a different opinion concerning the tango-styles. If you ask Pablo you may get a totally different definition of Tango de Salón than if asking Manolo. Not speaking of the definitions of Tango Milonguero, Tango Orillero, Tango de los barrios...
Even the definition Milonga - Tango is not that clear as it seems to be: there are very old tangos, which certainly do have a Milonga-Rhythm: Tango-Milongas! Would you dance Milonga to this music or Tango? And how do you dance Milonga? Is Milonga only a fast Tango or a different dance?????
Even the definition Tango Fantasia (Stage Tango) and Tango as a social dance may be obsolete if you watch the couples performing Ganchos, Voleos and Saltos in a Milonga.
So, why worry?
The only thing you will have to know about the styles in Tango is that there are thousands and that every tango dancer is an expert on them.

This versatility is the reason why Tango is so exciting and why Tango Dancers love to dance all night long only Tango, Tango, Tango... Imagine a
ball were they only play Rumba all night! The people would get bored very soon, wouldn't they? :wink:

Cheers to all!
Thanks Lucrezia,

Argentine Tango is still developing here at the Dance Forums and I appreciate and welcome your participation.

This may sound like I'm missing your point, but I would love to know about some of the characteristics of Tango Milonguero, Tango Orillero, Tango de los barrios and Tango Nuevo. Certainly there must be some sort of explanation that would give an outsider an idea what a person means when they use these terms, right?
Different styles: my definition

Hello DanceMentor

Well, as I already said: every definition is highly individual, and you'll find several others, refering to the same term. But I'll try to concentrate on the facts which the different definitions may have in common:

Tango orillero:
"Orilla" means "outskirts of a town". The different suburbs (barrios) developed different tango styles, which may have been a little less serious, but more strange or funny. But of course, this was many, many years ago, and today nobody knows how they really danced. So I presume, the couples teaching TO nowadays, have got a time-machine! ;-)

Tango de los Barrios, Tango arrabalero:
The same as Tango orillero.

Tango Milonguero:
Ancient Tango Style, danced in close embrace and to the rhythmical music of the "vieja guardia" (Orquesta Victor, early Fresedo, Firpo, early Canaro). Dosn't use any fancy stuff, mosty walking. The "ocho cortado" is a typical element. The hips of the women don't turn that much during ochos or turns because of the very close embrace. Rustic.

Tango de Salón:
Develoed in the "golden aera" of Tango, the Forties. More elegant than Tango Milonguero, the embrace may be a little less close to enable decorations, turnings and embelishments. Danced to fluent music like the one of the orquestras of Di Sarli, Fresedo, Pugliese. Some say, TdS does not use elements, were the feet leave the ground (Voleos, Ganchos...)
But TdS may also be refered to more widely, as a contrast to "Tango Fantasia" (Stage Tango), meaning: Tango which is danced in the Salons, Milongas, reunions and not on stage. The embrace may be as close as in Tango Milonguero and the style may vary from rustic to elegant. I prefer to define Tango the Salòn in this way.

Tango Nuevo:
First of all a musical term, meaning the Tango which was developed by Piazzolla and his sucessors, who did not compose for dancing, but for listening. (I would never dance to Piazzola!)
In the last few years, the term is also used in dance context, meaning the style of the "Renovadores" of Tango: Fabian Salas, Pablo Veron, Gustavo Naveira. Embrace is very open, enabling the couple to dance a lot of sacadas, ganchos, voleos, alternaciones (uncommon changes in direction).

Ok, this is enough!!!! As I said, my definitions may vary from the ones of other Tango dancers. So don't mistake them for the 10 comandments! :wink:

Gosh, it must be hundreds of years ago, since I wrote a text that long in english language. I hope I didn't mess it all up...

I couldn't agree more.
Just watch, Dance Mentor, how you throw around the terms. Even Fabian Salas, who invented the so called "Nuevo" style with Naveira, does not particularly like the appellation. When asked if he teaches "Nuevo", he says, "I teach Argentine Tango, that's it."
For one thing, when people say "Nuevo Tango" to me, I think of a style of teaching, rather than dancing. Although the people who learned from them maybe show some similarities in dance. Maybe not.
I guess nobody likes to be pigeonholed.
Hi will35,

well this is another point. Style may be defined through teaching style. This complicates everything even more. Hmmm, let me think about this.... :wink:

Result of thinking about it: I have to redefine my style! I dance Tango de Salón (as a contrast to stage-tango). I do not use any flashy show frippery and I prefer old musik. But: I teach in a very modern way, trying to analize every movement in order to permit more improvisation through understanding. (I worked a lot with Naveira. He's a great teacher but I would never like to dance like him!)

Should I not better call my style Nuevo Tango de Salón?! :wink:

No, again: Tango does not need names or labels. Tango is Tango: a highly individual way to dance, to think and to live!

Amen. :wink: :wink: :wink:
Hi Lucrezia,

You said:
No, again: Tango does not need names or labels. Tango is Tango: a highly individual way to dance, to think and to live!
I hope you don't feel it is improper to ask this question:
When you say, "Tango is Tango", do you include the Ballroom or International styles of Tango, or are there certain limitations you place on the definition of Tango?

(I know this is sometimes a controversial subject, but we haven't really discussed this on the Dance Forums so far). Personally, I like both Argentine Tango and ballroom tango. Are they both tango? Is it improper to, for example, dance a "promenade" at a Milonga?


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Has anyone heard of an AT teaching couple Nito and Elba Garcia? They're doing a weekend of workshops here next week, starting from beginner level and up. They're based in Buenos Aires, and have taught at the Congresso Internacional de Tango Argentino. Oh yeah. And they teach salon style tango, whatever that means. :? Any word out there about them?
Here you've got me. ;-)

When I'm speaking of Tango, I'm refering to argentine Tango.

Ballroom Tango of course is Tango, as it is called Tango but is it a totally different dance although it developed out of argentine Tango in the twenties.

Although Tango is a highly individual dance, there are of course some general rules:
1. The posture: regardless of open or close embrace the couple form a triangle if seen from the side. Means: chests are nearer then feet in order to allow free hip-torsion and movements of legs
2. The rule to keep the knees together and walk on one line.
3. The movement of the upper body initiates the movement of the hips and legs.
4. Out of 2. and 3. results: the movements of the pivot of which results every ocho and turn.
5. There exist some common structures like for example how to turn around the man. You know: The molinete (back-side-forward-side). But these structures may be altered also. A man may lead only sidesteps around him or back- and sidesteps...
6. One must be able to lead every single movement without having to rely on steps. Of course many a beginner will dance steps without beeing able to lead them, but they must be "leadable" in principle. A movement which is only initiated and then goes on automatically and can not be led or stopped, for me is not tango-like.
7. steps are only examples and not binding. The emphathis lies on improvisation
8. So one of the main principles in Tango is that there is no standardization. Even techniques may vary: there are people who walk only on their toes, other set all the foot. Some people lead only with their chest, others use their arms...

This means: for me, ballroom tango is not argentine Tango. The posture (contact with hips, chest apart) is opposite to the one in AT, steps and techniques are well defined and binding in order to compare the couples to each other. Improvisation is seldom.

But of course one may dance a promenade in a Milonga. One may even dance ballroom at a Milonga if one is able to move without disturbing the other couples. And if they dance a promenade according to the general rules of tango (in the right posture, leading every single movement, without having to dance it right to the end of the step) this step (the promenade) may be even integrated into Argentine Tango, because Tango does not exclude particular combinations of steps to the front, back and side.

And most of the Milongas I visit would not make fun of the people dancing ballroom... unless they start throwing their heads from one side to the other and carrying a rose between their teeth. ;-)))

So, if you once come to my Milonga in Germany do not hestitate to dance as you like. :)

Thank you, Lucrezia

I love your perspective. I don't think I would come to your Milonga to dance the ballroom tango. Rather, I would want to learn more about your style. I have done Argentine Tango on many occasions, including group and private lessons.

I've had a renewed interest in Tango lately, since I went to the workshops and show with Gustavo Naveira and Giselle. I do feel a little awkward still, but I am slowly learning. I think one of the more difficult concepts for me is to step when my partner does not step, and the triangle frame.

It just so happens, Jenn, that I took to hours of private lessons from Nito and Elba when they came to Atlanta a few years ago. They are an older couple. He usually does the teaching and she assists. Unless, something has changed since I took lessons from them, they speak very little English, but they do communicate well. I found it very interesting learning from someone without the benefit of speaking the same language.
I thought Nito and Elba always used translators. They normally travel for big weekends with other teachers in conventions, or whatever they are called. I think everybody I know absolutely loves the way Nito and Elba dance and teach. They are considered two of the most elegant dancers around. They are also pretty nice people. They also do not do stage type choreographies, which means whatever they teach you, is what they really dance. Completely improvisational, no marketing. I have not had them as teachers, but I know some people who have. They traveled around dancing on the stage with none other than Osvaldo Pugliese. And no choreography. That's about the highest recommendation I could think of.


Well-Known Member
Thanks will35! :D An Orlando-local teaching couple is sponsoring the event, and likely will serve as translators. When I first saw the ad, I was very intimidated. Nito and Elba look like the genuine article, and I guess, based on what you say, they are. But since they're teaching several beginning level classes next week, I'd be crazy to miss the opportunity to get introduced to the dance by some of the best. Wow! This is really exciting! :D

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