Argentine tango is a social dance and musical genre, written in 4/4 measure and with binary musical form. Its lyrics and music are marked by nostalgia, expressed through melodic instruments like the bandoneon. Originated at the ending of the 19th century in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, it quickly grew in popularity and was internationally spread. Among its leading figures are the singer and songwriter Carlos Gardel, composers like Mariano Mores and musicians like Osvaldo Pugliese and Ástor Piazzola.
Argentine tango music is much more varied than ballroom tango music. A large amount of tango music has been composed by a variety of different orchestras over the last century. Not only is there a large volume of music, there is a breadth of stylistic differences between these orchestras as well, which makes it easier for Argentine tango dancers to spend the whole night dancing only Argentine tango. The four representative schools of the Argentine tango music are Di Sarli, D’Arienzo, Troilo and Pugliese. They are dance orchestras, playing music for dancing. When the spirit of the music is characterized by counterpoint marking, clarity in the articulation is needed. It has a clear, repetitive pulse or beat, a strong tango-rhythm which is based on the 2x4, 2 strong beats on 4 (dos por cuatro). Ástor Piazzolla stretched the classical harmony and counterpoint and moved the tango from the dance floor to the concert stage. His compositions tell us something of our contemporary life and dancing it relates much to modern dance.
While Argentine tango dancing has historically been dancing to tango music, such as that produced by such orchestra leaders as Osvaldo Pugliese, Carlos Di Sarli, Juan D'Arienzo, in the '90s a younger generation of tango dancers began dancing tango steps to alternatives to tango music; music from other genres like, "world music", "electro-tango", "experimental rock", "trip hop", and "blues", to name a few. Artists like Kevin Johansen, Gotan Project, Otros Aires, Tom Waits, Portishead, and Louis Armstrong are among those favored in alternative music playlists. Tango nuevo dance is often associated with alternative music, see nuevo tango, but it can be danced to tango as well.
Argentine tango dancing consists of a variety of styles that developed in different regions and eras, and in response to the crowding of the venue and even the fashions in clothing. Even though the present forms developed in Argentina and Uruguay, they were also exposed to influences re-imported from Europe and North America. There are records of 18th and early 19th century tango styles in Cuba and Spain, while there is a flamenco tangos dance that may share a common ancestor in a minuet-style European dance. Consequently there is a good deal of confusion and overlap between the styles as they are now danced - and fusions continue to evolve.
Argentine tango is danced in an embrace that can vary from very open, in which leader and follower connect at arms length, to very closed, in which the connection is chest-to-chest, or anywhere in between.
Tango dance is essentially walking with a partner and the music. Dancing appropriately to the emotion and speed of a tango is extremely important to dancing tango. A good dancer is one who transmits a feeling of the music to the partner. Also, dancers generally keep their feet close to the floor as they walk, the ankles and knees brushing as one leg passes the other.
Argentine tango dancing relies heavily on improvisation; although certain patterns of movement have been codified by instructors over the years as a device to instruct dancers, there is no "basic step." One of the few constants across all Argentine tango dance styles is that the follower will usually be led to alternate feet. Another is that the follower rarely has his or her weight on both feet at the same time.
Argentine tango is danced counterclockwise around the outside of the dance floor (the "line of dance") and dance "traffic" often segregates into a number of "lanes"; cutting across the middle of the floor is frowned upon. In general, the middle of the floor is where one finds either beginners who lack floor navigation skills or people who are performing "showy" figures or patterns that take up more dance floor space. It is acceptable to stop briefly in the line of dance to perform stationary figures, as long as the other dancers are not unduly impeded. The school of thought about this is, if there is open space in front, there are likely people waiting behind. Dancers are expected to respect the other couples on the floor; colliding or even crowding another couple, or stepping on others' feet is to be avoided strenuously. It is considered rude; in addition to possible physical harm rendered, it can be disruptive to a couple's musicality.
Ballroom tango steps were standardized by dance studios. The steps have been relatively fixed in style for decades. However, Argentine tango has been an evolving dance and musical form, with continual changes occurring every day on the social dance floor in Argentina and in major tango centers elsewhere in the world. Argentine tango dance is still based heavily on improvisation. While there are patterns or sequences of steps that are used by instructors to teach the dance, even in a sequence every movement is led not only in direction but also speed and quality (a step can be smooth, pulsing, sharp, ... etc.). Although Argentine tango evolves mostly on the dance floor, the government of Argentina does host an annual competition of Argentine tango dance in Buenos Aires, attracting competitors from around the world.
A striking difference between Argentine tango and ballroom tango is in the shape and feel of the embrace. Ballroom technique dictates that partners arch their upper bodies away from each other, while maintaining contact at the hip, in an offset frame.
In Argentine tango, it is nearly the opposite: the dancers' chests are closer to each other than are their hips, and often there is contact at about the level of the chest (the contact point differing, depending on the height of the leader and the closeness of the embrace). In close embrace, the leader and the follower's chests are in contact and they are dancing with their heads touching or very near each other. In open embrace, there can be as much space as desired between the partners, but there should always be complete contact along the embracing arms to give optimum communication. Since Argentine tango is almost entirely improvisational, there needs to be clear communication between partners. Even when dancing in a very open embrace, Argentine tango dancers do not hold their upper bodies arched away from each other; each partner is over their own axis. Whether open or closed, a tango embrace is not rigid, but relaxed, like a hug.
One very important characteristic of Argentine tango is the walk outside of the legs of the follower. The inside walk belongs originally to the American Tango. It is seen in Argentine Tango, but it does not belong to it originally. Another difference is that the leader may freely step with his left foot when the follower steps with her left foot. In English, this is sometimes referred to as a "crossed" (e.g. "walking in the crossed system") or "uneven" walk in contrast to the normal walk which is called "parallel" or "even." In ballroom tango, "crossed system" is considered incorrect unless the leader and follower are facing the same direction. Furthermore, the flexibility of the embrace allows the leader to change his weight from one foot to another while the follower's weight remains unchanged. This is another major difference with ballroom tango, where a weight change by one partner usually leads to a weight change by the other.
The nomenclature originated with the Naveira/Salas "Investigation Group." Early on, they used 'even/uneven' to describe the arrangement of legs in the walk (or turn). By the mid-1990s, they began using 'parallel/crossed' and later 'normal/crossed'. In dance the changing of feet is named contrapaso, or "contra-step". This change can be made off or on the normal beat.
Unlike the majority of social dance, Argentine tango is not a set step, but a completely improvised dance combining various elements in a spontaneous manner, as determined by the lead. To be able to improvise, the dancer needs to learn the lead and implementation of the different single elements of Tango, so they can be produced later by leading appropriately in space and music. The elements are just a few as caminar (walk), cruce (cross), ochos (figure-eight), ganchos (leg hooks), giros (turns), contragiros (turns in the other direction), sacadas (displacements), boleos (this expression comes from boleadoras, balls linked with cords, thrown to hunt animals), llevadas de pie (moving foot by foot), cortes (cuts), and quebradas (breaks). Well-known and simple combinations are called figura básica (basic figures), especially when they contain just one element. Some of the elements are named as a figure.
Argentine tango developed set of codes and superstitions throughout its history. One charming example is 'cabeceo' - an eye invitation by man to a woman to dance which is practiced in Buenos Aires. Somewhat related is "yeta" - superstitions. For example, one doesn't dance to the well known tango "Adios Muchachos" as it is (falsely) believed the last one sung by Carlos Gardel before his untimely accident leading to his death.
Argentine tango dancers usually enjoy two other related dances: Vals (waltz) and Milonga.
Music for the Vals is in 3/4 time but otherwise very similar to tango music. Tango dancers dance the Vals much like they do tango only often with a waltz rhythm that has one beat per measure. This produces a rather relaxed, smooth flowing dancing style in contrast to Viennese Waltz where the dancers often take 3 steps per measure and turn almost constantly. Experienced dancers alternate the smooth one-beat-per-measure walk with some double time steps (often incorrectly called syncopated walks), stepping on one- two- or (rarely) all three beats in a measure. Vals is characterized by its lack of pauses; continual turns (giros) in both directions are not done as in ballroom quick waltz, although turns are sometimes introduced for variety.
Milonga,(in 2/4 time) has a strongly accented beat, and sometimes an underlying "habanera" rhythm. Dancers avoid pausing, and often introduce double time steps (incorrectly called syncopation and more appropriately called traspies) into their walks and turns. Milonga dancing uses the same basic elements as tango, with a strong emphasis on the rhythm, and figures that tend to be less complex than some danced in other varieties of tango. Some tango instructors say that tango steps should not be used in milonga and that milonga has its own special rhythm and steps, which are quite different from tango.
Milonga is also the name given to clubs and events specially for dancing tango. This double meaning of the word milonga can be confusing unless one knows the context in which the word "milonga" is used. People who dance at milongas are known as milongueros.
In 1983, the dance show Tango Argentino, staged by Claudio Segovia and Hector Orezzolli, opened in Paris, France, starring dancers Juan Carlos Copes and Maria Nieves, Nélida y Nelson, Eduardo y Gloria, María y Carlos Rivarola, Norma y Luis Pereyra, Mayoral y Elsa Maria, Carlos y Inés Borges, Pablo Veron, Miguel Zotto and Milena Plebs, and Virulazo and Elvira. In 1985, the show opened on Broadway in New York City. Cast members gave classes to a number of students, including Robert Duvall. Paul Pellicoro provided a dance center for the performers to teach new students. At the same time, Danel and Maria Bastone were teaching tango in New York, and Orlando Paiva was offering tango classes in Los Angeles, California. For further lessons, Duvall sought out Nestor Ray, a dancer who Duvall had seen perform in the documentary film Tango mio.
In 1986, Nora and Raul Dinzelbacher visited San Francisco, California, coming from La Paz, Entre Ríos and Buenos Aires aboard a cruise ship where they were dancing tango and chacarera professionally. Al and Barbara Garvey took tango classes from them as well as from Jorge and Rosa Ledesma from Quilmes, Buenos Aires; all in the style of choreographed show tango. In 1987, the Garveys traveled to Buenos Aires to discover the traditional improvisational social dance style at a large milonga (Centro Akarense) filled with older dancers in Villa Urquiza. Upon returning home to Fairfax, California, the Garveys continued tango lessons and began organizing milongas around the San Francisco Bay Area. They co-founded the Bay Area Argentine Tango Association (BAATA) and published a journal.
In 1986, Brigitta Winkler appeared in her first stage performance, Tangoshow in Montreal. Though based in Berlin, Winkler traveled often to teach at tango festivals in North America throughout the following two decades. Winkler was a seminal influence of Daniel Trenner. Montreal's first tango teachers, French-born Lily Palmer and her Argentine friend, Antonio Perea, offered classes in 1987.
The Dinzelbachers settled in San Francisco in 1988, in response to the demand for tango teachers following a visit to San Francisco by the touring production of Tango Argentino. Nora and Raul Dinzelbacher taught a core group of students who would later become teachers themselves, including the Garveys, Polo Talnir and Jorge Allende.
In 1989, the Dinzelbachers were invited to Cincinnati, Ohio by Richard Powers, to introduce and teach Argentine tango at a weeklong dance festival. The following year, Powers moved his festival to Stanford University and asked the Dinzelbachers back. Unfortunately, Raul Dinzelbacher, 40 years old, collapsed and died at the end of the third day of the festival. Nora Dinzelbacher was devastated but threw herself into her work, forming a dance performance troupe and teaching. She asked a student, George Guim, to become her assistant. They taught at a week-long dance festival in Port Townsend, Washington.
Throughout 1990, Luis Bravo's Forever Tango played in eight West Coast cities, increasing viewer's interest in learning the tango. Carlos Gavito and his partner Marcela Duran invented a dramatically different tango embrace in which both dancers leaned forward against each other more than was traditionally accepted. Gavito's ultimate rise to fame came from this starring appearance in Forever Tango.
In 1991, Richard Powers asked Nora Dinzelbacher to help him transform "Stanford Dance Week" into "Stanford Tango Week". The two produced the popular annual festival until the University abruptly cancelled it after its 1997 run. In 1998, with Bob Moretti, a former student, Nora began a new festival in the same vein: "Nora's Tango Week", held in Emeryville, California. Moretti would continue to co-produce the festival until his death on June 22, 2005, just days before that year's Tango Week.
In the first half of 1994, Barbara Garvey's BAATA mailing list grew from 400 to 1,400 dancers. Garvey places the critical mass of the San Francisco Bay Area's tango resurgence at this point. The number of regional milongas went from three per month to 30.
Forever Tango returned to the United States late in 1994, landing in Beverly Hills, then San Francisco, where it ran for 92 weeks. From there the show went to New York where it became the longest-running tango production in Broadway history.
In June 1995, Janis Kenyon held a tango festival at Northwestern University. Kenyon had attended Stanford Tango Week in 1993, where she met Juan Carlos Copes and Maria Nieves. The pair were invited to teach at Kenyon's 1995 Chicago event. The next year, Kenyon moved her festival to Columbus, Ohio, where she featured Osvaldo Zotto. In February 1997, Clay Nelson (a two-time attendee at Stanford Tango Week) organized his first ValenTango festival in Portland, Oregon; "Tango Fantasy on Miami Beach" was formed by Jorge Nel, Martha Mandel, Lydia Henson and Randy Pittman as Florida's first tango festival; and the Portland October Tangofest was launched, again by Clay Nelson. 1999 saw a split in Miami: Nel and Mandel scheduled their "United States Tango Congress" to open a month prior to the Tango Fantasy event.
Daniel Trenner has been credited with bringing improvisational social Argentine tango to the United States. Like the Garveys, he first went to Buenos Aires in 1987, where he went to a milonga in Palermo and saw the traditional improvisational style being danced. Trenner was introduced to Miguel and Nelly Balmacera, a couple who would become his first tango teachers. Being fluent in both Spanish and English he was able to study with many Argentine tango masters, including Gustavo Naveira and Mingo Pugliese. He made video tapes of the lessons he took and translated the Spanish instruction into English. In the late 1980s, Trenner brought his newfound appreciation of traditional tango back to New York and conducted classes. In 1991, Trenner began working with Rebecca Shulman in performing and teaching tango. (Shulman would go on to be a co-founder and director of TangoMujer in New York and Berlin.) In 1995, Trenner taught for ten weeks in Colorado, followed by some 15 of those students accompanying him to Buenos Aires. Out of this experience, "Tango Colorado" was formed by Tom Stermitz and other tango aficionados from Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins, and a twice-yearly tango festival was organized in Denver. Trenner had planted the seed and moved on. In this way, Trenner has been called the Johnny Appleseed of tango.
In February 2009, the popular ABC series Dancing with the Stars announced that the Argentine tango would be added to the list of dances for its eighth season.
Tango canyengue is a rhythmic style of tango that originated in the early 1900s and is still popular today. It is one of the original roots styles of tango and contains all fundamental elements of traditional Argentine tango. In tango canyengue the dancers share one axis, dance in a closed embrace, and with the legs relaxed and slightly bent. Tango canyengue uses body dissociation for the leading, walking with firm ground contact, and a permanent combination of on- and off-beat rhythm. Its main characteristics are its musicality and playfulness. Its rhythm is described as "incisive, exciting, provocative".
The word canyengue is of African origin. It came into use to describe the tango rhythm at the time of the first so-called 'orquestas típicas' (including bandoneón, violin and piano).
Leading exponents of tango canyengue:
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 recent development.
Tango Salon does not refer to a single specific way of dancing tango. Rather, it is literally tango as it is danced socially in the salons (dance halls) of Buenos Aires. Salon tango was danced throughout the Golden Era of Argentine Tango (1935 -1952) when milongas (tango parties) were held in large dance venues and full tango orchestras performed. Salon tango is often characterized by slow, measured, and smoothly executed moves, never moving against the line-of-dance, and respecting the space of other dancers on the floor around them. The emphasis is on precision, smoothness, musicality, good navigation, and following the códigos (tango etiquette) of the salons. The couple embraces closely, with some variants having a flexible embrace, 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 song.
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:
One variant of Tango Salon is the Villa Urquiza style, named after the northern barrio of Buenos Aires where the clubs Sin Rumbo and Sunderland are located. Dancers who are current practitioners of the Villa Urquiza style of tango are:
This style originated as the petitero or caquero style in the 1940s and 50s in closely packed dance halls and confiterías. It is danced in close-embrace, chest-to-chest, knees relaxed, back straight, with the partners leaning - or appearing to lean - slightly toward each other to allow space for the feet to move. The center line of the leader's and follower's spines are directly in front of each other, requiring that each dancer turn their head to their left slightly to find space over their partner's right shoulder. The follower's left arm reaches directly up over the leader's shoulder without resting any body weight on the leader's shoulder. The leader's left hand and the follower's right hand clasp in the same manner as other styles of Argentine Tango, with elbows pointed down (contrasting with elbows up and pointed back as in ballroom tango), with little or no pressure applied by the arms or hands. The leader's right arm is held high across the follower's shoulder blades to help facilitate the upper chest connection, to avoid pulling the follower's lower torso and hips in toward the leader, thus allowing more flexibility of movement in the mid and lower spine, and better extension of the follower's legs. In the case of followers that are not tall enough to place their head over the leader's shoulder, it is recommended that the follower's head be turned to the right and touch the left side of the head to the leader's chest, and the follower's left arm may wrap around the outside right arm (although this is generally not preferred as it limits the leader's flexibility of movement, and is a danger on crowded dance floors to have the follower's elbow sticking out). It is generally not recommended for a leader to dance milonguero style with a follower that is too tall for the leader to see over the follower's shoulder since it would be very difficult to navigate around the dance floor.
The emphasis of this style is to take a minimum amount of space on a crowded social dance floor. A common mis-perception of milonguero style is that many embellishments and complicated figures of open-embrace and flexible embrace styles can not be done. The main limitation of milonguero style in executing complicated figures is the emphasis on maintaining the chest-to-chest connection, however almost all figures of other styles can be adapted to milonguero style by an experienced dancer.
Although the close-embrace style of dancing has existed since the beginnings of Argentine Tango, the term "Milonguero Style" only surfaced in the mid-1990s when the name was created by Susana Miller, who had been the assistant to Pedro 'Tete' Rusconi. Many of the older dancers who dance close embrace (including 'Tete') prefer not to use the label. These milongueros of Buenos Aires refer to social tango danced in close-embrace as Tango Salon regardless of the exact technique used. Along with the resurgence of interest in tango outside Argentina in the 1980s due to the dance show Tango Argentino, the term Salon Tango had become associated with a style that more closely resembles Show Tango. Susana Miller created the term "Milonguero Style" mainly to help distinguish it from North Americans' perception of Salon Tango. This had the unfortunate side-effect of offending milongueros who would state that they consider themselves milongueros but they don't dance the way 'Tete' did or with the methods Susana Miller teaches.
Milonguero style has also been called Almagro style because it was the Buenos Aires barrio that Susana Miller and Tete first taught in. 'Tete' referred to his method of embrace as apilado, (piled up, or pressed together) because of this, milonguero style is sometimes called apilado.
Since 2006, Susana Miller has hosted Milongueando en Buenos Aires events to bring the few living milongueros of the Golden Age of Tango together with students to learn. Since these milongueros each have their own unique methods of dancing tango, one may assume that Susana Miller's definition of milonguero style has expanded to include more than just the way Tete danced tango.
Prior to the 1990s, Argentine Tango was taught with a didactic method; teaching tango by have students copy examples shown by the instructor. Emphasis was not given to how or why movement was done a certain way. Starting in the 1990s in Buenos Aires, the Tango Investigation Group (later transformed into the Cosmotango organization) founded by Gustavo Naveira and Fabian Salas applied the principles of dance kinesiology from modern dance to analyze the physics of movement in Argentine tango. Taking what they learned from this analysis they then began to explore all the possibilities of movement within the framework of Argentine Tango. From the work of these founders of the Tango Nuevo movement, there was shift in all styles of tango away from teaching what to dance toward teaching how to dance.
Though widely referred to as a tango style outside of Argentina, Tango Nuevo is not considered a style of dancing tango by the founders of the movement. It refers only to the method of analysis and teaching developed through the application of the principles of dance kinesiology to Argentine Tango. In 2009, Gustavo Naveira published an essay New Tango in which he states, "There is great confusion on the question of the way of dancing the tango: call it technique, form, or style. The term tango nuevo, is used to refer to a style of dancing, which is an error. In reality, tango nuevo is everything that has happened with the tango since the 1980s. It is not a question of a style... The words tango nuevo express what is happening with tango dancing in general; namely that it is evolving." Therefore, as the Gustavo Naveira and other founders of the Tango Nuevo movement have said, all styles of tango, which have now been influenced by the analysis of the dance, are all Tango Nuevo.
Despite the insistence by the founders of the Tango Nuevo movement that it is not a single style, it has become an accepted term by many that it is a separate and distinct style of tango. Practitioners of tango nuevo are Gustavo Naveira, Norberto "El Pulpo" Esbrés, Fabián Salas, Esteban Moreno, Claudia Codega, Sebastian Arce, Mariana Montes, Mariano 'Chicho' Frumboli, Homer and Cristina Ladas, Arne Herrem and Hanne Line, and Pablo Verón. All of these dancers have highly individual styles that cannot be confused with each other, yet are all referred to by many as the tango nuevo style.
A very pure and early form of tango, on base as walking rhythmically, not on the beat but with rhythm.
Tango which adds cortes and quebradas, cuts and breaks. The quebradas later on has been put in a more esthetic style (estilizar) and are today known as poses de tango, Tango Positions.
This style is settled in the years 40 to 50. It refers on music, dance and dresses. The term tries to describe all tangoform, which is different of the traditional one: In dance couples added little sits and fast footwork, doing fantasies as popular people named it. The men's suit with a white border is named traje de fantasía. In music Osmar Héctor Maderna got named tango de fantasía due of his arrangements which conceiveed fancy solos. In Argentine folklore at the same time, people fix a similar expression to describe non-traditional folklore with the name folklore de projección.
Here acrobatic movements are performed to Tango music. A way of dancing with influences further than Ballett as Modern Dance, Gymnastic, Dance on Ice, Jazz, Circus, Acrobatics and Contact Improvisation with lifts, and figuers of effect. First this form is created by Eduardo Arquimbau in Forever Tango to interpret Tango music by non Tangodancers Miriam and Sandor in the Show Forever Tango. Sandor was a member of a circus family and knew how to do circus and acrobatic acts. This Eduardo Arquimbau uses to get a new performance. The music they danced then was Tus ojos del cielo (Volumen 2 of the CD Forever Tango, on the cover the foto of Miriam). This dance form has been copied later on by many young dancers on stage.
Show tango, and Tango de Escenario (stage tango) is a more theatrical form of Argentine tango developed to suit the stage. Movement has to fit on stage forms as diagonals, centre, fronts, light settings, etc. Not necessary but sometimes it includes embellishments, acrobatics, and solo moves. Indeed all styles can be performed on stage, only than has to fit with stage necessities. Stage tango can be improvised in parts but in due to fit general choreographic movements a whole choreography or parts of it have to be fixed. Tango has to be led even on stage, as all forms of Argentine Tango. Otherwise the couple is missing the main principle of this dance and the tango tipic intime connection is missing. This only appears, when he is filling his role (leading) and she hers. Having a Choreography does not mean that he is free of his leading role, he has to lead in order to produce the elements and place them in space and music. This is as important on stage as in a social dance place, but often not taken seriously. Tango on stage has not been confounded with Tango de Fantasia or tango acrobatico.
Argentine tango is the main subject of many films.
"Naked Tango" (1990) Starring Vincent D´Onofrio, Mathilda May, Fernando Rey. Choreography by Carlos Rivarola, Directed by Leonard Schrader
Argentine tango is featured or referred to in these films/TV shows:
A culture developed for tango films in the Cinema of Argentina beginning in the early 1930s. See Category:Tango films.
Tango is also subject of many books
Tango is subject of operas