The Styles of Tango

Argentine Tango is comprised of many styles and sub-styles, depending on the posture and the music.

Tango –

This is what people generally think of when they hear the term “Argentine Tango”. Danced to a variety of music, primarily accompanied by the “Bandoneon”, the dancers have wide latitude to interpret the music and the timing. The intention of the Tango is to stop. However, over time, and for different reason, the Tango has divided further into sub categories as listed below.

A) Salon Style –

The embrace is typically offset with the man slightly to the left of the woman and in a V. The dance is done towards the opening of the V (the man’s left). This is known as “dancing to the Tango entity”, defined as what the couple becomes when dancing as one unit. The embrace loosens or tightens, depending on the need of the pattern which is known as the “Bandoneon effect”. This style of dance leads to great improvisation and interpretation of the music as the couple is free to open and close and perform elegant and interesting movements.

Having some space on the floor and control of the posture is a requirement of this style as maintaining the embrace and the structure while performing intricate movements generally requires skill and practice.

B) Pecho / Apilado / Milonguero –

Developed in the 1950’s, during the “Golden Era” when the dance halls of Buenos Aires were packed with people, this style of dance is designed to be performed in smaller tighter spaces. The man and woman face each other square on and the embrace stays closed irrespective of the pattern performed. Usually the woman’s head and body is so close to her partner that her left hand is placed far behind her partner’s neck. An ocho cortado (cut ocho) is a fundamental dance step of this style. The emphasis is on small rhythmic steps rather than more elaborate figures.

C) Nuevo Tango –

Tango Nuevo was developed recently and looks to find new combinations of steps and moves. It is danced in an open and loose embrace in an upright posture and is generally danced to alternative Tangos, music not of traditional Argentine Tango history or of non-Tango music adopted for the purpose.

Milonga –

“Milonga,” coming from an African dialect, is the singular of “mulonga” which means “words.” The Milonga had originated as a form of song, and was a variant of the lengthy improvisations (with guitar accompaniment) that were the hallmark of the Payadores, the folk-singers of the pampa (country) who had played an important part in the now vanishing world of the gaucho.

Once in the city, the Milonga-music with its tempo simplified, acquired steps of its own. A new dance evolved based on the steps of: the Candombé (from African slaves in Argentina), the Habanera (from black Cubans in Buenos-Aires) the Mazurka (dance of Poland) and the Polka (dance of Czechoslovakia), that became known as a Milonga.

There are different variations of Milonga rhythm: Milonga campera and Milonga candombera. The music is normally played in 2/4, at a slower or faster tempo. Good examples of the Milonga Porteña include ‘Pampas Calientas’ (Eduardo Arolas) and ‘La Puñalada’ (Puntin Catellanos.)


The Waltz is the joyful one of the trio of the Argentine social dances (tango, Milonga and Vals) and it was the first dance to reach the Rio De La Plata in 1816. Waltz was derived and assimilated from Vals Criollo, brought by those persons both in South America of European parents, from persons of a mixed/Amerindian heritage and from people of the interior and rural areas. Also, the Waltz was mixed with the Vals Porteño, from the inhabitants of the port of Buenos Aires.

As with any type of waltz, the music is played in ¾ time at a slow, medium or fast tempo. The insistent tumult of the waltz, especially when they are just beginning invites dancers to use only one measure (three beats) for every change of weight or movement.

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