Encyclopedia of Dance: Tango


Tango is one of the most mysterious dances in the world. After all, restraint of characters, strictness of lines and unbridled undisguised passion coexist in it at the same time.

Modern tango has many varieties. Among them are a strict ballroom direction, and a passionate Argentinean and unusual Finnish. But they all differ from other types of dances in their special unique character. After all, only in tango it is possible to combine such anatomical features as restraint and passion, strictness and frivolity, tenderness and aggression. Maybe that’s why, despite its complexity, both in performance and in understanding, this dance has a huge number of fans around the world.

The history of the origin of the dance

It is generally accepted that the Argentine pair dance, which was first danced in South America, became the prototype for all areas of tango. However, some sources, in particular French scientists, claim that the tango first appeared in Spain, and it was danced by the Spanish aborigines (Spanish Moors, Arabs). It happened at the beginning of the fifteenth century. And only in the 16th century, during the colonization of South America by Spain, the dance came to Argentina.

It should also be noted that in Spain, tango in its original form was only one of the many variations of paired folk dances. And the direction has already gained immense popularity in Argentina and other countries of South America. In the same place, tango developed and gradually separated into a separate dance direction. Initially, the tango was danced to the rhythms of drums and looked like a rather primitive dance, but over time, the Argentine tango turned into a rather complex dance, which was an absolutely unique musical and dance direction based on the rhythms and melodies «borrowed» in Europe, Africa and America (milonga , habanera, etc.).

For a long time, tango was considered the dance of ordinary people. It was only at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries that tango was introduced in Europe as another official dance direction. The most popular version is that the first choreographer who showed the tango to London experts, choreographers and impresario was Camille de Rinal. However, there are other sources that claim that tango has been seen in Europe before. And it was presented to the public by dancing corpses from Buenos Aires and Montevideo performing in Europe. According to this version, the first show took place in Paris, and only then the dance «went» to conquer London, Berlin and other European capitals.

Be that as it may, but at the beginning of the twentieth century, tango began to rapidly gain its popularity as a fashionable and «high society» dance in Europe. And in 1913-1915, the tango craze also captured the United States. As its popularity grows in secular circles, the tango becomes less and less authentic. The choreographers «cleanse» it from frankly Argentinean features and greatly simplify it in order to facilitate learning. New varieties of tango appear (French, English, etc.), and in the USA, in general, almost all dances in the rhythm of 2/4 or 4/4 «one step» begin to be called the fashionable word «tango».

Tango today

Today, tango is a popular dance that is danced not only by amateurs, but also by professionals. Ballroom tango participates in the programs of international competitions along with foxtrot, waltz and other dances.

There are many varieties of tango in the world, which have their own characteristics and features. But no matter what direction of tango is discussed, only this dance can be applied to the quote «love story in one dance» or «love in a few steps.» After all, it is difficult to find a more “complete” and saturated with emotions dance. In each small production, the dancers live a love story that is full of feelings and their expression — passion, tenderness, anger, love, etc., which, being put on public display, nevertheless amazes with its intimacy.

Tango is considered one of the most difficult ballroom dances. And the point is not even in the peculiarities of the choreography, which is far from simple, but in the fact that it is not enough to learn how to dance tango. This dance must be felt, understood, felt.


There are many variations, types and directions of tango, which differ greatly in choreography and musical accompaniment. So, starting to look for the direction of tango that you would like to study, you will surely come across a list of such types of tango as tango waltz, milonga, cangengue, etc. All these variations involve the use of different music (elements of waltz or Cuban dances, for example). There is even a direction of alternative tango, when the music of completely different, dissimilar dance styles is used and adapted for tango dance.

If we consider the classical classification of tango, based on differences in choreography, then we can distinguish the following styles:

Argentine tango

This style is the closest to the authentic tango dance, which is performed in Argentina and Uruguay. This direction is a mixture of styles, trends and varieties of national folk Latin American dances with an admixture of rhythms from European and even African styles.

The main types of Argentine tango include:

  • To Kanjeng
  • Lisa
  • Salon
  • Orillero
  • Milongero
  • Nuevo
  • Fantasy

Each of these types has its own technical features, steps, positions, etc. But almost all types of Argentine tango are based on the principles of improvisation in dance.


Finnish tango

This trend originated in Finland in the middle of the twentieth century. The direction very quickly became popular not only in its homeland, but throughout the world.

Finnish tango is a kind of middle option between the passionate Argentinean and seasoned sports ballroom dancing. In Finnish tango, there is already tight contact at the hips and following clear lines, but there are no characteristic sharp head movements.

Ballroom tango

Ballroom tango is a sports dance participating in the programs of international competitions. The main difference between this style and Argentine tango is the complete absence of improvisation. There are clear norms and rules of dance — the position of the body and head, following the lines, the implementation of a strictly designated list of elements, etc. Ballroom tango requires precision in both movement and music. This style is less melodic and smoother than its «brothers».

Special features of tango

Time signature — 2/4 or 4/4

The pace is slow

Music — depends on the style.

Choreography — depends on the style.

Author: Natalia Kay

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