Tango is a dance that emphasizes playful movement, intense expression, flair, and romance. First popularized in Argentina in the late 19th century, the dance has inspired numerous different types of tango throughout the world. Rooted in a blend of African and European styles in the streets of Buenos Aires, these moves survive today as “authentic tango”, which is included in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists. Usually danced to a traditional band of an accordion, bandoneon, piano, guitar, violin, double bass and vocals, this style of tango is an important part of Argentine cultural heritage.
However, when most people think of tango, they’re most likely to think of the modern ballroom variety. Full of expression, tricks, and dynamic movement, competitive modern ballroom tango is a truly spectacular dance designed to impress spectators. Equally, today, tango is danced to several different styles of music, which are divided into different categories. In this article, we run you through the eight main varieties of tango, illustrating the importance of Argentinian culture to the history of dance.
The 8 main types of tango
1. Argentine tango
Argentine tango is the root of all types of tango. It contains all the elements of the tango danced by European and African immigrants in 19th century Buenos Aires, including a flexible embrace, dramatic postures, and a ton a sensuality. Argentine tango is a complex and fluid dance with a wealth of opportunities for improvisation, which makes it distinct from the strict ballroom variety.
2. Uruguayan tango
Uruguayan tango is one of the oldest types of tango, developed at roughly the same time as the Argentine style. Today, there are many different sub-categories of Uruguayan tango depending on the music. Unlike more rigid ballroom styles, in Uruguayan tango, the body leads and the feet follow.
3. Ballroom tango
Ballroom tango grew out of the Argentine style to fit the rules of competitive ballroom dancing. In contrast to the complexity of traditional tango, ballroom tango is one of the easier ballroom styles. Divided into the two subcategories of American and International, the American style is more common in social situations as opposed to competitions.
4. Show Tango
Similarly to ballroom tango, show tango will amaze and entertain spectators. Also known as Fantasia tango, this style incorporates tricks, spins, and flourishes created for competitions and performances.
5. Salon tango
Salon tango was created in Buenos Aires in the 1940s. This type of tango is an adaption of traditional Argentine tango with a more open embrace that allows for lots of hip movement.
6. Tango nuevo
Tango nuevo, or “new tango” mixes elements from jazz, electronic movement, and other alternative types of tango. Each dancer needs to maintain a loose embrace while carrying their own axis, which makes it a popular style for dancing to modern tango music.
7. Tango apilado
Apilado is Spanish for “piled up”, which describes the posture of the dancers in apilado tango. Characterized by a leaning posture, this style of tango was popularized on Buenos Aires’ crowded dancefloors.
8. Finnish Tango
Finally is a style of tango that might surprise you – Finnish tango. Tango gained popularity in Finland after World War I, where the Finnish created an established variation on traditional tango. Characterized by a close embrace, dips, spins, and the absence of any kicks or leaps, the Finnish style is distinct from Latin American styles.