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Essential Guide to Learning the Tango

  • By Rio Spelling
  • Published 08/28/2012

The famous Tango dance has never gone out of style since it is passionate, sexy and absolutely beautiful to both perform or watch.

While very few of us were born with silver screen slippers like professional choreographer Craig Revel Horwood, the following guide will give you a useful overview of the Tango to kick start your enthusiasm for learning its basic steps.

Origin of the Tango

This gorgeous dance first originated in South America during the beginning of the twentieth century. Initially performed only by women, once the Tango caught fire in Argentina it developed into a passionate dance for couples. Nevertheless, the Argentine variation of the Tango retains the intimacy of the original dance, while the Modern Tango has evolved into more contemporary moves.

It must also be said that vivacious Tango music, historically introduced to the Western World by Spanish settlers, plays a large part in the popularity of this unforgettable dance genre.

Main Styles of Tango

While there are two main categories of Tango – close embrace and open embrace – it will be rather surprising for novices to learn that there are in fact a wide range of different Tango styles, each with their own unique tempo and standard dance movements:

Tango Canyengue

This is the original style of Tango dancing that developed in the 1920’s and 1930’s. It is danced with both partners in close embrace, typically moving with slightly bent knees to allow for exaggerated body movements in order to highlight intricately small steps.

Tango Salon

The Tango done Salon-style is danced with a rigidly upright body, in either the closed or open format. Each person focusses on their own axis while maintaining a flexible embrace that facilitates a fluid rotation of the hips.

Tango Milonguero

The Milonguero mode of Tango is generally performed in a romantically close embrace to your partner, with both of you adopting a slightly leaning posture. It requires constant upper body contact, even during turns. This style of embrace is referred to as Apilado.

Club Tango

Club Tango is performed with an upright posture and in a close embrace, but partners will loosen their embrace during turns. This style is a mixture of the Salon and Milonguero techniques.

Tango Orillero

The word ‘orillero’ translates as ‘Tango from the outskirts of the city’. This type of style can be danced in either the open or close embrace, however it is most commonly enacted in open embrace so that both dancers have enough space to perform individual steps outside of the embrace. This is a great Tango style for beginners, as many people agree that it is one of the easiest to master.

Ballroom Tango

This type of Tango is derived from the Argentine style, but it was later modified to fit into the category of formal ballroom dancing. In contrast to the smooth Argentine mode of dancing, it makes use of modified moves which Westerners will more easily recognise. It is also thought of as one of the simplest ballroom dances to master, which makes it a great choice for novices. Ballroom Tango is performed as a social and competitive dance and it can be divided into two categories – American Style and International Style. The latter tends to be most commonly seen in ballroom competitions.

Tango Nuevo

Translated as New Tango, this style was developed after dancers analysed the basic structural movements of essential Tango, which resulted in new step combinations being developed. Tango Nuevo is characterised by an open, loose embrace in an upright posture, with each dancer keeping to their own axis.

Show Tango

Otherwise named Fantasia, this type of Tango is extravagantly danced in stage shows. Show Tango combines several different key styles in the genre and is danced in open embrace. It is also defined by dramatically exaggerated movements and creative dance elements that are not usually associated with traditional Tango.


From the passionate embraces of the Latin styles of Tango to the more formal elegance of the Ballroom technique, this unforgettable dance is recognised internationally as one of the most beautifully sensual styles ever created. Although most of us cannot hope to perform the Tango as perfectly as Strictly Come Dancing’s Craig Revel Horwood, with a little bit of perseverance when it comes to learning the basic moves, we can all sample its magical delight.

Author Bio : Rio Spelling is a choreography and dance enthusiast.



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