What are the different tango styles?

Unlike dances with formal international congresses and officiating bodies, tango is a happy chaos of meanings and pleasures. You’ll hear people refer to Argentine Tango styles like “salon tango”, “nuevo tango”, “milonguero style”, “Villa Urquiza style” and on and on. But on real dance floors all over the world, if you watch carefully  you’ll be hard pressed to categorize a dancer or a teacher, and there’s no need to categorize yourself.

The crudest cut on all this is to treat close embrace as a “style” (I’ve heard it called both “milonguero” and “salon”) and open embrace as another (I’ve heard it called “nuevo tango”, “stage tango”, and “salon”).

But any attempt to draw strong boundaries around a “style” quickly collapses with historical or social contradictions. See this beautiful interview with Pablo Veron.

Notes on terms sometimes used to describe Argentine Tango styles

  • A milonguero is a person who goes to milongas a lot.
  • A salon is a place where milongas are held and people dance tango socially (as opposed to dancing tango choreographies on a stage).
  • My tango embrace shifts constantly from open to close to accommodate a range of bodies, movements and moods.
  • Style is something personal that you get to construct through your experiences and desires of tango and milongas. It includes what you wear, how you socialize, which music moves you the most, how you move, the tilt of your head, the click of your heels, your choice to smile or not, your ribbons and sparkles…

For a different perspective on this topic, see my post about my experiences of styles as a follower. I’ve also written about the highly controversial non-existence of Nuevo Tango.

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