Argentine Tango


This dance originated in Argentina where it was danced only by the lowest classes in Buenos Aires. It was eventually adopted by the Argentine public at large and ultimately developed into a sensual and passionate dance. It acheived world wide prominence after displays in Paris created a world wide sensation.

The Argentine Tango is a passionate and seductive dance that ignites the souls of those who dance it.

Teaching Elements:

  •  Tango Basics–Smooth level steps, collecting weight over each step before continuing.
  • Dance Positions–Argentine dance position, weight forward especially for the lady.
  • Amalgamations–Different endings and step additions to develop spontaneous lead and follow.
  • Control–Collect weight over each step.
  • Variety (Interrelation)–Feel partner complete step before continuing, partnership sensitivity to transfer to all other dances.
  • Footwork–Develop foot coordination. Weight over feet while developing ochos and gaunchos.
  • Compare/Contrast–Fox Trot, Ballroom Tango(American and International)


Argentine Tango has a long and interesting history. It is unclear, however, the exact origins of the word “tango”, many feel that it is African, others Portuguese. What is known for sure is that this word came to be used in Argentina by the early 1800’s to refer to meetings where slave and free black people met to dance, referring to the dancing itself, the meeting overall, and the drum used to drive the musical rhythm.Buenos Aires had a huge influx of population during the mid 1800’s when the Argentine Tango, as we know it, is said to have originated. Most of this new influx were thousands of single men desperate to find new fortunes in the new world. Around the same time the gauchos (Argentine cowboys) were forced from their usual nomadic lifestyle on the land and into the city as the desert land was divided up and given to settlers and the Argentine elite.
These men of the lower classes (along with young adventuresome noblemen) attended bars, dance halls and brothels in the slums and outskirts of the city. It was here that the African rhythms such as the Argentine-African candombe and the Cuban-African habanera met the polka-like rhythm of the milonga music. This musical fusion sparked the earliest Tango music and the dance that arose from it. It is said that the gauchos (known as compadritos in the city) copied the movements of the black dancers dancing the candombe at their “tangos”.

Argentine high society initially frowned upon Tango because of its lower class associations. Despite this, its popularity started to spread and by the beginning of the 1900’s Tango (both the music and the dance) were ubiquitous in Buenos Aires and began spreading to the smaller regional towns of Argentina as well. Piano Tango music became very popular driven by the relative low cost availability of the piano and the profitability, and hence proliferation, of sheet music written for it. Literally thousands of Tango pieces written for the piano were documented during this period.
Tango made its first non-Argentine debut in the early 1900s in Paris, a metropolis eager for the exotic and exciting, and not at all averse to the risqué nature of the dance. By 1913, the Tango had become an international phenomenon in Paris, London and New York. It was at this time that the ballroom versions of the Tango began to develop [see Tango]. Ironically, this new found acceptance by European high society forced the Argentine elite into accepting it as a legitimate national dance for Argentina.

The Tango continued its upswing in popularity throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s. Carlos Gardel helped to make the vocalized version of Argentine Tango music popular, characterized by a slightly less complex musical structure, with the advent of recorded sound. During this period and into the 1940’s the Tango continued to be inextricably linked with Argentine culture. The late 1940’s and early 1950’s are referred to as the “golden age” of the Argentine Tango and many of the most popular Argentine Tango music originates from this period.

By the late 1950’s political instability overtook Argentina, Tango lyrics began reflecting undertones of discontent and Tango was subsequently banned as subversive. The music, and hence the dance, went underground and became relatively obscure. By the time the tight political reins were loosened, most younger Argentinians had moved on to other fads, such as rock-n-roll and later disco. A generation of new Tango dancers were lost during this period but the tenacity of the passion for Tango sustained it during this time in those who had experienced it.

The Argentine Tango may have been relegated to regional obscurity if not for the stage show “Tango Argentino” which opened in Paris in the 1980’s. Ironically beginning its reincarnation as a world-wide dance again in Paris, this show sparked a revival that continues to this day to attract a new following around the world, including areas never before reached by Argentine Tango, such as the Orient.


Argentine Tango music is quite varied. It is usually 2/4 time but can be quite complex, changing tempo throughout the music and perhaps at times suspending the music entirely for a dramatic pause. As most Argentine Tango music was written in decades past the style of music will reflect the era from which it orginates [see history above].

Afficionados of different styles of dancing Argentine Tango will prefer different types of music as well. Dancers who prefer the milongero close embrace version often prefer the stronger rhythmical music from the 1940’s such as that played by D’Arienzo. Enthusiasts of salon-style tango typically prefer dancing to smoother music, aristocratic and refined sounding such as that played by Fresedo.

Music from the “golden age of tango” often has a lot of dramatic flair, as does music recorded after this time, particularly from Tango soundtracks.


There are two main styles of dancing the Argentine Tango today. Milongero or club-style is danced in a “close embrace” hold where the partners are often slightly leaned in toward each other from the head and upper body with the feet and legs slightly farther apart. Salon style, sometimes considered a more advanced form, is danced slightly farther apart with stronger emphasis on frame connection and more upright allowing for increased freedom of movement and more complicated patterning.

Some dancers combine the styles to create more textures and dancers of show tango incorporate components of many other forms of dance to give it a showier quality.

Whatever the style, Argentine Tango is a dance that develops a great deal of partnership sensitivity, lead/follow connection and intimacy between the partners. For this reason Argentine Tango makes a wonderful ‘couples’ dance. At its highest level it is an extremely passionate and intense dance combining slow seductive movements with flurries of activity and movement.

Argentine Tango songs and artists include:

  • Perdón viejita – Osvaldo Fresedo with Carlos Gardel
  • Naranjo En Flor – Roberto Goyeneche
  • Los poseídos – Astor Piazzolla
  • El Irresistible – Juan D’Arienzo