ALTERNATIVE TANGO STYLES
In Buenos Aires they say that if you watch ten couples dancing Tango you will see ten different styles. While it’s true that many people develop their own particular style of dancing, in reality it comes down to a choice of two specific and very different styles; these are often called Tango Milonguero Style [or Buenos Aires Style] and Tango Salon Style.
Each style has its own favoured music, embrace and steps as well as different techniques of dancing. Also important is that the psychology or mind-set of the dancers appears to be different according to which style is being danced.
Although Tango Milonguero evolved from Salon style to suit the crowded ballrooms of Buenos Aires in the 1940s and 50s, much of the music suitable for this style is older than that for Salon style. This because it is typically danced to a 2 x 4 rhythm that was popular in the pre-Salon days. However, these old recordings are generally of poor quality and the Golden Age music of Juan D'Arienzo, Rodolfo Biagi, Enrique Rodriguez and others are often preferred.
The most striking quality of Milonguero style is the very close embrace that is a requirement of the dance. The couples lean forward to make contact from the waist to chest and the embrace doesn't open during the dance. The lady drapes herself around the man with her left arm around his neck, her eyes are often closed; she surrenders.
The dance has an intimate quality which, at first glance, one would assume could only be danced by lovers. However, this is not true and friends and strangers alike dance Tango Milonguero. Because of the close embrace the steps are often small and relatively simple; exciting, characteristic Tango figures from other styles, such as Enrosques, Planeos, Barridas and Ganchos, are rarely danced. Tango Milonguero is more about the embrace and the music than about dancing fancy steps and is often described as "a feeling that is danced".
Tango Milonguero is the style of Tango that is danced in the famous, downtown milongas of Buenos Aires.
Tango Salon Style is a smooth, elegant dance with a more upright posture than Milonguero and is best danced to music with a 4 x 4 rhythm. Di Sarli, Troilo, Calo, Fresedo and others are often preferred.
The embrace for Tango Salon is close but often with only light contact at the chest. It has a more elegant and upright style than Milonguero. Unlike in Tango Milonguero, the embrace in Tango Salon can change from a close embrace to a more open one and it is this characteristic that gives the dancers the greater freedom necessary to dance a wider variety of steps and figures than is possible in Milonguero Style. However, to many, it lacks the intimacy and emotional connection that is a feature of Tango Milonguero.
Tango Salon is now rarely seen in the downtown milongas of Buenos Aires but can still be seen in the neighbourhood milongas, such as Sunderland in Villa Urquiza. However, Salon Style remains very popular outside of Argentina due the the many Tango performers who travel the world teaching this style of Tango.
SHOW-TANGO OR ‘FANTASIA’
Apart from Tango Milonguero and Tango Salon, the third Tango style which must be mentioned is Show-Tango or, as it is known in Buenos Aires – ‘Fantasia’.
As the name makes clear, Show-Tango is the choreographed Tango seen in professional Tango stage-shows and movies such as The Tango Lesson. It is frequently the first style of Tango seen by people outside Argentina and can give a completely wrong first impression of Tango.
When you learn Show-Tango figures, the first thing the instructor should tell you is that these figures are for the stage only; they are not to be danced in the milonga.
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