Within Argentine tango there are various styles you may hear people refer to. They will say, “Oh, he’s a milonguero dancer,” or “She dances salon style.” Styles are as unique as dancers and I think it’s rather foolish to try to categorise either. Just remember if you hear terms like ‘salon’, ‘milonguero’, ‘fantasia’, or ‘orillero’, someone is talking about a certain style.
As with any evolving art form, trying to pin down the rules is impossible. Every day, new styles come forward and dancers find ways to play with them and incorporate them into their dance. In the past few years, styles known as ‘nuevo’ and ‘liquid’ have appeared. Who knows what’s coming next? All we know is that it’s coming.
Many tango dancers dance in a range of unique and personal styles all over Buenos Aires and some parts of Argentina. However, they refuse to accept any classification of their dancing by any broad elaborate name. They’d much rather say that they are simply dancing tango in their own individual style or that of their region. In some cases, there is confusion with the styles as some tango dancers identify their own style by a name that other dancers identify as an entirely different style.
Nevertheless, if we think of style as a way of dancing that closely follows the listed elements but has a number of incompatibilities with other approaches then I guess it’s safe to say that there are a variety of distinguishable tango styles such as: Tango de Salon, Villa Urquiza, Milonguero-Style Tango, Club-Style Tango, Orillero-Style Tango, Canyengue, Nuevo Tango, Fantasia, Tango Escenario, Nuevo Milonguero, and Liquid Tango.
TANGO DE SALON
“Tango de Salon” refers to a plethora of social dance styles that includes Milonguero, Villa Urquiza and as well as Club-Style tangos. These are social dances that are often danced in salons or improper venues instead of the purpose of exhibition. Traditionally, tango de salon dancers are required to respect the line of dance, but they are allowed freedom to have their own styles in terms of embraces and characteristic movements.
In other countries, “salon-style” tango may refer to Tango Fantasia, Villa Urquiza, Tango Escenario or a fusion of these different styles. The combined styles is distinguished to have a looser embrace with a more prominent V than the Villa Urquiza styles. The distance between the partners allows the woman to pivot freely without much independent hip and torso movements.
Generally, Milonguero-style tango is danced with a somewhat leaning posture that unites the partners in their torsos from the stomach towards the solar plexus to form a joined axis, at the same time, allowing a slight distance between their feet. It’s an embrace otherwise known as “apilado”. In the embrace, the woman’s right shoulder should be as close to her partner’s left shoulder as her left shoulder is to his right. Her left arm should hang over behind the neck of her partner.
Constant body contact is maintained and the embrace does not loosen even when executing turns or ochos, which limits the partners walking steps and plain ochos until the woman is ready to execute her turns stepping at an angle instead of pivoting.
Milonguero-style tango is identified with the ric-tic-tic rhythm that is distinct in the music of Rodolfo Biagi and Juan D’Arienzo, as well as in other tango orchestras.
Canyengue is a form of tango that can be traced back from the 1920s to the early 30s. It is a historical form of tango that may not be accurately captured by the dancers that currently practice it. At the peak of its popularity, women dancers wore long and tight dresses. In this form of tango, the couple’s embrace is close and in an offset V, they move with bent knees and the woman does not execute a cross. Therefore, the steps are much shorter and more frequent in the ric-tic-tic-rhythm. Some Canyengue dangers exaggerate body movements to emphasise their steps.
Like Milonguero-style tango, Club-style tango share the same rhythmic sensibilities although it is executed with a more upright posture and separate axes. Its embrace is as close as that of the Villa Urquiza style. The woman is able to rotate more openly and pivot without much independent movement as the couple’s embrace is slightly looser. Like Milonguero-style, Club-style tango is also danced to the ric-tic-tic rhythm that is noticeable in the music of Juan D’Arienzo and Rodolfo Biagi, as well as in other tango orchestras. This style of tango also uses the ocho cortado and other rhythmic figures used in Milonguero-style tango.
A tango style named after one of Buenos Aires’ neighbourhoods, Villa Urquiza is generally danced with the couple maintaining an upright body posture and keeping separate axes with their eyes fixed towards their clasped hands. This position creates a slight V impression in their embrace, where the woman’s right shoulder is closer to the man’s right shoulder than her left shoulder is to his right.. More often than not, the couple allows the woman to rotate more freely by loosening their embrace although it is supposed to be closed. The more the woman rotates, the less the embrace needs to be loosened. This style is otherwise known as “Tango Estilo del Barrio” in some neighbourhoods and “Salon-Style Tango” outside of Argentina.
FANTASIA (Show Tango)
This style of tango is influenced mainly by the Villa Urquiza style of tango. Fantasia or Tango Fantasia refers to an exhibition style of tango. Fantasia is unique for its dramatic poses, ganchos, high boleos and thorough use of embellishments. It is danced during breaks in social dances in milongas but is also performed in the stage in which it has evolved into another style of tango as some elements have been added to it subsequently, turning it into an entirely new style called Tango Escenario.
TANGO ESCENARIO (Stage Tango)
Its name means tango danced in stage shows. This style has developed from that of the Villa Urquiza and Orillero styles of tango and has recently drew some elements from nuevo-tango. In this style of tango, the couple dances in an open embrace with exaggerated movements and other elements foreign to the vocabulary of social tango.
This style of tango is considered to be one of the older styles and basing on its name, it seems that it originated from Buenos Aires’ streets of impoverished rural tenements. It was later referred to the style where the man is dancing around the woman. During what is considered to be tango’s golden age, Orillero-style tango was not accepted in the refined salons of Buenos Aires. To this day, Orillero-style tango has become more like the Villa Urquiza style of tango.
Orillero-style tango is danced with upright body posture. The couple then keeps separate axes with their embrace a typical offset in a V that can either be open or close. The woman is free to move and pivot in the turns without the need for much independent movement between her hips and torso.
When dancing in a close embrace, the couple slightly loosens the embrace in order to make room for the turns. The embrace would not have to be loosened that much if the woman is rotating her hips through the turns independently of her upper torso. What makes it different from Salon-style tango is that it has a more playful embellishment that requires more space and its figures do not strictly follow the line of dance.
This dancing approach was originally made to be an instructive approach to tango, highlighting the structures where the connections to the elements of tango, as well as the step patterns and new combinations, can be found. The dancers following this approach have developed a style somewhat akin to nuevo tango which is danced in an open and elastic embrace with a posture that is very upright, emphasising the dancers’ axes. This tango style is distinguishable by figures such as linear boleos, volcadas, overturn ochos, single axis spin and cadenas. Such moves are best done in a loose embrace.
An approach to dancing Argentine tango where the couple’s embrace shifts between open and close in order to allow the combination of different styles of tango such as the club and nuevo styles. We cannot really consider Liquid tango as an independent style of tango dancing as it is considerably similar to nuevo and does not have distinctive separate groups of followers.
Nuevo Milonguero is a somewhat recent approach to Argentine tango that includes some nuevo movements. Like Liquid Tango, we also cannot consider Nuevo Milonguero to be a separate style of tango as this approach is largely similar to the Milonguero style tango, plus the fact that it does not have a group of followers that is distinguishable. In fact, Nuevo Milonguero can only be considered as Milonguero style’s show version because of its showy elements that does not befit being danced in crowded venues.