Tango is not only a fascinating dance but also a fascinating philosophy, culture and lifestyle. The search of tango is the search of connection, love, unity, beauty, harmony and humanity, i.e., an idealism that is not consistent with the dehumanizing reality of the modern world. The world divides us as individuals, but tango unites us as a people and species. In tango we are not individualists, feminists, nationalists, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, etc., but interconnected and interdependent members of the human family. Tango calls us to tear down the walls, to build bridges, and to regain humanity through connection, cooperation, reconciliation and compromise. It is a dance that teaches the world to love.

August 2, 2012

The Styles of Tango

Many terms are used to describe different styles of tango, such as tango milonguero, tango apilado, tango Villa Urquiza, estilo del centro, estilo del barrio, tango de salon, tango fantasia, and tango Nuevo, etc. 

The fundamental cause of stylistic differences lies in human psychology. People who are feeling-oriented incline to the inward experience. These dancers, of whom many are milongueros, have developed the milonguero style, which is danced in close embrace with slight leaning (apilado) against each other, using simple and compact steps. These dancers often dance at the tango clubs in downtown Buenos Aires where the floors are crowded - hence the term estilo del centro, or downtown style. 
Milonguero style features embrace and feelings.

People who are movement-oriented incline to the steps. Such dancers, of whom many also are milongueros, have developed the Villa Urquiza style, also known as the salon style, which is danced in a loose embrace with a vertical posture, using more stylish steps and adornments. These dancers like to dance at the neighborhood clubs, such as Club Sin Rumbo in the neighborhood of Villa Urquiza, where the dance floors are more open, hence the term estilo del barrio, or neighborhood style. Villa Urquiza style features steps and the look. 

Milonguero style and Villa Urquiza style are commonly recognized as tango de salon, or social tango. Social tango is a loose term broad enough to include stylistic differences and narrow enough to exclude anti-social behaviors. Social dancers may be feeling-oriented or movement-oriented, but they all dance at the clubs and abide by the milonga codes.

Social tango has dominated the culture of Buenos Aires from mid 1930s to mid 1950s. This period is known as tango's Golden Age. During these heydays some twenty-three dancers who were more movement-oriented than their Villa Urquiza colleagues met regularly at the Club Nelson between 1940 and 1950 to work on new steps. They gave birth to a new style which they named Tango Fantasia. The names of these 23 dancers are listed in Robert Farris Thompson's book, Tango, the Art History of Love. Danced in open embrace, Tango Fantasia dramatized tango with fancy footwork and showy figures and separated itself from social tango by using choreography and not conforming to the milonga codes. The purpose of this style is to perform on stage; therefore, it is also known as performance tango, stage tango, show tango, or exhibition tango. 

From 1955 to 1983 Argentina was ruled by a succession of military juntas whose policies discouraged social tango. Curfews were enforced and people were under routine checks for their police records. Many were arrested or simply disappeared for aligning with the previous Peronist regime. As a result, people stopped dancing socially and tango went underground. The absence of social tango during this period gave Tango Fantasia an opportunity to take the stage. When the military rule ended in 1983, it was this style that led the revival of tango. (See Tango: Historical and Cultural Impacts.)

During the tango renaissance after 1983, some movement-oriented dancers went even further to create Tango Nuevo, a hybrid style combining tango and non-tango elements, such as exotic music and eccentric steps. Tango Nuevo not only separates itself from social tango, but from tango entirely, in my opinion, because it no longer possesses the essential characteristics of tango and thus ceases to be tango as it was created for. (See Why People Dance Tango.)

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