11 Argentine Tango Styles

Igor Polk, 2005 September 26 ( rough, I will have to edit it )

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Tango Liso;


6 Close Embrace Styles;

What is Tango Orillero


Watched my favorite dancer Z. He danced with RD. I sit and observed their smiles, the same like on Leonardo's Mona Lisa. And I smiled too. That is the great dance! I wonder why nobody stopped dancing and have not enjoyed that majestic performance. But that is even better. Magical events around us love to go unnoticed.

They have danced in what I call "Tango Nuevo in close embrace" style. Yes, with all those "kicks", ganchos, and volcadas, but how virtually effortless and sublime they were performed! They swam in the ocean of movement. This style is characterized with smooth movements, I can not even say "steps", and very sensitive embrace without lean, even though cortes ( corte is a cut step, which is not really cut, it is just a name) are quite often there. This is the style of close embrace I am most weak in. But right after immersing myself into the aura, I danced with the lovely Ja. Ja is very soft, which was right what I need, and I believe I have made it! Not as good leader as Z and without flashy boleos, but similar. It was the right style. I am glad and will move forward.

That was a wonderful milonga. Tom Stermitz DJ-ed at the Beat - I love his classical collections! I have danced with RD before her dance with Z, so I knew how it feels. Also, I had a wonderful dance with D. Sensitive but more classical and sharp.

One thing besides SENSITIVITY unites all of these dancers as well as many other great ones - it is POSTURE and SPRING-NESS( which is sometimes called RESISTANCE - please, do not take this term litereally, it is very misleading !!! ). One day I will talk about it but for now I can say that there are at least 2 types of it - spring-ness in the connection, and spring-ness in the body including legs - a body like a spring.

So, in the sea of individual styles, I can single out and dance the following:

- Canyengue: definite lean, bend legs - a lot!; ( yes, yes, it exists, and quite many women are dancing it! ). Legs do a lot of work, but bodies move smoothly, as if they fly. Martha Anton ( search for: Marta Anton and Luis Grondona ) ( That is the Canyengue position: photo ). Thers is understanding of Canyengue as a very "African" style, but since there is "salon" Martha Anthon's Canyengue, which is much more popular, it is better to refer to it separatelly. Practically, no one dances Canyengue in its "African" form. For now, hopefully not for long, it is a pure academic style.
- Salon of 1910-1920, with tango Liso as a simple form of it: Vertical bodies, open embrace, slowest of all tangos. Ladies must have strong resistance for the dance to feel great. There was similar dance danced in close. Orlando Paiva does it in close embrace, Juan Bruno. This was the style danced in Europe.
- Orillero: Examples? Gloria and Eduardo Arquimbau, Juan Bruno, Hugo Patin and Miriam Larici. Open, fast, sharp, with a lot of leg play and even jumps. I am practicing it regularly. There are powerful ladies around! This style requires very strong connection. With forces!
- Apilado. That is the rare beast. Close embrace, lean. The larger the better. Knees are not bend much unlike Canyengue. Music is softer. Patricio and Eva from Seattle. Gavito sometimes. Ruben. And.. Tete! There are quite a lot of these dancers in SF. ( Here is more about Apilado style , with photos! )
- Nuevo Close Embrace. Sometimes called Nuevo Milonguero. Very sensitive, no lean or very small one, very smooth. Dancers do not separate. Z and RD. Nick Jones and Tara Fortier. "Milonguero style" is a simple form of this style.
- Salon of 50s. Open or close. Bodies are vertical. Steps ( as steps, not as figures ) are simple. No lean. Most known style. Dancers can separate in close embrace. That is what now is called Salon.
- Tango Nuevo. Open. The same like Salon of 50s but steps are longer, more gliding, forceful. A lot of ganchos and so on. Chicho.
- Tango-Colgada-style. Open. Dancing moving away from a partner in circular movements with force. This is not unfamiliar to waltz dancers. Colgada itself is just an element of this style. Corina De La Rosa & Julio Balmaceda. This is what I know little, but I am trying to dance it. This dance is smooth. This style itself is little known as a style, but as dancing style it is very definite: see Julio and Corina dancing at Tango Fireworks.

That is what I do not know at all ( yet ):

- Candombe: I see it as Brazilian Samba danced in close embrace. Wanna try?
- "Dynamic Tango": This one is distinguishable from Tango-Colgada-style and to me - from Neo Tango. Jaimes Friedgen  from Seattle. ( Martial Arts style);
- Neo Tango. I can see the difference with Nuevo in music. Nuevo is the best with tangos of 50-60. Neo - with non tango music. Colgadas are danced widely, but I would separate the 2 styles. I can see a very clear distinction with Tango-Colgada-style. In my view, the best dancer and  teacher of this style I have seen so far is Homer.

Some of these styles are so much different from each other, that I am inclining to think about them as different dances in one Tango family of dances. They all share some basic principles and figures and have common family tree.

About music.

All tango styles can be dance with any music. But there are preferences. There is very distinctive music for:
- Canyengue - It is about 40% of all music of 1920-1935; Canaro, "El Flete" for example, and many many others.
- Salon 1920 - Lomuto. Quite popular up to 1950s!
- Orillero - for example D'Arienzo. More major, rhythmic. D'Arienzo made music in all styles. Canaro too. Most major musicians tried different styles in their carrier.
- Apilado, Nuevo Close - Pedro Laurentz, just a small example. Pugliese before 1952. - 80% of music of 1940-1952.
- Salon of 50s, Nuevo Open - the same + Pugliese after 1952. That music is very different.
- Colgada style - modern mixes.
- Candombe - specific beat of African drums.

While some teachers teach musicality and how to dance with different orchestras, what they should actually do - to teach different styles. Musicality is good to show how to dance to different pieces of the same style because all of them are slightly different. Or variate the dance inside the same piece. But it is far not as enough in relation to musical styles.

* * *
- What are you talking about? There only Salon, Milonguero, and Nuevo styles are!

- These are not styles, but modern tango sub-communities.

* * *
Woman in Tango styles:

Style: Woman:  
Canyengue Seductive, but discretely  
Orillero Playful  
Salon 20s Aristocratic  
Salon 50s Elegant, confident, dignified  
Apilado Sensitive  
Nuevo Powerful  
Neo Fragile ballerina  
Dynamic Amazon warrior  


* * *
October 3, 2009

How can I describe the technical differences between the styles in several words?

Style: Description:  
  Major styles:  
Canyengue Lean above the knee. Compact. Smooth and playful. Obviously, close embrace only.  
Orillero No lean, playful, energetic. Open and close V embrace. Show dancers often dance in this style.  
Salon No lean, vertical. Slow. Aristocratic and seductive. Open or close parallel or V embrace.  
Apilado Lean from the chest. Smooth, sensitive, but may be faster and more rhythmic. Obviously, close embrace only.  
  Combination styles:  
Nuevo A mix of Orillero and Apilado. There is only one new technique in this style - Colgada.  
Milonguero A mix of Canyengue and Salon. Is not danced technically challenging, with the emphasis on sensuality.  

Some people say there is a Show style. This is not a technical style. It is a style of performance - perfect, large, visual, artistic. Show dancers dance for public. And this public sometimes sits on the balcony! It takes a lot to dance for performance and usually those things are far away from social dancing. Successful show dancers dance in all technical styles and often mix them and use techniques and figures from other dances including ballet for the sake of being interesting.


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My name is Igor Polk. I dance Argentine tango in San Francisco.

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