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Argentine Tango

The Argentine Tango is a social dance which originated in Argentina and was later adopted in Uruguay and the rest of the world. Many people confuse the Argentine Tango with Ballroom Tango.

Origin and history

The beginnings of Argentine Tango can be traced to the working class port neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. For this reason, tango is also referred to as the music of the immigrants to Argentina. One of the most popular “origin stories” has it that tango came from the Niger Congo languages of Africa.

The dance itself derives from the Spanish habanera, the Uruguayan milonga and candombe and also contains elements from the African dances practiced by the community in Buenos Aires. The music is a fusion of styles from Europe.

Understanding the dance

Essentially, tango means to walk with the partner and music. It relies heavily on improvisation, although certain movements have been codified by instructors in order to instruct dancers. There isn’t a “basic step”. One of the constants in all Argentine tango styles is that the follower will usually be led to alternate feet. Also, the follower (the lady) rarely has her weight on both feet at the same time.

Argentine tango is danced counterclockwise around the outside of the dance floor. Generally, you won’t see experienced dancers in the center of the floor but you’ll see there either those you are not good at navigating the floor or those who perform “showy” patterns which need more space.

As opposed to ballroom tango, Argentine tango is constantly evolving. While in ballroom tango, the partners arch their upper bodies away from each other, in Argentine tango is exactly the opposite: the dancers’ chests are closer to each other than are their hips.


Although an improvised dance, there are several steps which the dancers combine in a spontaneous manner, as determined by the lead. Those who start to learn the Argentine tango will have to understand the basics of it, such as:

  • Caminadas (walks, which are the basic steps)
  • Baldoso (tile)
  • Salida (beginning or exit)
  • Resolución

To obtain a figure, the dancers have to combine: salida, basic steps and resolución, in that order. Of course, there are other basic steps than caminadas, which are learned as the dancer gains experience.

Similar dances

Tango dancers will also like vals (waltz; but not Viennese waltz) and milonga. The major difference between tango and waltz is that the music for waltz is in ¾ time.

Tango and movies

Besides the many Argentine movies which feature tango dances, tango has been featured or referred to in many Hollywood movies. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) might be the first American movie in which tango was featured. Recent movies include: Moulin Rouge (2001), The Tuxedo (2002), Shall We Dance? (2004) and Mr.and Mrs.Smith (2005).

Learning tango in Argentina

Many clubs in Argentina cater for those who want to learn how to dance the tango. There are also many companies which offer both tango and Spanish classes as part of a special vacation package.

For example, if you want to learn tango in Buenos Aires and choose to stay at a family there, expect to pay US$850 for a month, including the tango lessons (and other very useful things like a cellular phone).