Argentine & Ballroom
Tango music originated from Argentine, Brazilian and Spanish influences. The earliest traces of the Tango date back to the latter half of the 19th century-to the Milonga, an Argentine folk dance with Moorish, Arabic and Spanish ancestry. Years later, the Argentine Gauchos (streetwise single men) danced a modified version of the Milonga, in the seedy bars and bordellos of Buenos Aires. The Milonguero dance hold in Argentine Tango is called "close embrace", where the couple are literally dancing chest to chest. It gives Tango an immediate intimacy that the other dances do not have. This was considered far too risqué for polite society.
The dance was later taken on by Verne and Irene Castle, renowned Ballroom dance performers. They changed the hold to a traditional ballroom frame, toned the dance down so that it could be danced in a socially acceptable manner and restructured many of the figures to allow them to be taught like traditional Smooth dances. The International and American Tango Styles danced in ballrooms today developed from this offshoot. Their unique style is expressed in quick double takes with the head and stalking panther-like movements complete with lunges and dips.
"Tangueros" (Tango dancers and singers) did not fair well under Peron period but performance Tango known as "Fantasia" developed in the mid 1950's and sustained interest in Tango in general around the world. Fantasia being performance-based, has many acrobatic movements such as lifts, dips, twirls and of course the characteristic Argentine hooking and kicking steps called "Ganchos" and "Boleos." It can be viewed as a dance-separate variant, though many Fantasia moves can be danced socially by experienced dancers.
When the Argentinean Tango crowd refers to "Tango", they are not speaking of the Ballroom and Fantasia offshoots. Socially danced in "Milongas" (Argentine Tango Dances) around the world there are three basic types of Tango -- Milonga, Valtz and Tango. Each of these three has its own distinctive features and music. Milonga, the original, is danced very close, to very fast music and has a lot of staccato foot changes and taps. You dance on every beat of the music. Valtz is danced to Viennese Waltz music, hence the name. It flows more and is danced more frequently on the first beat of a measure or the "1" of "1-2-3." Tango is the most sensual of the three, danced to slower, moodier music. It is therefore more precise. Controlled smooth movements allow for the intricate footwork so often associated with this dance. What makes this dance truly unique is that the gentleman can set up situations for the woman to "play" or do embellishments which she controls. Whether one dances in the "close embrace" or in the more formal ballroom hold is decided by the dancers. Often at Milongas each kind are played in sets of three or four and a couple will tend to dance the set together.
Tango has a flavor quite unlike any other dance. The Ballroom basic rhythm is an 8 count Slow-Slow-Quick-Quick-Slow. The music itself leads to excess. It is a dance that is ironically both showy, yet very intimate. Tango has also been immortalized in such films as "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse"(Rudolf Valentino), "Scent of a Woman" (Al Pacino), "True Lies" (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and "Assassination Tango" (Robert Duvall).