What is tango?

tango walking formal
tango nuevo casual
Tango is a vibrant and playful dance between two people. It has very rich potential for expression, improvisation and connection and is danced in both modern and traditional styles. It is often described as a passionate dance, because of the close connection partners can have, the character of the music, and also relating to some of the dance's history.

At the heart of tango (Argentine tango) is the desire to listen to, understand and converse with the person you're dancing with, through this unique language of dance. So tango can be many things for different people. Almost any type of music that can be walked to can be tangoed to, which means just about anyone can do it!

In tango there is a 'leader' and 'follower'. Through the embrace, the leader offers invitations to the follower for where and how to step. The follower decides in what way they will accept the leader's invitations. Both leader and follower try to maintain harmony and connection through the embrace, and with the music, and so the dance is born.

Like the symbols of yin and yang, the roles of leader and follower each have a little of the other within them. Tango is a collaborative process, which encourages the development of sensitivity, clarity, trust and respect.

"When I tango it's like there is no past or future, there is only my partner and the music, in constant flow."

"Tango is sharing a moment of intimacy and understanding with another person"

"Tango lets me forget my worries and remember what it's like to let the music take over"

"It's truly magic, how two people can really move as one, so connected with each other and the music - that's tango"

Tango today:

Today, tango is an international dance. In many countries around the world, it's hard to find a city that doesn't have at least one tango club. Many people think of ballroom when they think of tango. In fact, ballroom tango, with its competition or spectator focus and distinctive posture is a far cry from the more organic, improvisational and connection focused tango, Argentine tango, that is so rapidly gaining popularity throughout the world. 

Tango that is danced socially, where steps are lead and followed in an improvised way and with a natural and comfortable posture, is commonly referred to as Argentine tango, because that's where many of the styles and steps originated, as well as the music. Each culture that tango touches, however, brings its own spirit to the dance, making it, in some sense, its own.

It's not unusual for tango dancers to spend whole weekends or more doing little but tango, dancing late into the night - it's that much fun. While it can become an addiction, the tango community is made up of people with all levels of involvement, including those who just enjoy a nice evening of dancing once in a while.

There are several styles of tango (and tango music) which can be broadly divided into traditional, nuevo and alternative. While teaching methods vary, all of these styles share a common number of principles about how to lead and follow, how to walk and how to pivot. So if you know one style well you can explore the others without much difficulty.

Origins of Tango

Subpages (1): Origins of tango