Argentine Tango History, Styles, Dancers & Competitions Argentine Tango History, Styles, Dancers & Competitions

Argentine Tango History, Styles, Dancers & Competitions

story by Danceus Staff for

The authentic Argentine style of Tango is denoted partly by its hold. Either a closed embrace where the dancers chests meet intimately or a more open hold can be used. Largely, this particular style of Tango utilizes improvisation to a great degree, and does not have a basic step. Feet are typically kept close to the floor during movement so that the dance partners legs are often brushing. Also, Tango is typically danced to music which is repetitive, using either 16 or 32 beats. 


There is some indication that Tango was heavily influenced by former African slaves in Rio de la Plata. However, the actual origins are very unclear mainly because it grew from a group of people who were uneducated. Therefore, they were unable to actually write the history down. By the time its story began to be documented, Tango had already been a well-known dance style. It is very clear, however, that it was initially developed and practiced in brothels.

Men practice Argentine Tango


During the time surrounding the beginnings of Tango, there was a huge shortage of women in the Buenos Aires area. As a result, men would often gather in brothels and places of ill repute to seek favors from the ladies. One can imagine that there might have been a lengthy wait, as the men to women ratio were greatly unbalanced. Early reports seem to indicate that the prostitutes and the men would dance together in these institutions, but this seems highly unlikely. After all, the men were all sitting around and waiting for the women in the first place; one can assume, therefore, that the girls were rather busy. It is far more likely that the men utilized this time to practice Tango among themselves.

Around 1911, Tango made the trip overseas and became a sensation in Paris, London and Berlin. 1913 saw it strike New York City in full force, although less authentic Tango was already practiced there to some extent. Basically, before 1913, any dance with a 2/4 or 4/4 rhythm could be called Tango. Unfortunately, The Great depression of 1929 saw a fall in Tangos hey-day, as did other political uproars in its homeland shortly thereafter. It took decades for the style to be revived.


There are numerous styles of Tango which have developed over the years from the orginal Argentine style. Once it left Buenos Aires, it traveled the world, and many of the areas that embraced it added their own touches to its fundamentals. American Tango and Show Tango, which is sometimes referred to as Fantasia Tango, are offshoots of the original Argentine Tango. Ballroom Tango, or European style, is also a branch from the Argentine Tango tree.

Famous Dancers

El Cachafaz

The man broadly recognized as the most notable Tango dancer is El Cachafaz. He was actually one of the first Tango dancers, and practiced in the brothels. He left Buenos Aires and danced all over the world, making heaps of money along the way. Unfortunately, his rakish nature left him broke, but still a formidable dancer well into his 60s.


Casimiro Ain

Casimiro Ain, most well-known as El Vasco, is also a historic Tango dancer. He also traveled the world demonstrating his gift, and often to those of great importance. For instance, he once performed for Pope Benedict XV. His story does not end well, however. He had returned home to Buenos Aires, becoming a hermit. One of the last known records of his life is that he had to undergo an operation to one of his legs, which sadly ended in an amputation. Shortly thereafter he died.

Carlos Gardel

Carlos Gardel, otherwise known as the King of Tango, is by far the most notable figure in the early days of Tango. He was an actor, singer and songwriter who brought Tango to the world. Although he grew up in Buenos Aires, he was actually born in France. His musical and acting abilities helped him to record hundreds of songs and many films before his untimely death. His plane crashed, killing him and several other musical artists, in 1935.



"The Dancing World Championship and Festival", one of the best known tango events worldwide, during which thousands of couples and audience members from all over the world reach the City of Buenos Aires to take part and experience this happening every year in August, mainly at Centro de Exposiciones and Usina del Arte.

There are also other numerous competitions dedicated to Tango in its birthplace, as well as in Australia, Finland and Germany.

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