4 beats/measure; 26-34 meas/min

The Tango originated from the Gypsy rhythms of Andalusia in Spain where it was a solo dance.  It was imported into Argentina where the Gauchos began to influence the dance style.  Argentine musicians brought the tango to Paris in 1909, rumors of the tango reached England in 1910, and the dance quickly became popular in England and in America prior to World War I. Interestingly, it was not Argentine dancers who popularized the tango in the USA. It was Vernon and Irene Castle during the 1910s, Rudolph Valentino in the ’20s, Arthur Murray and Xavier Cugat in the ’30s, and even Julio Iglesias in the ’90s.

Tango, Paris, 1920 Originally, the Argentine Tango was an earthy dance and many were offended. By the 1930s the tango had undergone more changes than any other ballroom dance in order to refine it enough to be able to bring it into “proper” ballrooms. Walking steps were introduced to make it progress around the room. The music was speeded up, made more aggressive, more march-like. Movements became sharper, more stylized, more snappy or jerky. A lot of the flirtation, temptation, and passion was taken out. Chris & Terri Cantrell have suggested that, “The American Tango is like the beginning of a love affair, when you are both very romantic and on your best behavior. The Argentine Tango is the next stage when you are in the heat of passion and all kinds of emotions consume you. The International Tango is like the end of the marriage, when you are staying together for the sake of the children.”

Eddie and Audrey Palmquist Eddie Palmquist simply said that in Argentine Tango the lady is saying “yes”; in American Tango she is playfully saying “maybe”; and in International Tango it is a definite “no.”

International, or English, Tango is so changed from its origins that it is considered a Smooth or Standard rhythm, rather than Latin. It is a flat dance with no regular rise and fall and normally down into the knees. It is appropriate to lower a little into a hinge, lunge, or other picture figure, and then you will rise a little coming out of that picture, but this “rise and fall” is slight and occasional—most of the time, tango is flat.

Tango is also characterized by a staccato emphasis on each beat, alternating rests and actions, and a lengthened stride. Take the step sharply and hold it, step and hold. One teacher asked us to imagine two cars approaching a red light. One driver hurries up to the light, stops abruptly, and waits. The second driver takes his foot off the gas and slows. The light turns green as he approaches, whereupon he gently accelerates again. The first car is tango. The second is foxtrot, slowly arriving and continuing on without ever coming to a stop.

International Tango emphasizes the use of quick steps and uses slow counts for contrast (American Tango uses more slow steps and uses the quicks for contrast).

In addition to making the steps sharp, there is no foot swivel. Even during a “swivel,” put the foot where it should be, and then turn the body on that foot. Don’t rotate the foot on the floor. The foot should hit the floor and stick. Tango is jerky but in a dramatic and even haughty way. Don’t smile. Don’t even look at your partner except maybe down your nose during a Right Lunge or at the end of a Spanish Drag.

The Tango hold is more compact than in Waltz, Quickstep, or Foxtrot.  The Woman’s left hand may optionally be placed at the underside of the back of the Man’s upper right arm with the fingertips near his armpit.  The Man’s right arm is placed more toward the center of the Woman’s back which places the Woman more to his right.  The Man’s left arm will be slightly lower, and is not as extended as in Foxtrot or Waltz. Tango is danced without rise or fall as in Waltz or Foxtrot. All normal forward walks are with heel leads. Side Steps are placed with the inside edge of foot to flat.  If the man takes a forward step with the left foot, it is placed in front of the right foot or slightly across the right foot.  A right foot step for the man is forward and slightly to the side which will result in a left curving track on the dance floor.  

Tango is maybe the best rhythm in which to practice your lead and follow.

Since you have rotated a little left face, you will walk with a little right-side lead. Step forward on the outside of the left foot and roll to the inside edge, on the inside of the right foot and roll to the outside edge. The steps are a little bit crab-wise and curved a little to the left. The right-side lead does this. Walk heel to toe, skimming the floor. Wayne says to walk “sticky.” Place each foot and then stop; step and stop. Judy Moore says to step as though you are negotiating lily pads — step, be still, step, be still . . . Brent Moore says that there is much “stillness” in tango. There is no flow, no flight, no swiveling on the balls of the feet.

In the other smooth rhythms, the body is always in motion, in smooth and graceful arcs. In tango, the body doesn’t move past the foot. The foot and the body move together. When the foot stops the body stops.

Round dancing mixes the three tango styles, so in this list especially, you will find some American and perhaps some Argentine figures, in addition to the International figures.

The basic rhythm for Tango is SS;QQS;  Timing for Tango is 4/4, slows are 2 beats and the quick is 1 beat of music.  Figures are sometimes written in 1 ½ measures using 3 patterns of timing [SS], [QQS], and [QQQQ].

Credits: http://haroldsears.com, www.roundalab.org