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Ballroom Dances - Tango

In the late 19th century, Buenos Aires was filled with immigrants and transients from Europe and Africa, many of whom found themselves lonely and looking for companionship in their new foreign habitat. Naturally, these forlorn people found their way to the portenos, seeking drinks to drown their sorrows, temporary friendship, and any entertainment to help distract their depressed feelings. The variety of cultures combined to bring about a new style of music, formed from African beats, Indian rhythms, Latin influences, and the popular music of the pampas (flatlands) in Argentina.

As you may guess, this new music was dubbed Tango . Historians argue the name comes from the African candombe drum beat known as "tan-go", or possibly from Latin word tangere (to touch). The dance began as a pantomime of communication between prostitute and pimp. The improvisation was filled with emotional outpouring and suggestive gyration. This sexual choreography was accented by the melancholy drone of the bandoneon, a German instrument very similar to the accordion.

These crude beginnings developed into less obscene styles that symbolized the lower class of Argentina through the turn of the century. Throughout the tango`s evolution, two things remained constant: the background music of the bandoneon, and the passionate translation of emotions into dance.

International Style
As they did with many other dances, the Europeans (most notably the English) adopted the Tango and made it their own. A very powerful Ballroom dance was the result, with big movements, dramatic gestures, and quick snaps of the head from one position to another. Grouped together in competitive events with the smooth ballroom dances, the International Tango incorporated many of the patterns characteristics of Waltz and Foxtrot. But it still mantains a very unique character which sets it apart from all of the other ballroom dances.


The American tango is a descendent of the original tango from Argentina and continues to evolve. Among those influences, the technical International (English) style Tango, the dramatic Paso Doble, and even the original Argentine style continue to contribute to its evolution. But American is still best known as both the simplest and the showiest of all Tangos.

Footwork: In Tango the feet pick up and place onto the floor, rather than gliding along in constant contact with the floor. The foot action is highly articulated, often being compared to the sneaking or stalking action of a cat. Forward walks are placed with the heel first, then flat. Backward walks are taken with a toe first, with the heel lowering as the body moves over it. At the same time, the toe of the forward foot should release from the floor as the body moves away. Side steps and chasses normally use a whole foot or ball-flat action.

Rise & Fall: There is no rise & fall action in Tango. The body level should remain constant throughout.

Contra Body Movement: Forward walks normally curve gradually to the left, therefore the left foot forward walk is taken with CBM, while the right foot forward walk is taken with a right side leading. Backward walks also normally curve gradually to the left, therefore the right foot backward walk is taken with CBM, while the left foot backward walk is taken with a left side leading.

Tango uses a modified dance hold, more compact than the normal closed position ballroom hold. The man and lady stand slightly farther offset, causing the man's right arm to be positioned farther around the lady's back so that the fingers of his right hand lay across her spine. Instead of placing her left arm on top of his, she will hook her forearm underneath his elbow and upper arm. Her wrist will be positioned directly underneath his arm (possibly, but not necessarily in contact) with palm facing inward, her fingers just reaching his torso. The lady's right hand and man's left hand are joined in an upper-hand clasp at approximately the lady's eye level. The man's left and lady's right elbow may be held slightly higher than normal, with a more acute angle at the elbow.

At DanceSport Club we teach many different Ballroom and Latin dances. Check out our ballroom dance class schedule to find when this Balroom dance will be taught.
DanceSport Club
Dance classes for adults and children. Ballroom, Latin, Ballet, Country-Western, Salsa and more. Houston-Sugar Land-Pearland-Missoury City area
11758 Southwest Fwy, Houston, TX 77031 USA 281-933-2623