Tango dance nowadays has become again very popular, and in most of the major cities worldwide it is possible to find a milonga where to go dancing every day.
As Tango music evolved, also tango dancing has changed during the year.
Tango dance: different styles
Although the way of dancing has changed during the years, there have always been two different types of Tango dance: Tango social (also referred to as Tango Salon or Tango milonguero) and Tango stage. Tango social is the one we dance in a milonga, while Tango stage is the one professionals perform on stage. As professional dancers are influencing more and more the way people dance, the difference between the two today has many grey areas.
Within these two macro categories, nowadays many tend to divide tango styles into four different categories: Tango Milonguero, Tango Salon, Modern Tango and Tango Nuevo.
After Carlos Copes in 1983, with his musical Tango Argentino, led the way for the Tango resurrection, most people fell in love with Tango because of its choreography. Everyone was excited watching professional dancers performing choreographies to a music that at the time few people knew outside of Argentine. It was then that Susana Miller had the idea to start teaching ordinary dancers what people really danced in the milongas of Buenos Aires. She started teaching with a milonguero, Cacho Dante, and they decided to call what they taught Tango Milonguero. They choose this name because it was what a milonguero (someone who goes to the milonga) danced in a social environment. It was a commercial name to promote their initiative, but since then, many associate it with a precise style of dancing, in which the main element is the close embrace, where both upper body are in constant contact.
The creation of the tango milonguero has contributed to remind dancers the difference between Tango stage and Tango social. On the other hand though, many are also critical with this approach, as they claim that the Tango milonguero never existed in this form, and the only social Tango has always been the Tango Salon. Within the Tango Salon everyone would dance differently according to the space available and their own style. Consequently for most people in Argentine Tango Salon and Tango milonguero are the same thing, as Salon is a hall where people dance Tango. Hence Tango Salon is the Tango that ordinary people would dance in a hall.
Tango salon as opposed to Tango milonguero: the suburban and the centre of Buenos Aires
Nonetheless in recent years some teachers and Tango experts has associated Tango Salon with the Tango people danced in the suburban Buenos Aires, in the clubs where family used to go dancing in the golden era, as opposed to the Tango milonguero, the one people danced in the centre of Buenos Aires. In the suburban the halls were much bigger and all the family went there to dance during weekends. Both because of the space, and because young women were accompanied by their parents, the embrace was softer, with a more elegant posture, allowing to walk longer steps following the Tango compás.
In old times, Tango dance originated in the milongas, or in any place where people would gather together to dance. Only as a consequence Tango became also a professional dance, and you could watch tango shows in theatres or Cabarets. Nowadays the process is the opposite: most people fall in love with Tango because of a performance, and only later start to appreciate the music and the lyrics. Consequently professional dancers have a big influence on how ordinary people dance, and we often see in the milonga a Tango more rich in steps and embellishments, compared to the one the old milongueros danced. This has contributed to the improvement of the average dancers technique, and most people nowadays attend many Tango classes from professional dancers. On the other side some argue that Tango has become too focused on the technique, loosing its essence and the respect of the tango codigos.
Although the wave of Tango nuevo seems to have lasted only few years, its influence has been quite significant in the evolution of Tango dance. Initially Tango nuevo was not a style, but instead a methodology to explore the possibility of dancing Tango from a new perspective. This methodology is still important nowadays in the approach to Tango dance of many professionals. Tango nuevo became a style when few bands started playing electronic Tango, or to rearrange old Tangos with different modern sounds. This Tango was not adapt for a close embrace style, and young dancers started to develop a different style of dancing, executing wide steps and turns, where the movements of the legs, often flying quite high, would try and match specific sounds.
The old milongueros
Unfortunately there are none or very few videos of Tango dance during the golden age, although most milongueros of that period has been present in Buenos Aires milongas since the moment Tango became popular again. We can still appreciate many videos of some of the best milongueros, although at a later stage in their life.
Tango owes his renown popularity also to the professionals, and nowadays most people fall in love with Tango watching performances of professional dancers.
Contrary to what happened in the past, nowadays professional dancers seldom perform in theatres or as part of a musical, but instead in milongas where ordinary people go dancing. This led to change quite a lot the way people dance in milongas, as the influence from professional dancers is more and more evident.