The Canyengue and Orillero styles
The canyengue and orillero styles come from the early days of tango, before and slightly after the dance moved from the slums into broader society. They were a less sophisticated form in which men and women were on a separate axis, and movement was inhibited by the tight cut and long styles of ladies' fashion.
Milonga style is what is danced in the crowded neighborhood dance floors of Buenos Aires. It is a subdued style with flourishes appropriate to limited floor space. Partners dance close together, resulting in a joined axis at the torso, take small steps, keep elbows in and look straight ahead.
Salon tango is a traditional more elegant style of dance that uses longer smoother steps, a more open embrace and has more flourishes than one sees in the milongas. Partners' heads are turned in opposite directions. Tango Liso is a basic form of salon tango that lacks fancy moves.
Stage tango, also known as fantasia for good reason, is the most stylized form of tango, choreographed to fit a musical number in a set program. Choreographers take license with the steps, adding patterns from ballet, other ballroom dances and elsewhere, throwing in exaggerated crowd-pleasing movements that are not to a tango purist's liking. It is the dance style seen in many of the city's professional tango shows.
Nuevo tango developed out of the merging of new musical genres with tango compositions in the 50s, predominantly jazz. It caused a less traditional tango style to develop, primarily among young dancers. The partners' open embrace allows steps to be more flamboyant, more complex. As one might expect, the nuevo style, is considered exhibitionism by the old guard, too inventive, with too many kicks. But many view nuevo tango as the natural evolution of the dance, keeping it from becoming a museum piece for aging dancers.
Tango in Contemporary Culture
Tango is still being changed by contemporary culture. Some innovators that teach a wilder more improvisational style of tango have a growing following of young dancers. With these modifications, the dancers are more intertwined, make more fluid curves and use more leg action, making tango an even more sensual dance. New hybrid forms of tango music have also emerged, electronic tango and fusion tango, among them. With young imaginative minds at work, who knows how far afield tango will go in the future. The debate continues on whether innovation threatens or secures the future of tango.
Real World of Tango
In "Real World of Tango," one of the two Buenos Aires trip extensions about tango that Southern Explorations offers, you're likely to see at least three of these tango styles, maybe more.