Tango music originated from Argentine, Brazilian and Spanish influences. The earliest traces of the Tango date back to the latter half of the 19th century-to the Milonga, an Argentine folk dance with Moorish, Arabic and Spanish ancestry. Years later, the Argentine Gauchos (streetwise single men) danced a modified version of the Milonga, in the seedy bars and bordellos of Buenos Aires. The dance hold in Milonga is called "close embrace", where the couple are literally dancing chest to chest. This was considered far too risque for polite society.
The dance was later taken on by renowned ballroom dance performers, Verne and Irene Castle. They toned it down so that it could be danced in a socially acceptable manner. The International and American Tango danced in ballrooms today developed from this offshoot. The dance's unique style is expressed in quick double takes with the head and stalking panther-like movements complete with lunges and dips.
"Tangueros" (Tango dancers and singers) did not fair well under Peron period but performance Tango known as "Fantasia" developed in the mid 1950s and sustained interest in Tango in general around the world. As a performance based dance, Fantasia uses many acrobatic movements such as lifts, dips, twirls and ofcourse the characteristic hooking and kicking steps called "Ganchos" and "Boleos". Fantasia can be classified as its own variant, though experienced dancers can carefully execute Fantasis moves while dancing socially.
When the Argentine Tango crowd refers to "Tango", they totally ignore the American, International and Fantasia offshoots. Instead, they are referring to the social dance style used in "Milongas" (Argentine Tango dance parties) around the world. There are three basic types of social Tango -- Milonga, Valtz and Tango. Each of these three has its own distinctive features and music. Milonga, the original, is danced very close, to very fast music and has a lot of staccato foot changes and taps. You dance on every beat of the music. Valtz is danced to Viennese Waltz music, hence the name. It is more flowy and is danced more frequently on the first beat of a measure or the "1" of "1-2-3". Tango is the most sensual of the three, danced to slower, moodier music. It is therefore more precise. Controlled smooth movements allow for the intricate footwork so often associated with this dance. What makes this dance truly unique is that the gentleman can set up situations for the woman to "play" or do embellishments. Whether one dances in the "close embrace" or in the more formal ballroom hold is decided by each couple. Often at Milongas each style are played in sets of three or four and a couple will tend to dance the set together.
Tango has a flavor quite unlike any other dance. The basic rhythm is an 8 count Slow-Slow-Quick-Quick-Slow. The music itself leads to excess. It is a dance that is ironically both showy, yet very intimate. Tango has also been immortalized in such films as "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse"(Rudolf Valentino), "Scent of a Woman" (Al Pacino), "True Lies" (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and "Assassination Tango" (Robert Duvall).
"La Cumparsita/Tango Please"(Medley) Strictly Ballroom soundtrack
"Por Una Cabeza" by Tango Project
"Habanera" from Carmen