The One Tango Philosophy: Truths and Consequences

  • The One Tango Philosophy asserts:
    • All genres of tango dancing are related through a common ancestry, as are all genres of tango music.
      • The origins of tango are Argentine, but today tango belongs to the world and is defined by those around the world who interpret tango in a new way.
    • The classification of styles of tango dancing into categories such as Salon Style Tango, Milonguero Style Tango, and Tango Nuevo is artificial.
      • This classification of tango dancing into different styles has contributed to discord within tango communities.
    • Each tango dancer has his own unique style of dancing.
    • All styles of tango dancing should be respected and allowed to coexist at the milonga.
    • Tango dancing is constantly evolving and adapting to changing environments and therefore tango as a dance cannot be defined.
    • Tango music is constantly evolving and therefore tango as a form of music cannot be defined.
    • People who do not allow free expression of tango are negative influences upon a tango community.
      • The One Tango Philosophy has arisen, in part, as a solution to the ‘tango style wars’ of the early 2000s, although it also serves tango instructors well in creating a diversity of instructional material that provides additional opportunities for income.
  • In practice, the One Tango Philosophy results in the following.
    • Different genres of tango are not differentiated in instruction with respect to their adaptation to different environments (Tango de Salon to the milonga, Tango Escenario to the stage, Tango Nuevo to the Practica Nueva).
      • Elements of Tango Estilo Milonguero (e.g., walking in the embrace, musicality) are often assigned to the beginner track and elements of Tango Nuevo (e.g., volcadas, colgadas) to the advanced track of instruction at tango festivals.
      • Elements of Tango Nuevo and Tango Escenario appear on the (oftentimes same) milonga dance floor.
        • Navigational hazards and exhibitionist distractions provided by these dancers drives dances of Tango Milonguero into defensive mode, thereby limiting their enjoyment of the serenity of the embrace.
    • Musical genres such as Nuevo Tango and Electrotango are played for dancing tango at milongas, despite the fact that this music is not designed for dancing tango, and is not played for dancing tango at milongas in Buenos Aires.
  • In reality, the One Tango Philosophy, by not recognizing that different genres of tango are adapted to different environments and facilitating the mixture of all tango genres at the milonga is exacerbating collision hazards as well as suppressing the expression of Tango de Salon (in particular Estilo Milonguero), the most popular stylistic variation of tango dancing in the milongas of Buenos Aires.
    • Suppression of a milonga environment hospitable to Tango de Salon is more destructive to tango community harmony than the demands of tango dancers to have a milonga environment resembling Buenos Aires milongas.


A statement made frequently by tango instructors and promoters is that ‘There is only one tango’ (There is only one Tango) (See also Organic Tango). The central argument in the One Tango Philosophy is that all forms of tango are connected through shared music and movements, due to a shared common ancestry. The One Tango Philosophy recognizes the variation among stylistic expressions of tango dancing but argues that the classification of this stylistic variation into discrete categories or ‘styles’ of tango, such as Salon Style Tango, Milonguero Style Tango, and Tango Nuevo (to give contemporary examples) is artificial and misleading. Nevertheless, it is consistent with the One Tango Philosophy to say that ‘each dancer has his own style’.

Support for this philosophy may be derived from the statements of renowned Argentine stage tango performers, such as Eduardo Arquimbau:

People talk about styles of tango, but there is only one tango. It accommodates itself to every place and every era. When the tango was growing it took shape from location to location. For instance when it first reached the outskirts of the city (Buenos Aires) it was danced one way. In the clubs they danced a different way. In the city salons it was forbidden to dance it the way they danced in those other places.

and Pablo Veron:

Tango is tango and has always been transforming itself since its origins and if each renewal was a new tango, today we would have many new tangos. Tango was made by all of us dancers of all generations who contributed something, and this has been happening for more than 100 years! They thought that tango was no man’s land and they planted the “nuevo” flag but what is new is not inevitably better than the old and I do not believe that you can go far if you start by denying or opposing the past. … The fact is that those who believe that they dance “nuevo” are mostly using the same old elements. The movements already existed, it is a shame that they do not say so: turns, ganchos, boleos, sacadas of the man and of the woman to all sides, changes of direction, arrastres (dragging), paradas (stops), corridas, leaps, crossed steps, etc.

The One Tango Philosophy has also been used to argue that the classification of tango into different styles is a contributor to discord within and between tango communities (link):

… that many dancers still learn and come to believe that the fundamentals of the tango are associated with different “styles” of tango. This one is not a simple issue; it IS the biggest obstacle to the tango growing better and faster than it has. So, we have talented people who want to, but cannot dance with each other, because they do not speak the same language, the unified language of the tango. They classify themselves and others as “close-embrace dancers”, or “open-embrace dancers”, or “nuevo dancers”, etc.

There is in fact only one tango, and the fundamentals are not style-dependent. This golden principle has been articulated in one form or another by none other than Gustavo Naviera, Julio Balmaceda, Alberto Paz, Hugo Patyn, the late Carlos Gavito, and numerous other seasoned, accomplished professionals at the peak of their tango careers.

This perspective was also elaborated upon by American Tango Nuevo instructor Homer Ladas on a now defunct website, but reported previously here (Organic Tango):

8. What really got to me is how a few members of the tango community (teachers and dancers alike) negatively influenced the growth and interpretation of this dance in the United States. Out of my desire to discover my own tango – several key points kept making themselves more and more apparent…

9. To this day, there is no clear distinction between “structure” and “style.” Furthermore, some folks try hard to contain tango in a box and enforce their views on others. And lastly, the lines between stage & social dancing, past & present, and the Argentine vs. non-Argentine way are not very clear and, unfortunately, on more than a few occasions – have been abused.

The core principles of the One Tango Philosophy are stated explicitly on the Tango Evolution website based in Atlanta:

Tango Evolution supports all forms of Argentine tango. In tango there often seem to be factions that support one style or music over another. We feel that all styles and music are viable.

Our members dance all styles of tango including: open embrace, close embrace, apilado, milonguero, cayengue, antique tango, etc. To us, it all goes by one name… TANGO. We do not accept any of these forms as the one true tango. It is clear from early photos, film clips, and written accounts that since the beginning of the dance, many embraces and styles existed within tango. To try and pick just one and prove that it is the one true tango is just silly.

We also believe that not only can early tango dancing not be defined, but that tango still cannot be defined to this day. It is an evolving, vernacular dance. It does not belong to one group or culture. Yes, we do not believe that tango belongs only to Argentines. While we respect the origins of tango and the city that gave it life, it has evolved and will continue to evolve, inside and outside of Argentina. By respecting and studying the past, we can enjoy the present and build for the future. Tango Evolution supports all forms of tango music. We do not accept that the only viable tango music was created between 1930 and 1950, the Golden Age of Tango. While we love the music of the Golden Age, and you will hear plenty of it at our milongas, we also love early tango music and we feel that the music continues to evolve, just as the dance continues to evolve…. We feel that Carlos Libedinsky (Narcotango) should have just as much of a chance to be heard as Osvaldo Pugliese did when he was first composing. The newer composers should not be penalized just because they were born in a different time. Their expression of tango is just as relevant….

Tango is a world-wide dance. You can go to practically any large city in the world and dance tango. Each of these cities bring their own cultures into tango, and represent a different tango “dialogue”. What is done in Buenos Aires is of interest but does not apply one to one to our experiences.

Manifestations of the One Tango Philosophy

‘The lines between stage & social dancing, past & present, and the Argentine vs. non-Argentine way are not very clear..’

This is the defining principle of the One Tango Philosophy.

It is apparent in the teaching curriculum of Jaimes Friedgen’s 8th Style School of Tango in Seattle, which teaches ‘Milonguero Style’:

Tango for crowded dance floors, the embrace is closed and the focus is on simple vocabulary done rhythmically to the music. Milonguero style is the reigning standard for social tango today, from the halls of Buenos Aires to the packed ballrooms of the American and European festivals.

and ‘Salon Style’ (as defined below, more or less the same as ‘Tango Estilo del Barrio‘):

The elegant and expansive tango from the 1940’s, salon style originates from the time when dances were held in more expensive, more spacious venues. The embrace is close but flexible, opening slightly to make room for various figures while always returning to the initial “V shape” to finish the step.

which identifies the two stylistic variations of ‘Tango de Salon’ in Buenos Aires milongas (Tango de Salon: The Tango of the Milonga). However, included within the curriculum for ‘Salon Style’ are ‘planeos’, ‘back sacadas’, ‘kicks in the air’, ‘ganchos’, ‘colgadas’, ‘volcadas’, and ‘soltadas’, elements of Tango Escenario and Tango Nuevo, none of which are considered socially acceptable movements in the milongas of Buenos Aires (Is Tango Nuevo compatible with Tango de Salon at the same Milonga?), i.e., Tango de Salon or, more specifically here, Tango Estilo del Barrio.

An announcement of a ‘New Curriculum’ states:

The most notable change between the old and new systems will be the dissolution of separate Milonguero, Salon, and Nuevo tracks. The original 8th Style format did not make these distinctions either, but now after years of teaching these aesthetics as different styles we now have a better understanding of how they can be pedagogically combined to reinforce each other’s qualities. During the first phase of the program, Classic Salon training will be included in the ongoing study of practical Milonguero Style dancing, while later phases will include modern “Tango Nuevo” concepts that have become an inseparable part of the study of Salon Tango.

Thus, the 8th Style School of Tango is moving towards dissolution of the boundaries between different styles and genres of tango; this is a defining characteristic of the One Tango Philosophy.

The manifestation of the One Tango Philosophy is perhaps nowhere more evident than at tango festivals, which offer a potpourri of tango workshops in different genres and styles of tango, generally not differentiating the different environments to which each variant is adapted, thus at least implicitly endorsing, by providing multiple milongas in a festival, the practice of each tango variant on the milonga dance floor. A perusal of tango festivals in North America in early 2013 indicates this.

The Portland Valentango Festival (February 2013) had workshops encompassing a variety tango genres and styles, e.g., ‘Giro milonguero and how to embellish’, ‘Complex enrosques and agujas’, and
‘Upgrade your gancho’. In the 4-day festival there were 14 milongas and 3 practicas for which the material taught in workshops was presumably applicable.

The USF (University of South Florida) Tango Festival (March 2013) clearly demarcated style of tango by skill level, with ‘close embrace’ workshops relegated to the Beginner (‘Walking in close embrace’) and Intermediate (‘Close embrace surprises’) level, with Tango Nuevo workshops listed at the Intermediate (‘Art of the Wrap’) and Advanced (‘Ganchos from the turn’, ‘Volcadas & beyond’, ‘Step-over Colgadas’) levels. The potentially useful ‘Dancing to D’Arienzo’ workshop is listed as at the Beginner level. The ‘Musicality Workshop: Dancing Tango to Alternative Music’, a phenomenon virtually non-existent in Buenos Aires, is listed as an ‘All levels’ workshop. This 4-day festival had 6 milongas (3 specifically described as ‘alternative’/’sin tango’), including a ‘guerilla milonga’/’tango flash mob’ (dancing tango in public locations) and one practica at a ‘jam session’.

The Philadelphia Tango Festival (May 2013) also will have workshops representing a mixture of tango styles, including ‘Social tango: giving quality and cadence to your dance while navigating the crowded dance floor’, ‘Spirals & torsion 2: ganchos, lapices and enrosques’, and ‘Gancho bouquet: An assortment of fresh ganchos for the picking’. This 4-day festival will have 5 milongas (but no practicas) in which the material taught in the workshops could be utilized, creating the possibility for mixing socially acceptable tango and socially hazardous tango on the same dance floor.

The Tucson Tango Festival (March 2013) workshops provided a cornucopia of movements inconsistent with Buenos Aires milonga codes, including such titles as ‘One social over-turned gancho’, ‘Mind-bending leg wraps’, and ‘Combining ganchos-boleos-piernazos’. This 6-day festival had ten milongas and one ‘milonga & practica’ to serve as the proving ground for implementation of learned material.

Video footage of tango social dance events at recent North American tango festivals, presenting evidence for the implementation of practices consistent with the One Tango Philosophy, are provided here for a milonga at the Portland Tango Festival, notably lacking a clearly defined progressive ronda, for a milonga at the USF Tango Festival, where dancing was to Astor Piazzolla’s ‘Libertango’ (not done in Buenos Aires milongas), and for an ‘alternative milonga’ at the San Diego Tango Festival, where tango movements were used in dancing to music that is more commonly associated with dancing West Coast Swing.

Basic Tenets of the One Tango Philosophy

There is no central doctrine that has been labeled specifically as ‘The One Tango Philosophy’ previously. However, the terminology ‘There is only one tango’ pervades the tango cyberspace and there are commonly held ideas associated with this statement. Thus, labeling this set of principles as ‘The One Tango Philosophy’ identifies something that already exists and is widespread, and labeling this perspective as such creates a useful focal point for discussion.

An examination of the arguments and practices associated with this One Tango Philosophy leads to the identification of these common principles:

  1. All forms of tango are related by sharing a common ancestry.
  2. The classification of variation in tango dancing into distinct stylistic categories is artificial.
  3. Each dancer has his own style of dancing tango.
  4. Tango is constantly evolving and adapting to changing environments.
  5. All forms of tango should have equal status, deserving respect from tango dancers.
  6. Experimental trends in tango, such as fusion with other dance forms, should be given exposure with an open mind towards acceptance.
  7. All forms of tango should be allowed to coexist at the milonga.
  8. People who do not allow free expression of tango variation are negative influences upon a tango community.

The Historical Context of the One Tango Philosophy in North America

The One Tango Philosophy is, in large part, a response to the ‘style wars’ of the first decade of the 21st century. At the end of the 20th century, the tango danced socially in North America (and elsewhere outside Argentina) reflected primarily two stylistic influences – a modified Stage Tango taught by traveling tango stage performers, and a modified Tango Estilo del Barrio (taught without the embrace), influenced to a significant degree in North America by Daniel Trenner and his colleagues (Trans-Cultural Diffusion and Adaptation of Tango Argentino in the 20th Century). These pedagogic influences overlapped considerably in the repertoires of movements taught and thus, the distinctions between them were not always clear. The combination of these stylistic variants was generally referred to as ‘salon style tango’ in North America, ignoring the fact that, in the absence of the embrace and in the inclusion of exhibition elements, it bore a distant resemblance to the Tango de Salon of Buenos Aires milongas (Salon Style Tango, Milonguero Style Tango, and Tango de Salon in Buenos Aires and in North America).

The teaching of ‘milonguero style tango’ by Susana Miller and a few other Argentines (e.g., Pedro ‘Tete’ Rusconi, Cacho Dante) beginning in the mid 1990s, with its emphasis on a maintained embrace and less conspicuous compact movements, was in stark contrast to the lack of embrace and large conspicuous movements of what was marketed in North America as ‘salon style tango’. Because ‘milonguero style tango’ resembled (and was compatible with) the primary stylistic variants of tango used by dancers in the milongas of Buenos Aires and ‘salon style tango’ was at times neither compatible nor representative in this regard, some advocates of ‘milonguero style tango’ criticized ‘salon style tango’ dancers for not authentically representing at their milongas the way tango was danced in the milongas of Buenos Aires. This authenticity principle catalyzed the growth of a moderately large subpopulation of North American ‘milonguero style tango’ dancers (The Rise and Fall of Tango Milonguero in North America in the first decade of the 21st Century).

In the mid-2000s, as ‘salon style tango’ in North America evolved to include Tango Nuevo elements, the Style Wars shifted their battleground to more practical issues such as the navigational hazards presented by aficionados of Tango Nuevo exploring improvisation in the spatial dimensions available (or perhaps unavailable) to them at milongas (Is Tango Nuevo Compatible with Tango de Salon at the Same Milonga?).

Nevertheless, the influx of non-tango music (including the mislabeled ‘electro-tango’) into the aural environment of the milonga, a characteristic absent in the milongas of Buenos Aires (Music Played at Milongas / Tango Social Dance Venues), further fueled the authenticity protest raised by practitioners of Tango Milonguero who, if abiding by the practices of dancers in the milongas of Buenos Aires, would not employ movements characteristic of tango in dancing to non-tango music.

Within this somewhat antagonistic sociopolitical environment, the One Tango Philosophy has been seen by some as a diplomatic solution. All styles and genres of tango would be considered acceptable and allowed to coexist within the milonga environment (essentially the only environment in which dancers of different tango styles comingled). Thus, the One Tango Philosophy has been widely accepted as the standard for tango community politics. Its acceptability is enhanced by the fact that it is consistent with a generally tolerant liberal political philosophy, and thus it is deemed as ‘politically correct’. Within this sociopolitical climate, the palatability of the One Tango Philosophy has significantly diminished the perceived validity and acceptability of the ‘authenticity’ argument.

Consequences of the One Tango Philosophy

(1) Impact on Tango Instruction

The belief that all forms of tango are related and deserving of equal respect justifies the teaching of the multiple versions of tango in tango dance academies and at tango festivals. This, in itself, is not subject to dispute, as intellectual inquiry into the various expressions of tango is a noble enterprise. However, more often than not (and probably nearly all of the time), the relevance of tango dance variation as adaptation to tango environmental variation (Tango Styles, Genres, and Individual Expression: Part I – A Rationale for Classification by Niche Adaptation) is lost in this pursuit (although The 8th Style of Tango School gives lipservice to the concept). Only Tango de Salon – Tango Estilo del Centro (typically marketed as ‘Tango Estilo Milonguero’) and Tango Estilo del Barrio (sometimes marketed as ‘Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza’) are, by definition, stylistic variants adapted to and danced in the milongas of Buenos Aires (Tango de Salon: The Tango of the Milonga). In contrast, Tango Nuevo dance variations are a popular source for instructional material, even though the exploration of spatial dimensions characteristic of Tango Nuevo is not necessarily (or even generally) compatible with the spatial orientation of the circulating ronda at a milonga (Is Tango Nuevo Compatible with Tango de Salon at the Same Milonga?). Since social tango events advertised as ‘milongas’ constitute the primary environment in which tango is danced by non-Argentines outside Argentina, the teaching of Tango Nuevo (and occasionally Tango Escenario) at tango festivals and workshop weekends is teaching tango students aspects of the tango dance that are not suitable for the milonga.

Validating a variety of expressions of tango (explicitly or implicitly) for use at the milonga creates numerous opportunities for tango instructors to develop workshops and courses for consumption by students of tango. Offering a diversity of courses representing different styles and genres of tango increases the opportunities for tango instructors and tango event organizers to derive income. Tango Nuevo, developed in the academy, offers a rich array of named movement possibilities (volcadas, colgadas, ganchos and enganches, piernazos, linear and circular boleos, soltadas), thus making a substantial contribution in this regard. Given these possibilities, The 8th Style School of Tango in Seattle advertises an instructional curriculum with 27 tango courses and announces a 4 year program of tango study.

(2) Impact on Dancing at Milongas

Whether motivated by economic opportunities or altruistic intentions to communicate tango knowledge, tango dance instruction in a diversity of stylistic expressions contributes to heterogeneity of movement functionality on the milonga dance floor. Some of this mixture is apparent in these videos of the Portland Tango Festival and the Tucson Tango Festival. Dancers of Tango Estilo del Barrio (especially those having had instruction in advanced courses and workshops) are inclined to implement giros with sacadas and paradas in both the clockwise and counterclockwise directions; an overemphasis on these movements can lead to the neglect of the smooth walking progression in the ronda that is interspersed between the turns (or more correctly, vice versa) that characterizes this style of tango in the milongas of Buenos Aires (video). Dancers motivated by Tango Escenario operate in an exhibitionist mode and are likely to add ganchos and high boleos to giros, as well as dramatic pauses hovering over the parada, thereby hindering the progression of the ronda. Dancers of Tango Nuevo generally omit the dramatic pauses but explore space-demanding off-axis movements (volcadas and colgadas) and partial and complete separation of partners (soltadas) in a manner unpredictable to other couples on the milonga dance floor. Under these conditions dancers of Tango Estilo Milonguero operate in a defensive mode, focused on avoiding navigation hazards and paralysis in progression of the ronda instead of the serenity of the embrace. Lost in this heterogeneous environment is the tango that thrives in Buenos Aires, with all classic tango music, and couples embracing and moving in a predictable counter-clockwise ronda devoid of exhibitionism. With the blessing of the One Tango Philoophy, this culture of Buenos Aires milongas is extinguished.

(3) Impact on the Public Image of Tango

If someone naïve to tango enters a milonga in Buenos Aires, assuming this person has good observational skills, what will be apparent is that all dancers are embracing each other and moving in an orderly progression around the dance floor. If this person has an understanding of the music, even at a basic level, it will be apparent that dancers are coordinating their movements with the structure (rhythm and phrasing) of the tango music. The observer will conclude that tango is a dance where man and woman embrace and move together in connection with the music (video). This is a core characteristic of Tango de Salon (The Essence of Tango Argentino).

If this same person’s first encounter with tango were a typical social dance event advertised as a ‘milonga’ in North America or Europe, this astute observer would identify as central to this dance called ‘tango’ such characteristics as an apparent tripping of the partner’s foot as she is walking, a grabbing and holding with the feet the partner’s feet in a vice-like grip, the shining of one’s shoes against the pants leg of the partner, the lifting the feet into the air, sometimes in a slashing motion, the wrapping of one’s legs around the legs or waist of the partner, the rapid fall of a body off balance only to recover, and the swinging of a body off balance in a circular motion around a point on the floor. Much of this movement would be done without regard to the structure of the music, some of which may not be tango music (video).

Missed in the latter observation would be the embrace between partners and elegant graceful walking, which may be not be present to any significant degree in the observed population.

Generalizing this to a wider audience, what would be demanded by beginners seeking instruction would be the observed inter-play of feet and legs, with little demand for the stability of the axis and embrace atop an elegantly walking pair of legs. Tango music may not be important and, in some cases, the music would be irrelevant to the movement.

Thus, the One Tango Philosophy promotes, whether by intention or inadvertently, what is most conspicuous, which becomes the most marketable, rather than what is most simple and subtle and the essence of Tango Argentino. In this environment Tango Argentino has died and Tango Extranjero has arrived.

Truths and Fallacies in the One Tango Philosophy

(1) All forms of tango are related by sharing a common ancestry.

True. There is only one primordial tango, the tango that evolved in Buenos Aires and Montevideo in the late 19th century. Little is known precisely about how this Tango Canyengue was danced, although there may be some authenticity in contemporary re-creations. Due to its appearance in multiple locations, there is no reason to believe that the primordial tango did not vary in how it was danced from locale to locale.

(2) The classification of variation in tango dancing into distinct stylistic categories is artificial.

False. It is true that there has been variation in how tango has been danced at any time over the last century. However, since the Golden Age onward (and even before) there have been distinct styles and genres of dancing tango, with each stylistic focal point having some variation around it. In other terms, if each dimension of variation in tango dancing could be mapped, and the characteristics of each dancer along each dimension plotted, in this hyperspace there would be clusters of dancers with similar characteristics (styles) and regions of lower density in between. Stylistic clusters exist and this is why there are names for these clusters (Tango Styles, Genres, and Individual Expression: Part I – A Rationale for Classification by Niche Adaptation).

(3) Each dancer has his own style of dancing tango.

This is true to some degree, depending upon how many traits are examined so, yes, one could say that each dancer is represented by a distinct point in the multidimensional space of tango dancing variation. However, in reality, only experienced dancers have distinct styles, and most developing dancers are imperfect imitators of their teachers and role models.

(4) Tango is constantly evolving and adapting to changing environments.

Tango has evolved in the 100+ years of its history. Some experimentation occurred in the early decades of tango history until two stylistic variants – Tango Estilo del Barrio (Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza) and Tango Estilo del Centro (Tango Estilo Milonguero) evolved that successfully met the environmental (spatial and social) needs of the neighborhood and downtown milongas, respectively (Tango de Salon: The Tango of the Milonga). Early forms of tango (Tango Canyengue & Tango Orillero) did not have widespread appeal among all social classes, and it is the refinement of tango, as it evolved into the Tango de Salon of the late 1930s, that found nearly universal acceptance. Although styles of dress, the status of women, social (and sexual) mores, the economic environment, and the political climate in Argentina have changed radically over the last 60 years, the form of the tango dance (and the music to which it is danced) have changed little in the milongas of Buenos Aires during this time. Many art forms, including folk art, go through a developmental period of experimentation until a mature form is reached and this becomes the standard popular form, the representation which defines the genre. For tango, this is the Tango de Salon dance of the Golden Age and the classic tango music of this period.

Subsequent evolution of tango within Argentina indeed has been adaptation to different environmental niches. Tango Escenario is tango adapted for exhibition on the stage. Tango Nuevo is tango brought into the academic investigation unit of the Practica Nueva and structurally analyzed (The Tango Practica, the Practica Nueva and the Tango Dance Party in Buenos Aires)

In the exportation of tango to other parts of the world, tango has been transformed to meet the sociocultural proclivities and expectations of the recipient cultures. This occurred during the initial exportation of tango to Europe and North America prior to World War I, to create Tango Ballroom, as well as during the Tango Renaissance in the late 1980s and early 1990s to create what has been mislabeled as ‘salon style tango’ (Trans-Cultural Diffusion and Adaptation of Tango Argentino in the 20th Century). The exportation of Tango Nuevo from the Practica Nueva into the social tango environments around the world in the first decade of the 21st century generally has not been given a name, other than the misbelief that this is the evolution of ‘salon tango’, although Fabian Salas’ term ‘Cosmotango’ (see also Cosmotango web site) may be an appropriate appellation here. These latter foreign adaptations are not the evolution of Tango Argentino per se, since they do not represent the Tango de Salon of Buenos Aires, and any marketing attempts that label this derivation as ‘Argentine Tango’ are misleading and deceptive, because although the forms are derived from Argentine forms of tango, the functions (i.e., adaptation to the milonga environment) are not Argentine in character; the adaptations are primarily to the expectations of the foreign sociocultural environments. Tango it may be, perhaps, but Tango Argentino it is not, even if Argentines are teaching it.

A critical logical error committed by proponents of the One Tango Philosophy is that they emphasize the evolution of tango while ignoring its niche adaptation.

(5) All forms of tango should have equal status, deserving respect from tango dancers.

In this context, the concept of equality is misapplied, because the standard for appropriateness (and thus receipt of respect) is dependent upon the environmental niche in which a particular variant is practiced. One can argue with credibility that every variant of tango can be portrayed on the stage, and indeed all Argentine forms have been, including extinct variants such as Tango Canyengue (Stage Tango / Show Tango / Exhibition Tango / Tango Fantasia / Tango for Export). Tango Nuevo, with its exhibition elements, its unpredictable changes of direction and its general need for space, is poorly adapted for the demands of a circulating ronda at a milonga; thus, the Practica Nueva arose in Buenos Aires to create an environment for Tango Nuevo (The Tango Practica, the Practica Nueva and the Tango Dance Party in Buenos Aires). Thus, in Buenos Aires, there are three distinct tango environmental niches: the stage for Tango Escenario (a truism), the milonga for Tango de Salon, and the Practica Nueva for Tango Nuevo. In North America and Europe, the only environmental niche that consistently exists for tango is the milonga (the practica being only an informal version, at times allowing preparation for the milonga), and therein Tango de Salon, Tango Escenario, and Tango Nuevo are typically mixed without regard for the adaptiveness of each variant for this environment.

It is notable that within the all-inclusive sociocultural environment in which Argentine forms of tango are practiced in Europe and North America, there is an absence of Tango Ballroom, which has been ridiculed to some degree, although it may be primarily the good judgment of ballroom dancers that has kept ballroom tango in the ballroom dance environment.

It is also notable that while proponents of the one Tango Philosophy celebrate the diversity of tango, their practice of mixing all varieties of tango on the milonga dance floor fails to permit an environment conducive to the practice of Tango Milonguero. Thus, in reality, Tango Milonguero is not given its proper respect, but instead its adherents are criticized for complaining about exhibitionism and hazardous navigation at a milonga.

(6) Experimental trends in tango, such as fusion with other dance forms, should be given exposure with an open mind towards acceptance.

There were several dance forms brought by immigrants to Argentina and Uruguay that contributed to the origins of the primordial tango in the 19th century – the habanera from Cuba, the contradanza, mazurka, polka, and vals from Europe, and the candombe from Africa (Collier, Simon. The Tango is Born: 1880s – 1920s; pgs 18-64 in: Simon Collier, Artemis Cooper, Maria Susana Azzi, and Richard Martin – Tango: The Dance, the Song, the Story. Thames and Hudson Ltd., London. 1995); i.e., there was a fusion of several dance forms to create something new that, at some point, was called the ‘milonga’ and later the ‘tango’. Thus, it is justifiable to expect the contemporary fusions of tango with other dance forms such as swing (‘swango’) and contact improvisation (‘contact tango’) to relinquish their etymological roots in ‘tango’ in labeling for advertising.

(7) All forms of tango should be allowed to coexist at the milonga.

It has been stated several times in this post that only Tango de Salon is adapted for the milonga environment. Only Tango de Salon (Tango Estilo Milonguero & Tango Estilo del Barrio) have the movements of the dance structured around the circulating ronda, respecting the space of other couples on the floor, as well as eschewing exhibitionism. Tango Nuevo, designed to explore space independent of the circulating ronda, needs its own spacious environment – the Practica Nueva – in order to have full freedom of expression. If tables with chairs and refreshments are available at such an event, this practica may have a social function beyond its academic function, but it is not a milonga, even if there are tandas of tango music separated by cortinas.

The only appropriate place for the exhibitionism and drama of Tango Escenario is on the stage.

(8) People who do not allow free expression of tango variation are negative influences upon a tango community.

The greatest negative influence upon a tango community comes from those who impose their foreign sociocultural values upon tango and do not allow the Argentine Tango de Salon to have an environment nurturing it.


19 Responses to The One Tango Philosophy: Truths and Consequences

  1. Thank you again for a wonderful thoughtful article. Contemporary tango is a true reflection of the culture, just like the dance in BA was and to some extent still is. Both combine passion, and expression of it. Our contemporary super hyped superficial cable fed culture gives a instant blow by blow slow motion account of the wild and external tango experience we all want and instantly expect. The culture and tradition of BA allowed for a more intimate and simple social dance. Where has the subtle nuanced walk and intimate close embrace gone? To another time and place!


    • tangovoice says:

      Yes, Tango Nuevo reflects the pace and emotion of contemporary society. Tango Milonguero is the antidote to that helter skelter experience of everyday life. Tango Milonguero is a refuge, something with universal value beyond the Golden Age in Buenos Aires, a language that speaks to all times and places. However, it appears most tango dancers would rather express or magnify their everyday environmental experiences than to transcend to a more peaceful harmonious state and they do not appear to be interested in being tolerant and allowing others to reach that transcendent state.

  2. schanda says:

    A very well stated and balanced presentation. It has been said that to be overly zealous about a particular religion can cause conflict with people or groups that follow different religions. Being spiritual, on the other hand, can allow one to embrace others who are spiritual as well. It seems to me that the battles over Tango, and which Tango is correct or appropriate, are analogous to the religion vs. spirituality point. All of us who dance are connected by our dance and passion for it. We are all, in this regard, “spiritual”. Why have conflict by adopting strong perceptions about which form of Tango is correct or authentic? To do this is to become “religious” in the worst sense of the word.

    • tangovoice says:

      The issue with different variations of tango dancing is not about there being one correct way of dancing tango. However, if someone is representing tango as Tango Argentino, there are certain customs regarding how tango is danced in different environments. In the tango social environment, at the milonga, there is a code of forming a counterclockwise circulating ronda with no passing in the line and not invading the space of other couples on the floor. Exhibition moves are frowned upon because they demand space, but also because ‘showing off’ stands in disapproval. There is also a request for playing the same classic tango music for dancing as is played in the milongas of Buenos Aires. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find an environment of this kind in North America (and Europe). Although some dancers of Tango Milonguero may have the passion of religious zealots (and indeed this is a problem hindering understanding), there is a legitimate demand for cultural authenticity (i.e., respecting milonga codes), that instead of being taken seriously, is dismissed by many as intolerance and detrimental to tango community growth. That indeed it may be, but most advocates of Tango Milonguero are trying only to recreate a culturally valid Argentine Tango experience. Adherents of Tango Milonguero are not demanding that everyone dance the way they do; they are only asking others to respect their values at their ‘traditional’ milongas. Why do culturally ignorant and insensitive people have to make this so difficult? A Tango Milonguero dancer does not disrupt the programmed heterogeneity of a One Tango Philosophy milonga, but one couple dancing Tango Nuevo or Stage Tango can wreak havoc at a small traditional milonga.

  3. Chris says:

    Thanks for this, TV. It is interesting to see such an in-depth treatment on the subject, though dismaying to hear that the issue is significant enough in the USA to warrant it.

    “There is only one tango” is a notion I’ve heard from only from people selling dance classes. The truth behind this is often “There is only one tango in stock”… and that isn’t the traditional social tango dance of Argentina.

    • tangovoice says:

      Actually, it is to the advantage of tango salespersons to have more than one tango in stock to sell. Festival organizers will offer workshops in many different tango styles. Numerous instructors of Tango Nuevo (not only Gustavo Naveira) have branched out to offer their interpretation of Tango Milonguero, which increases income. In many cases, social tango (e,g., Tango Milonguero) is relegated to the ‘beginner’ level, implying that as one advances in tango skill acquisition, one replaces walking in the embrace with indicators of advanced skills such as pulling or pushing the woman off her axis.

      A diversity of tango offerings is appreciated by step collectors who learn a dance primarily to show offer the quantity of their knowledge rather than to understand how a dance (like tango, in this case) functions on the social dance floor. These are typically men who show off their dance knowledge (but not necessarily skill) as a means of impressing women. Women who have achieved a reasonable level of skill in tango are usually not impressed.

      • jantango says:

        Another example is Susana Miller selling Gavito’s performance style for Pugliese — totally inappropriate for the milonga, but it’s income.

        Argentines are ready to teach whatever their customers want to buy. I heard that Stella Barba learned tango Nuevo so she didn’t have to turn away prospective students.

      • tangovoice says:

        Argentines are most prominent in selling tango that is not suitable for the milonga. The goal is sales for those who do, not accurate representation of the culture.

        In what way is Miller selling Gavito performing Pugliese not suitable for the milonga? Some clarification on this would be appreciated.

  4. jantango says:

    Susana Miller is once again teaching a seminar on how to dance Pugliese in the milonga as Carlos Gavito danced it for exhibition performance. This new video clearly shows how inappropriate it is for the milonga. This video of Gavito with Maria Plazaola is a demo for the class, but disastrous for the milonga.

    • tangovoice says:

      Unfortunately the Gavito demonstration is restricted from playing in the United States.

      Yes, the Miller demo shows dancing that is not suitable for the milonga. Although some pausing is characteristic of Tango de Salon, Miller pauses excessively and this prohibits the regular progression of the ronda at a milonga. Teaching this promotes dancing that is contrary to the codes of the milonga.

      • Chris says:

        TV wrote: “Teaching this promotes dancing that is contrary to the codes of the milonga.

        Translation for beginners: it’s antisocial.

  5. Many tango communities in the states hold “alternative” milongas: that is, dancing tango to every kind of music BUT tango. This really BUGS me! What I just don’t get is, how can you call it Tango if it’s not TANGO music? Is not Tango a dance form AND a genre of music? Can you separate the two? I don’t think so… but we are so far from Buenos Aires, and so close to……. the Dark Kingdom. Here on the West Coast, anything goes. If this topic interests you, I recommend reading “The Rise and Fall of Tango Milonguero in North America in the 21st Century,” by This writer is astute, articulate, thoughtful.

    • tangovoice says:

      Yes, dancing tango involves tango music. The desire to execute movements characteristic of tango to non-tango music is puzzling. This does not appear to occur in other social dances.

      With respect to how widespread this is, it is difficult to determine without conducting a survey (best done by personal attendance) in various parts of North America. There have been reports that Alternative Milongas ( are not as common or as adverse to tango music as in past years. Perhaps no one really knows for sure. One things that is known is that making movements characteristic of tango to non-tango music is practically non-existent in Buenos Aires.

      Note that ‘The Rise and Fall of Tango Milonguero’ is the previous post iin this blog. The comments on the author are appreciated.

  6. Tango witch says:

    For Tango to survive it needs to evolve,in movement,and especially in expression .classes that follow only in the teachers teachings are given no room to breath .self expression.and learning about oneself are key factors in developing ones own style with freedom of movement for both man ,and woman .though not forgetting our respective roles.lets dance with each other not for one another .

    • Chris says:

      Tango Witch wrote: “For Tango to survive it needs to evolve

      For some people to get the tango they want, they need it to evolve. For many others, it already meets requirements.

      classes that follow only in the teachers teachings are given no room to breath

      Agreed, but let’s not mistake dance classes as part of tango. The business of so-called tango class is simply an add-on.

    • tangovoice says:

      It is not necessary for tango to evolve. Tango Argentino as a social dance evolved during the last decades of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. Since then tango social dancing in the milongas of Buenos Aires has changed little, and the music to which people have danced has changed little. During the late 1980s and 1990s, after the exposure of the First World to Stage Tango, a new genre of tango – Tango Extranjero – that incorporated elements of stage tango onto the milonga dance floor, evolved in First World cultures. Subsequently a small number of Argentine instructors of tango explored modifications of the physical structure of Tango Argentino (e.g., off axis movements, partial and complete separation of partners, movement inertia that did not correspond with the direction of the ronda). This Tango Nuevo evolved in the practicas of Buenos Aires but has not found acceptance in the social environment of the milongas of Buenos Aires. These practicas have become a popular destination for First World tango tourists, and Tango Nuevo has often found its expression on the dance floors of tango social events labeled as ‘milongas’ in the First World. Despite the evolution of the tango tourist market in Buenos Aires and the incorporation of Stage Tango and Tango Nuevo into an evolving Tango Extranjero in the First World, Tango Argentino as a dance form in the milongas of Buenos Aires has remained nearly the same as it was during the Golden Age of Tango in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

  7. Deep South Tango says:

    Reblogged this on dyingtodancedotcom and commented:
    Great article for those of us who ask, One Tango?

  8. Julia says:

    Thank you for this extensive material, it’s great! I posted an “extract” of it’s main ideas (as they are important here in Eastern Europe too) in my blog

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