Standardized Steps vs Improvisation
Ballroom tango steps were standardized by dance studios in
order to better facilitate judging at competitions. The steps have been relatively fixed in style for decades.
However, Argentine tango is a constantly evolving dance and
musical form, with continual changes occurring every day on the social dance floor in Argentina and in major tango centers
elsewhere in the world.
Argentine Tango is still based heavily on improvisation. While
there are patterns or sequences of steps that are used by instructors to teach the dance, even in a sequence every movement
is led not only in direction but also speed and quality (a step can be smooth, pulsing, sharp, ... etc.).
The Embrace (Abrazo)
A striking difference between Argentine tango and ballroom
tango is in the shape and feel of the embrace. Ballroom technique dictates
that partners arch their upper bodies away from each other, while maintaining contact at the hip, in an offset frame.
In Argentine Tango, it is nearly the opposite: the dancers'
chests are closer to each other than are their hips, and often there is contact at about the level of the sternums (the contact
point differing, depending on the height of the leader and the closeness of the embrace). Even when dancing in a very open
embrace, Argentine Tango dancers do not hold their upper bodies arched away from each other; each partner is over his own
axis. Whether open or closed, a Tango embrace is not ridid, but relaxed, like a hug.
Argentine tango music is much more varied than ballroom
tango music. A large amount of tango music has been composed by a variety of different orchestras over the last century. Not
only is there a large volume of music, there is a breadth of stylistic differences between these orchestras as well, which
makes it easier for Argentine tango dancers to spend the whole night dancing only Argentine tango. The four representative
schools of the Argentine tangomusic are: Di Sarli, D’Arienzo, Troilo and Pugliese. They are dance orchestras, playing
music for dancing. When the spirit of the music is characterized by counterpoint marking, clarity in the articulation is needed.
It has a clear, repetitive pulse or beat, a strong tango-rhythm which is based on the 2x4,
2 strong beats on 4 (dos por cuatro). Astor Piazzolla stretched the classical harmony and counterpoint and moved the tango
from the dance floor to the concert stage. His compositions tell us something of our contemporary life and dancing it relates
much to modern dance.
The Walking system (Caminata)
Another interesting difference is that the leader may freely
step with his left foot when the follower steps with her left foot. In English, this is sometimes referred to as a "crossed"
or "uneven" walk (or as "walking in the crossed system") in contrast to the normal walk which is called "parallel" or "even."
In ballroom tango "crossed system" is considered incorrect (unless the leader and follower are facing the same direction).
The nomenclature originated with the Naveira/Salas "Investigation
Group." Early on, they used 'even/uneven' to describe the arrangement of legs in the walk (or turn). By the mid-'90s they
began using 'parallel/crossed' and later 'normal/crossed'.