Tango Canyengue, Tango Liso, Tango Orillero
Tango Canyengue refers to a style of Tango danced until the 1920s. Reportedly, the long tight fashion in dresses of that era restricted the follower's movements. Consequently, the style involves short steps. The dancers tend to move with knees slightly bent, the partners slightly offset, and in a closed embrace. The style tends to be danced to a 2/4 time signature. As the Cayengue style was mostly not danced in ballrooms, but in taverns and on the street, the typical soft feet movements with close contact to the ground were not possible, leading to a more "hopping" style.
Tango Liso developed in small and crowded dance halls, where there was only space to take a few paces before having to circle around each other, waiting for a space to open. The style is danced with an upright posture, usually with each dancer slightly offset to the right of their partner. If a close embrace is used, it is relaxed to allow the follower to perform turns. The dance involves just the simpler steps-- decorative moves such as boleos, ganchos, and sentadas are absent from the style.
Tango Orillero is thought to have developed away from the town centers, in the outskirts and suburbs where there was more freedom due to more available space on the dance floor. The style is danced in an upright position and uses various embellishments including rapid foot moves, kicks, and even some acrobatics, though this is a more recent development.
Salon and Milonguero Tango
(1940s till today)
Salon Tango developed in the less crowded up-market dance halls, allowing space for boleos, ganchos, and sentadas to be performed. The style is generally danced in an open embrace.
Tango Milonguero developed in the 1940s and 50s in closely packed dance halls and "confiterias", so it is danced in close embrace, chest-to chest, with the partners leaning - or appearing to lean - slightly towards each other to allow space for the feet to move. There are not many embellishments or firuletes or complicated figures for the lack of space. Although the rhythmic, close-embrace style of dancing has existed for decades, the term "Milonguero Style" only surfaced in the mid- '90s.
Nuevo and Fantasia/Show Tango
(1990s till today)
Tango Nuevo is a dancing and teaching style. Tango Nuevo as a teaching style emphasizes a structural analysis of the dance in which previously unexplored combinations of steps and new figures can be found. By taking tango down to the physics of the movements in a systematic way, dancers explore the complete set of possibilities of tango movements, defined by two bodies and four legs moving in walks or circles. In walks, their explorations pioneered what were once called "alterations" and are now called "changes of direction". In turns, they focus on being very aware of where the axis of the turn is (in the follower/in the leader/in between them). This tends to produce a flowing style, with the partners rotating around each other on a constantly shifting axis, or else incorporating novel changes of direction. Tango Nuevo is often misunderstood and mislabeled as "Show Tango" because a large percentage of today's stage dancers have adopted "tango nuevo" elements in their choreographies.
Show Tango, also called Fantasia, is a more theatrical and exaggerated form of Argentine tango developed to suit the stage. It includes many embellishments, acrobatics, and solo moves. Unlike other forms of tango, stage tango is not improvised and is rather choreographed and practiced to a predetermined piece of music.