Ballroom Tango is a ballroom dance that branched away from its original Argentine roots by allowing European, American, Hollywood, and competitive (a.k.a dancesport) influences into the style and execution of the dance.

The present day ballroom Tango is divided into two disciplines: American Style and International Style. Both styles are enjoyed as social and competitive dances, but the International version is more globally accepted as a competitive style. Both styles share a closed dance position, but the American style allows the partners to separate from closed position to execute open moves, such as underarm turns, alternate hand holds, dancing apart, and side-by-side choreography.

American Style Tango

American style Tango’s evolutionary path is derived from Argentina to the U.S., when it was popularized by silent film star Rudolph Valentino in 1921, who demonstrated a highly stylized form of Argentine tango in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. As a result, the Hollywood style steps mixed in with other social dance steps of the time began this branch away from the Argentine style. Meanwhile, the Tango was also making its own inroads in Europe.
Following the English standardization of their version of Tango, Arthur Murray, a ballroom dance instructor in the U.S., tried his own hand at standardizing the ballroom dances for instruction in his chain of social dance schools. Consequently, his Tango syllabus incorporated steps with Argentine, Hollywood and socially popular influences and techniques. This looser social style was referred to as American style by the English.

International Tango

In 1912 Tango was introduced to British audiences, showcased in the successful musical comedy The Sunshine Girl. Concurrently, the dance became popular elsewhere in Europe, particularly in Paris. As the European dancers enjoyed the music and passion of the dance, they began to inject their own culture, style and technique into the dance.
In an effort to teach a standardized version of the Tango, the English eventually codified their own version of Tango for instruction in dance schools and for performance in competitions in 1922. The resulting style was referred to as English style, but eventually took on the name International style, as this became the competitive ballroom version practiced around the world.
Eventually, championships in the international style Tango were organized all over Europe with numerous participating countries. Adjudicators were able to judge against a standardized syllabus and book of techniques, thereby creating a more objective means of determining the champions, even though artistic interpretation remains an important element of competition.
Initially, the English dominated the International style Tango, but eventually, technicians from other backgrounds, most notably the Italians, have chipped away at the English standard and created a dynamic style that continues to raise the competitive bar.

Health Benefits of Tango

Tango from the region of the Rio de la Plata was seen in one study to help heal neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease in a manner that was greater than the same amount of regular exercise. Parkinson’s sufferers given Tango classes showed improvements in balance and other measures not seen in another group of patients given regular exercise classes. The researchers said that while dance in general may be beneficial, Tango uses several forms of movement especially relevant for Parkinson’s disease patients including dynamic balance, turning, initiation of movement, moving at a variety of speeds and walking backward. The study authors wrote in 2007, that more research was needed to confirm the benefits observed in the small sample population. Dancing Tango has been linked to increased heart health, better balance, improved memory, and weight loss.


  • Take the Lead (2006), starring Antonio Banderas, directed by Liz Friedlander
  • Shall We Dance (2004), starring Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez and Susan Sarandon, directed by Peter Chelsom.
  • Chicago (2002), starring Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere, directed by Rob Marshall includes a song titled “The Cell Block Tango” and is accompanied with a dance.
  • Frida (2002), Salma Hayek and Ashley Judd dance a Tango to the Lila Downs performed song Alcoba Azul.
  • Moulin Rouge! (2001), featuring Ewan McGregor and “El Tango de Roxanne”
  • True Lies (1994), starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis, directed by James Cameron
  • Evita (1996), Madonna and Antonio Banderas dance a ballroom tango.
  • Scent of a Woman (1992), Al Pacino as blind Colonel dances Argentine Tango.

Music Examples:

1. La Cumparsita by Tony Evans & His Orchestra
2. Jealousy by Alfred Hause’s Tango Orchestra
3. A Media Luz by Edgardo Donato