Tango can be danced in a variety of styles and accompanied by different types of music. These styles vary in tempo and fundamental movements. Most modern dancers do not allow themselves to be pigeonholed into a particular style and incorporate various styles and ideas into their movements.
Some are even unhappy when their are told what particular style of tango they dance. But at the end, it is as easy(or complicated) to see a particular style as it is to tell the difference between an impressionist painting and a modernist one.
The main categories that any tango style always falls under are: open embrace and close embrace. In a close embrace, the couple is dancing very close to each-other and often actually touching shoulders and heads. The open embrace has the couple standing further apart and allows the dancers a wider range of movement.
Salon style is typically danced with an upright body posture. The embrace can be close or open, but it is typically offset (with each dancer’s centre slightly to the side of their partner’s centre) and in a V (with the woman’s left shoulder closer to the man’s right shoulder than her right shoulder is to his left shoulder). When danced in a close embrace, the couple occasionally loosens their embrace slightly to allow certain movements
Milonguero-style tango is typically danced with a slightly leaning posture that typically joins at the shoulders of the dancers. In most cases, the style is danced in a close embrace. Usually, the woman’s head and body are so close to her partner that her left hand is placed far behind her partner’s neck. The couple maintains a constant upper body contact and often doesn’t loosen their embrace to accommodate turns or ochos. An ocho cortado is a fundamental dance step in the style incorporating all the factors in one move.
The Orillero-style originated in a setting where dancers had a lot of room to maneuver and thus were able to maintain a further distance from their partners thus allowing both dancers to make other steps outside the embrace. Orillero style differs from salon style tango because of these playful, space-consuming embellishments and figures. The style can be danced in both open and close embraces.
Club-style is the fusion of salon and milonguero styles. It is danced in a close embrace, but the couple loosens their embrace during turns allowing the woman to rotate more freely.
Tango Nuevo (New Tango)
Tango Nuevo is largely an analytic approach that looks at the structure of the dance to find new combinations of steps and moves. It is danced in an open and loose embrace in an upright posture and a great emphasis is placed on each dancer maintaining his or her own axis.
Astor Piazzolla lived and died as tango’s bad boy, having almost single handedly invented the music’s vanguard, the form known as tango nuevo. It took Piazzolla decades to reach his unequivocal apex, which is captured flawlessly on Tango Zero Hour.
Fantasia (Show Tango)
Fantasia is the style of tango that is danced in stage shows. It is a combination of various styles danced in an open embrace with additional elements that are not part of the social tango vocabulary.
Canyengue is a historical form of tango. The embrace is close and in an offset V, the dancers typically have bent knees as they move, and the woman does not cross. Canyengue dancers are known to use exaggerated body movements to accent their steps.