The word “tango” refers to a dance form as well as a specific genre of music. Most social tango music that is played around the world is selected from a collection of songs that were written and recorded between 1920s-1950s in Argentina. “Tango” is also used to describe a particular rhythm of music within the tango genre. There are two other rhythms that make up this genre: milonga and vals. You will hear all three rhythms represented throughout the night when you go to a social tango event.
Couples dance a set of three or four songs called a “tanda,” selected by the DJ. Typically the end of a tanda is marked by a “cortina,” which is a segment from a song of a different genre. At this point couples leave the floor to begin the next tanda with a new partner.
Traditionally, you will hear two tango tandas followed by a milonga tanda, then another two tango tandas followed by a vals tanda. You will find this convention in most social tango events around the world.
Social tango can be danced to a variety of musical genres outside of traditional tango such as blues, jazz, latin, electronica and even hip hop. This is referred to as ‘alt tango’.