What are the differences between American Style, International Style and Argentine Tango?

The fundamental basic rhythm is the same in both American and International Style - QQS, with the two quicks sometimes being replaced by a slow. The basic figures are definitely different, though.

In American Style, the defining figure is the "Tango Close", where the gentleman steps forward with the left foot (Q), sideways with the right foot (Q), then drags the left foot in towards the right without a weight change (S). Usually, this is preceded by two Forward Walks (SS), producing an eight count basic (SSQQS).

In International Style, the defining figure is the "link"; in the basic ('progressive') link, the gentleman steps forward on the left foot (Q), then side and slightly back on the right foot while turning the lady to promenade (Q). This is usually followed by a step with the left foot to promenade (S). Since the figure goes from closed to promenade, there is no repeatable 'basic step'. Other basic figures include forward walks, two of which typically precede the link, and the closed promenade, which continues after the link with a second step to promenade on the right foot (Q), a side step on the left foot, closing the lady (Q), and a foot closure with a weight change on the right foot (S).

Links always appear in International Style Tango, and rarely in American Style; the tango close always appears in American Style Tango, and I've never seen one in the International Style.

Argentine Tango is a social dance (i.e. lead and followed, not choreographed). Argentine Tango has very few of the lunges and dips, nor do partners stride across the room with arms out and a rose between the lips. Instead, partners are almost completely in a close, closed posion, very inward in attitude, trading footsteps and decorations.

The Argentine basic steps are built out of grapevines, figure eights, turns, and walking, to which are added dramatic pauses, quick steps, syncopations, foot decorations and leg hooks, to mention a few. One wierd and wonderful thing is that the dancers may walk in crossed feet (left with left) rather than the mirror we are used to. While the leader "walks" the follower around, the leader's feet may pause, switch to crossed feet, step into the stride of the follower, or appear to displace the followers footsteps.

Reprint from Warren Dew