Aesthetics Wiki

Tango is an aesthetic surrounding the music genre and dance of the same name. It is heavily influenced by Argentine culture, where it originated. However, the aesthetic also includes influences from African and European cultures, which greatly influenced the development and popularity of Tango, respectively.


Although Tango is primarily a music-based aesthetic, visuals play an important part. The most common visuals are those related to the dance. For example, photographs or paintings of people doing the tango might be used. These visuals can be more literal, showing images of real people doing the dance, or they can be more abstract, using the colors and general shapes of dancers to express the aesthetic (examples can be found in the gallery below).

Aside from images of dancing, common tango visuals include:

  • Musical Instruments such as guitar, violin, flute, piano, and the bandoneón
  • Cobblestone streets
  • Brothels and ports, especially in the poor areas of the city, where the tango originated
  • Concert and dance halls
  • Roses, especially red roses
  • Argentine patriotic symbols, such as the flag, or the obelisco of Buenos Aires


Though the exact origin of Tango is still debated, it is generally thought that the genre came into being in its current form in the late 19th century. The dance is said to have originated in the ports and lower-class areas of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, created by the mixing of cultures from lower-class European immigrants and formerly enslaved African peoples. This first generation of tango performers in Buenos Aires is commonly known as La Guardia Vieja or “The Old Guard”.

In the early 1900s-1910s, Tango began to spread internationally. Orchestras and dancers from Argentina began to do traveling performances, mostly in Europe. Almost immediately, the genre exploded in popularity, due in part to the culture shock and taboo surrounding the genre, which is generally viewed as passionate and even sexual in nature. The “European tango craze” took place across many of Europe’s major cities, including Paris, London and Berlin, as well as in New York.

The third stage of Tango’s development took place in the Late 1930s. The popularity of the genre had experienced a major dip in the past decade and a half, due in part to the onset of the Great Depression. Additionally, by the 20s, many places in Europe had banned the performance of the tango for being “too sexual” in nature. However, it quickly came back into style under the first Perón government. Although Juan Perón is a somewhat controversial figure in Argentina’s history, he was extremely influential in shaping the culture of Argentina. Under his government, the idea is a unique, independent Argentine culture was developed, which included tango. Many of the most famous tango singers rose to prominence during this time, including Carlos Gardel, Roberto Goyeneche and Tita Merello. This was also the Golden Age of Argentine Cinema, and as a result many tango performers were boosted in popularity due to their roles in famous films.

Queer Tango[]

While tango is generally associated with traditional gender roles, with a man as the leader and a woman as the follower. However, starting as early as the very beginning of Tango, there has been a “queer tango” movement in which men would dance with men or women with women. Despite the name, people who participate in open-role tango are not always a part of the LGBTQ+ community - rather, this form of dance exists simply to challenge gender roles, or even just because there are an uneven number of men and women in a performance. In its original form, tango was almost always performed between two men simply because of a shortage of women. However, once tango got popular in Europe, same-sex tango dancing was banned in many places. In recent years, this form of tango has become popular once more, especially in Germany and Argentina. Historical examples of open-role tango can be seen in the gallery below.



Traditional tango is a style of music played in 2/4 or 4/4 time. When played by a full ensemble or Orquesta Típica, the orchestra will include two or more violins, a flute, a piano, a double bass and at least two bandoneóns, and occasionally a guitar or clarinet. This group may also include a singer. However, it is just as common to see tango being performed by a single guitar or bandoneón. The bandoneón is an instrument similar to an accordion (pictured right), and an integral part of tango music.

Since the development of tango, many sub genres have sprung up. Examples of classic tango musicians, as well as some of its sub genres are listed below.

La Guardia Vieja (1880s-1910s)[]

  • La Canguela, the first recorded tango song
  • Rosendo Mendizabal, Afro-Argentine pioneer
  • Ángel Villoldo
  • Gabino Ezeiza
  • Higinio Cazón

Golden Age (1930-1952)[]

  • Carlos Gardel, musician, movie star and sex symbol who popularized tango across the world
  • Mariano Mores
  • Juan d’Arienzo
  • Francisco Canaro
  • Aníbal Troilo
  • Tita Merello
  • Julio Sosa

Tango Nuevo and Neotango (1980s-)[]

  • Astor Piazzolla
  • Litto Nebbia
  • Dino Saluzzi
  • Adriana Varela
  • Gotan Project
  • Narcotango
  • Otros Aires
  • Bajofondo
  • Tanghetto
  • Carlos Libedinsky



  • Adiós Argentina (1930)
  • The Lights of Buenos Aires (1931)
  • ¡Tango! (1933)
  • El día que me quieras (1935)
  • The Tango Bar (1988)
  • Scent of a Woman (1992)
  • Strictly Ballroom (1992)
  • The Tango Lesson (1997)
  • Tango (1998)
  • Take the Lead (2006)
  • Easy Virtue (2008)
  • Our Last Tango (2015)


  • The Gods of Tango by Carolina de Robertis
  • The Tango Singer by Tomás Eloy Martínez