Prior to the 1990s, Argentine Tango was taught with a didactic method; teaching tango by having students copy examples shown by the instructor. Emphasis was not given to how or why movement was done a certain way. Starting in the 1990s in Buenos Aires, the Tango Investigation Group (later transformed into the Cosmotango organization) founded by Gustavo Naveira and Fabian Salas applied the principles of dance kinesiology from modern dance to analyze the physics of movement in Argentine tango. Taking what they learned from this analysis they then began to explore all the possibilities of movement within the framework of Argentine Tango. From the work of these founders of the Tango Nuevo movement, there was a shift in all styles of tango away from teaching what to dance toward teaching how to dance.
Though widely referred to as a tango style outside of Argentina, Tango Nuevo is not considered a style of dancing tango by the founders of the movement. It refers only to the method of analysis and teaching developed through the application of the principles of dance kinesiology to Argentine Tango. In 2009, Gustavo Naveira published an essay titled New Tango in which he states,
"There is great confusion on the question of the way of dancing the tango: call it technique, form, or style. The term tango nuevo is used to refer to a style of dancing, which is an error. In reality, Tango Nuevo is everything that has happened with the tango since the 1980s. It is not a question of a style... The words Tango Nuevo are neither a specific term nor a title (except in the case of a musical work by Piazzola). With this in mind, these words directly express, through their literal meaning, what is happening with tango dancing in general; namely that it is evolving. Tango Nuevo is not one more style; it is simply that tango dancing is growing, improving, developing, enriching itself, and in that sense we are moving toward a new dimension in tango dancing... There has been much recent discussion, in the community of tango dancers, on the problem of the embrace, dividing the dance into open or closed style, which is also a matter of great confusion. Open embrace or closed embrace, dancing with space or dancing close, these are all outmoded terms. This is an old way of thinking, resulting from the lack of technical knowledge in past eras. This simple and clumsy division between open and closed is often used by those who try to deny the evolution of the dance, to disguise their own lack of knowledge. Today it is perfectly clear that the distances in the dance have a much greater complexity than a simple open or closed... We have learned, and we have developed our knowledge. The result of this is a dance of greater possibilities, and also of a much more artistic quality."
Despite the insistence by the founders of the Tango Nuevo movement that it is not a single style, it has become an accepted term by many that it is a separate and distinct style of tango. Considered by many as the most famous practitioners of tango nuevo are Gustavo Naveira, Norberto "El Pulpo" Esbres, Fabian Salas, Sebastian Salas, Sebastian Arce, Mariana Montes, Mariano 'Chicho' Frumboli and Pablo Veron. All of these dancers have highly individual styles that cannot be confused with each other, yet are all referred to by many as the tango nuevo style.
Critics of what some call the tango nuevo style claim that with all the emphasis being on the physics of the dance, that the connection to the music, the feeling, and the traditions of Argentine Tango have been lost to the newer generations of tango dancers. Referring to the newer generations of Tango Nuevo dancers, one of the founders of the Tango Nuevo movement, Mariano 'Chicho' Frumboli stated in an interview,
"They are completely lost! I learned with the last great milongueros, I took the information directly from them... The problem is that we missed something in the teaching, I take total responsibility, and other colleagues should do so as well. I was crazy about creating, because I saw a new vein in the evolution of the movement. I threw myself into that, and I lost the way to be able to pass on the tango essence that I have very much inside. Because of this I feel that lately there are a lot of people who don't understand or know what the real essence of this dance is."
Critics of Tango Nuevo also say there is little difference in the way it is practiced than Show Tango. Chicho continues,
"Today you do a volcada and a colgada and it is the same because they are there, commercially speaking, in the same package. Then, between the choice of doing a sandwichito or a volcada… people do a volcada! Because it's more eye-catching... They are not going to make a sandwichito to enjoy that moment, but whatever shows them off more and better."
the tango lesson
Tango Nuevo arrived at the international scene with Sally Potter's 1997 movie - 'The Tango Lesson' featuring music by Piazzolla. The movie showcases the new Tango danced by the masters of the movement, Pablo Veron, Gustavo Naveira and Fabian Salas. The flexibility of the embrace, frequent change of direction, a sacada - a leg thrust against the partner's leg - came unexpectedly. The dance effect was one of surprise rather than seduction.
TANGO NUEVO INCORPORATED
Versions of molinetes (circular grapevines), sacadas (leg thrusts), ganchos (hooks), barridas (sweeps), volcadas (pendulum-like swings of the leg) and colgadas (rotation on a shared axis) have been around nearly as long as tango has existed - but, when enhanced by the infusion of modern tango technique, these figures are most often referred to and associated with "Tango Nuevo style."
In order to incorporate many of the new possibilities that were discovered during the Tango Nuevo movement, it's imperative to have a strong foundation of the classical elements of Tango. Building on this foundation with modern technique and innovation allows for the Tango Nuevo concepts to be beautifully incorporated without loosing the essence of Tango.