It's lent its stylings to two senior compulsory patterns, arisen in five seasons for original dance usage -- and once as a secondary short dance rhythm, one of those topics we'll discuss at another time -- and otherwise functioned as the focus of countless more free dances. Of all specific partner dances, none can be more relied upon to appear annually than the tango.
The Argentine Tango compulsory, and its fellow far rarer Tango compulsory, date to that 1930s spell of compulsory development, as the two-decades-long craze for organized partner dance hit the ice. The Argentine tango proper had in fact become something of an international sensation in this period, making this a reasonably timely adaptation -- though, ironically, concurrent with the dance's temporary decline in its actual South American homeland.
The compulsory dance is meant to emulate its counterpart with "sinuous" quality, "skated with strong edges and considerable elan." It's tough to be sure which specific Argentine tango should best inform a skated pattern; certainly distinctions can be noted just between Argentine dance as a genuine street dance and the polished show style presented by professional champions Flavia Cacace and Vincent Simone:
Yet another example would come via the fairly formalized competitive level of Argentine tango, though such examples as available on YouTube are hit and miss in terms of either video quality or video-friendly dynamism as compared with other types. Regardless, what tends to separate street from stage and floor is that more casual quality; the footplay and ganchos are present, but the hold is a bit looser, the pace a bit more spontaneous. This basic tutorial video covers some primary figures and steps; Wikipedia is useful for a more detailed overview of movements you'll easily recognize.
The Argentine compulsory is strikingly different from the dance by immediate means of its frequent open, non-face-to-face hold; a related lack of footwork interplay also signals the distinctions. But in sections like the interdependent steps from 0:54-0:56 and 1:28-1:31 in this skate from Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat, there is some sense of tango's footwork:
But it's a very rare Argentine compulsory that includes a touch of in-pattern embellishment to reference the dance's footplay -- and fittingly, it comes in the last-ever skate of the pattern at an elite senior event:
Watch those feet at 0:53 and 1:28; you won't see those motions in other couples' presentations, and it's no accident here.
The other major tango compulsory, the Tango Romantica, was born of Ludmilla Pakhomova and Alexander Gorshkov's 1973-74 original set pattern dance. No video appears to exist of the dance as competed, but this very early 1980 compulsory outing from Natalia Linichuk and Gennedi Karponosov -- coached, as noted by commentator Debbi Wilkes at the top, by Romantica creator Elena Tchaikovskaia -- demonstrates how significantly the formal trappings of '70s and early '80s era ice dance suggests the feel of ballroom tango far more than Argentine:
While a multiple-compulsory-per-event need for versatile costuming helping to preserve this ballroom aspect well into the '90s, as demonstrated in 1992 and 1996, things began to shift in the IJS era. And by the compulsory's final outing at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, here skated by segment leaders Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, we can see how much the Argentine "feel" had slipped in despite no change to the pattern proper:
Next time: The Choreographed Tango