9 Most Common Tango Endings - Virtual Workshops w Steve Darmo
What led Steve Darmo to take it upon himself to conduct in-depth research about tango endings, as well as provide classes to dancers who may not be aware of the significance of this part of the dance?
Much of his reasons and the process he used to explore this concept are discussed in his highly-acclaimed book, Tango Endings: Learn the 9 Common Argentine Tango Song Ending Types, How to Anticipate Them, and 50 Musical Steps to Dance Them.
To date, Tango Endings remains as the only published source material that focuses on the concept of tango endings.
An excerpt from the book’s preview in Amazon gives one background of why Steve Darmo set out on his journey:
“Every now and then, someone tells me that there was once a class on endings, years ago, or they heard about one, thousands of miles away. These rumors of such classes tell me they must exist. But I have yet to personally find an instructor or class that has been devoted to teaching how to improve the endings of your dance. [...]
“I have seen no classes on this in my area, despite being able to find a class, practica, or milonga within an hour or two of my home every night of the week. The instructors traveling through the area, who include some of the best in the United States and from all over the world, apparently haven’t put together a workshop on endings. [...]
“Why should great endings be [in] the realm of the masters only? Why do they leave us mere tango peasants to fend for ourselves? Are there any shortcuts?
“I set out to find the secret.”
For three years, Steve Darmo conducted his research on tango endings, first focusing on the steps and movements. However, he eventually realized that focusing on musicality instead of steps would lead to more fruitful discoveries. In compiling his knowledge, he took himself to task and listened to 1,700 tango songs from some of the most well-known tango orchestras of the dance’s Golden Age. These included music from revered tango maestros such as Anibal Troilo, Osvaldo Pugliese, Juan D’Arienzo, and many others.
During his research, he classified nine common tango endings and three other uncommon endings. One can find a list of these endings along with accompanying tango music on his website Tango Endings, which also serves as supplementary material for his book.
The typical tango endings by the orchestra are as follows:
- Classic Type I Endings
- Classic Type II Endings
- Classic Type III Endings
- Classic Type IV Endings
- Dramatic Stressed Endings (Suspended Endings)
- Early Endings (Short Endings/Missing Note Endings)
- Late Endings (Delayed Endings/Early and Late Endings)
- Long Slow Drawn-Out Endings
- Long Drawn-Out Slow Endings with Extra Late Notes
The three endings below are the more uncommon types:
- Oddball Endings
- Surprise Endings
- Fake Endings
In Chapter 2 of his book, Steve Darmo recognizes the challenge of knowing when a song will actually end, himself admitting that he doesn’t count during a dance despite being an engineer. Like him, he acknowledges that not everyone who dances tango is musically-inclined, which may pose a bit of a struggle if one wants to correctly identify tango endings to properly time how they may conclude the dance. Fortunately, the book offers tips and clues on how this can be accomplished:
“The music will give signals, often very subtle, as to when and how it will end. [...] Generally, in the last phrase or two of the song, the orchestra will throw in something special and different from what has been played so far. This can act as a sign that the music will be ending. “
Here are some general clues to listen for:
- More intensity in the music with more instruments playing in a flurry of sound (the variación).
- Some solo instrumentation accentuates a few notes that will catch your attention.
- An extra-long pause or break.
- Some orchestras will slow things down going into the last phrase or two.
Aside from general tips, Tango Endings also discusses another step in recognizing the end of a song. In this second step, Steve Darmo emphasizes the importance of being able to distinguish the cadence of a song.