Beginners guide tango

THE WHOLE NINE YARDS IN A NUTSHELL

I dance Argentine tango. What am I exactly dancing?

Actually people from Africa, England, Italy, Poland, Russia and Spain together with native born Argentines created a culture that formed new traditions and a new way of life. Tango is formed by European minuet dances, polkas and many African influences. Each of them brought their own rhythms and instruments. In other words it is the music of the immigrants. Later it evolved with the introduction of the solo guitar and the bandoneon. The appearance of the orquestra tipica made tango very popular.
Not be confused with ballroom tango. The posture, the movements, the balance, the improvisation, the steps are completely different.

Within the Argentine tango you have a lot of tendencies :
* Tango Salon (close embrace), traditionally danced on tango music dating from the Golden age (ca 1935-1955)
* Tango Enscenario (stage tango), is related to the social tango but is much more theatrical, exaggerated. To entertain a public.
* Tango Nuevo, open and close embrace, bigger movements and figures than in Tango Salon. Social dance
* Music : Traditional or Golden age Tango (1935-1955), Nuevo Tango (Piazzolla and followers), Modern Tango (for concert hall), Tango Electronico, Tango Fusion

What is the essence of Tango?

In fact Tango is a walking dance. In a relaxed way, you brush the floor, neither too high nor are you going to weigh in too heavily. Your steps are not constant, you adapt to the pulse/rhythm of the music. It is an improvisational dance, so each song will be different. Yet you move elegant, always collecting your weight in one point. The line of walking is linear but if the floor is too crowded you adapt by going circular.
Another important aspect is the frame. When you and your partner enter the dance floor, you reach your arms around each other and connect, mostly chest-to-chest. In this maintained ‘embrace’ you walk on the sequences of the music and execute your figures, choreography. If you break the frame, you break the connection.
And last but not least, the emotion shared with your dance partner. The music is the inspiration, the the embrace is the incitement for sharing.

Do I need a partner to learn tango?

Not really. A variety of people sign up for classes. If there is a gender imbalance than teachers can ask to rotate so everyone has a chance to learn. Of course if you have your own designated dance partner you will be able to progress quicker.

Practice makes perfect

Apart from following classes and workshops it is of the utmost importance that you also practice on your own. You do not need a studio for this. Just slide some tables and chairs on the side at home, and create your own little practice space. Regular practice (f.i. balance exercises) helps you in becoming a skilled dancer. If you don’t like practising on your own, look for practica in your community. At the same time you get to know other tango lovers.

Are you up to the challenge? At the milonga

This tango afternoon/evening is there for the pure joy of tango.
The music is played in sets (=tandas) followed by a cortina (literally the curtain). Each tanda consists of 3 to 5 songs played by the same orchestra. The cortina is unique for the DJ playing at that event. It can be serious, humorous, be themed, latin music, … or the same song repeated over again. It is supposed to be a song to let people know that the tanda is finished.

For further info on how to behave on a milonga, click here.

In fact the word milonga refers to three meanings:
The dance milonga [1], the music you dance the milonga to [2], the tango dance party [3].

What kind of tandas to expect on a milonga?

There are different kind of tangos each with their own music.
1. Tango. This is the dance all beginners learn. The music is typically slow, has a steady four-count beat. Dancers take pauses. Lyrics are characterised by nostalgia, sadness and laments for lost loves. Most typical instrument is the bandoneon.
2. Milonga. This is a faster paced dance – 2/4 time, sometimes with an underlying habanera rhythm. It is a fun dance. Although historically the music is older than the tango, its dance is newer. Dancers avoid pausing.
3. Vals. Also called Tango waltz based on the classic 1-2-3 waltz but typically danced on the one. No pausing.
4. Candombe. The seeds of this dance originated in present-day Angola but is now a local fusion of various African traditions. Music played on barrel-shaped drums. Wild rhythms and freely improvised steps. Often seen as the pre-runner of milonga.
5. Chacarera. Seen as the rural counterpart of tango. The music is performed in small ensembles of voice, guitar, violin and bombo drum. The dance is a contradance-influenced partner dance. Male dancers circle around their female partners seducing them with foot stomping and handkerchief waving.

If the shoe fits, wear it

For extensive info concerning tango shoes  click here


Nico and Stephie discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Tango etiquette called the cabeceo.