Tango Goals & Pitfalls

The low-down to learning Tango in London or anywhere else for that matter

This post & various follow-ons have been written to aid anyone new or lost on their way to a better Tango experience and that sometimes elusive Tango bliss which once discovered could change your life forever. You have been warned!

There are different ways to approach learning this fabulous dance and I am fairly certainly that most will initially struggle to figure out what will work best for them. You may find some comfort in knowing that Tango is a very personal thing, even though some will undoubtedly try to convince you otherwise, but for the time being let us just imagine that it is something you will have to discover for yourself and ultimately nobody can actually teach it to you as such. Based on this view alone I can give you a few good pointer right away which you would do well to remember:

The first thing I should probably mention is that the most talented Tango teachers will only give enough information to empower you to dance and point you in the right direction; they will never try to enslave students with an endless serving of classes that in all probability you can do better without.

Naturally many seek guidance from teachers or better dancers. Yet the experiences and obstacles encountered by each person on their Tango journey will almost certainly be different from person to person and hence it is inadvisable to generalise about what may work best for any one of us. However years of exposure teaches one many things and born out of these are some common Goals and Pitfalls which we are all likely to encounter at some point on our journey. Now these may well be worth sharing and I hope that some of you will find the various snippets of information I plan on posting on here every now and again quite useful to allow you to formulate your own opinions, become more aware and mindful about various Tango aspects that may not be easy to grasp and to encourage you to catapult yourself on a fun journey of discovery that will bring joy and happiness to your life.

Bon voyage!

A good place to start learning Tango in London

Just started learning Tango or always wanted to but do not really know where to begin or anyone who dances Tango already to introduce you to this popular pastime?

Chances are most others like you wanting to learn Tango are wondering exactly the same and do not know where to begin or who to turn to. Yes you Googled 'Tango' and 'London' or an alternative location and it has come back with various links to choose from. With a bit of luck you may even find a venue that is not too far from you, but how do you know if it will be any good or right for you?

The simple answer is you just won't know until you actually try.

Music is the key to good Tango

Something you are likely to hear time and time again is that musical knowledge and musicality in dancers is the key to good Tango. It is probably the most important thing above all else and Tango teachers should not only emphasis this but make good use of it in their teaching. If they do not then you should really be asking yourself why!

The more you get to know Tango music the better. Now it just so happens that my all time favourite Tango radio station 'Tango Evolution Radio' on Tangology101 is broadcasting via the Internet and I simply cannot recommend it enough. Enjoy!

Good reading material to complement your early Tango journey

There are many Tango articles to be found on blogs or elsewhere on the Internet and as with everything else you will find some are better than others and for sure it can be a minefield as to what to read and more importantly what best to avoid.

Again this is somewhat of a personal preference, but I have shared some links taken from my 'Favourites' section on the right hand side panel for you to pursue.

If you are fairly new to Tango I would advise against reading too many blogs to start off with apart from perhaps one of my all time favourites << Tango and Chaos in Buenos Aires >> which I simply cannot recommend highly enough! It will paint you a fairly comprehensive insight about what Tango is actually all about. The material on this site alone is enough to keep most individuals busy for quite a while.

It would not hurt to also get to grips with the << History of Argentine Tango Music & Dance >> which will undoubtedly provide you with a better understanding of the history of Tango as well as an insightful examination of the Milonguero as portrait in << Old-timers Speak >>

Once you get a little comfortable with your Tango there is nothing wrong with venturing further on to other blogs and it is at this point I would recommend reading stuff such as the various << VeroTango Essays >> by Veronica Toumanova and some of the posts by Tango Immigrant, especially the one about musical interpretation << Yo no se por que te quiero - beauty in simplicity >> which provides a good method of visualizing and understanding Tango music for nonmusicians.

I have probably mentioned this umpteen times already, but I will say it again: 'Music and musicality in dancers is the key to great Tango' and the quicker you immerse and familiarize yourself with the music the better. Now what better introduction could anyone wish for than the << The Structure of Argentine Tango Music >> which once again I simply cannot recommend highly enough and it is brought to us by none other than the folks at Tangology101 who are behind 'Tango Evolution Radio'.

I am trying to remember other websites I have come across in the past which were useful in developing my own Tango and I will hopefully add them as and when I remember and get around to it.

Picking local Tango teachers

Let me give you some tips about picking local Tango teachers:

First of all I personally will not advocate any particular Tango teacher to anyone who asks even though I have my own personal preferences, because what may seem right for me may not be right for someone else and to tell you the truth at times they all seem more or less as good/bad as each other. The difference will ultimately come down to a matter of taste. [ I know what you are wondering right now, but sometimes I just can't help telling it how it is ]

One of the best things at your disposal that will allow you to pick a good teacher are your built in senses, you know your gut feeling. It is always good to go see teachers dancing with others socially in a Milonga (term for Tango dance venues). This is just one of the main reasons to attend various Milonga venues fairly early on in your Tango journey even if you do not plan on dancing. Some are free or give discounts for non-dancers. You can also hang around after the various classes given prior to the Milonga to soak up the atmosphere and hopefully get a glimpse of better Tango dancers and potential teachers. A trained eye can tell a lot just by watching people dance and so can you to some extent. The thing to bear in mind is that there are lots of subtle things going on underneath that most beginners are unlikely to pick up on. Still a good starting point is to watch especially since dancing at Milonga venues tends not to be choreographed like in Tango performances or even class demonstrations.

Any teachers trying to convince you that you are not ready to attend the Milonga until you reached a certain level most likely have their own interests in mind. You can make your own mind up as far as this goes. I would suggest you give the Milonga a go as soon as you feel comfortable, but whatever you do, do not leave it too late. Another thing I should probably mention at this point is that these dance venues can appear to be inhospitable places at first and you might not get dances easily, but that is quite all right. You should be more interested in observing things to start with. No need to rush things. Be patient, wait until you are confident enough to give it a go and do not allow anyone to entice you onto the dance floor if you are not feeling up to it. If this is the case simply thank them politely and tell them that you don't feel ready to dance right now.

Why are there so many overly selective dancer in Tango?

Lots of people seem to be under the impression that Tango appears considerably unfriendly by comparison to some other dances. So I wanted to share something that may alter your perception somewhat or at least make you stop to wonder briefly.

I recently overhead someone who I consider to be a local Milonguero (dancer who frequents the 'Milonga' social dance venues) being asked the following by some lady:

"Why are you so selective about who you dance with?"

He seemed to pondered a while before responding and the lady seemed bemuse by his candid remark:

"It is not that I am overly selective as you suggest, but I do look for people who mutually like dancing with me."

The response got me thinking and I have to admit I was also under the impression that this Milonguero was extremely selective about his dance partners, but it just goes to show things are not always what they seem. As far as the lady who asked him goes, she simply left shortly after, probably wondering what she has to do to get a dance from this guy even though he clearly presented her with a golden opportunity. I am convinced all she had to do was ask, albeit possibly via a Cabeceo (discreet & respectful way of obtaining dances in Tango). She could easily have grasped the chance if only she interpreted his answer the way I did. Time will tell if she will eventually manage to get her dance, but it would be a shame and her loss if she took his response to mean a polite 'no' which I very much doubt was the case.

If there is something to be learned from all this it is that the lady in question was not well versed in the codes & conducts of the Milonga. If she bothered to find out a little more about all this, she would not have found herself in this situation and more importantly she would most likely have had the dance she appeared to be after.

Another great article I came across recently which elaborates on this subject even further is The Curse of the Entitled Dancer (by Rebecca @ DWT), which is another one of my recommended reads that can be found in my Favourites section on the right hand side for future reference.

What is the deal with all the Tango codes?

I often hear people who do not know much about Tango or at least not well say that it can seem extremely unfriendly. Many struggle to get to grips with people's behaviours which can all too easily seem quite odd or even inappropriate at times. This is specially true when it comes to the Milonga social dance venues. Many who venture there can often end up feeling despondent and uncomfortable with the whole environment. I believe it is due to this more than anything else that a substantial portion of new dancers simply give up on Tango altogether. This is a real shame as things were probably about to get interesting. Perhaps this scenario could quite easily be avoided with some good advice from fellow Tango friends and/or teachers. In any case there are a few things that may be of interest to anyone who finds themselves in just such a situation, which can hopefully explain and put things into perspective.

Let us start with the reason people primarily go to the Milonga. It is to dance and enjoy themselves. After all is this not the very reason you are there? For most it is precious time off in their hectic lifestyle, something they may even have been looking forward to all week long, and for sure they want to make the most of their time there. As such dancing with people new to Tango, recent beginners or even those who are starting to improve, may very well be quite low on their agenda. Most Tango dancers have spent countless hours, sometimes even many years, studying and working on their dancing and engulfed in the Tango world. Now the time has come to reap the rewards and I don't think we can really blame them for this. Off course this is not to say that they will not/never dance with you or anyone else who recent hopped onto the Tango train, it just presents a viewpoint from the other side. Accept this and be friendly towards other dancers, no matter if they happen to be dancing with you right now or not.