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THOUGHTS ON TANGO DANCING


A Social Dance

 

Argentine Tango is most often known outside Argentina as a dance performed on stage or in a movie.  But what most people in the United States don't know is that it is a mainly a social dance and an experience that often can be transcendent.  At a milonga, look at the faces of people as they dance or in the photos taken at the Milonga Festivals around the world..  The dancers are in a bubble, floating together in their own dreams.  Tango can take you there.

The Inland Northwest Tango website strives to teach the experience of tango as it is danced in Buenos Aires and the best festivals in the United States.  The goal is to enlighten you to the possibilties of Tango and help you learn about the milonguero tango style so you, too, can find your own bubble.

Some of the Inland Northwest Tango dance instructors teach the close embrace style of tango, also known as milonguero, which predominates in the crowded clubs of central Buenos Aires.  Unlike the performance version of tango, the social dance is entirely improvised.  The close embrace style emphasizes the connection between partners and musicality and uses a rich and subtle body language.  Come learn this beautiful and passionate dance !


What is Argentine Tango

 

There are many ways to answer this question.    Some have said.........

Argentine Tango is a partnered social dance, with the couple dancing embraced.  Unlike "ballroom" style dances, which tend to be more structured, social tango is improvised, with every step being a spontaneous discovery in the moment, as the partners focus on their connections to each other and to the music.

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Daniel Trenner once explained at a workshop in Portland that while most dances are defined by specific step patters and/or rhythm structures, tango, though it is generally confined to "regular" rhythms, has an infinite variety of step patterns.  The thing that defines the dance as "tango" is not the steps, but the "manner" or the "way" that the steps are danced.  The "connection" mentioned above is not so much a result of anything in the dance as it is a requirement.  In order to do a dance where every step is spontaneously improvised, both partners must be paying full attention to each other.  This creates the connection that is by its nature very sensual, unlike anything else in the dance world.  


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A Few Tips for Better Dancing

 

Reprinted with permission of Polly McBride of Portland, Oregon.    See her website:    www.tangoquest.net


Tango will work without the appropriate underlying skills, but not well. We can dance at an elementary level without good technique, but why would we want to when it's SO much better with a good foundation and finesse?

Axis:  Skilled Leaders and Followers dance with a firm axis, which is formed from the floor up.  It does not stay in place by itself.  Reset, reset, reset.  Leaders:  I recommend frequent pauses (dancing in place) for maintaining good connection with your partner, musical interpretation, taking time to breathe, think, and reset the frame, axis, tilt, balance.

Forming the Axis:   (Together, Tighten, Tilt.)
Bring your heels, knees & thighs together between steps.  Lift the upper torso & rib cage.  Reset over and over.  Place your weight forward on balls of the feet, keeping your back straight.

Followers:  The hardest part in the beginning is learning to feel and respond rather than thinking about the next step.  Waiiiiiiiiii...T  please wait.   Keep your weight 100% on the foot your partner places you on until you feel them change your weight to the other foot.   When stepping back, extend you reaching leg with the heel down, land on the ball of the foot and roll down softly to the heel.

Leaders:  The hardest part in the beginning is learning to initiate energy from the upper axis rather than from the arms and legs.  Lead from "center to center", "axis to axis", "button to button."   Think walking into a strong wind, walking through sand at the beach, walking in water, or pushing a full shopping cart.  Lead from the top down.  (Decide, initiate, step with her.)

The Embrace:  The Leader should invite his partner to dance rather than making her feel obligated.  Gracefully extend your left arm outward and allow it to float to the side and upward. (Bending the elbow looks like a broken wing.)  After she places her hand into yours, allow her to set the distance of the frame.  Connect with your right arm by gently placing your forearm on her upper rib cage and roll it down to the  wrist.  This shows that you know how to hold a woman securely while taking care of her safety, comfort and pleasure.  (Your hand can be relaxed or placed gently on her back, but it is not involved in leading.)      The Follower may reach for your Leader's shoulder blade and maintain connection by keeping pressure against his right arm all the way down to his wrist.  Reset axis, tilt, embrace during pauses (dancing in place.)


Etiquette & Navigation

 

Reprinted with permission of Polly McBride of Portland, Oregon.    See her website www.tangoquest.net


Many of tango's traditions, customs and "rituals" are based on Argentine culture while others are based on ours.   Here are a few to keep in mind.

Eye Contact:  This is used to invite and / or accept an invitation.

"Thank You" is a coded way of saying at the end of a Tanda, "I'd like to dance with someone else now."  If it is said after only one dance it means, "This is not working for me and I'm ending this partnership immediately."

Escort:  It's good manners to walk your partner back to their place after dancing.

Hygiene:   Hi Gene. Hi Jean  Always.  All Ways.    (Also, a good idea for men and women to refrain from using cologne or strong perfumes, because in close embrace the smells may clash.)

Floor Craft:  Tango travels counter clockwise around the floor.  Leaders, flow with the traffic and do NOT back up toward the couple behind you.  (You would never back a car up in traffic.)    You will find several articles written about floor craft in the www.in-tango.com website.

Safety:  This is a top priority.  Avoid collisions at all costs.  There may be three or more lanes on a crowded floor.   Cutting in or across lanes in not safe or skillful.  Carefully merge when entering the floor or changing lanes and make eye contact with near-by Leaders.    If there is a collision, acknowledge it and accept responsibility with the other Leader involved.

Danger:  High boleos and ganchos can cause serious injury and should never be led (or followed) on a crowded floor.  Everyone's feet should remain on or very near the floor.

Distance and Frame:  Allow a new partner to show a preference for open frame or close embrace.  Assuming that they wish to dance close embrace can show that you are not considerate of their wishes and will not be considerate of their dance experience.

Travel:  Tango is about connection.   Where we dance is secondary to HOW we dance.   Skilled Leaders take small steps, pause often, and let the music guide them.  Deeeeelicious !!!


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Also see this very good explanation of tango manners by Tine Herreman