How to become a great Tango dancer
Besides dancing itself, I can only use my own personal experiences to explain it to you.
For instance: everything you do in relation to your profession is effort, while in my case it is effortless; you most likely work at your profession all day hoping the day ends so you can stop working, while in my case I finish my workday looking forward to dancing more and better the next day. Sometimes you get sick and call work to take your day off. I take care not to get sick so I can dance my best every day. I shaped my life in such way. I trapped myself into my life like Sisyphus is condemned to roll his rock up the mountain everyday, but while he is tortured by his perpetual meaningless task, I am immersed in a sea of joy and purpose by doing mine.
Teaching is part of that process too. Together with my students, we search for ways to improve our dancing. If you improve your dancing it benefits all of us since we will eventually be dancing on the same dance floor at the same milonga. A milonga is an environment, a closed ecosystem in which all parts affect the whole. If my students dance better, I can dance better too, and when I dance better, my students can dance better. It becomes an infinite spiral of perpetual improvement.
Does it mean that I do not deserve to be paid for what I do -dancing as an example of good dancing and sharing my passion and knowledge about Argentine Tango with you- since work is a source of pain for you and what I do gives me pleasure?
Instead of seeing the money you give me as payment for my services -Argentine Tango instruction-, for my knowledge about Argentine Tango and work as an Argentine Tango teacher as merchandise, you can think of it as an investment in your dance, in your Tango. Everything you do to benefit me, benefits my dance, my Tango, Tango as a whole, and your Tango, your dance, and your wellbeing, while every deserved thing you deny me is only going to deprive you of Tango, sooner or later. I pledged my allegiance to Tango, and it includes you if you are Tango too.
If you are a new student, you can appreciate now what you’ll get if you join us: a wonderful group of people studying, researching and training together to become better Argentine Tango dancers, better milongueros, and better in every aspect.
When you drive your car, you will eventually have to get gas, and you won’t argue or ask for discounts at the gas station, and the reason of that is plainly that you are dealing with a giant, powerful and rich corporation that is inaccesible to you. You may bargain for the price of gas with the cashier at the station, and he will shrug his shoulders and look at you with a “you are mad” expression. If you have no money for food or medicine you may ask your government to assist you. A government is also big in resources. You will need to find, in the labyrinth of its bureaucracy, the doors and the hallways that will take you to the correct office to get the necessary public assistance.
I have no other help than that which I and those who love me unconditionally give me, besides your collaboration. You can’t drive without gas, you cannot live without food and medicine. If you can live without Tango, without dancing, do so then.
It is true that I give you deals, offers and discounts. Consider it a part of my generosity, of my urgency (time is a scarce resource) with presenting to you a different approach to life that I know, from my own experience, to be better than the one currently accepted by the majority. Anything that I give you does not have any other source than my own body, my dance and my life. There is no other way of life better than being generous. That is why I dance.
I see dance as the unstoppable productivity of existence. To not be generous is to repress the fountain of life that springs out of me. I have no choice; but please do not abuse my generosity: I will stand against such attitudes primarily to value and honor those who care for me and what I have chosen: Tango.
You should not banalize Tango. You maybe came to my classes tempted by an outrageously low price, thinking that you found a cheap source of entertainment, and while Tango is extremely entertaining, it is much deeper than that. Don’t be shallow and say that you had fun dancing Tango; you never did anything more profound in your life: it is to be intimately connected at all levels to another human being in a beautiful way.
Dancing Tango may be very entertaining, but Tango is not an “entertainment”.
Please don’t ever say that Tango is an “addiction”. Tango is a way of existing.
It all depends on what you want from yourself. If you want nothing, nothing is what you’ll get. If you want a fulfilling life, it will cost you your whole life.
If you do not dance, you are not a dancer. To dance, you will need to be a dancer, that means: to become a dancer. To dance and not be a dancer is a contradiction. Observe that the most important word here is the verb “to be”. Now you are able to understand that if you do not dance now, in order to be able to dance, eventually, a transformation of your self is needed. If you are not sure about it, or you are satisfied with yourself and your life and do not want to change anything, then: you don’t want to dance, and if you don’t want to dance, you won’t dance.
Let’s define a dancer: someone who continuously pursues improvement as a whole, becoming stronger, more versatile, aware, sensitive, responsive, skillful, sympathetic, ethical, beautiful, charming, witty, and fun to be with; who doesn’t need anything else other than to be present to make everyone with good feelings sense that the lights of life have been turned on, making everything look beautiful (Disclaimer: if you don’t have good feelings you most likely sense the opposite). In sum: a dancer is a wonderful example of a human being. I cannot think of anyone better than a milonguero and a milonguera. If an intelligent alien from outer space comes to our planet, I would like the alien's first impression of intelligent life on Earth to be a milonga in Buenos Aires, one of those that I regularly go to. I will take you there, not before educating you -as needed- about what Tango is, if you want to find out the complete meaning of my words.
A dancer is not a specialist, someone who knows all about a narrow segment of life, in this case dance. Contrary, a dancer is the most complete of all examples of human existence. A true dancer is a Renaissance’s person.
At the beginning of human existence, is dancing. A baby in the womb perceives the voice of its mother as music, without separating the sounds from their meaning, responding to it with the interpretation of its whole body and existence. The baby is dancing.
All this sounds very appealing, I guess, since most individuals at the present time choose to spend their time in such ways. If there is a seed of a dancer in the soil of your existence, you will feel a kind of nausea, in different degrees, if you happen to have to try any of these ways to consume your time. You may medicate yourself, drink alcohol, abuse drugs or engage in an addiction, or you could deny your body and become extremely religious, or very intellectual, becoming a living statue, a handicapped individual by choice. Or perhaps choose to have a modulated relationship with your body, like going to the gym, following the directives of a coach, working on your quads today, on your biceps tomorrow, on your abs the day after that, and so on, ending with a body that is a collection of parts that struggle to come to a consensus.
Such segmentation of your body corresponds with a parallel segmentation of every aspect of your life.
This is why you should not see Tango as a form of therapy. Therapy does not fit in Tango. In Tango, as a way of existence, you do not have the separations of yourself in multiple sections: a physical realm, a psychological one, and a spiritual one. From a Tango point of view there is no separation among these realms. So psychology, religion, and working out at the gym do not appear relevant for a milonguero.
There are no approximations of this goal. It is a full monty game. All or nothing.
Start with classes. Your first class could be a group class or a private lesson. To learn to dance you need both, regularly, more than once a week.
How do you know you are learning with a good teacher?You do not learn Tango from an “instructor”, you learn Tango only from a “Maestro”. You need first to like your teacher’s dance. Today it is easy to do research. You can find videos of your teacher’s dance. Your teachers must show their dance in classes. However, where you want to see your teachers dancing is at the milongas in Buenos Aires. There are dancers that look wonderful on a stage, but do not go to milongas because they cannot dance there, they do not enjoy dancing there, and nobody really wants them there since usually they do not know or chose to ignore the basic codes of behavior of the milongas. If your teacher is authentic, he belongs to the community that dances at milongas.
Do not choose a teacher because he or she is nice to you. See it in this way: Tango is my family and my world. You come and tell me that you want to be part of my family, of my world, you are telling me that you want to live on my planet. You are always welcome, but do you have good intentions? Would you take care of my world even when I am not alive anymore? Would you love my family? Would you work to improve your Tango to become better and make Tango better for everyone? Are you going to be a good addition to Tango? Are you going to collaborate with Tango? Or did you come with the sole propose of grabbing your piece of “fun”, not caring about any consequences of your actions, like going to a picnic and leaving all your trash in the park, without taking responsibility, without any love for the beauty of our nature?
I am blessed by my group of regular students and my assistants. It's worth many trillions of dollars (if you like to express things in quantities) to count on them as part of my life. You should not miss your opportunity to make them part of your life too.
On one of my recent trips to Buenos Aires, one of my students, an older gentleman, was speaking a foreign language with his wife while we were at a milonga. Another lady attending the same milonga overheard them talking and approached them. She spoke the same language and began to chat with them. Long story short, my student ended up dancing with her in that milonga. After the first song she asked him how long it had been since he started to learn to dance Tango. He replied, “two years,” and she immediately asked him, “why did you wait so long?"
You will learn the value of Tango from your teachers in group classes and private lessons.
Your teacher is your first source of music. Ask them. Make your own library of Tango music from the Golden Era, which is the music played at milongas, and the music played for dancing during the time in which most of the population of Buenos Aires and other big cities in Argentina danced Tango. That is the music you hear in our classes.
I am creating an Argentine Tango music library on my website.
It doesn't matter how many group classes and private lessons you have taken. Tango is not a private and closed relationship with your teachers. If you're a new student, and feel like you know too little in comparison with others at a milonga, then being at a milonga will greatly increase your knowledge about Tango. Perhaps you've taken many group classes and private lessons, then being at a milonga will present Tango to you in a contextualized way, similarly to learning a language and then visiting a country where that language is spoken. The sooner you start going to milongas, the better. Your Tango needs to grow there. You will be able to understand the reasons for many elements and details in Tango that in classes may seem arbitrary to you. It all makes perfect sense when you dance at milongas. Besides, your teacher needs to see you attending and dancing at milongas to fully assess what you need to work on to improve your dance. If you do not feel confident dancing yet, you do not need to dance; going to milongas is beneficial even if you do not dance there yet.
I recommend starting by going to the milongas that your teacher goes to, preferably with your teacher, and/or going to the milongas that your teacher organizes. You need to be introduced to the milonga community by someone who belongs to it.
I want to note that although a dance party may be labeled a “milonga” it is not necessarily so. If your teacher is a great dancer (you do not want less from your teacher’s quality of dance), he belongs to the community of the milongas and Tango. He will know where to go and/or will organize authentic milongas.
I am blessed by belonging to the community of milongueros who go to the most wonderful milongas in Buenos Aires, and by the group of my students and regulars who come to the milongas that I organize. Don’t miss joining us at my next milonga, and all the milongas that you can attend in the future.
If you learn the French language, it makes sense to go to France and speak the language there. That is where you will feel the multi-dimensionality of the language with your whole being. You may love French culture so much that you decide to move there or travel there often, any time you have the chance, and in this process you make many friends in France, which in turn makes you want to travel there even more often.
That is how you will become Tango yourself: by going to Buenos Aires often. Learning a language and a culture in order to only visit it once is incongruent, at best.
I will be honored to introduce you to the community of milongueros in Buenos Aires, a community of which I am humbled to belong. I currently go twice a year, in the spring and fall, accompanied by a group of my students. I show them the city of Buenos Aires, take them to classes with my teachers and colleagues, and bring them to the milongas where I am a regular.
I continue the tradition of passing the torch of Tango in the same way that my teachers got introduced to Tango in their times, by taking my students to where I regularly go and sharing my knowledge and passion for Tango with them.
You won’t dance Tango because you know a piece of choreography. You will dance Tango if you put yourself as a link in the chain of the Art of Tango through time, meeting and learning from the best dancers that Tango has produced, from the milongueros.
You must realize the responsibility of caring and passing along this Art in the future, not necessarily teaching it, but fundamentally being a great dancer yourself, teaching it with your example.