Argentine Tango School

Marcelo Solis dancing Argentine Tango with Lola at Milonga Parakultural, Salón Canning, Buenos Aires 2022. Photo Monteleone.

What is dancing Argentine Tango?

What is dancing Argentine Tango?

Marcelo Solis dancing Argentine Tango with Lola at Milonga Parakultural, Salón Canning, Buenos Aires 2022. Photo Monteleone.

Dancing Argentine Tango is to exist in completeness.

Taking ownership of your body, developing awareness and control of all that is generated from your body: your moves, your breath, your energy, your emotions, and your whole life.

Sharing with one another the greatness and imperfections of being alive.

Give and receive warmth, consolation, affection, and encouragement.

Partake in the joy of being mutually complicit in wittiness.

It is being part of a community of friends who share the celebration of this same joy.

Marcelo Solis with friend from the Argentine Tango community at Milonga Parakultural, Salon Canning, Buenos Aires 2022. Photo Monteleone. From left to right: Nestor Pellicciaro (director of Escuela de Tango de Buenos Aires), student, Fernando Hoffmann (milonguero and actor), Marcelo Solis, Blas Catrenau (great milonguero dancer and maestro), friend.

Marcelo Solis at Milonga Parakultural, Salon Canning, Buenos Aires 2022. Photo Monteleone.

Feeling fully alive because it challenges you to become better, since all the fresh sensations of the first encounter need to be continually re-enacted  by a deeper understanding of all human things.

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Why do I dance Argentine Tango?

Why do I dance Argentine Tango?

Marcelo Solis dancing Argentine Tango with Mimi at our beginner class.

I dance Tango because it provides me a sublime experience of joy and wisdom.

However, this experiential value of Tango cannot be achieved if we know beforehand what we have to do at particular conjunctions during the dance.

Only if we train to be relaxed and comfortable with our bodies, in control by letting it go, without anxieties for what may come, breathing, suspending judgments, open to what is becoming, accepting what has happened, and being joyfully aware, we can dance.

Performers who dance a choreography bow to an audience demanding entertainment, and the recognition of their supposed knowledge and expertise.

Dancing is a wonderful way to explore, recreate, and improve ourselves. However, we face the risk of reproducing our deficiencies in our dance.

I know many great dancers. Some have partners with whom they go to milongas, classes, etc. Often their partners are their spouses, or close, intimate friends. Others go out alone and have no problem dancing for as long and with as many partners as they wish. They are good dancers, with more or less experience and expertise. They all share in common that they are pleasant to be close to. Their company is enjoyable —even more people than they wish, want to dance with them. As time goes on, their dance improves, their humanity is further refined, and they end up sharing their time and dancing with people of their choice. Tango is a celebration, and milongas are parties, not a job. There are no obligations in Tango. No obligation to dance with anyone.

If I do not want to dance with anyone at a milonga, I don’t dance. I enjoy going to milongas, and that is already what satisfies me. If I like to dance with someone and that someone wants to dance with me, and we end up dancing, and our dancing turns out to be a wonderful shared time together… that’s amazing!

Are we expecting someone to satisfy our fantasies and spare us from our insecurities before we get on with living our lives? –a thought that I used to have a long time ago but that I was too modest to confess.

Often we are in a delusion of being naturally in control of ourselves. We only achieve this control through regular and disciplined exercise. We often confuse control with rigidity, removing ourselves by avoiding our bodies as much as possible.

Often (very often), the corrections you need to apply to your dancing are corrections needed for your life.

Regarding competitions: Who is going to judge me? God? 🤣

First, let me know who the judges are. I know they will be human (until Artificial Intelligence can replace them). I would only allow myself to be rated by a jury of proven excellence regarding their humanity, counting great dancers as, for my sensitivity, the finest human examples.

As dancers, we suspend judgment, as the skeptic philosophers of Ancient Greece recommended. Our bodies are shaped by the society that raised us. Dancers free themselves from the prejudices engraved in them by the environment in which they were cultivated, by exploring alternatives beyond these prejudices, with great patience and unforgiving self-critique.

We need to become good dancers on our own, learn, work with an experienced teacher and dancer, practice, challenge ourselves to go out, get experience, expose ourselves to milongas, find out how we respond, review our experiences, reflect, apply what we learned into the process of developing and creating our dance –ourselves– as a work of art. 

We are always beginners in Tango. The best thing that could happen to you is never losing this feeling. Still, we need to keep improving.

It is not important to dance more, but to dance better.

If we were to dance and live in a fulfilling manner, others would enjoy our company.

We also need to be interested in the people around us. If they do not interest us, we may have become insensitive or surrounded by uninteresting people.

Each person is a whole new world to discover through whom we will find out more about ourselves and participate in that person’s self-discovery. If we do not get this experience with people with whom we dance, what is the difference from the interactions with people we pay for tickets at the entrance of a museum, for instance?

Sometimes we may fantasize about “communion” with a person we dance with, but if we do not go beyond these raw sensations, our dance will not mature, and we do not get the best of what Tango could provide us: a way to enhance our humanity.

Of course, everyone knows their aspirations and limits. We always receive in accordance with what we give.

We can claim to be “seriously” into Tango only when we make it a joyful experience for ourselves and the ones around us.

Tango is not easy in any way, but we can decide how many challenges to take from it and how far to advance into a deeper understanding of the art, of ourselves, and others. We can find excuses for our shortcomings. However, we need to understand that we cannot demand what we cannot achieve if we want to be good dancers; these are admirable human beings.

Another important element on our path to dance Tango is disconnecting it from associations with ballroom dances. There are not but very superficial connections between each other. I believe that you cannot dance ballroom and Tango. You need to give up one of them.

Where to find Tango instruction? There is no better way than going to milongas and observing. I found my teachers there. I saw them dancing and admired them without anyone telling me who they were. I approached them, presenting my delight at witnessing their dance and their superb humanity, and asked them to teach me. No institution nor reputation can replace the inherent experience of enjoying someone’s dancing. We do not learn Tango from institutions, from transcendent abstractions and superstructures; we learn Tango from individuals, fleshy real human beings, the most real that I have ever met.

Tango is a way of life, just as dancing is a way to be a human being. The supreme one for me. If an extraterrestrial civilization contacts us, I wish to be represented by a milonguero/a.

Tango music tells us much about how to dance. It is music that cannot be listened to like a concert. It is meant to be danced as Tango because it arises from the human body, of our particular world, in our time. I am talking about the music that the most knowledgeable and experienced DJs play at milongas, the one that is often identified as the music of the “Golden Era.” We can only claim to know Tango music well when we know its characteristics and particularities, and we can talk about it, giving specific references and examples. Having only cloudy and unspecific “feelings” does not mean knowing the music. That clearly shows in the dance.

Tango is human. I think it is meant to be the culture of humanity.

Spoken and written languages are limited. They will never be enough for our expression. Where our words end, our bodies begin. Then, we dance.

It is always our choice. We are free to take it or leave it.

To dance Tango well has no connection with being a professional dancer. You can be an excellent professional and not dance Tango at all. An excellent Tango dancer is an excellent human being and excellent in every sense.

We build ourselves up from habits. If these habits become mechanical and we end up being unaware of them, we become something akin to robots. We need to review and reconsider our habits constantly to be good dancers.

I do not find the San Francisco Bay Area Tango community cliquish at all. I find that in the milongas of any community globally, people will dance with different approaches and goals. Some people like to go and dance only with their friends, without any interest in meeting new people. Others want to dance with partners that they find could match their dance explorations. Some go to find an intimate relationship. Some to socialize. There are many ways to connect to Tango. All of them are valid as long as they respect the others. You may disagree with other ways to take Tango and the milongas, but you cannot deny to others their own searches. These approaches evolve, change, and mix in different proportions in each individual. People tend to interact with other people with the same, similar, or complementing interests regarding Tango.

You may find it challenging to meet people that connect to your interests and approaches regarding Tango. Your approach and interests regarding Tango may be very particular to you, and very few people share it. Nothing wrong with it. Be patient. The main mistake of new people (meaning people less than ten years into Tango) is to feel entitled to Tango, partners, dances, or anything. In Tango, there is nothing more than your dancing, your involvement in it, and your progress as a dancer in milongas, as a milonguero/a. Often people do not really know why we do Tango. Sometimes they try to give to themselves and others reasons they put in vague words. Tango is so multilayered. In my opinion, the best explanation of why to dance Tango a particular person could give to me is their dance.

We shouldn’t feel entitled to dance with anyone. Dancing with anyone is only worth it if both have a clear desire to dance with each other. In Tango, for the milongueros, meaning regulars at regular milongas, the intention is to regularly dance with that partner of their mutual choice at every milonga they encounter each other.

I always prefer regular milongas to festivals.

If we do not dance tonight, there will be infinite nights to come with the open possibility of dancing together.

The San Francisco Bay Area Tango community is at the worldwide top regarding its quality, and people are lovely, friendly, warm, and kind.

Each one learns better with a particular teacher than with others. Tango teachers waste their time trying to teach everyone and competing for students. A student who is meant to learn with a teacher, in particular, probably won’t find it productive to learn with a different teacher. However, they can learn from various teachers too. A good student can learn from not-so-good teachers. A not-so-good student gets little help from even the best teacher.

Continue learning Argentine Tango:

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What does musicality mean in Argentine Tango?

What does musicality mean in Argentine Tango?

Marcelo Solis dancing Argentine Tango with Mimi at our beginner class.

Music calls you.

When you like a song, it attracts you in a way from which you cannot break easily. One time you are hooked into the music, it affects you. The music awakes emotions in you. If these emotions make you move, then you are dancing.

There is no need to rationalize your responses to the music.

They are spontaneous. The same song does not affect everybody in the same way, and it does not affect you, in the same way, every time it is played.

When you learn to dance Argentine Tango, you need to incorporate fundamental elements of posture, walking, change of weight, embracing, awareness of your body and your partner’s body, lead and follow, basic patterns like the cross, backward and forward ochos, boleos, etc.

Also, you’ll need to learn to understand the music of Argentine Tango, its rhythm, its phrasing and structure, the different orchestras styles.

However, when through discipline and practice you have internalized all this knowledge, you will need to forget it and let yourself respond to the music’s call, not as a thoughtful answer, but rather as a let go in which the music affects you emotionally, but does not determine what you do concerning your movements.

The music is a friend who dialogs with you, not a boss who orders you.

Let’s take a look at Nestor La Vitola’s dance. He is an excellent milonguero from Buenos Aires, a teacher, and friend of mine:

Isn’t he very musical? I love seeing him dancing to Pugliese’s orchestra. If you know a little about Argentine Tango, you already know that dancing to Pugliese’s orchestra is among the most challenging achievements in this dance.

One time, in a conversation about musicality with other dancers, he stunned us with this affirmation: “Yo no le doy ni cinco de pelota a la música.”

“I do not care even a little about following the music.”

Wow!!!

This assertion from him made me laugh because it made me discover the meaning of musicality from an unexpected angle. It is consistent with a general approach to dancing: not using force. This is how I understand his “zen slap” answer: you do not need to make an effort to follow the music. If you are sensitive to the music, if you listen to it, if you –fundamentally– stop judgment, you will allow the music to take over, to awake emotions in you, to move you.

Here is another great milonguero, Blas Catrenau, also a teacher and a friend of mine:

In our lessons, he tells me not to obey the orchestra. Instead, he tells me that I should act like the singer, expressing myself with the orchestra behind me as a backdrop to my performance.

I interpret this as follows: I am like a soloist playing a stellar role in the orchestra. The orchestra is there to be the frame of the work of art, which is my dance.

When I dance, I do not have a precise choreography in mind. What I do have is a structure: first I need to offer and find a connection with my partner; then I have to sense myself in this couple, in this milonga, in this tanda, in this song, at this moment; as I start to move, I need to pay careful attention to my partner and our connection; I will deliver my repertoire of moves gradually, starting with simplicity, breathing, often pausing to access the state of my partner, myself, and our connection as a couple, all in a bodily way, without saying anything; then, when I consider it appropriate, I may take some more risk, to open the game, to make it exciting, alive, playful and joyful; that’s it! I then restrain myself not to get carried away by my emotions. I’ll make a longer pause to prepare for something else, a more complex choreographic idea perhaps. Then, close to the song’s end, I get myself together, providing a relaxing moment for my partner, and “chan-chan!”, the end of the song, sometimes as a grand finale, sometimes as a subtle “tan-go-close” ending.

Continue learning Argentine Tango:

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Marcelo Solis answers what is Argentine Tango. He is an expert.

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Marcelo Solis dancing Argentine Tango with Mimi at Escuela de Tango de Buenos Aires virtual classes.

What is connection in Argentine Tango dance?

What is connection in Argentine Tango dance?

Marcelo Solis dancing Argentine Tango with Mimi at Escuela de Tango de Buenos Aires virtual classes.

When I am going to dance the first song of my first tanda at the milonga, I always have to find out how I am.

My dance is very much determined by, for instance, how many hours I slept the night before.

My dance is what I am going to give to my partner.

I like to be generous.

Generosity is essential to connection.

When I visit my friends, I like to bring a present, which I am sure they will enjoy.

Imagine you are my friend and I am coming to visit you. You are happy. Now, I offer you something you were not expecting, something I know you like very much. You are now even happier. Our connection is wonderful!

For a milonguero, the whole day is, in many ways, a preparation for the milonga.

I wouldn’t let myself get stressed, or sad, or sleep-deprived, or hungry, or angry. If I cannot achieve a balance in my life, at least for that day, I wouldn’t go to the milonga. It would be disrespectful to bring negative emotions to my friends at the milonga, with whom I like to dance and share a joyful time.

Friends share joy.

That is why, when I am getting ready to go to the milonga, I am sure that I am neat and clean.

When I drive there, not in a rush because Tango is a party, and I do not have an obligation to be there at a specific time other than when I arrive, I am rolling my shoulders and relaxing my arms and hips.

When I am walking from where I park my car, I am aware of my walk and body.

A good connection in Tango begins with being well connected to yourself.

I like to imagine myself composed of myriad tiny gears that connect my entire body to the floor and my partner and perceive my partner’s presence with fine detailing.

That does not necessarily always happen.

I like to dance with everyone with whom I have something in common, starting with a love for Tango, ending with perhaps the possibility of sharing a shared vision of life.

I love dancing with my friends.

We may not share much more than the time we are together on the dance floor. However, during that time, we are good friends because we share joy.

Many people, including students and colleagues, debate whether Argentine Tango teachers should or should not dance with students.

I dance with my good friends. Sometimes they are also my students, which is not surprising since the same elements of a good teacher/student relationship are very similar to any good relationship. Friendship is, to me, the paradigm of any meaningful relationship.

I wouldn’t dance Argentine Tango without experiencing this meaningfulness.

If I say that “I dance with my students,” then I have an obligation, which contradicts friendship. Friends do not hang together because they are obliged. They do it because they want to be together since it is a joyful and meaningful experience. When the desire to be together ends for any party involved, friendship ceases.

When I work on the theme of connection with my students, I emphasize first the need to feel at home in yourself, comfortable in your body, and with your partner. That is why I only teach couples in small groups (semi-private classes) and private lessons, and individual students in private lessons. The most effective way to work on this fundamental aspect of connection in Argentine Tango is with a regular partner, receiving feedback and corrections, or directly from your teacher as a partner.

Each individual will have different issues to work on, as well as each couple. In addition, each person and couple evolve uniquely. Therefore, there are no general formulas that you can apply to everyone.

As an example of connection in a couple, I would like to share this video of Osvaldo and Coca Cartery dancing for the anniversary of the milonga “Porteño y bailarín” in Buenos Aires. Notice that the people in the audience know each other very well. It is comprised of milongueros who have danced Argentine Tango for many years. You can sense the strong friendship that links all of them, to each other, to Osvaldo and Coca, and the strong friendship that this couple has with each other, with the audience, and with the host of this milonga.

In my next article, I will talk about musicality. For now, I leave you with this concept:

The music is your friend too.

Continue learning Argentine Tango:

More articles about Argentine Tango

Marcelo Solis answers what is Argentine Tango. He is an expert.

How to dance Argentine Tango?

An introduction to the most important details

Find the answer

Anibal Troilo and his orchestra | Argentine Tango music to learn to dance

Argentine Tango music

Music to learn to dance

Listen and dance!

History of Argentine Tango: El Cachafaz and Carmencita Calderon at Tango (Movie 1933)

History of Argentine Tango

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Learn more about Tango

Marcelo Solis dancing Argentine Tango with Mimi at Escuela de Tango de Buenos Aires virtual classes.

Why technique is so important in Argentine Tango?

Why is technique so important in Argentine Tango?

Marcelo Solis dancing Argentine Tango with Mimi at our beginner class.

Technique and body awareness

Restarting in-person classes and going to several milongas every week made me reflect on using my body efficiently, preventing getting exhausted and injured by doing what I love to do.

The technique has to be a way to use our body efficiently, energizing and healing us.

Efficiency is beautiful.

When a movement is technically correct, it is effortless and elegant.

Pain is a symptom that tells us that we are making an unnecessary effort.

A movement made technically correct is gratifying.

To incorporate a particular technique is necessary to repeat. However, repetitions need to be limited to avoid stressing ourselves, provoking damage and exhaustion.

The best is to cycle through a set of different exercises, doing a few repetitions of one exercise and move on to the next one, eventually returning to previous exercises, perhaps making cumulative additions.

Good technique is the result of patience training. Anxiety to achieve results does not help, neither to be too self-forgiving or compliant.

It would help if you could regularly work on your technique. A little every day works better than a lot in one day, with large vacuums in between training sessions.

What is the goal of a good technique in Tango?

To allow you to move comfortably and expressively while giving your partner a comfortable and expressive space and time next to you, in a social setup, with other dancers sharing the same dance floor.

Remember to work on the technique with joy and expressivity instead of mechanically going through the exercises.

Good technique should provide character to your dance.

It goes beyond measures, geometrics, and calculations. You can start with “where to place my foot,” “in which angle,” and “how straight or bent my leg needs to be” to develop later a manner of moving that tells a story and awakes emotions.

Learn the technique to forget the technique

A student told me a personal story that may be familiar to you, as it was very familiar to me: she got injured, and in the process of recovering, she needed to move. She would play music and move freely to the music, dancing. Then she realized that she was moving with good technique, without paying attention to the matter. All her work on technique was paying off, only after she stopped putting the technique at the forefront of her conscience.

Often we need to simplify things to learn and incorporate them into our knowledge and habits. However, remaining in the simplifications makes us miss all the richness of a mature dance.

The technique should open you to reveal the nuances of your persona to yourself, creating your dance as a work of art.

Good technique allows you to generate qualities for your movement.

One quality of great importance and often forgotten is sweetness.

The technique is personal

Too much information obtained from too many sources could be distracting from what you only can do because you are in the best position to know what you need to focus on and how best to approach the organization of the exercises that would allow your improvement.  Until you do not take full responsibility for what you need to improve, all your taken technique classes won’t be effective.

To avoid the subjectivity trap, share your exercises, thoughts, and observations with your teacher.

Working to improve your technique is only one of the necessary actions to give meaning to your dance.

The technique is effective if it overflows to all your life. Therefore, good technique is meant to improve aspects of your life that transcend your direct dancing activity.

Other things affect your dance also: sleep deprivation, lousy eating habits, unhealthy lifestyle, and negative emotions like fear and anger.

Pain sometimes stems from our lack of awareness. The inefficient use of our bodies is reinforced by habits of negating pain, giving our perceptions no importance, and forcing our bodies to obey unhealthy and self-destructing ideas in our minds.

One habit of being aware of is sleep deprivation.

Your dancing gets greatly affected by your sleep.

However, we believe it is necessary to deprive ourselves of the essential sleep hours, disregarding evidence that this habit is undeniably unhealthy and won’t balance the supposed gains made by using our much-needed sleep time.

Changing habits

Changing our habits is presented to ourselves by the accepted mindset as a too difficult endeavor, even knowing that the ultimate alternative is a failure. So, sadly, we condemn ourselves.

The same way as we are proceeding with our planet’s environment.

We do not dance when we fill up our time with tasks that prevent us from dancing, from getting to know our bodies, and by that, ourselves. At some point of this build-up, we become so entangled that it appears too costly or disruptive for our lives to dance, to get to know ourselves and others better.

The year 2020’s shut down of activities brought us to choose those activities that we value as essentials to our existence. Yet, as the whole world resumes, we are in danger of missing the opportunity to reset our lives to the way we realized that makes sense to live.

A good habit worth incorporating

I like to think that I could be a smoker, lighting up a cigarette every time I have nothing to do, having a sad thought to mourn, or a happy feeling to celebrate, but instead, since I do not smoke, I stretch.

After focusing on your technique, remember that you started the dance journey to enjoy dancing and care about your partner’s enjoyment. If you are not enjoying it, you are not letting anyone enjoy it either.

Also, dancing itself provides you with opportunities for improvement. Since we repeatedly cycle through the movements, you can approach your dancing as if you were kneading dough, getting it better at each round of kneading.

Every dance you dance should be better than the previous one. You can organize your dance strategy with such goal in mind, in the way you deliver your energy, in your choice of moves, partners, milongas, when to rest and when to dance.

Dancing is neither purely rational nor only intuitive. You dance, then, making “holistic calculations.”

Do you think a dancer’s technique is indifferent to their human qualities? Meaning, can someone be a good dancer without being generous, kind, and forgiving? I’d like to know what you think. 

Please share your thoughts with me clicking here…

Would you be interested in an in-person workshop on technique I am planning?

If so, put your name on the list:

Here are some exercises for you:

Continue learning Argentine Tango:

More articles about Argentine Tango

Marcelo Solis answers what is Argentine Tango. He is an expert.

How to dance Argentine Tango?

An introduction to the most important details

Find the answer

Anibal Troilo and his orchestra | Argentine Tango music to learn to dance

Argentine Tango music

Music to learn to dance

Listen and dance!

History of Argentine Tango: El Cachafaz and Carmencita Calderon at Tango (Movie 1933)

History of Argentine Tango

Tango is a culture

Learn more about Tango

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