Argentine Tango School

Marcelo & Mimi Dancing Argentine Tango

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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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)

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"Becoming Argentina" blog image.

“Becoming Argentina” interviews Marcelo Solis

“Becoming Argentina” interviews Marcelo Solis

 Vance Woods (Independent Writer/Editor | Team Lead – Translations/Copy Editor – USA | Archivoz Magazine | Cataloger Valley Library Oregon State University)

I had the pleasure and honor to be interviewed by Vance Woods (Independent Writer/Editor | Team Lead – Translations/Copy Editor – USA | Archivoz Magazine | Cataloger Valley Library Oregon State University) for his blog “Becoming Argentina”.

We talked about how did I get to where I am today and how did the Escuela de Tango de Buenos Aires come into being; about Tango as a multifaceted manifestation in dance, music, poetry, and more; he asked me what is my favorite tango lyric; about Tango, Argentina, and Buenos Aires; about the effects the Covid-19 pandemic has had on tango culture; about what it means to be a milonguero; on Tango as an industry as opposed to Tango as a cultural practice, and how these two aspects interact; and why do you I think that Tango has so strongly appeal.
I enjoyed so much this interview and I know you are going to enjoy it too.

Read the interview

Continue learning about 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)

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

What is the best way to learn to dance Argentine Tango?

What is the best way to learn to dance Argentine Tango?

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

Everything good about Tango dancing is the result of practice.

Regular exercise of walking, change of weight, pause, pivots, turns, “paradas” (stops), “calecitas” (merry-go-round), and embellishments create the foundation of your freedom while dancing.
You don’t need a partner to practice.

Many essential elements of Argentine Tango require being practiced alone.

Another aspect needing your attention is musicality:

The way to improve your musicality is to engage in active listening to Tango music, knowing what you are listening to.

Start learning Argentine Tango

The following tips apply either for individual practice as well as practicing with your partner:

1- Improve your walking:

You can always improve your walking.
Start your practice always by walking. You have four speeds for your walk: regular, fast, slow, and very slow.
  • Start with slow, taking 4 counts for each step.

  • Then practice regular speed, stepping on each downbeat.

  • For fast walking practice what is called “corrida”, walking to a quick-quick-slow rhythmic pattern, or down-up-down.

Tango challenges you to make your walk -and your entire life- a work of Art.

More walking exercises…

2- Change of weight:

Change of weight is a variation of walking.
It happens in the same place, without displacement.

Do at least one change of weight when you initiate your dance.

Do not make too many.
 
Here you can find some exercises to practice and improve your change of weight:


Make them with a calm attitude, and while dancing with your partner, this element should give a sense of calm to your partner.

More change of weight exercises…

3- Pauses:

Pauses are among the most important elements of Tango.

When you practice your elements, search for opportunities for pauses.

As examples: 
  • You can make a pause when you do a salida to de side, also called “salida in 2”.

  • You can make a pause in position 3:

  • After change of direction:

4- Pivots:

  • To practice pivots, you can start with bar exercises.

  • If you do not have a bar, use a chair, preferably with a tall back, helping yourself placing your hands on the back of the chair to practice forward and backward ochos.

  • Then, challenge yourself to practice ochos without the help of the bar or chair.

Practice forward and backward ochos with displacements and without displacement.

5- Turns:

  • The best exercises to improve your turns are chair exercises:

  • and 1-2-3 exercises.

Practice all exercises in both directions of turning: clockwise and counterclockwise directions.

  • Practice chair exercises but without the chair.

  • Other elements used in turns are “rulo”:

  • and “enrosques”:

6- “Paradas” (stops):

Another very important skill to develop to dance Argentine Tango is the control of your inertia and the couple’s inertia.

A great way to work on this skill is to propose yourself to be able to stop at any movement from the 1 to 5 already listed.

  • A classical example of stops is the “sanguchito” or “mordida”:

7- “Calecita”:

This element requires that the follower aligns her axis on the top of one of her feet, allowing the leader to pivot her continuously on one direction.

  • See an example:

8- Embellishments:

A good foundation in your dance makes it beautiful.

Think about embellishments as a natural projection of your good technique, not as a kind of plug-ins movement.

If your walk is deficient, no matter what extra moves you add to your walk, it won’t look good.

Embellishments should arise seamlessly from the work you do on your dance.

  • “Cepillo” (brush):

  • “Rulos” (circles):

  • “Cross and go”:

9- Musicality:

The way to improve your musicality is by engaging in active listening to Argentine Tango music.

Every day we publish a song on our blog.

Subscribe to our blog to receive your daily song…

Osvaldo Pugliese, Argentine Tango orchestra.

Keep in mind:

Practice regularly and consciously, taking care that the practice provides nice sensations of joy to you.

By doing so, you are making yourself generous in extending this joy to your partners and the other dancers that share with you the dance floors of the classes and milongas.

That’s not all:

Dancing shouldn’t be your biggest challenge.

It should rather be the time of amusement, of creativity and exploration of yourself, socializing, relaxing, and releasing stress in a calm and friendly atmosphere.

However, in other to be able to dance with such sensation of freedom and confidence, you will need to expose yourself to a challenge that is greater than dancing Tango, and that is the class and practice.

Also:

  • Take care of yourself, with stretching and regular exercising.
  • Healthy habits of eating and sleep will positively influence your dance.

In sum:

Dancing Argentine Tango presents itself as a way for you to organize your life towards empowering yourself, helping you to achieve your life’s goals, and even provides you with such goals:

To make life beautiful.

Learn to dance Argentine Tango

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

Marcelo Solis dancing Argentine Tango with Mimi

Looking for tips about learning Argentine Tango dance?

Looking for tips about learning Argentine Tango dance?

Marcelo Solis dancing Argentine Tango with Mimi

From absolute beginner to a great milonguero/a Tango dancer.

Because you have realized the value of Tango, we are offering here a guide into your Tango journey.

You’ll become more yourself within a community. 

Our human nature makes us social beings: we cannot survive in isolation, hence, success is possible for an individual only with the support of one’s peers.
 
That is to say: you learn to dance Tango not only because of your personal taste and choice. There is also a group of people who share your affinity for Tango, and even you will not agree (and you do not need to agree) with everyone in matters of taste and choices, your success regarding Tango will be always tied to how you relate to those other dancers.
 
Even if you never dance with most of them, you will still be sharing the same dance floor and seats around it at the same milonga.

Not everybody has the same sensitivity.

If you are willing to take the challenge, as a great milonguero/a does: aim for the highest, most beautiful, most poetic, and most sublime.

For me, that is Tango.

With such people, I feel at home, and that is my environment.
That is what I would like to share with you.
My reason for doing so is that my goal is always to become a better dancer, and by inviting and challenging you to have the same goal, I count on you to challenge me in the same way.

We mutually challenge each other to become better dancers.

This is not going to make us rivals or enemies. On the contrary: we will develop a deep friendship.
 
I won’t be distant (like on a stage). I will be approachable. I will dance with you or next to you on the same dance floor. I may have more experience than you, but it may turn out that you are more talented. However, on the dance floor of a milonga, we are equals in essence.
The goal of becaming better dancers cannot be quantified.
How do you quantitatively express a good example of a human being?
How do you quantify excellence or the admiration that someone awakens in you?
It is easy to get confused in a world that values quantification the way our civilization does.
For instance, does the number of members in my Facebook group express the level of my dance?
I could set a goal to end the year with over 2,000 members.
That is really easy to do. By the end of this year, I will achieve this goal. Will that make me a better human being?
 
Let’s make a thought experiment (you now know I like them):
An alien comes to our planet and meets with several people. He meets an industrialist called Henry Rearden, a writer and poet called Oliverio Girondo, Gordon Gekko (a banker), Doug McKenzie (a garbage collector), a nurse called Ratched… etc. and a milonguero called Blas Catrenau…
 
What this alien will immediately perceive is the egalitarianism and spontaneity of the milonguero, who approaches him the same way he approaches everyone.
 
He will be surprised he even hugs him as a greeting.
 
Another aspect is the way the milonguero moves, his expressions, the way he walks: he seems easily in control of himself.
 
His words are sometimes a little cryptic. He speaks assuming that the alien understands what he is talking about.
 
However, he speaks with such comfortable self-confidence that the alien cannot avoid agreeing with Blas, even he does not know what Blas is talking about.
 
For Blas, and for any milonguero in general, it does not matter the way you look, your degrees, your wealth, or your job. If he has something to say about you, he would say it only if you ask his opinion, and only in regard to your dance.
 
Now you can continue on your own with this experiment.
 
Imagine any other characters (anyone you want to include) and let me know how you see the alien’s experience meeting them. You can write it here:

Back on Earth, once you’ve made up your mind and accepted that there is no better way to spend your time in life than making it a work of art and that in this endeavor you won’t find anything that makes more sense than dancing Tango, hence, becoming a great dancer (a realization that can take you a period of time ranging from one day to many years), then, the following advice may help you:
  • 1. Be disciplined, regular, and committed to your study of Tango. While dancing Tango is amusing, it is also different from other ways to amuse yourself. Choose these unique characteristics of Tango to be the main core of your dedication to learning it. Steps, choreographic patterns, socializing, close proximity to partners, are all aspects that Tango has in common with other dances and other kinds of activities. On the other hand, its music is unique; and, also, unique is the approach that milongueros have in relation to Tango: for them, Tango is not a “way of life”, but “Life” itself. 

  • 2. If Tango is life, then your Tango teacher is a life-coach. He or she is teaching you how to live Tango. Your relationship between you and your teacher is based on trust, mutual understanding, sympathy, and patience. Tango makes both of you meet at a very humane level, where both need to accept their own limitations and flaws, as well as good qualities. The potential for improvement of Tango is infinite. In the face of such a wide-open horizon, both student and teacher are students of Tango. Your teacher is your guide through Tango, but also your road companion. Choose carefully.
  • 3. Tango is a world. Your Tango teacher is a bridge to it. Allow yourself to know that world, its inhabitants, its culture. A Tango teacher who is doing a good job will have different levels of approximation to your definitive contact with Tango and, eventually, living-breathing-existing-embodying Tango. The first pool in your “decanting” to Tango will be your teacher’s inner group of students. Not anyone who shows up to class, but those who show up in class regularly, and are noticeably there to learn about Tango. Be perceptive of this difference. Then, your teacher with or without this inner group will take you to your first local milongas. New questions will arise there, that you will need to discuss with your teacher. Eventually, you will visit Buenos Aires. You must trust your teacher with this. He or she, if authentic, is your most reliable connection to Tango in Buenos Aires.

Start learning Argentine Tango:

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