Argentine Tango School

Marcelo Solis dancing Argentine Tango with Mimi in the San Francisco Bay Area

To dance well in Argentine Tango

To dance well in Argentine Tango

Marcelo Solis dancing Argentine Tango with Mimi in the San Francisco Bay Area

To dance well, that is to say: to DANCE, we will have to organize our lives in that direction; I will not be able to dance well if my life develops away from that goal.
Indeed, if what I long for is, for example, to make money, then my life will be oriented in that direction, in the direction of abstractions (money is an abstraction), very far from my actual body.
 

Put any project on this scale and consider how far the primary goal of that project will be from performing a good dance.

No one is forced to dance well. Truths, life projects, and desires cannot be the same for everyone.
 
I am inclined to think this way: when I reach the end of my life, what would I like to see in the wake left by that life?
 
Imagine all the possible lives we could lead. Let’s try to think and feel them, weigh them, smell them, look at their colors, and measure the scope of their luminous skyscrapers of triumphs and black abysses of awful flavors.

Perhaps we all live in different worlds, with the things and people we surround ourselves with. A life could thus develop in the direction of a choice of one’s own world in which to inhabit.
 
I think that perhaps a good way of living would develop in the direction of becoming more and more capable of directing and selecting what goes into the process of our existence.
 
In particular, as far as I am concerned, I prefer what increases the power of my physiology, makes my body more versatile, adaptable, and happy, my mind more lucid, and my spirit lighter and dancing.
 
Here is the foundational question that is answered with living itself: How to live?
That would be dancing!
Should I ask myself “what for” and/or “for whom”?
 
We could also perhaps answer ourselves: “there are immediate, urgent things to resolve; we live at a precise moment in history which conditions us, that is, it enslaves us and forces us to do things that we would not do otherwise. Let us, then, postpone our plan, our life, until we have resolved the present and responded to all the obligations implicit in its calls”.
 
In particular, my truth concerning this is that we will eternally be bound by the present. We were born like this: OBLIGATED.
 
My opinion on this is the following: it is a matter of perspective; It depends a lot on where we look at life from and where we place ourselves –physically and spiritually– to look at it.
 
Let’s listen to the tango “Me quedé mirandola” by Anibal Troilo with Alberto Marino on vocals. (I ask you… Is there another version of this song that we can dance to?)
 
Sometimes people leave the dance; that is, they abandon the dancing project because they run into a barrier they don’t dare to cross. Although they always give themselves other excuses.
 
I have abandoned many of my previous lives to lighten up enough to be able to continue dancing.
 
And do not think that you will not find doubts about yourselves and the value of dancing!
 
There are many possible worlds, many parallel realities that cannot be accessed in any “objective” way, such as the achievements of science and technology.
 
Don’t you think you should dare?
 
But this is a matter of taste.
 
When I see someone who dances, who DANCES, I see someone free. His body is no longer “ergastulum“, as the Catholic Church used to say in the Middle Ages, meaning “prison of the spirit”, a spirit that must wait until death to be released.

When I see someone DANCING, I see his soul already free in life, no longer waiting, postponing, procrastinating life to perhaps one day meet that fundamental question not only unanswered but never asked.

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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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Marcelo & Mimi Dancing Argentine Tango

How to become a good dancer –and keep getting better.

How to become a good dancer –and keep getting better.

I like to share with you my experience and advice. So let’s start with these exercises:

Change of weight

At the most basic, weight change is the fundamental core of all Argentine Tango moves. Achieving an efficient, elegant, and smooth control of it will bring these qualities to your whole dance.

Walking

Argentine Tango makes walking a work of art.

Basic box pattern

Argentine Tango is improvisation. However, choreographic patterns develop similarly to idioms in a language and as personal creations. This pattern we work on here is basic and will allow you to apply what you have learned before.

How to move?

It is often “how” rather than “what” that defines Argentine Tango.

Pivots

Pivoting most efficiently is an essential skill to dance Argentine Tango.

Body awareness

We can understand our walk and leg’s motion as a system of pendulums.

Constant improvements

Being a good dancer requires you to manage your time to maintain an active and aware relationship with your body.

Bar and chair exercise

Here are some of the best exercises you can do to improve your Argentine Tango.

Molinete

You need to know this to make turns when you dance Argentine Tango.

Explore your body’s possibilities.

Do what our life in our societies do not require us to do.

One of the appeals that Argentine Tango offers is the possibility of exploring our bodies beyond what we usually are required to do in our everyday life.

What are we required to do?

  • Sit.
  • Stand up.
  • Lay on the bed.
  • Walk (very little) and, occasionally, run.
  • Bend over to pick up something, which may be the most challenging move to do.

These simple actions –being very effective regarding productive activities– constrain our bodies, making our movements rigid, decreasing our elasticity, and developing the habit of not relaying in ourselves, always requiring outside help.

We lose awareness regarding the continuity between these positions.

We ignore how we transit from, for instance, sitting to standing up, and then walking, and then sitting again.

All our movements become clumsy.

Furthermore, we become rigid in our personas, losing the ability to adapt to changing situations, becoming stubborn, insecure, unfriendly, and prone to isolation. 

For example:

  • Replace sitting in all activities that require it with alternative positions.

I like to use a standing desk for office work, and I combine it with laying on the floor on my belly, on my back, on my sides, and crossing legs sitting on the floor or my chair.

  • When you need to stand up for a while: squat, bend over, stretch, do tree pose, etc.

Pay special attention to how you move from one position to another, making your moves fluid and aware.

Explore your spaces beyond their expected use.

It is common to fill our rooms with furniture and appliances that invite us to be still or impede our movement: couch, television, chairs, tables, etc.

I invite you to clear your rooms to make space for yourself.

Do not put yourself under unnecessary stress.

As well as we fill up our space, we fill up our time to the extreme of not having any time.

Give yourself time to enjoy the pleasure of existing.

Do not remain connected to the whole world all the time. Turn off your devices. Read the news one or two times a day and focus on your life plans more often. Give yourself time for good conversations with your partners, friends, and family. Read, listen to music in an active way (not as background music), watch a good movie once in a while, visit a museum, appreciate art and history.

Enjoy challenging yourself.

Do not force or exhaust yourself doing what you or others demand you do.

Enjoy your body.

Find all possible ways to give yourself joy by participating in your body’s existence.

Eat well.

Good meals are enjoyable.

Sleep well.

No more sleep deprivation.

Find a good teacher/instructor/coach.

Do not approach them trying to bargain. Instead, take whatever deal they present to you. Get to know the value they provide you before making financial assessments.

Do not depend exclusively on classes.

Instead, have your own routines, create your own exercises according to what you can find out about yourself, research -you have tremendous resources that you can tap thanks to the internet and smartphones-, develop your method, the one that suits you the best, without getting fixated to it, remaining open to evolving.

Eventually, show your teacher your work. It is always necessary to have the objectivity of an expert outside view.

Learn by allowing yourself to make mistakes and keep trying.

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Learn more about Argentine Tango:

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

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:

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

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

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:

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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