Argentine Tango School

Argentine Tango exercise follower's basic cross by Mimi

How to dance Argentine Tango exercise 2: follower’s basic cross

How to dance Argentine Tango exercise 2: follower’s basic cross

Let’s practice the basic cross, in which your left leg crosses in front of your right leg when walking backward.
 
Although leaders and followers can make crosses in Argentine Tango, we focus here on the follower’s cross.
 
This position appears for the first time in the close embrace partner’s dances in the Argentine Tango’s choreography.
I like to imagine the first milongueros making this move never seen before, with an air of innovation and defiance.

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Marcelo Solis teaching how to walk in Argentine Tango class.

How to dance Argentine Tango exercise 1: change of weight and walking

How to dance Argentine Tango exercise 1: change of weight and walking

Shift your weight from one foot to the other, making sure to align your body’s axis, that is, the vertical line that organizes your body so that you have a good balance on that foot.
 
Walk trying to gradually put your foot on the floor while moving your axis between both feet, until letting your axis be completely aligned on one foot, and thus begin the same process again.
 
My intention is to be sure about where I put my foot before I commit my full body weight on that foot, moving carefully and, at the same time, free enough to accept risks and safe enough to choose certain risky situations to be able to play with my movements, making my dance in this way pleasant and interesting at the same time, like a happy, deep, and witty chat with my dance partner.
 
We can add a “tap” between steps so that we have to develop our sensitivity in relation to the alignment of our axis on each foot alternately.
 
We can also do a “tap” between each weight change.
Walking slower helps us better control the gradual shift of our weight from one foot to the other.

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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 & 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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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

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