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Argentine Tango FAQ

Why Would I Want to Learn Argentine Tango?

There are the obvious benefits: It's fun, it's good exercise, it's social, it's mentally challenging.

But there is more. Tango is an improvised partner dance. The improvisation requires that partners concentrate intently on one another. In these days when people pay more attention to social media than to the people in front of them, where else can you expect to have someone's undivided attention for a full ten minutes? And where else will you be required to give that undivided attention back?

If you are single, the tango convention of regularly switching partners means you still can dance, even if you don't come with a partner.

Our modern society has pretty strict taboos on social touching. Even a pat on the back is suspect. Tango up-ends that. It's a socially acceptable way to hug another person that doesn't have unwanted consequences.

Tango is a wonderful way to make a whole new network of interesting friends. And these are living, breathing friends, there in the room with you, not just Facebook friends.

The ability to tango gives you entry to a whole fraternity of tango dancers worldwide. The next time you are in a strange city, check out the local tango scene. You may end up with new friends. You don't need to go with a dance partner, and the custom of trading partners favors you.

Tango music is beautiful, and you will have the freedom to interpret it the way you hear it and to move your body in time to it. Even better, you will learn how to convey your interpretation to your partner and be able to move his or her body to the way you hear it.

Your brain will be stretched as you continue to learn new ways in which the dance can become ever more interesting.

In these times of casual clothing worn everywhere, you will now have a reason to dress up. And, if you are a woman, you will now have a reason to collect and wear amazingly beautiful shoes.

What is Argentine Tango?

Argentine tango is a dance that evolved in the immigrant melting pot of Buenos Aires, Argentina in the early part of the Twentieth Century. It was hugely popular there from the 1930s to the 1950s. Rock n' roll supplanted it for a while, but tango revived in the 1980s. Social Argentine tango is now danced worldwide in big cities everywhere and on many college campuses.

What does the dance look like?

This is confusing, as there are three different dance forms called Argentine tango, and they are very different from one another. First, there is the BALLROOM DANCE VERSION OF ARGENTINE TANGO. Think: a rose in the teeth, snapping head movements, charges across the room, lots of aggression, a strong drum beat, and the song "Hernando's Hideaway. Our dancing bears no resemblance to this version of tango. If this interests you, your best bet would be lessons from a ballroom dance teacher. Secondly there is STAGE ARGENTINE TANGO. This is what you see on "Dancing With the Stars." One couple does very flashy moves and uses the whole dance floor to execute complex pre-arranged choreography. This version is designed to entertain an audience, There are lots of high kicks and rapid and complex leg flicks. We mostly don't do this kind of tango. Finally, there is SOCIAL ARGENTINE TANGO. You are less likely to have seen what social tango looks like. A room will be packed with couples dancing together. Each couple will be completely improvising their dance, yet they won't be interfering with other couples, and the whole mass of people will be slowly circling the room together. The partners will be embracing each other closely, and the women will often be dancing with their eyes closed. Their dance may be intricate, but it won't be as flashy as stage tango. The couple will be dancing primarily to please each other, rather than trying to impress external observers.


What kind of tango do you dance at Cape Cod Tango?

We dance social Argentine tango, usually with a close embrace.


Who dances tango?

The tango community, both here on Cape Cod, as well as in Boston and worldwide is amazingly diverse. Our members come from all walks of life, vary in age from 20s to 70s, and come from all parts of the world. There are some couples, but there are more singles. This works out fine, because it is a tango tradition to switch partners frequently so that everyone dances. Each couple requires one person to be leader and one to be follower. Traditionally, men led and women followed. This is no longer strictly the case, and some women like the role of leader, while some men learn to follow. One somewhat unifying characteristic: the group is filled with a collection of very interesting people. Many people feel it's a real plus to be able to come together with friends who differ significantly from themselves in age, occupation, background, and nationality.


How is the dance danced?

There is no choreography to memorize.. Rather than each partner memorizing his or her pattern of steps, tango relies on a direct non-verbal dialogue of movement communicated between partners through the embrace. Every step is led in direction, speed, and quality by the leader This requires close attention by each person to his or her partner's subtle movements and to the music. The music helps keep partners together. It's usually not possible to talk and tango at the same time. Tango requires too much concentration. Since there is no need to memorize step patterns, however, if two strangers both understand the language of tango, it is possible for them to dance beautifully together the first time they meet.

How long will it take to learn?

Don't expect instant gratification. You can't learn to tango in a weekend. You'll start to see the possibilities after a few months, and this may be when tango addiction captures you. You do need to be aware that addiction can happen. You will continue to improve with practice, but every time you revisit the basics you will come away with a whole new level to your dancing. Learning tango can be a lifelong process. Even the best dancers continue to learn. If you are going to enjoy tango, you must enjoy this process of learning. Tango is so rich and complex. It definitely has the possibility to enrich your life far more than any other partner dance.

Isn't it boring to just dance one kind of dance all night?

At a typical tango dance evening, three different kinds of dances will be danced. Tango will be the most common, but there is also a delightful, lilting Tango Waltz, and a faster, fun dance called Milonga. In three hours, you may dance with somewhere between ten and twenty different partners, and dancing with each person will be distinctively different. Since each dance is improvised, even dancing with the same partner to the same song will be different each time.

What is the music like?

There is a large body of truly beautiful tango music. Buenos Aires had many very skilled composers, conductors, and musicians during tango's Golden Age. Much of the music was recorded on old 78 rpm records, but digital remastering has done wonders for the sound quality. The music is far more complicated than most dance music. It is polyphonic, meaning that multiple melody lines are interwoven together. Different instruments may be playing different melodies at the same time. As the leader is improvising the dance, he may choose to dance to one melody, while the follower can do interesting foot embellishments to another melodic line. Each time a couple dances to the same song, the dance can be different depending on just what the leader chooses to emphasize. There is generally no drum in tango music dictating a specific rhythm. This allows the leader the possibility to choose the combination of quick beats, slow beats, and pauses that best express the musical phrasing.


Do I need special shoes?

Tango involves a lot of pivots. Generally, this means your shoes should not have rubber soles. This goes for both men and women. Leather soled shoes are the most ideal. If you don't have suitable shoes, old socks worn over shoes can make it much easier to learn pivots. Especially for women, shoes should give stability and support. Platform heels and strapless shoes should be avoided. Dancing in boots will be a real handicap. Since women are dancing mostly with their weight forward, high heels make sense. It's said that some people dance for the social aspects of tango, some for the close connection with another person, some for the music, and some, especially women, for the beautiful shoes.


How can I see what Social Argentine Tango looks like?

There is lots of tango on YouTube. Most of it is Stage Tango. It's wonderfully entertaining to watch, but you won't learn to dance this way at Cape Cod Tango. In a crowded room of people doing social tango, the high kicks, especially by women wearing stilletos, are frowned upon by everyone because they are dangerous. One of the best examples of a social tango dance can be found by searching YouTube for "Amigo Milonguero, September, 2013." This was a dance held in Spain. It's likely that most of the people dancing together don't know each other, and, since it was an international gathering, they may not even speak the same language. Nevertheless, they dance beautifully with each other. If you watch the whole thing, you will see all three different tango dances danced.


Why might tango NOT be the dance for me?

If you are someone who relishes instant gratification, and would like to come away from one or two lessons having mastered a whole new dance, tango may be frustrating. Tango requires a bit more patience, especially at first. If close physical contact with another person, possibly a stranger, bothers you, tango may make you uncomfortable If you are unwilling or unable to spend some time practicing, your slow progress may be discouraging.