Argentine Tango

I am in the process of trying to learn the dance of Argentine Tango.  It is the most difficult dance to learn.  I am currently taking two lessons a week — one private and one group lesson.

It is a dance of passion, mystery and, at times, seduction.

It is a dance that has a very interesting history in Argentina.  Its place in Argentine culture cannot be overstated.

I had the opportunity to visit Buenos Aires several years ago.  I, along with my children, took Argentine Tango lessons while we were in Argentina’s capitol city.  We also went to milongas at night.

A milonga is a tango dance event.  In the United States a milonga usually starts about 9pm and ends around 2am.

One of the interesting things about a real Argentine milonga is how a man asks a woman to dance. In most western countries a man walks across the room to stand in front of the woman, bending slightly, putting his hand out and verbally asking the woman if she would like to dance.  how a man asks a woman to dance in a milonga in Buenos Aires is quite different.

The gentleman does not get up and walk across the dance floor to approach a woman.  No, he rather just glances at a woman with his eyes momentarily catching the eyes of the woman across the dance floor.  The eyes of the two just connect for a few seconds, but enough to communicate to each other that they want to dance with each other.  They both rise and meet on the dance floor.  No words are ever spoken.  This is called the cabeceo.

Another interesting difference with American dancing is how long you dance with a woman.  In the US you often ask a woman for a dance, and then when the song or music is over, you escort the woman back to her seat.  One dance at a time.   Argentine Tango dancers are quite different.  When they ask a woman to dance they dance for three consecutive dances (called tangas), and then they escort the woman back to her seat.  This is so common that the music after three dances dramatically changes to a totally different genre, non tango music.  The purpose of the music change (called a cortina) which only lasts 30-45 seconds is to signal the end of the three dance set and to allow the dancers to catch their breath and identify whom their next partner will be.

But what fascinates me about Argentine Tango is the dance itself.  It is so intense.  It is deeply introspective.  And it is hauntingly beautiful.

The way you hold the woman tells you everything about the dance.  A “close embrace” has the man’s right hand, wrist and arm wrapped around the woman’s waist, or a little bit above the waist.  The man’s and the woman’s bodies are joined at their chests, forming a frame that looks like the letter A.  the woman’s head is slightly turned toward the man’s head, in a close embrace.

If this embrace is done correctly the woman can feel the subtle change when the man changes which foot he has his weight on.  In fact the real goal of a close embrace is to dance as if the two individuals are one.

The end of a dance of Argentine Tango is very important.  When the music stops the dancers freeze, continuing to stay in close embrace.  The length of the freeze and the tightness of the embrace send a message to the woman on how the male leader feels about the dance and the woman.  It is a moment when messages are sent without saying a word.

There are so many moves, steps and figures in Argentine Tango.  One of them in particular gets a lot of attention.  The boleo is a flick of the leg in a whip like motion. The flick usually is behind or around the dancer’s other leg.  It surely adds an accent to the dance.

I am just beginning to fully understand and learn all the rules and moves of Argentine Tango.

But I think it is an adventure worth pursuing.



3 thoughts on “Argentine Tango”

  1. Liz, who used the stage name Liz Lori, in those days and I used to teach ballroom dancing. The tango we taught was not this variety. This Argentine version looks like the most fun you can have with your pants on! Keep at it Neil it will definitely keep you in shape.

  2. Neil, I have a hairdresser in Courtenay, B.C. Who has the most amazing shop. In it, he has art paintings, and a whole slew of musical instruments, pianos, etc. Plus he has also invented his own set-up for washing your hair-he does not put you at a sink, the sink comes to you in your own comfy chair where your neck is not stretched out like a giraffe. He pours the warm water from a pitcher, (all equipment hand designed for this job), and it resembles an old fashioned cream separator. So fun. Alongside that, at night his studio turns into an Argentine tango dance studio-quite an unusual set-up. Every year, for a month, he goes to Argentina to “teach” this tango. He missed during the pandemic, but likely is at it again. Its a really different concept. Now, though I have a neighbour who has trained in England for 7 years to do hair, and because she is so close, I have started to go there, but i miss going to Courtenay. Good on you to keep up your dancing. I never did get to learn the West Coast swing, and am now awaiting a complete hip replacement . Now, my art keeps me very busy. I am part of a ladies art group called “The other group of 7”, since there are 7 of us., plus a large art group. All fun! Its amazing how you love to do what you do, and always u p for new adventures. Do you have energizer bunny batteries attached somewhere?

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