Top 10 Tips for Tango Dancers
Our first connection with the dance, the embrace in tango is like an embrace in life: to live it must be natural and with affection. We embrace our partner as though we are about to dance the dance of our life. The lead must hold the follow securely but with freedom to move, must lead, not force. The follow must relax in the embrace and feel each intention of the lead, but feel and maintain her own axis. It is always a two-way experience. Each embrace is different just as each person is different. We adjust our embrace to each partner.
Music is another way of connecting to your partner. Let the music enter you; feel it. In tango, we dance what we feel, the emotion in melody or rhythm. We are sensitive to each of the instruments that create the song. Each partner strives to feel what their partner feels in the music and then dances to that. Connection happens when we feel the music as one. Once the music begins, we stop thinking about the sequence we learned in class or the cool move we saw on YouTube, and just let the music sweep us away.
A connection is created through several elements: the embrace, the music, technique… but the most important one is the intention of connecting. You are dancing with another person. Forget about yourself, forget about making mistakes, forget about what you're going to do after this dance. Give the 3 minutes of the song to the person you are dancing with to make the dance belong to you both forever.
Good posture is vital. Improving your posture will enhance your experience of this dance so that you can connect well in an embrace. Your partner will feel comfortable, you will be able to feel your partner's energy, and you and your partner will be able to execute a variety of sequences with ease. Keeping a straight spine, level head, lifted chest, and a strong core that is relaxed and confident will please the eye. It will also keep you from injuring your partner as you dance, which will probably increase the chances of people meeting your gaze when you look for your next partner.
Walking is the foundation, the basic, of tango. The well known 8-count basic that is taught in many beginners' classes is a convenient sequence that puts together some of the basic tango movements, but everything in tango is based on the walk. It may appear simple, but it's a challenge, and when executed correctly, beautiful. The best advice once you're dancing is: keep practicing your walk!
6. Quality >Quantity
So you've been taking tons of classes and you feel like your mind is a database of cool tango moves. Unfortunately, that doesn't make you a good tango dancer. Tango is about the quality of the movements, not the quantity. You can use just the same three steps and create a beautiful tango. You can put thousands of steps into a tango and create the ugliest dance ever. Why are we moved by an old milonguero couple that simply walks to the music? Refine each movement, understand the technique, listen to the music, make sure your partner feels comfortable, and then execute them on the dance floor. At first, I advise you to walk- and just walk. In Buenos Aires, you'll see heads nodding in approval.
7. Line of dance
The first element of social etiquette for the dance floor is the line of dance, which moves counter-clockwise. The dancers must keep moving around the pista (the floor). There is an imaginary lane on the outside of the dance floor, a lane inside that and so on. The best dancers who dance on the very outer circle show off their dance to the audience sitting right around the floor. The beginners customarily dance in the center of the circle. Find your spot on the floor where you belong. When starting a dance, the lead faces the line of dance or the outside of the circle. The lead must avoid taking back steps against the line of dance. They can be taken towards the line of dance or towards the center of the circle. The dance should keep moving forward; if a space develops in front of a couple the lead should move the couple forward to fill that space. Each sequence or figure should end up facing the line of dance. You should stay behind the same couple you started behind throughout the whole tanda. You should protect your partner and avoid bumping into others. It's just like driving a car -- follow the rules of the road so you avoid accidents!
How do you get a dance? In Argentina, the "cabeceo" is the rule. You make eye contact with the person you'd like to dance with and give them a signal: a nod, a smile, a tilt of the head. Usually the lead will position himself in the room where he can catch the eye of the follow he wants to dance with. The follow can accept the offer with a smile or a nod, or she can just scan past his glance and silently let him know that she is not interested. A follow can also look towards the lead she would like to dance with, and once again, he may or may not respond. Try it! If someone is at the milonga with their significant other, refrain from pursuing a dance with one of them unless they are dancing with other partners. An additional tip: If someone thinks you were looking at them and accepts your cabeceo even though they were not the one you intended to invite, it is polite to dance the tanda with them and invite your intended partner later.
9. Tandas / Cortinas
Usually three songs make up a tanda and there is a short non-tango song in between the sets which is called a cortina (curtain). You might want to ask someone to dance on the first song of the tanda if you know you enjoy dancing with them. If you've never danced with them, perhaps you will ask them to dance on the second song. It is customary to finish dancing with the person after the tanda is done and for the lead to walk the follow to her seat. During the cortina, the dance floor should be empty. If you enjoyed your tanda and wish to continue dancing, you can suggest dancing again later on that night. Unless there is a mutual agreement, always thank your partner at the end of the tanda so you can give each other the opportunity to enjoy more dances. A beginning and an end make the three songs you dance even more special.
Although tango is a worldwide phenomenon, it has always been a part of the history and culture of Argentina. You must know this to fully appreciate tango. Tango lovers travel to Buenos Aires to understand and feel what tango is really about. Tango is not just a dance you learn; it is a way to love life. In Buenos Aires, you will meet old milongueros with great years of experience breathing the tango as their life. You will want to show your respect to their knowledge and profound presence. Tango music has traveled around the world, carrying the beauty, intensity, and drama that is tango. Respect this before you jump into alternative music. Dress cleanly and appropriately when you go to a social floor, greet the other dancers, and follow the rules of the floor. Once you respect the tango, the tango will come to you.