Why learn to dance Tango?
You can meet people (all over the world from all over the world), exercise your body and your heart while moving and listening to music You can connect through dance.
When asking around to Tango dancers what Tango means for them, the word “connection” is the one that comes up more often. Tango connects. It connects the dancer with the room, the body, the music, the dancing partner and the local community. Tango is a social dance that gives us the frame for connection. This seems to be also the reason behind Argentinean Tango Origin.
Argentinean Tango Origin. Immigrants arriving to Argentina in the the late 1800 and beginning of 1900 found themselves stranded in the big coastal cities, far away from home, family and traditions, in an unknown country looking for connection. Tango has always been a way to meet people. An excuse to embrace in a dance, have a little chat and break up to find another dancing partner to start again. This is in fact one of the most appealing aspects of Tango nowadays, with a little knowledge of tango and a bit of courage you can go to any city in the world and meet people and dance. Most cities in Europe will have at least one Milonga. Milonga is the name of the social event where the DJ plays tango music for dancing. Cities like Berlin or London will have at least 1 or 2 different milongas every day of the week. Smaller cities will host Milongas with less frequency but wherever you go there is someone that dances Tango. You can travel to Argentina of course where in Buenos Aires there are endless Milongas, or dance in any big city in USA, Tokyo, Moscow, Sydney, Beijing. Close to every world capital has a Tango community and tango lovers often travel to festivals where many workshops, concerts and Milongas are held over a week or weekend.
The embrace, the steps, the music and the way we move in the room is the frame for the creativity and beauty of Tango to happen.
The steps: There is a leader and a follower. The leader will combine on the spot or improvise the allowed movements or steps and transmit that to the follower. The leader is in charge of interpreting the music with the choice of steps, timing, speed, and character while the follower “listens” and follows. However, the leader also needs to listen to the follower’s interpretation and adapt to the follower’s particular style or ability. The follower will also interpret or improvise within the directions and space given.
Traditionally the leader is the man and the follower is the woman. But nowadays this is not necessarily the case, and you will see men dancing with men and women leading.
There are different styles within Argentinean Tango but there is a common ground in all of them so you can dance in a Milonga anywhere.
The Music: The Argentinean tango music developed from the late 1800 until what is called the golden era between the 1930s and 1950s. Most of the music in the Milongas is from that “golden” period with the different styles of different orchestras. Tango was originally only danced to the sound of live playing orchestras and during a Milonga in Buenos Aires in the 50,s different orchestras would play on the same night. Some with more rhythmic emphasis, some with more melodic emphasis, some more restrained and some very emotional. The Traditional orchestra format “Orquesta Tipica” evolved from a combination of portable instruments. Remember the immigrants looking for connection? They carried their instruments across the ocean. The heart of the orchestra is the Bandoneon, a concertina type instrument created in Germany as a portable organ for religious purposes. The sound of it is often described as sad, nostalgic, dreamy, sensual... The music danced in the “Milonga” is often instrumental versions of tango songs with lyrics. The lyrics are often nostalgic, about a past time. About loss of the loved one, missing home, friends and family. There is a craving for connection in the sound and in the lyrics of Tango.
After The Golden era Tango froze in time, even after bandoneon virtuoso Astor Piazzolla took Tango to new levels in composition and interpretation, everything stills seems to refer to that past “golden” time. More recently, in the nineties electronic beats and elements were added in a “new” tango, which gives a more modern sound to the traditional tango beats.
The way we move in the room is a circle anticlock-wise, using the space so the room flows and we leave space for the couples dancing behind us. Spread around and use the room! The leader avoids backwards steps in order not to crash into anyone as he cannot see behind him. It is said that good dancers dance on the outside of the circle and more novice dancers often “end” in the middle. So watch out!
The embrace - abrazo - is about connection, and is what turns the two dancers into the unity of a dancing couple. The embrace is firm and relaxed and creates balance. Abrazo in spanish also translates as hug, and is what aims the heart at each other, that is why some call tango a heart to heart dance.
You are welcome!
The fact that this space for connection is created, opens up creativity, making Tango dancing often magical. A beautiful experience. Perhaps this is why more and more people all over the world is dancing tango.
Written by Juan Piola and Runa Unsgård 2017
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