Social Ballroom Dancing/Tango/Argentine
Introduction to the dance
What to forget when learning about Argentine tango
Have you come from another dance background?
If you have never learned a social dance before, feel free to skip this section.
But if not... perhaps you know very much about the waltz, or the foxtrot, or, more commonly, American Ballroom Tango, and you think that many of your skills will translate over; you will instantly be impressive or capable to a given extent once you get the basics down! Right?
This is not true. Many European and Western dance styles have homogenized or been in contact to an extent that there are recognizable similarities between them; or they have certain predictable moves. For example, leading a quarter turn in Waltz is in many ways similar to leading a quarter turn in Foxtrot.
You can not expect this same similarity from Argentine Tango, not only because of a long development isolated from the other dances, but because of the dance's entirely different cultural background. It is not like a latin dance. It is not like a western dance.
Much like Samba, Argentine Tango is an entirely different ballgame. Yet it is one which, if you put the initial effort into learning it, will reward you with social opportunities (Especially in urban environments), good exercise, and a chance to have lots of fun.
Expecting to be able to use one's experience with another dance to dance Argentinian Tango is akin to trying to use one's checkers experience with chess. Unlike a board game however, certain muscle memory habits tend to stick around, and you may find yourself reproducing habits from other dances which do not apply.
This section will provide a brief review of the most important habits that must be commonly un-learned by the A.T. beginner. If you
Leading with the Arms
You do not lead with the arms in Argentine Tango.
I repeat: The arms of your body are not used for leading.
One more time: The wrists, elbows, forearm, bicep, and shoulder are not used for leading.
If you want your follow to travel to the left, you do not push her with your arms to the left. You do not pull her over to the left. There is no push and pull, they are not a ragdoll! You do not tug, you do not even use your head to nod her over to where you want her to be. No, the head is not used for leading either. Never.
How do you lead in Argentine Tango? How, then? You've got to be able to give some physical signal, right? They can't just be watching you all the time! (That's correct. Any good Argentine tango lead is able to dance well with a follower who has their eyes closed.)
In Argentine Tango, you lead with your torso. The lower chest. Movement originates from there. Forward, backward, to the side, around in a circle, all of this is communicated by the torso.
Your arms, shoulders, head, form a "frame," which stays relatively static to the chest. When your torso turns, the rest of your upper body naturally follows, in one, smooth, liquid motion. Nevertheless, the arms and head following your chest around is purely an aesthetic and health and safety measure (we wouldn't want any dancers leaving their heads behind at a milonga somewhere...). Motion and leading is almost always, 98% of the time, from the torso.
Do not try to tell your partner where to go with the push or pull of your arms. It is rude to them. It is disrespectful. It shows that you aren't trying to lead, and that you're not really concerned about whether they're enjoying themselves or not. If you are concerned with learning how to dance Argentine tango well, you will try to learn to lead without your arms.
Use of Dance as a conversation
Turning from the torso
The basic step?
Parallel and cross-system
Walking to the cross
- isolation of cruce
- cambia pasada
Stationary Giros (also known as molinetes)
as a finale
What is a gancha?
Before we learn a lead-in to a gancha, let us begin an exercise.
- Stand up straight, your legs beneath you.
- Lift one leg off the ground. Sway it backward and forward from the hip like a pendulum. Do not exert any effort anywhere but your hip.
Just let your leg swing naturally, back and forth. Get used to this motion. During a Gancha, this is how you move your leg.
- In application, once the back of your thigh comes in contact with your partner's the knee may continue to move independent of the upper leg, resulting in a flicking motion.
This knee movement's momentum should, or should at least appear to, originate from the thigh.