TangoClub


Frequently Asked Questions

Starting tango

What is Argentine tango?
Do I need a dancing partner?
What dancing experience do I need?
Isn't Argentine tango a dance for old people?
What should I wear to a tango class?
Do I need dancing shoes for tango?
How long does it take before I can dance socially?

At a milonga

What is a milonga?
Do I have to buy a drink if I go to a free milonga that's held in a bar?
Why does nobody seem to use the expansive, spectacular moves when they dance in clubs?
Why does nobody talk on the dance floor?
Why do all the dancers seem to leave the dance floor at the same time?
Why do songs get arranged into tandas?
Why do so many followers seem to close their eyes when dancing?
What can I do to get more dances at a milonga?
Can women ask men for a dance?
How does everyone know when it is the last song or last tanda of the evening?

At a practica

What is a practica?
Why should I go to a practica?
Is there any benefit in dancing with someone at a lower level?


What is Argentine tango?

Argentine tango is a dance form which originated in Argentina and Uruguay in the late 19th century, from which ballroom tango was later derived. Unlike dances like salsa, which is generally danced on the spot, Argentine tango basically consists of walking with your partner to the music, travelling in an anticlockwise direction around the room. In social tango where the dance is improvised, unspoken communication between the leader (traditionally the man) and the follower (traditionally the woman) is important. Like spoken languages, there are many styles of tango which are constantly evolving, so don't be surprised if you receive different information from different tango teachers.

Do I need a dancing partner?

Tango is a partner dance. As the saying goes, it takes two to tango. However, you do not need a dedicated dancing partner. In classes and milongas, dancers generally swap their partners, and in fact you will become a better dancer by dancing with a range of different people. Of course, if you do bring a partner and prefer to stay with just that one person at a class, practica or milonga, that is also not a problem.

What dancing experience do I need?

None. You do not need to have done any form of dancing before to become a great tango dancer. All you need is passion, dedication and time.

Isn't Argentine tango a dance for old people?

Tango is a dance for people of all ages, though one of its great beauties is that it can be enjoyed even into your golden years. The average age of the TangoClub founding members is 30.

What should I wear to a tango class?

You can wear whatever you like to a tango class, as long as it feels comfortable, doesn't restrict your movement, and doesn't cause discomfort to your dance partner. (For instance, it would be advisable not to keep keys and wallets in your front pocket while you are dancing.)

Do I need dancing shoes for tango?

Do you need sport shoes to go running? While not strictly necessary, dancing shoes will improve your dance by giving you greater control of your movement and better balance, and enable you to feel the dance floor and glide along it smoothly. If you choose to wear regular street shoes, choose a comfortable, close-fitting pair which is also light and which has a smooth sole. You want to be able to pivot on your feet, so shoes with rubbery soles are not ideal. Also, while high heels for women look great, they are not a requirement.

How long does it take before I can dance socially?

Like any other skill you try to master, the more practice you have, the quicker you will get good at it. Most people who have tried a variety of dances say that tango has a steeper learning curve than other dances such as salsa, but that it is also more rewarding at the end. It may take up to 6 months or a year before you feel confident enough to get onto the social dance floor, but don't let that discourage you. You should try to go to as many practicas as possible to practise dancing with others around you, and you can learn a lot from watching other dancers at a milonga too.

What is a milonga?

The meaning of milonga depends on the context in which it is used. Generally, it denotes a social gathering where tango is danced. However, it can also refer to a specific dance under the tango umbrella (at a milonga, there are three types of dances: tango, milonga and vals).

Do I have to buy a drink if I go to a free milonga that's held in a bar?

No one is going to force you to buy a drink, but the bar management relies on you buying something to cover their costs of keeping the bar open. So, although there is no cover charge, please support the venue to keep the milonga going, because even if you only get a glass of soft drink, it will count.

Why does nobody seem to use the expansive, spectacular moves when they dance in clubs?

Flashy moves are usually designed for the stage and therefore require a lot of space for their execution—they are impossible to do in a club. Unless you are the only couple dancing, please avoid such moves for the sake of others around you. No matter how beautiful your high boleo or how musical your sweep across the floor, no one will appreciate being stabbed or scratched by a stiletto heel, or being roughly pushed to the side.

Why does nobody talk on the dance floor?

Some people call each tango "a three-minute love affair"—if you had to cram a love affair into three minutes, you wouldn't have time to talk either! Seriously, when dancing, you should be listening to the music, feeling it and interpreting it, and enjoying your partner's embrace. The leader in particular may require a lot of concentration to do his part. There is a time when you can and are expected to talk on the dance floor, and that is at the beginning of each song when you are dancing with your partner again.

Why do all the dancers seem to leave the dance floor at the same time?

When all the dancers leave the floor, it means that a tanda, or set of songs, has just finished. At a milonga, songs are usually grouped into three or four of the same style. A short bit of non-tango music, called the cortina, or the interlude, is usually then played, signifying the end of the tanda. This is the point at which dancers exchange partners. You should dance with the same partner for the songs in the same tanda, since to stop earlier could suggest to the other person that you did not enjoy dancing with them (if you really do dislike dancing with someone, you may of course choose to stop dancing with them in the middle of the tanda, but this is considered very impolite). A trick that some people use, when meeting someone new, is to ask for a dance just before the final song in a tanda. They can then stop dancing after one song without risking offence, but can invite the other person for another tanda if the dance was enjoyable.

Why do songs get arranged into tandas?

The concept of tandas (as explained in the answer to the previous question) may be difficult to understand for those who have not come across them before. However, there are good reasons for their existence. It allows dancers to get to know the person they are dancing with over the space of more than one song without getting "stuck" with that person for an indefinite amount of time. It also synchronises when people come off the dance floor, maximising the available pool of potential partners for the next dance. Finally, many prefer to dance with certain others for a particular style of music. It may take you up to half a song to identify it as a vals, say, to extricate yourself from your previous partner and to find your favourite vals dancer, but you can be safe in the knowledge that you can get at least two full dances of vals with that person!

Why do so many followers seem to close their eyes when dancing?

Many people find it easier to follow a lead without visual distraction. It may also help them to focus on the music more. You don't have to close your eyes unless you want to, but it certainly isn't a good look for you to be checking out other people in the room or trying to read a poster as you walk past.

What can I do to get more dances at a milonga?

Someone will be more likely to want to dance with you again if they enjoyed dancing with you before. This means:

Can women ask men for a dance?

At a traditional milonga in Buenos Aires, it is not the done thing (in fact the men don't ask either, at least not verbally—they make eye contact with a potential partner and, if the eye contact is maintained, do a small question-asking nod of the head called a cabeceo), but in New Zealand, women will often ask men for a dance.

How does everyone know when it is the last song or last tanda of the evening?

The organiser of a milonga may signal the last song or tanda of the evening by making an announcement or by turning up the lights. If neither of these are done, yet everyone seems to know the end is nigh, then chances are that the piece of music being played is the famous La Cumparsita, which is traditionally saved for the last dance of the evening. Where a full tanda is desired, different versions of this song, performed by different orchestras, may be played.

What is a practica?

As the name suggests, a practica is a social gathering with the aim of practising tango. It is less formal than a milonga, and people tend not to dress up as much. You can ask anyone to dance, and stop before the end of a tanda (in fact there may not even be tandas), or you may wish to keep dancing with the same person for the entire duration of the practica. It is okay to discuss technique and other matters with your partner, but if you stop dancing in the middle of a song, make sure you are not obstructing other couples who are still going.

Why should I go to a practica?

Practice makes perfect, and that is true for tango at least as much as for anything else. Of course, you could practise at home as well, but if you go to a practica, you can dance with a variety of people, discuss any problems you may have with teachers or fellow students, and the music is provided for you. You do not have to worry about disturbing others at home, and there is generally more space available at a practica. You can also practise something which is difficult to simulate at home, which is navigating around other couples.

Is there any benefit in dancing with someone at a lower level?

Yes, absolutely. Willingness to dance with someone who is newer to tango than you is not simply kindness to that person. It benefits the tango community because it encourages beginners to keep dancing, and it also benefits your dancing—leaders learn to lead more clearly and accurately, and gain a better understanding of where things can go wrong; and followers learn to balance on their own feet and have a chance to focus on their technique. Besides, the person who is not as good as you now could well be better than you in the future.