About Dancing Argentine Tango: Frequent Questions

Even though the Tango community warmly welcomes new dancers and beginners. Learning to dance Tango is still a challenging endeavor. Often, beginners have questions about Tango but it seems hard at times to find the time to ask questions or to wait until you discover the answers on your own. Here are a few of the questions that we had as beginners and that new dancers have asked us...we humbly offer our own subjective view.

Disclaimer: The experience of others may vary from ours and we do not profess to know any absolute truths about these answers except for our love of Tango and own experience.

What is Tango Argentino?

The tango is a social dance form which originated in Argentina. While ballroom tango developed from the same roots, the two dances are very different in terms of the posture of the dancers, the importance of improvisation in Tango Argentino, the music it is danced to, and in their general feel. The exact historical origins of Tango Argentino are unknown. It is likely that it emerged in Argentina in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries at African-Argentine dance venues. It spread worldwide during the 1920s and 1930s.

Are there different styles of Tango?

There is a lot of debate surrounding the different styles of Tango Argentino. In the broadest terms, one may distinguish between Salon and Milonguero style tango. Salon style is danced in a relatively open embrace, with both dancers keeping their own axis and an upright posture. In milonguero-style tango, the embrace is closer and the dancers share an axis, leaning slightly towards each other. Tango Nuevo style is danced in at an arms length in an upright manner with both dancers on their own axis with the leader using his hands to lead, The classes and workshops offered by Isabelle and Florentino generally focus on salon-style tango but also address issues common to milonguero style.

What is a Practicas?

Practice sessions are very important to drill the basic movements and iron out trouble spots so you can just flow with the music and enjoy dancing at milongas more. No formal instruction will be given at practicas. You can always ask the more experienced dancers to help you with the details of a particular step or for exercises that you can practice at home to improve your dancing.


What is a Milonga?

The word Milonga has two meanings. It means a tango dance party where people dance Argentine Tango, Tango Milonga and Tango Vals. Milonga is also a kind of tango dance where the music is a little fast paced.

Typical Milongas in Buenos Aires run from 10pm to 6am. Although at the club, Milongs in San Diego usually last from 9:00pm to 1:00am. with the exception of our milonga at the Turquoise which goes from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m... The lights are dimmed and candles are lit to give the room an intimate feeling. The music is usually played in tandas (sets of 3-4 songs). Check the Tango Etiquette link for more information..

Where is the best place to dance Tango in San Diego?

Depends on the day of the week and your level of dancing. See the San Diego Milongas page for our favorite places.

Where are the best dancers in San Diego?.

Short answer is the no one local milonga attracts all the good dancers. The milongas we attend tend to have a good number of fairly good mix of dancers. If your new to this area, don't be shy, ask.

Many dancers think that an intellectual knowledge of Tango makes them good dancers and others think that because they know lots of show Tango moves they are good dancers. Sadly, that is not the case. Also, a good dancer is someone who can dance with you and this is variable based on how you dance on a particular date and your general dance skills.

We suggest you check out the dancers on the dance floor, how they move, their rhythm, interpretation of the music and check the smiles on their partners. Check out both because often a good follower will make a man look good, and vice versa. If you look carefully, you will see tell tale signs of approbation, a kiss on the cheeks, a bit of laughter, a warm glowing smile. Dance as much as you can with those dancers.

I am a woman. How do I get to dance more?

Short answer: Take classes and stay late. Long answer forthcoming. Florentino- "It also helps if you dress in a daring, revealing manner." Isabelle- You are so shallow. Florentino. "No I am just a man." Isabelle- EDITED COMMENTS, NOT SUITABLE FOR PUBLICATION.

How can I dance more than one dance with a good follower?

Short answer: Come early to Milongas. Take classes and let the good followers see that your are improving ability to dance Tango.. Isabelle- It also helps if you dress nicely and don't have too much perfume.

What is dance floor etiquette?

Move with the counter-clockwise direction, flow and spacing of the line of dance. On a crowded floor, it is polite not to pass other couples or allow a big gap to open up in front of you.

It is customary not to teach on the dance floor during a milonga (a dance). Leave the floor and practice elsewhere. Of course, practicas are the ideal place to work on technique.

Moving onto the dance floor during a song is like merging onto the freeway during rush hour: wait for an open space, rather than forcing your way into the line of dancers.

See the section on Tango Etiquette for a more complete discussion.

How do I ask for a dance?

There is a charming, face-saving convention (originating in Argentina but used in many dance communities) which involves making eye contact . The asker raises the eyebrows and/or makes a subtle head nod toward the dance floor. The responder answers "yes" by smiling and nodding back, or "no" by refusing further eye contact. You can also do it the good old American way: "Would you like to dance?" I personally enjoy asking in unique ways and will even get on my knees to ask a woman to dance.

It's OK for either gender to ask someone of either gender for a dance. Wait to ask until your potential partner has come off the dance floor.


How do I say "no" to a dance?

If you avoid eye contact, the potential asker may realize that you do not want to dance. Say "No, thank you", with or without a big smile.You may offer a courteous excuse to soften the refusal. For example: "I am resting/would rather not dance to this music/ want to finish this conversation." If you are hoping to dance with this partner some other time, be sure to say so. You have the right to refuse to dance, with anyone, at any time (even if you are already dancing together).


What if I don't want to dance in close embrace?

It is rude to apply physical or verbal pressure to make someone dance in close embrace.

Either partner may state their style preferences - open or close. You may do this verbally or by taking the frame you prefer.

How do I leave my current partner?

To say "thank you" to your dance partner is a coded way of saying, "I want to stop dancing". Use other phrases of gratitude if you want to keep dancing. The cortina (the non-dance musical interlude between sets of 3 or 4 songs) is a customary partner-changing opportunity. However, it's OK to break after 2 or 3 songs.

I t is appropriate to leave the floor after one song, or even in the middle of a song, if you are sufficiently uncomfortable with your partner's dancing or other behavior. Advanced dancers will often only dance one dance with brand new beginners.


What about safety?

Your safety and enjoyment are important to our tango community. Go to the host, teacher, and/or DJ with any social, etiquette or safety concerns, including sexually inappropriate behavior. You can ask a friend or the host for an escort to your car. Be aware of your possessions. Don't bring valuables.


How do I choose a private instructor?

There are many excellent instructors in San Diego.  Talk to as many as possible.   Ask them for references.  Ask dancers whom you admire for their suggestions.   Remember that taking a semi-private is also an option.

Keep in mind that there is a difference between show dancers and social dancers. Do you want to dance socially or perform on stage?

Most dancers who look or dance in a flashy style are usually trained in show dancing. They dance well with people with the same type of training and may push the follower or use their arms to get the follower to do things. We recommend that you learn from dancers/instructors with a social dancing mind set and who focus on technique as opposed to dance patterns. The best way though is to figure out with which instructors do you enjoy dancing the most and not the ones who move you around like a rag doll.

The good social dancers generally move very smoothly, effortlessly, and will look good dancing with anyone.


Is close dancing ok? What if I feel uncomfortable dancing close?

Argentine Tango has many styles, one of which is the close embrace. The closest is known as 'Milonguero'. If you feel uncomfortable dancing close, you should be honest and inform your partner that you are not comfortable dancing that style. Your partner should not insist on dancing in an uncomfortable posture; never dance tango if it is uncomfortable - dancing should always be a pleasure. See our section on Tango Etiquette.

Can a woman ask a man to dance?

In Argentina, the most important thing is eye contact. Once eye contact is established and you both nod, the man goes to the woman and takes her to dance. You glance at the crowd and find a partner - look at him or her and if the contact established, just get on the floor. In USA, it is within etiquette to approach a man to ask for a dance. For more information see our section on Tango Etiquette.

How do I meet more Tango people?

The most important thing is to go to the classes, workshops and practicas. There you have the opportunity to dance and meet new people. Also go to different milongas or social dances to meet people. There is an opportunity to dance almost every day. Take advantage of it to meet new people.

How should I dress?

See our links section to get a good idea. Most tangueros/tangueras dress in dark colors in a slightly more dressy fashion than every day apparel. Tango is meant to be sexy, elegant and sophisticated. Tango shoes should not fit too tight nor too loose, and the soles should be able to slide on a wooden floor.


Do I need a partner?

It is not required that you bring a dance partner to any Tango event. However, for the purpose of practicing or outside any social events, you may need a dance partner. Go to classes and workshops and increase your change of finding someone with whom you can practice.

Ballroom vs. Argentine Tango

The original Argentine Tango is very different from Ballroom Tango. Some of the differences include basic postures, music, and steps.

What can I expect when I travel to Buenos Aires?

Many people want to travel to Buenos Aires to immerse in the original Tango culture. In order to get advice on where to dance, stay, or take Tango lessons, we recommend talking to people who have been there for extended periods of time.


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