Tango Mileage What Is It? And Why Do You Need It!
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“The Beginner’s Guide to Argentine Tango”
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Attending Tango Class
When you’re a beginning tango student, attending a class is the best way to get your bearings in the dance.
Sign up and attend regularly. Every good dancer I know is good because they signed up for the first series of classes and attended all of them. Learning to dance tango is a wonderful commitment you make for yourself and consistency is as important to achieving this goal as it is for all others in your life. Signing up and coming to one class a month here and there will just be frustrating for you.
A good tango class should introduce you to the following elements of tango: walking, turning, stopping, navigation, musicality and some embellishments.
Tango is a dance based on walking so you must practice this essential element. The good news is that you already know how to walk, you just need to practice taking a partner with you. All great tango dancers work on their walk. In fact, one of the best compliments a tango dancer can receive is, “Look how well he walks!” No matter how experienced the students, I’ve never seen a good tango teacher start a class without walking exercises.
After you’ve “walked your miles” you’ll learn how to turn, how to stop momentarily on the floor, how to navigate a crowded floor, how to listen to and learn the various types of tango music and how to add your own signature to the dance in the form of embellishments.
Because tango is an improvisational dance, you should also be exposed to that aspect of the dance as well. Tango is a dance you create on the fly with another person. It isn’t about memorized steps that go together the same way every time. This is one of the most beautiful aspects of tango and is the one that makes the dance endlessly interesting.
You Must Walk Your Miles– “In order to learn tango you have to do it wrong before you can do it right, which means to keep learning no matter what!
You Don’t Need A Partner
You do not need a partner to start learning to dance tango. There are always a variety of people taking classes and it’s unusual for everyone to come with a partner. In my experience, more people come without a
partner than with. If a class has a gender imbalance, a teacher can ask people to rotate so everyone has a chance to learn. Don’t let the lack of a partner stand in the way of learning.
If you’re lucky to live in a city with at least one tango instructor, try them out. They can be your first guides to the world of tango. In addition to teaching classes, local teachers usually help arrange (or know of) workshops with visiting instructors and opportunities to dance tango socially. If your city has more than one instructor, take several classes from all of them. Attend their practices and dances. See whose teaching and dancing style you like and whose method of instruction feels right for you. In my experience, the best
tango teachers are the ones who bring out the best in you rather than try to get you to conform to a particular style (which interestingly enough is usually theirs). If you feel welcome in a class, chances are it’s the right one for you.
Here in the Hudson Valley we are blessed to have quite a few Tango teachers that live here from Argentina who offer group/private lessons and praticas.
Learning from Video
If you don’t have any local instruction available, there are many videos available to study. If this is your case, you will need a partner to study with. Even if you are studying by video, I recommend occasionally
traveling to take classes (group or private) and attend dances to have the experience of dancing with others. You need the mileage!
You can learn much from tapes, but real hands-on experience is irreplaceable.
I recommend a Youtube Channel called “The Tango Lessons”
As you become comfortable with the important elements of tango, you may want to attend (in your own
city or elsewhere) special weekend workshops that provide the opportunity to meet and learn from some of the world’s best professional dancers. In addition, several week-long workshops are held in Argentina and around the world which also offer an incredible chance to combine travel with learning tango.
Visiting instructors come to town for many reasons. Find out in advance from both the local organizer and dancers if the type of instruction, the style being taught and the level of dance experience expected in the
class is right for you. If the visiting instructors are offering classes for beginners, check them out. You never know who will provide just the right information to make something clear.
Early in your study of tango, you’ll probably take workshops from as many different instructors as possible.
Over time, however, you’ll find certain instructors have a teaching and/or dancing style that fits your inclinations and you’ll probably narrow down the number of people you study with. You have an amazing variety of teachers and places to dance available to you—worldwide.
Taking Private Lessons
Private lessons from either local or visiting teachers are a great way to have someone evaluate and make recommendations about your own dancing. When an instructor can look at your dancing without having to
look at 40 other people at the same time, you can really learn a tremendous amount. One hour of private instruction with a great dancer can save you many hours of frustration and help you avoid painful mistakes—both emotionally and physically.
My recommendation regarding spending your money on private lessons is as follows (1) start learning in group classes to see if you like tango, (2) attend group classes for at least two months to begin to master the basics, and, (3) attend milongas (tango parties) and dance and watch. Once you’ve done these things, then look around and see if there is a local instructor you’d like to schedule a private lesson with. Or perhaps a visiting instructor is coming you’d like to study with. Most visiting instructors teach private lessons in addition to any workshops they teach. Keep in mind that different instructors may have different requirements for private lessons (such as requiring you to bring a partner) and may be in very limited supply.
One of the most important aspects of learning tango is practicing on your own. If there are weekly practices in your city, pick one or two or three and go. If not, rent space at a studio (this usually costs about $10-15 for a hour of practice time) or dance in your living room. I’ve found that regular practice is the most important element in becoming a proficient tango dancer. It’s also a good way to meet other people in the tango community who have more experience with the dance. They can be a great resource to answer questions. You must practice to get the mileage you need to become a good tango dancer.
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