Whenever I travel to different cities, the first thing I do is check out the dance scenes. I look first for Argentine Tango, of course. But if there are no milongas or practicas on a given night, I check out opportunities for my next-favorite dance - West Coast Swing. And quite frequently I see the same faces dancing West Coast Swing, that I saw the previous night at a milonga. There is something about these two dances that often attract the aame people.
On the surface, West Coast Swing and Argentine Tango could not be more different. West Coast Swing is primarily danced in open position. Tango, of course, is danced in an embrace. West Coast Swing is full of underarm turns and spins. Tango - not. West Coast Swing is danced to Blues - the archetypically American music. Tango music is just as archetypically Argentine, with very few obvious similarities.
And yet, these two very different dances often attract an overlapping crowd. And when you think about it, it is not hard to understand why.
Both are Barroom dances, rather than Ballroom dances. Neither has the strictly codified styles, and the set patterns of the Ballroom dances. Both allow a great deal of individuality.
Both encourage, nay, require, improvisation. And both allow the follower to take an active role in the shaping of the dance, through decorations and added footwork.
Musical interpretation is fluid. Both dances encourage the dancers to play with the tempo, the syncopations, the pauses, in their own way and based upon their own feeling of the music.
And the music - ah, the music! Both Argentine Tango and American Blues reach out and grab the emotions - all the emotions! From pathos to playfulness, to sexy seduction.
Some years ago, as this natural pairing became more recognized, people started throwing Tango moves into their West Coast Swing and calling it Swango. Talk about the best of both worlds!
So if you are a West Coast Swing dancer, looking for new frontiers, consider exploring Argentine Tango. And if you are a lover of Tango, consider exploring what West Coast Swing has to offer. You can never have too much dancing, after all.