Monday, July 11, 2016

The Different Accents of Tango

Tango is a folk dance, or, as I like to call it, a "barroom" dance. As such, it lacks the rigid rules that apply to Ballroom dances. There is no one true frame, no one true posture, no one true way to do a "step".  And because of this, new Tango dancers frequently find themselves,when dancing at an unfamiliar milonga, in the uncomfortable position of finding that much of what they were taught is "wrong" - at least in the context of that milonga.

This can be unsettling, at the least. When a woman who has been taught to wait for the lead to the cross finds herself dancing for the first time with a man who expects an automatic cross, the results can be confusing. When a woman who has learned strictly milonguero style dances for the first time with a partner who frequently opens the embrace, she feels abandoned. And her partner may feel smothered.

 Every Tango community has a unique accent. Every Tango dancer has their own accent as well. The reason we dance tandas is that it often takes at least 3 songs to learn your partner's accent, to adapt your own dancing to that accent, and finally, to blissfully enjoy the dance for a song or two.

 Whenever I go to a new community, I try if possible to take an introductory class or two with the local teacher. I find that to be the quickest way to learn the local accent. And I usually learn something. A good teacher will generally explain, if asked, why they teach one way and not another (it may be as simple as personal preference). This is a great way to expand your own Tango horizons - as long as you do not waste it by complaining that your own teacher does it differently.

 Experienced dancers know not to judge. They know that differences in style do not necessarily reflect lack of competence. We all have our preferences, and that is OK. But if your preferences are solely due to unwillingness to be open to different accents, you miss out on one of the best parts of Tango - the joy of creating a new dance with each new partner.

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