Sunday, November 27, 2016

Welcoming Beginners to Argentine Tango

 A healthy Tango community is one that is constantly growing. As people leave, new people join. And integrating new dancers into your community is a big part of that process.

 Beginners need two things to entice them to join a Tango community. They need to be intrigued or inspired by the dance itself, AND they need to be made to feel comfortable in the social environment of a milonga. The first is already accomplished by the time a beginner shows up for their first class. It is the job of a good teacher to keep encouraging the student's interest in the dance.

 The second - comfort within the Tango community - is the job of everyone at the milonga. So what can you do? Here are 5 things you can do that will encourage your beginners to keep coming, and to keep learning.

1: Dance with them. This is the number one, MOST important thing you can do. A beginner neither needs or expects to dance every dance. But if they dance no dances, again and again, they will not come back. So ask them to dance. It is OK to ask for the third song of the Tanda if you do not want to commit to the whole set.

 2. Talk to them. Introduce yourself, if it is the first time you have met. Offer them refreshments if any are available. Talk about Tango, or anything else. Be a good host.

 3. Don't overwhelm them. Feed them information about Tango in digestible bites. Leaders, if you ask them to dance, use this opportunity to lead a simple Tango. Followers, shelve the adornments, which can distract or confuse a beginner leader.

 4: Don't criticize or correct. For example, if a beginner asks you to dance verbally, do not get on your high horse about the cabeceo. If he stays with Tango he will absorb all that soon enough. Likewise, do not make a point of trying to fix your partner's dancing. No teaching on the dance floor, remember?

 5: Make them part of your community. If a group of you go out for coffee after the milonga or practica, invite them. Let them know of other Tango opportunities, and convey the idea that they would be welcome to attend them.

 Remember, you were once a beginner yourself. All the best dancers were once beginners. If beginners feel comfortable in your community, they will keep coming back. And if they keep coming back, eventually they will not be beginners any more.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Tango Trust

Argentine Tango is an intimate dance. We dance in the arms of a person we may not know well, or even at all. When we step out onto the dance floor, we are implicitly agreeing to this intimate physical contact - cheek to cheek, breast to breast. And trust is a necessary component of this agreement.

Tango is essentially an impersonal intimacy. While there are no physical boundaries, there are firm boundaries of expectation. Tango promises nothing, beyond the bliss of translating the music into a shared experience.

 Tango is not a seduction. If you use your Tanda for that purpose it is a betrayal of trust. The embrace is for dancing, not for flirtation. If you use the embrace to stroke your partner's back or tickle his neck, or deliberately rub her breasts, you are breaking trust. And once that trust is broken, Tango is no longer a shared intimacy. It has become a trespass.

 Does this mean you can never flirt with a Tango partner? Of course not. Flirtation can add a wonderful intensity to Tango. But do not initiate a flirtation on the dance floor. It is not fair. Wait until the tanda is over, and your partner can accept or refuse without pressure. Once you have established a MUTUAL flirtation, you can, if both parties wish, continue it on the dance floor.