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The Tango Connection December 12, 2010

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in My Life as I See It, Personal Observations.
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tangoheelmediumI am delighted to say that I have a new addiction. And that addiction is Argentine tango—one of the more demanding dances I have ever attempted to learn. In spite of the fact that it is illusive, I have fallen in love with it. What do I love about the tango? Well, it is illusive—not full of set patterns like ballroom dancing, a dance form I have been doing for 17 years. In tango each partner I dance with has a different style of putting the steps together, selecting which steps to do (and not do), and executing those steps.  As a new dancer I find following challenging but fascinating. At a milonga (a tango dance) when you dance with a partner, it is usually for a set which is 3 –5 songs. And for me that is a good thing since it takes me that long to catch on to a new partner’s rhythms. Tango is its own mysterious and exotic world and I am smitten.

Perhaps one of the best aspects of tango is that tango dancers think of themselves as a community. And there are tango communities all over the world. As I began my basic 10 –week class at Sangha Space in Media (near Philadelphia), our teacher, Lori Coyle, constantly emphasized that tango dancers are a community. She often talked about the importance of connection in tango.  And since we are a community there are some standards of behavior which go along with that. These were taught, along with dance steps in the beginning class.

Some examples: When invited to dance you are usually accepting an invitation for a set—multiple songs—not just one dance, the way it is in ballroom. This is great unless you find yourself dancing with someone you don’t enjoy. And here is a subtlety:  whenever you say “thank you” to your partner, you are giving the message that you are finished dancing and so you will be escorted off the floor. So the key is if you want to continue to dance, do not say thank you to your partner until you  are ready to stop. One of my friends could not figure out why she kept being escorted back to her seat after only one dance while others were dancing multiples. The reason was that she was thanking her partners after each song and they assumed she wanted to stop. She soon got over that.

Another practice (also taught and reinforced in tango class) is that you always escort your partner back to the same place where he/she was when the invitation to dance was accepted. (The leader usually does the escorting.) Again, the emphasis is on treating a person with respect and care.

There is also a practice in tango of leading and following being shared by both men and women (at least where I’m learning it). So when I am in class I take my turn at following (which I am pretty good at) and leading (which I am not so good at). The theory is that the student can learn much faster if he/she can dance both parts. It is also perfectly acceptable for two men or two women to dance together without eyebrows being raised. (If I tried that at my ballroom studio the teachers would not be amused.)

That’s another thing I like about tango—there is a tradition about it that I find very comforting. And the tango shoes—well that’s a whole other story—be still my heart.

When I started this post I had intended to write about the importance of community, using tango as a small example. However, I see that I have gotten carried away with my example and now have no time for THE BIG LESSON. Oh well, sometimes it’s ok to just do something for the sake of pleasure. That’s why I do tango and that’s what I’ve decided about this post.

So no great lesson today except to say….Learn the tango!!!