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The Art of Tango


Insiders Guide to Dancing Tango: Beginners Q&A

How to maximize your pleasure while minimizing your effort, expense, and frustration

Do I need a partner to dance Tango?

You do not need a partner to learn Tango or to experience the magic of Tango. Argentine Tango is a social dance and the majority of  tango dancers are single men and women.   Many couples learn to dance Tango together and also dance socially with single men and women.  

Is learning to dance tango difficult?

Learning tango is not a difficult though it is a complex dance that requires effort and time master how to communicate and move with a partner. The basic fundamentals of Tango are relatively easy to teach and understand.  The challenge is in incorporating these into the way you move, with someone in your arms, in a crowded dance floor to the beat of the music and with variety and improvisation.  Oftentimes, learning tango is made more difficult by instructors who teach complex patterns instead of teaching you how to connect, communicate and move with your partner.  

How long will it take to dance Tango comfortably?

Most people will not get on the Tango dance floor without being able to dance, at least, on a  basic level.  One needs to understand to lead or follow most, if not all, of the basic movements.    With private lessons it should take you about 10  hours to get on the dance floor with a degree of comfort and another 10  hours to really relax and enjoy.  With group lessons, it can take 4-12 months to feel comfortable.  Generally, it takes men twice as long to learn to lead as it takes women to women to learn to follow. Beginners are encouraged to dance socially only once they master how to connect, communicate, and move with their partner.  Experienced dancers will tone down and simplify their movements when dancing with a beginner.  

What are the physical requirements for dancing Tango.

Generally, you need to be able to walk with ease and to stand on one leg at a time without too much difficulty.  Tango is danced  by all kind s of people: short/tall, skinny/ heavy, and young/old and every combination thereof.  Most people with minor balance issues can improve their balance with practice. Even individuals with back or knee problems will find pleasure in the simplicity of Tango. Though serious balance issues will prevent you from becoming a better dancer.   Individuals with slight physical impairments such as one shorter leg or slight curvature of the spine can and do dance tango.

Can I learn by watching and dancing?

First, Tango is often an illusion so what you think you see is most often not what dancers are doing. For example, you see women's legs flying and one naturally thinks that the woman is doing the movement.  Likewise, one sees the man's arms move which leads the observer to conclude that he is leading the woman with his arms.   This is not the case! Just as you can not understand another person by having them speak a foreign language to you; you can not learn Tango by just having someone lead you. Someone has to take the time and the effort to explain to you how to embrace, how to move, how to allow your legs to respond freely, how to walk elegantly.

Will I need special clothes or shoes?

You need comfortable clothes to move with control and comfort. Shoes that allow you to easily pivot on floor on the ball of your feet.  Leather is usually the best bet and many wear, split leather.  Men's shoes tend to be light, soft, and without a protruding sole  for caressing the woman's legs . Women's shoes tend have be mid to high heels and vary from plain to absolutely dazzling. Wile T-shirts and jeans are often worn, many prefer a 'dress to impress' style specially for social dancing.  Social dancing is an opportunity to dress up, wear nice clothing, that make you look and feel great. You can start with shoes you already have or even in socks and then get good basic shoes locally or online.  The best shoes are online but the most convenient way to purchase shoes is locally from either Carmen's Shoe Store on El Cajon or from the local tango shoe distributors. Ask your teacher about shoes.

How do I select a teacher?

First of all you should find out as much as you can about them. Are they active social dancers?  Do they teach alone or in a couple?  Ask the dancers who dance well whom they recommend or whom they learned from.  Try the instructor free or introductory class before you commit to a package of lessons.  Ask your instructor about their teaching style and the type of Tango they teach.  And of course, does their personality and character mesh with yours. Some teachers tell you everything you are doing wrong, others tell you can do things better.

What is the best way to learn to dance Tango?

The fastest, best, and in the long run most economical (yes!) way to learn to dance Tango is by taking private lessons. You can learn to dance comfortably in 2-3 months instead of 9-12 months doing group classes.   The best way to learn tango is combine private lessons and group lessons as group lessons give you the opportunity to meet people and practice what you are learning in your private classes.   As soon as your instructor recommends or when you feel comfortable, start dancing socially, while continuing your lessons and classes.

More Q & A's, Common Myths About Learning to Dance Argentine Tango