We just launched a free online tango course, and here’s why…
I started tango quite young, at the age of 22. I came from a ballet and gymnastics background and saw Tango as the dance-class-of-adulthood. So, I went for it expecting it to tone my muscles and give me a space to let some steam off after a hard week of work.
To my defense, those were still the days of Tango Nuevo and wide sweeping movements were all the rave. I danced open embrace on electronic music, with wide modern jazz pants and flat sneakers. I was discovering a new world, a world of atmospheric milongas, electronic tandas and men.
At the time I did vaguely perceive a sort of addictive soulfulness in milongas, something different from my typical Saturday nights….
But in truth, I had no idea of what I was doing. When I was dancing, I sometimes felt like I was doing acrobatics on cool electronic music: I followed partners leading me with strong arms through giros, ganchos and sacadas, each movement quicker than the next…. Tandas were spent in a blur: I had no idea what was happening, I just felt my body being ‘taken’ rather ‘led’ from right to left. I had no axis, I did not take charge of the rhythm, I totally disappeared during the tanda. Often, dancing felt like flying. Honestly, it was quite fun.
Yes, it was fun. But soon I hit a wall.
When my partners wanted to take me closer into their arms and I didn’t see the point of “giving a hug to these old sods”. When I was in milongas where traditional music played and most good dancers would rather sit and listen to orchestras than dance with me. When my partner would slowly lead me into a walk, while I eagerly waited for the giros and sacadas to arrive. When teachers told me I had to close my eyes and “really” follow instead of anticipating a back step. When I sat and sat and sat in milongas, waiting for someone to invite me, and at a loss with whether or not I was allowed to invite men.
So, a little while after getting into tango, I started a love-hate relationship with it that lasted for years.
I loved dancing it, but I wanted to dance it my way. I wanted to dance with the best dancers but didn’t understand the codes. I knew I had music deep in my heart but I couldn’t get my head around tango music, the orchestras, the tandas, the DJs… I felt disempowered because I couldn’t express myself musically. I felt brutally constricted by the traditional gender roles…. So I would love it for a while, come back home late at night with dreamy eyes, then get terribly frustrated at a milonga and swear to never come back. There are many reasons why I had these moments of frustration, and I know that I am not the only hooked dancer who experienced them. But I know now that one of the main reasons was that I didn’t understand what was at the heart of the dance.
Back then, I dutifully repeated to my friends that “Tango is all about connection”, but in truth I had no idea what it really meant. How can you feel any connection when the movements never stop, when the dancing never pauses, when you barely relate to the music, when you don’t find your own space in the embrace?
There was no gradual shift for me.
It’s when I started sharing my life with a born and bred milonguero that I began to understand what tango really was about. When the music playing in my kitchen on Sunday morning wasn’t Ray Charles anymore but Di Sarli or d’Arienzo. When I’d understood what it meant to fall in love with a man for the way he dances. When I had incredible tandas with partners less experienced than me but where I felt a deep connection to their soul. When I went into a soft embrace and I felt the relief of being completely accepted for what I was.
Then, I felt what tango is, and then my tango life became extra-ordinary.
It took the patience of my partner to tell me all about the background, the history, the codes of tango. It took the time to simply listen to traditional music and get swept away into its depth for me to start feeling what the real flame of tango is. Not a beautiful empty shell made of wide sweeping contemporary movements but the strong embrace of poor migrants in Buenos Aires.
Whenever I meet with someone who starts tango, I want to urge them to go beyond the steps they learn in classes, or the tango shows they might have seen. It’s more, much more. It’s a world with its own history, codes, and secrets.
So we have put together a free online course available to everyone, with an introduction to musicality, to the codigos, to the different styles… so that they understand from the start what is important and was isn’t in their tango journey. And we have more, longer online courses to come!