16th March 2009
"Hi I"d like to learn Tango."
"Ballroom, Argentine or Finnish?"
"We don"t do just tango; Ballroom, Argentine or Finnish?"
"The one with the pretty shoes?"
"Ah Argentine. Good choice. Neuvo, Traditional or Fantasia?"
"Ok, will that be Nuevo, Nuevo Milonguero, Neo, Fusion...."
"Wait, um, I meant Traditional"
"Certainly. Will that be Villa Urquiza, Orillero...."
"The first one. Vila, that one"
"Very good. Would you like to begin in Salon, Vals or Milonga?"
"Excellent choice, now which teacher would you like..."
*breaks down into tears* "I just want to learn tango" *sob*
I only ever order chocolate cake at Starbucks. It's simple, I just point and nod. I just can't be doing with trying to figure out which combination of latte, grande blah blah blah I actually like. Anyway I can't stand coffee.
There are waaaaaaaaaay too many styles of tango. They focus on doing different things. One might be elegant, another a bit more rough and ready. One designed for dancing in small spaces, another for filling up a whole stage. And of course different teachers have their own interpretations.
It's also reasonable that tango evolves differently from country to country. I'm taller than most Argentine men. I need a slightly different style because of that.
There's several approaches to getting started in tango. The first is simply to go to whoever's closest and get your feet wet. Hopefully they don't cause you to run away in terror and never come back.
Then there's going with a friend. This works well because you'll both encourage each other to go on the nights when you don't really feel like it. It's also helpful if the class you've chosen is a bit of a distance.
There's also trying out several classes to find a teacher and a style that you like, ideally with a class of people you get on with. There's a few different takes on this. Some teachers are happy for you to sit and watch a class. Others argue that a tango class is something that you need to experience.
An interesting comment that turns up occasionally is how such and such a move has fallen out of grace in Buenos Ares and is no longer socially danced. There are at least two teachers currently teaching moves from 50 years ago that pretty much everyone else has forgotten and so are "new" again.
It raises the question, which is the best tango style and how do you remain up to date as tango fashions evolve?
I had the pleasure of watching an Modern Jive Blues Room the other night.
There was a considerable age range amongst the leaders. What was interesting was that you could see almost a catalogue of the evolution of Blues. The guy wearing a hat 'just so', the Slow MJ in treacle, the Slow move, slow move, fast drop combo and so on. And the renegades dancing WCS and Argentine Tango.
Were the leaders dancing in yesterday's style out of date? My honest answer is no. They've found a style that they like and mostly they did it well (it's hard to do slow Modern Jive well, with the best will in the world).
Likewise in tango, traditionalists will sometimes tut about the scruffy Nuevo dancers who aren't dancing "proper" tango. And the Nuevo dancers stick their tongues out at the traditional dancers who wouldn't know fun if it bit them. But really it's all nonsense.
Dance tango because you want to and for your own reasons. Find a style or indeed styles that suit you. Because at the end of the day you're the one who's going to be dancing.
- Christopher O'Shea, 16th March 2009