Basic Tango

13th September 2009

(More Next Steps articles.)

Here's a story for you...


James went to a Beginner Tango Class.

The class taught complex sequences, strung together in a long pattern. Soon, James learnt all the 427 Patterns Of Tango, off by heart, and practiced these diligently at home by himself, until he'd mastered them all effortlessly.

At milongas, James would whirl his partners around to intricate, fast-changing figures, using boleos, ganchos, planeos and other moves in spectacular sequences. Other dancers would move out of his way, and he would dominate the dance floor. His partners were usually overwhelmed by his prowess, and only rarely managed to last more than one dance with him.


Time passed.

James next moved on to an Improvers Tango Class.

The class focussed on music. James learnt to move to the music, adapting his patterns to the music, and even improvising, sometimes using only parts of a pattern at a time to fit the music. He would start to change timing based on the tempo of the music. Occasionally, he'd even pause.

At milongas, he took up less space, and seemed to move with less speed and verve. Strangely, other couples didn't get out of his way so much. Fortunately, his partners started to develop more stamina, and could usually last two dances with him - occasionally even three.


More years passed.

James moved on to an Intermediate Tango Class.

The class focussed on leading. James learnt to indicate to his partner where she should go, rather than simply pushing or pulling her in the right direction. James learnt how to move his body, how to keep on balance, how to turn, and how to listen to his partner.

At milongas, he took up as much space as anyone else. Now, other couples didn't get out of his way at all. Occasionally he even felt he was dancing in synch with them. Luckily, his partners coincidentally seemed to develop more staying power, and could usually last three full dances with him. Some partners, with exceptional levels of stamina, even lasted four dances with him.


More years passed.

Finally James went on to an Advanced Tango Class.

As he walked in, the instructor said: "And now, we will start to walk".

Finally, James had arrived.


This is based very loosely on a concept from David Brin, in a short story within the "River of Time" anthology. If you want to know which one, you'll have to buy the book to find out. :)

But wouldn't it be nice if the complex patterns were seen as beginner-level fluff, and walking was seen as the ultimate pinnacle of achievement? If taking up space were seen as a mark of a novice, and dancing in harmony with the room were seen as a sign of mastery?

 - David Bailey, 13th September 2009

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