Selecting an Instructor
If you’re interested in learning Argentine Tango, selecting an instructor and class is a part of the learning experience. Tango is a folk dance – even if it is perhaps one the most elegant and cultural of all folk dances, still it is a folk dance – as such it is taught by dancers. As Oscar Casas (famous milonguero and instructor from Buenos Aires) said at one of the Tucson Tango Festivals: “Tango is taught like martial arts, yellows teaching whites, and oranges teaching yellows and so forth. We all teach tango. Hopefully you find someone that can dance to teach you.”
There is no unified curriculum for tango nor should there be. However your goal would be to have someone to dance with so it would help if you take lessons from someone that is actually dancing tango in the tango community, on a local, national and international level.
There are several instructors in Tucson with a variety of skills and teaching methods. As a student new to Argentine Tango there are several things you need to keep in mind when making your selection.
First and foremost be sure they are teaching Argentine Tango not ballroom or international tango. The dances are not the same. You will want to eventually dance with the community so be sure you study with someone that dances within the community at local milongas (Milonga is the name of the event where tango is danced). You may want to dance tango in other cities so it might suit you to look for someone that dances and studies in other cities, not just Tucson. Find a milonga on the calendar and ask around.
Argentine Tango is a complex dance. People quit lessons because they are surprised by the complexity and discipline required. It looks easy so it must be easy and frustration sets in. Plan to be patient with yourself and give yourself permission to learn and you will be fine. There are no short cuts to learning tango. You might advance your learning curve for a while, but eventually you have to understand and master some basic principles and that takes time.
How long does it take to learn tango? It takes anywhere from two to five years to start to become proficient at Argentine tango. Your learning curve will depend on your level of dedication, practice, classes and milonga attendance. Those that take private lessons, attend group classes and attend a practica and a milonga each week will advance much faster than those that only attend group classes and the occasional milonga. Private lessons are a sure way to improve more rapidly.
What separates Argentine Tango from all other dances is its versatility and improvisational applications. Each step in Tango is independent from any other step which allows dancers to move effortlessly on a crowded floor while musically executing complex steps.
A foundational part of your instruction is techniques such as posture, balance not just patterns. You will need ideas and elements to seam together a tango vocabulary that is useful for the social dance floor. Choreography is not always user-friendly on the dance floor. One of the fascinations of Argentine Tango is its improvisational nature.
Don’t feel you are locked into one instructor. There are many very gifted Argentine Tango instructors and guest instructors that visit Tucson. Each offer their own personality and personal experience to their instruction so there is no one person that in the end will help you find your golden chalice. You owe it to yourself to try them out and attend different workshops. You don’t get a degree from just one professor. You won’t learn tango from just one instructor.
Argentine Tango has three genres of musical phrasing you need to learn in order to successfully dance at a Milonga. In addition to Tango, there is Vals and Milonga. Vals is the fast 3/4 time waltz and Milonga is a frolicking 2/4 time playful rhythm.
Always keep in mind that Argentine Tango requires considerable discipline, dedication and patience. Stay with your lessons, be patient, practice and you will be rewarded by enriching not just your tango but your life as well.