There is a family of three dances from Argentina: Tango, Milonga and Waltz. They have similar step patterns but the rhythm of each is different. Milonga and Waltz are lighter, happier and faster than tango. The rhythm of the Milonga is like a syncopated march and it is danced in a very close embrace, chest to chest. Waltz is danced in 1/2 time.
More than just a dance, Tango is a way of moving. It is a passionate and sensual communication between two people, a way of interpreting the music, of moving together, of expressing feelings. It is a close embrace, legs often entwined – a dance of passion. At times it feels as if you are meditating with your partner, moving to the music together.
Tango was born in Buenos Aires at the beginning of the last century. Originally developed by the poor immigrants in the ports as their way of expressing loneliness, frustration, desire and energy, it was seen by the rest of the world as dangerous. It didn’t become popular until the 1920’s, when some of the great tango songs were written and various big tango orchestras started. It became socially acceptable and many young people started dancing it in ballrooms and at tea dances, both in Buenos Aires and Paris. Now it is danced all over the world. Tango music can be slow and soulful, or fast and fun. It is beautiful to listen to, but even better to dance to!
Argentine Tango is improvised, so there are no sequences of steps that each dancer must laboriously learn by rote. Instead, they must learn to communicate with each other throughout the dance. Since it is improvised, one person must be in charge of leading the couple, deciding on the direction, the beat, and what step to do next. He indicates to her where he wants her to go, and they both take the step. This doesn’t mean the follower is passive. She has to let the man lead her, listen with her body to what he is asking for, and be ready and balanced to execute any step as soon as he asks her to, without anticipating the next one.
All you need to learn to dance Tango is the ability to walk, listen to the music, listen to your partner – and some patience!