Become a Better Ballroom Dancer – Master the Tango

Tango.  Whether you’re dancing American, International, or Argentine style, there’s nothing quite like it.  It’s a daring competitive dance, but also an emotional social dance.  One thing is for sure, if you want to become a better ballroom dancer, you’ll need to master the Tango.

First, a bit of Tango history.  If you want more detail, there are many resources available online.  Try this one, dancefacts.net. 

learn tango become a better ballroom dancer
View of Rio de la Plata from Argentina.

Former slaves started dancing the Tango in the 1880’s.  They lived in modest port neighborhoods in Argentina, and Uruguay, on either side of the Rio de la Plata.  Tango is only the third dance to use a dance hold, after Viennese Waltz and Polka.   Tango dancers introduced the concept of leading and following.  Previously, dances were choreographed routines done with little contact between partners.

Here’s an interesting side-note.  For more than a century, Finland has had a passion for Tango.  It started when Tango made it’s way from the United States to Europe in 1913.  Over the years it’s become an important part of the Finnish people’s culture and character.  Such a hot, spicy dance for a chilly, icy land!  Check out this clip from a “60 Minutes” episode called Tango Finlandia from 1993.

How do good Tango skills make you a better ballroom dancer?

Partnership

Becoming a better ballroom dancer begins with how you hold yourself.  For good dance posture, you’ll stand stretched up, with a long spine.  Let your core, hips, and shoulders show action, direction, and dance position.  Become a strong partner in Tango and watch your dance card fill up fast!

better ballroom dancer with tango
Argentine Tango’s dance hold is called an embrace.

It’s important to point out that the Tango dance hold is different from other dances.  However, as the leader holds his posture and poise, the relationship between the partners stays strong.

Technique

The Tango uses strong, sharp movements.   Be bold!  There’s nothing wishy-washy about Tango.  Become a better ballroom dancer by using Tango technique and strongly committing yourself to each step.

The Tango timing can be simple or complex.   For instance, it’s not unusual to syncopate with half-beats or even quarter-beats.    Foot speed, balance, and control make it possible.  This is helpful in faster dances such as Jive, Swing, Cha Cha, and Salsa.  

Tango technique includes foot position, timing, dance position, leg action, and footwork.  The technique trains the dancer to be more precise.  Because of this, slower dances like Foxtrot, Waltz, Rumba, and Bolero become smoother.

Expression

Ah, we come to the icing on the cake…expression.  Because Tango is passionate, I’ve always thought it seemed wrong to smile when dancing the Tango.  However,  a sly smirk here and there would be kinda sassy.  Read this recent Dance Safari post to get some pointers on becoming comfortable with expression,  “Just Let It Go on the Dance Floor”.

When I dance the Tango, I find myself wanting to express the love/hate relationship that exists in many partnerships.  I’m telling a story and sparks are flying.  What’s the story being told in other dances?  Samba with its heavy pulsing beat, Merengue and it’s hip action and West Coast Swing’s cheeky and flirty character?  Learning to express the music and the dance takes it to another level.  As a result, dancing becomes less mechanical and more about feelings.

In my opinion, becoming a better ballroom dancer starts with the Tango.  First, use good dance poise and posture to maintain the proper relationship to your dance partner.  Then, become a technically strong Tango dancer with excellent timing, footwork, and leg action.  Finally, learn to use your body to express and tell a story.  Now you’re dancing!

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. I love watching the tango!

    1. Barbara Tucker says:

      It certainly gets the blood going, doesn’t it! And, it’s great that there are movies and tv shows to watch good dancing.

  2. Carolyn Page says:

    Love the Tango, Barbara!
    My man absolutely loves the expression the Tango allows him. Apart from the Ballroom Tango, of which there may only be one on the dance sheet, we also have, in Australia, the dance discipline – New Vogue, which is expressed as sequence dances – 16 or 32 bars long. There are 16 competition sequence dances, 3 of which are in the Tango style. Most social dances have these on the dance card, which allows us even more opportunities to dance this rhythm.
    I believe for both Keith and myself dance, in general, allows us to express ourselves in a manner unlike any other! We can be whatever the music asks of us. It sure is a heck of a lot of fun! 🙂

    1. Barbara Tucker says:

      Awesome way to get some more Tangos in. I love the idea of New Vogue. Wonder why we don’t have it here in the States? It’s great in that it gets you up on the dance floor sooner. Maybe I should look into this.

      Thank you for your comments. It’s one thing for me to say that ballroom dancing is a life-changer, but quite another for readers to hear it from you. Dance on!

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