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. Indeed, if you want to become a better ballroom dancer, you’ll need to master the Tango.

First, a bit of Tango history. 

Former slaves started dancing the Tango in the 1880s.  They lived in Argentina and Uruguay in modest port neighborhoods on either side of the Rio de la Plata. 

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

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.

Tango is such a hot, spicy dance for a chilly, icy land. For more on that, Check out this clip from a 1993 “60 Minutes” episode called Tango Finlandia.

For additional information on Tango’s history, there are lots of resources available online. I like this one, dancefacts.net.

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

Posture and Partnership go hand-in-hand.

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!

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.

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

Technique = Power

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

Also, keep in mind that 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.  As a result, faster dances like Jive, Swing, Cha Cha, and Salsa are greatly improved.

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

Expression

Oh yeah, it’s the icing on the cake…expression.  Because it’s so passionate, in my mind Tango dancing doesn’t call for a big, broad grin. On the other hand,  a sly smirk here and there is kind of sassy. 

Read this 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.  The sparks are flying as I tell my story.

What’s the story behind some of the other dances?  You’ll find the answer in the sound and style of the music. Telling a story is a big part of dancing and can’t be ignored. It’s been said that expression is the secret to taking your dancing to the next level.  And, as a result, ballroom dancing becomes less mechanical and more about feelings.

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

Now you’re dancing!

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5 comments

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

  1. 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! 🙂

    • 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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