After I booked my fall trip to Buenos Aires, I decided to learn tango.
The style originated in Buenos Aires and Montevideo, Uruguay in the late 1800s. As a dancer, I felt there would be no better way to get to know a culture than through its moves. I planned to take several tango classes in NYC, so I’d have enough basic knowledge to go dancing in BA. Plus, I thought it might be fun to do a social dance, for a change.
I took a free introductory class at TriANGulO, an all-Argentine tango studio, then signed up for a four-week tango course at Paul Pellicoro’s DanceSport, using a Groupon deal. (TriANGulO didn’t have any beginner classes that worked with my schedule.)
Though I liked the instructors at both places, I wasn’t having as much fun as I expected. I chalked it up to a few factors:
- Tango is an intimate dance! More so than I expected. Much of dance is an unspoken conversation between you and your partner. Leaders (men) “tell” followers (women) which steps to take by shifting their weight and moving their bodies. Followers are able to understand this, because they’re dancing with their hands on their leaders’ chests, or are in an open or closed embrace. Since I wasn’t coming to the lessons with a partner, I initially felt a little awkward dancing closely with people I’d just met.
- Going along with that—it takes two to tango. I really enjoyed dancing with the instructors who guided me into talking all the right steps. But in beginner tango group classes, there’s a lot of blind leading the blind—as in, dancing with partners who are just learning how to lead. Which translates into bumbling around awkwardly with strangers!
- I signed up for tango classes at the worst possible time. 8:30 p.m. on Fridays. It was the only session that fit my schedule. But it was directly following my favorite ballet class. And after that class, I’m exhausted from the week, starving and ready for a quiet night in. Going to tango afterwards was tough!
I thought I’d enjoy myself more if I had a good dance partner. Or if the class were at a different time. Or if I progressed to the point where I knew a lot more steps. But finally, on the subway ride home from a tango class, I realized what the real problem was: I just wasn’t loving tango, itself.
Dance is an art, and, like any art form, there are styles that speak to you more than others. For me, ballet feels natural. The movements feel right and I love every minute of it. (Even when I’m sore or tired or my feet are hurting.) I’ve danced other styles over the years—modern, jazz, hip hop, tap, African—but I never felt the same affinity towards them. Not enough to pursue them, or even take classes for fun.
And that’s how I feel about tango. It’s a gorgeous (and sexy!) dance, and there are thousands of people who love it the way I do ballet. And I know they’re thrilled every minute they can dance it. But it’s not a natural fit for me.
Knowing that, I’ve put tango on hold until I go to Buenos Aires. Maybe being there will inspire me to take a class, or attempt dancing at a milonga. Or maybe I’ll just watch a tango show. I’ll see in a few weeks!
(Photo via Pinterest—though I would love to know the original source!)