Definitively Argentine, the tango is a dance that embodies the essence of Buenos Aires. It is slow, sexy, and much harder than it looks. It is widely regarded as one of those ‘must do’ events for people visiting Buenos Aires and there are a wide range of places to watch it and try it out. It is something worth trying and will certainly be a humbling experience; and will have a greater appreciation for the people that know how to dance the tango.
The dance is all about confidence. The leader must control everything and move with bold and calculated exactitude. Any sign of hesitation is noticeable and can very easily throw off the rhythm and your dancing partner. There are a series of moves that you will learn and have to remember that correspond to the music (but as you get more advanced, you’ll learn to “mix and match” the moves, leaving a lot of room for improvisation). The person in charge will use their hands and the chest to direct their partner through the moves. The smoother my partner and I moved in sync, the more subtle my directives needed to be. Instead of literally turning her, I would give a little pressure in one direction and we would move over there. We learned how to move around very basically, but when more complex movements were introduced our confidence eroded. Quickly we were back to fumbling around, tripping over each other, and running into other dancers as if my slight buzz had been amplified to full intoxication. There is a great amount of balance involved so when the dance moves started requiring crossed legs and dynamic foot movements we began to weeble wobble (not like the hip-hop dance) like tight-rope walkers.
Tango is sensual, sultry and seductive. The way the dancers move together (not me but people who can dance), the dress and the shoes she wears, the dim lighting and environment, and the music all entice and attract the spectators. Dancing the tango is thus exhilarating and terrifying at the same time, no small talk, no contemplation, no games, just you and your partner gliding around up close and personal. Tango is also a social dance, you’re expected and should dance with as many people as you could. And, the more versatile and adaptable your skills become, the better a dancer you’ll be. If you are uncomfortable dancing with strangers, tango is certainly not for you…
Tango seems to be a lot like jazz music. People either love it or hate it. It requires a lot of patience and precision. As improvisational as a dance can be, you are still bound to your partner with limitations. Getting to the level of complete free will and still making your partner looks brilliant, it takes years and years of practice. Tango is definitely not something for everyone and I was glad I had experienced it but I don’t think I’ll pursue it as a hobby during my free time. Perhaps you will be on the other end of the spectrum and tango will resonate with you, like many people I have met in my tango class. Either way, it is definitely worth checking out during your time in Buenos Aires.
Let me now leave you with a BBC documentary which takes a look into the tango lives at one of the oldest tanguerias (tango dance hall) in Buenos Aires, La Confiteria Ideal: