Want to be able to dance confidently and feel comfortable in traditional milongas of Buenos Aires?
Our bootcamp-style social tango classes develop your musicality, connection, technique & improvisation, as well as your confidence with milonga etiquette.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Cracking the code of the music

Some people like to start dancing each tango (vals or milonga) as soon as possible. "We're here to dance, so let's make the most of it." But I 'm rather fond of the old tradition of not dancing the moment the music starts. And I'm finding that the more I get to know the music, the more I like to tune in to the opening phrases - somewhat like savouring an appetiser before the main course.

Certainly the music of the Golden Age of tango isn't anywhere near as complex as that of the genius Astor Piazzolla. The rhythms and patterns are more predictable, so social dancers can easily connect and respond to them. Yet the great musicians of that era were no slouches. The large number of dancers at that time had very high expectations. So in the first 10 - 20 seconds of a piece, the artistry of the arrangement and brilliance of the musicians were able to create the mood for the dance. This is the time for the body to absorb the music, indeed surrender to it. And later, when the singer comes in, especially if you understand some of the lyrics, that's another treat! (Sometimes I get goose-bumps.)

Those interested in music could easily spend an hour or two on Rick McGarrey's brilliant website where he looks at some fabulous pieces of tango music in Cracking the code. It will feel like peeling away the many layers of an onion - tears and all! After this, Golden Age tango music will never seem the same.



  1. I don't really get this whole 'tune into the music thing'. I don't ask a follower to dance until I've made a decision on the music, either by recognising it, or listening to enough that I know where it's going. Then once on the floor, for the rest of the tanda, I already know the orchestra's style. Add to that the fact that if you dance regularly you can recognise 90% of what's played withing a couple of bars, and for a fair percentage of that, know every single note. I understand the utility of this from a time when women were chaperoned everywhere and this was the only opportunity to talk, but this isn't the case now. If I wanted to chat, I wouldn't be dancing.

  2. Hi Anonymous,
    Thanks for your comment
    I guess I'm using the notion of "tuning in to the music" primarily to describe the process of allowing the emotional impact of the piece of music to sink in. It will guide the way we dance. Certainly we usually recognise what's being played pretty quickly, but I find that the influence of the music varies according to many factors (mood, partner, atmosphere of the milonga, etc.) That's one of the reasons why the same tango is different each time you dance it.


Thanks for your comment. All comments are subject to moderation. Don't worry - it won't take long.

Popular posts