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Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Talk & tango? I just can’t do it!

Have you ever started dancing with someone who wanted to have a chat while accompanying you around the pista? What was the outcome? How was the tango?

Many of us can multi-task quite successfully. But this combination does not work for me at all, and I suspect that I’m not alone. Today, while listening to my ipod, mercifully distracted from a dental procedure, I pondered why this might be so.

Music generates emotional & physical responses. Its influence can be energetic, calming, soporific, romantic, melancholic, joyful, etc. Understanding the lyrics isn’t a pre-requisite, at all, although it enhances the experience. Our brains are hard-wired to get the musical message (Daniel Levitin). Dancing is a physical expression of that. So whether or not we’re aware of it, my partner and I, together, are physically responding to the emotions evoked when a piece of music calls us to the floor. I like to make the most of the tanda with my partner, and if we’re lucky, we may experience that addictive tango-zone.

While dancing, chatting about a recent good film or a mutual friend, will simply interfere with that strong, but fleeting connection. It reminds me of those annoying TV commercials which pop up inappropriately at critical moments during a movie. No chance there of being transported by the dance!

Then there’s the complexity of much tango music, with so many delicious improvisational possibilities. Choreographed patterns of dance learned by rote can allow for talk. After all, the body already knows what it’s going to do. But to improvise, in other words to dance “in the moment”, your attention needs to be dedicated to the music and your partner. The concept of entrega is about abandoning yourself to your partner and the music … just for that tanda, of course. Little wonder that milongueros don’t get up to dance to just any music. They’re choosy about their music and partners. When they dance, they put ‘all the meat on the fire’ todo la carne en la parilla.

So what do you do if your partner wants to tango and talk?
  1. Go with the flow and chat for the remainder of the tanda
  2. Say “Thank-you” and return to your table
  3. Ignore the talk. If you don’t respond, it may stop eventually.
  4. Simply admit: “I’m not able to dance tango and talk at the same time”. Hopefully the message will be clear.
  5. Never dance with that person again
What do you think?


  1. Pat
    Nothing is to be added to what you already said, so, I think, the best way is to tell the partner simple and clearly: "Should we better enjoy dancing now and leave the talking for another moment?".
    At least that's the way I do it!

  2. I agree completely, one sees certain dancers who always talk. I say dancers for one can move to the beat and talk, but to move with feeling and emotion can only be done with totally emersion. As to the response to a talker, “do you want to dance or talk”.

  3. Thanks for your comments, Constantino and Roger. Glad to read that I'm not alone in this feeling.

    Just one more thought: I suspect that the "talkers" feel they need to chat to be sociable, not realising the effects on their partner, their own dancing and possibly the dancers around them.

  4. I'm glad to read your words too. As I dance not too long, it's often impossible for me to listen to my partner's words and leading simultaniously :(( And I can add that chatting sometimas is a way to be not so close to each other and make dance less intimate and thrilling... may be some partner can't fell comfortable with other? Ususlly I just don't support conversation or I try to ask silence gently as I can't concentrate otherwise.

  5. That's an interesting insight, Anastasia. Spending 10-15 minutes with a woman in a close embrace is a confronting experience for a man (& for her too). It is a time of intimacy - emotionally, physically, and in the dance. Maybe the talkers use the chat as a distraction from this intimacy - perhaps even subconsciously - so they can remain in their comfort zones. On the other hand, maybe it's when we actually push ourselves outside our comfort zone that tango really begins.

  6. Interesting comments, Anastasia and Bob.

    Perhaps the intimacy of the tango close embrace - definitely an intrusion into one's personal space - is very challenging to people in certain cultures, and therefore requires a period of adjustment.

    In any case, I'm sure that this aspect of traditional milonga etiquette developed for good reason. If not, then all the seasoned milongueros would be dancing while chattering away to their partners - something I have never witnessed in Buenos Aires milongas!


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