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Thursday, 12 May 2011


Immersion in the milonga scene here in Buenos Aires has provided me the luxury of reflecting on lots of tango-related issues. Musicality, technique and the codes are familiar topic , although not necessarily mastered by all the dancers on the floor. However, another seldom-mentioned aspect of dancing successfully in the milonga is attitude. Dancing tango requires a certain mind-set.

Self-belief is essential
Both men and women need to be confident that they will be able to respond to the demands of the music, the dance-floor and their partner. A tense or inhibited partner will not be able to respond as effectively to their partner or the music, so the partner will in turn, not be able to relax and make the most of the dance. A confident (and capable) man's embrace & lead will allow his partner to feel safe. Any tentativeness will lead to uncertainty on her part. She should surrender herself to her partner and to the music for the tanda.

However, we cannot fully give of ourselves if we're not sure that we have something worthwhile to give.

Attitude to one's partner
Firstly, we should really want to dance with that person. For that reason, I'm a great fan of the cabeceo. Agreeing to dance with that person means that we'll do our best to make the most of that tanda together. We should be prepared to respect and commit to our partner for that time, regardless of their dance experience (see Dancing as equals). If we can't do that, then I believe that it's better not to dance with them. In a recent interview for Practimilonguero, milonguero "El Oso" said that his job as a dancer was to make his partner "vibrate with the music".

Dancing with everyone on the pista
We share the dance-floor. There needs to be a balance between our self-belief & enjoyment, and that of other couples. However, each couple should command their space confidently within the ronda. Just the other day in a downtown milonga, I witnessed a foreign couple whose dance skills were quite reasonable, but they looked daunted by the other dancers around them. Their faces revealed fear and discomfort, his embrace seemed weak and apologetic. Rather than dancing confidently between the couple behind and in from of them, they often appeared to lose their nerve and would escape into other lanes.

We should respect other couples and their rights on the pista, but not be afraid. We need to collaborate with other couples around us and not feel intimidated by them.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but I'll spell it out anyway. Underpinning attitude, is confidence in your mastery of a small repertoire of simple figures that are appropriate to the milonga; good posture and stability; an understanding of the cadences in the music & how to respond. Finally, there's no escaping the fact that confidence comes from hours of listening to the music and practice!


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