TRANSITION – from classes to dancing tango socially

It’s never too early to go to your first evening of social dancing

Don’t think you have to be an experienced dancer, you don’t!  As a newcomer you are a vital part of the Tango world – it’s the regular new dancers who continue to grow the Tango scene and keep it fresh and interesting.

If you’ve fallen in love with Tango and want to make rapid progress, dancing one hour a week at your class will soon not be enough, so it’s important to find as much opportunity to dance Tango as possible.

Classes

Your weekly classes probably have a short practice session at the end of the evening.  Take every opportunity to use this time. This will be your first experience of social dancing.   It’s also essential to embed the evening’s class work into your mind and body (more about this here and integrate it with what you’ve already learned.  This will help to develop a sound technique which is the foundation of becoming a good dancer.

Práctica / Guided Práctica

Recommended as an informal interim step between classes and a Milonga.   For more about the differences of Prácticas – click here.  Prácticas can be similar to Milongas but in a far less formal atmosphere and not so structured. Teachers often organise a separate Práctica evening as a complement to their classes as an introduction to a full evening of social dancing. Visitors are always welcome.  So take advantage of these opportunities as soon as possible.

Attending a Práctica regularly allow all dancers to make real progress and build confidence.  Even for the most experienced dancer it’s valuable time to work on their dance, maintain and improve their technique.  This cannot be done at classes alone and certainly not at Milongas.

At an organised Práctica you’ll be able to get used to dancing whole dances without stopping, completing whole tandas and dance with a variety of people.  For the uninitiated, experiencing an evening just social dancing can be very tiring – physically and mentally – especially in the early days.

You can workshop through movements on the dance floor.  Although there is no formal instruction, the teacher/s will be available for help and support, and generally will keep an eye out for any struggling dancers.

Sometimes the music will be arranged in tandas similar to the more formal Milongas.  They will probably also include the odd Vals and the Milonga dance so you can  begin to familiarise yourself  with a wider variety of Tango music and Tango’s sister dances.

If your own community doesn’t hold a Practicá or you cannot find any locally, the next step is going to a Milonga, unless you’re lucky enough to find a Práctilonga (see below) or something similar.

Práctilonga

Several years ago we pioneered the Práctilonga,  which are a little more structured evenings, but still remaining informal and fun.  The teacher/s will be in the background if help is needed, and in an area made available off the main dance floor to work through techniques. This is so you can keep the dance floor free and not hinder the other dancers.

However, more recently people are running these evenings as informal Milongas only and tend not to provide any coaching support.  You need to check with the organiser.

Milonga

These elegant evenings are designed for social dancing only.  Dancers dress for the occasion and halls are often decorated and have mood lighting.  Some organisers provide complimentary light refreshments.

There are no magic formulae for success, but Milongas vary significantly in terms of style, and you do need to choose carefully to find a suitable one.  Ask around for recommendations, as the event should be welcoming and supportive rather than intimidating and exclusive.

In the early days of your Tango journey, it’s pointless for ladies to turn up alone – even if you go with a female friend – and expect to get dances.  Spare a thought for the Leaders.  They have to manage their energy, and many social evenings are often top-heavy with Followers (ladies) – which is probably not dissimilar to the balance in your own weekly classes.  Leaders tend to target their favourite partners first, and often prefer not to dance with unfamiliar Followers.

If you haven’t a dance partner to go with, our suggestion is arrange to go with friends.  Make sure you only go with one Leader (male) to every two Followers.  This will ensure you get to dance and be seen as a dancer.   Perhaps you will be asked to dance,  but more importantly enjoy the evening with your friends and, watch other dancers.  You’ll be amazed how much you pick up.

Then, if you enjoy the venue, go again with friends.  Familiarisation is one sure way of feeling more confident and comfortable, and in turn the regular dancers will begin to recognise you.  An explanation on Milonga etiquette with hints and tips can be found here

cautionary note

Some Milonga organisers prefer ladies not to ask Leaders for a dance (this is a whole chapter on its own!).  For now, err on the side of caution and ladies don’t ask anyone to dance other than your friends.  As explained before Leaders need to manage their own energy and will not dance every tanda.   Leaders are not there as ‘taxi-dancers’, they are dancing for their own enjoyment.  Be patient and have fun with your friends.   However, as more and more ladies are now learning the twin-arts of both Leading and Following,  there is no reason why you cannot ask a lady to dance!  More on Ladies Leading – here

Sadly, there are a few very unfriendly communities.  Even for the experienced dancer, you can still get caught out!   Read Peter’s own experience when he went alone to an unfriendly Tea Dance here

Milonga (dance in its own right)

As well as the name given to a social Tango dance event (see above) Milonga is also a dance in its own right – Tango’s cheerful sister dance.  It’s a slightly different and faster rhythm, using some of the more walking type of Tango movements.

Vals

The Argentine Vals is roughly the same tempo as a Viennese Waltz, but the pace of the steps is slower as you’re not dancing 123,123 all the time.  You can use most of your Tango movements, but the feeling of the dance is more flowing.  Ask your teachers about how to include both the Milonga and Vals into your repertoire.

Tandas & Cortinas

Screen Display for current & next Tanda

Tanda is the name given to a group of 3-4 tracks.  Good DJ’s will arrange tandas in the same style, often by the same or a similar artist.  At Milongas, it’s polite, and expected, to dance a whole tanda with the same partner.  (Although if you feel at risk at all, you can always respectfully decline to continue with the tanda).  Between each tanda a short interlude of non-tango music will be played (Cortina).  Dancers then thank their partner and exit the floor, either to dance with someone else, or take a break.

note – it is considered bad etiquette to dance whilst the Cortina is playing at any type of event.

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©  Tango Nomads, 2017

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