Over the years of its history (over a 100 years, that is), no wonder Argentine tango accumulated a few stereotypes or even – and that’s where it gets interesting – fairytales. There is a lot to say about tango, from the music, the dance, the history and culture that gave birth to it, but perhaps a good place to start is to talk about what tango isn’t.
Quite a few myths come from the way tango is sometimes depicted in movies and on television. Or perhaps tango fairytales were carefully crafted by a secret society of milongueros, working in the shadows, aiming at keeping as many people as possible away from tango – because they don’t want to share? Go figure. Anyway, here they are… tango fairytales. To learn more, just click on the tabs to reveal all the facts & fairytales.
Tale: “Tango is not for me, I have 2 left feet”
All that stopping abruptly, slow moves then quick ones. It doesn’t seem to have a pattern, so how is anyone supposed to remember that? It would take forever to learn one dance, and if you’ve got 2 left feet like me, then forget it. There’s no chance you’ll pick up a step, never mind a whole dance.
Fact: “Hello!!!! It’s called being a beginner!”
There are no abrupt moves in Argentine tango, so if you think rose between teeth, this is the cinema version of tango!
Steps are taught, yes, but it’s up to everyone to decide how to dance and what steps to use. Every step, even the simplest, can look beautiful if there is good chemistry between partners, so there’s no need to rush it, very often less is more.
Tango is more skilled than some other dances, yup, that’s true, but once it all clicks into place, no dance is ever the same, so it never gets boring. We say it’s a small price to pay in the long run.
Tale: “Tango is way too risqué for me!”
Ladies, you’d better have been to the gym recently because EVERYTHING is going to be on show when you slip into those tiny tango dresses. Black lace, short mini micro skirts… You’d better match your underwear to your dress because it’s going to make quite a début of its own. Men who dance tango will almost positively try it on with their dance partners. They’ve got too much passion in them and it’s got to be directed somewhere.
Fact: “Tango really is as risqué as you want it to be”
Scantily clad outfits are definitely optional and not that common (sorry guys). Dancers actually usually wear flowing fabrics and yes, the odd full leg might make an appearance on the dance floor, but it’s all in the name of creativity and expression. And as for those insatiable tango-dancing men, they probably look sultry because they’re concentrating and enjoying the moment.
Tale: “Dancing tango is old-fashioned”
The only people who dance tango are old and decrepit (because that’s about as much energy as they can muster). Grandparents usually blabber on about their experiences of tango in ‘dance halls’ when they were younger; heck, they might still dance it now.
And as cool as grandparents are, it doesn’t exactly inspire anyone to throw on their dancing shoes on a Saturday (early) night to join them.
Fact: “Like Tintin, from 7 to 77 (and beyond)”
Tango is ever changing and evolving into new styles, and the Argentine variety which is about as authentic as you can get, attracts a wide variety of ages and personalities (young adults and yes, some very sweet grandmothers, plus everything in between).
Tango’s been popping all over the place: on ‘Strictly’ and even in advertisings. It’s making its way through the media pretty fast, so, if tango is old fashioned, then it’s vintage, which as we all know is simply fab!
Also, talking about energy, tango parties never really start before midnight in Buenos Aires and can go on until 7.00am. Just in time to go back to the office!
Tale: “Tango is too serious”
Tango dancers always look so unimpressed, they never smile. Their bodies seem stiff and unnatural and they’re probably having no fun: too tragic and uptight, it seems.
Also, what’s with the formal clothing? I thought tango was a dance? Can anyone really dance in a suit?
Fact: “It’s concentration!”
Tango is more often than not, without choreography, so that serious look has probably got something to do with concentration on the next move. Or, it could be just because a dancer is ‘in the moment’ so to speak and they’re enjoying the connection they have with their partner. You have it on good authority that they’re smiling inside!
We use a certain posture when we dance tango (a little like how you might hug a pregnant lady) and it does take a little getting used to but it’s not uncomfortable, it’s quite nice actually.
As for the formal clothing, it’s optional and most people tend to go quite casual as it’s more comfy. Sometimes though, it’s just really nice to get dressed up and look smart – to look as good as the dancing does.
Tale: “Argentine tango is for contortionists”
Have all tango dancers led previous lives in the circus? Legs flying through the air and back breaking moves as they defy gravity, or so it seems. Anyone starting tango better be related to Mister Fantastic from the Fantastic Four.
Fact: “Argentine tango is for everyone”
This stereotype is taken from ‘stage tango’, a style of tango unlike Argentine tango, it’s designed to wow audiences, so unless you fancy making your début in the spotlight, you needn’t worry about being super flexible.
You can keep both feet safely on the floor when you dance Argentine tango, unless of course you’re feeling a little ambitious.
It’s entirely up to you what steps and figures you choose to use (as long as no one is around to ‘benefit’ from your or your partner’s stiletto heel). Tango is a very self expressive, so how you chose dance is all in your hands.