Ask Arlene…My friend wants to learn Tango.

Dear Arlene,

A friend of mine heard a song from Gotan Project and decided to buy the album (I could have given it to her for free).  Now she wants to learn how to dance Tango!  She says she loves Gotan Project and feels inspired to learn how to dance Tango and she asked me where she should go for lessons.  I am at a loss as what to tell her.  Although I love to listen to Gotan Project, I don’t like to dance to it.  The teacher I learn from teaches traditional Argentine Tango and never plays modern music.  What should I tell her?

Strictly Salon

Dear Strictly Salon,

I can understand your dilemma.  There are so many teachers out there that would love to have your friend as a student.  Many of them teach the dancing large method that I am particularly averse to.  We all know that Gotan Project isn’t really Tango music.  I can attest to that when I saw them at Brixton Academy a few years ago.  Many people consider it ‘ambient’ or ‘house’ music.  The place was full of young people drinking beer and smoking weed.  I didn’t see one person dancing any form of Tango and one couldn’t if one tried as the place was packed to the limit.  I would have been better off staying at home and listening to the CD’s.  The fact that my kids like some of their songs says a lot, as they generally don’t like anything that I do.

If my own dancing experience is anything to attest to, I started to learn with someone who was teaching show tango moves.  I became good at what I was learning.  Unfortunately, when I went to a traditional milonga, I couldn’t dance.  I had to start over with my learning.  My second teacher taught Tango in the way I always thought it should be danced and the way I saw it danced the very first time I heard Tango music those many years ago.  I will, on occasion, dance open and large (dancefloor permitting), but I prefer close embrace and traditional music.

You can direct your friend to my blog for information about the venues here in London.  As with any beginner to Tango, she will have to find her own way and what is comfortable for her.  You could recommend your teacher.  At least this way she would get a good grounding in the basics.  Then she could experiement with other teachers.

Good luck.

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Michael
    Jul 13, 2009 @ 14:55:30

    Nice answer Arlene

  2. El Chupacabra
    Jul 13, 2009 @ 20:53:37

    If she likes Gotan and all that stuff point her to Federico.

    If she later decides to do tango the we do .. she’ll know where to find us!

  3. Arlene
    Jul 14, 2009 @ 06:41:45

    @ Chupa
    I wouldn’t recommend it. It is where I started, the hard way. There are better teachers for that, but I wouldn’t start with them either. I think better to start with salon to get the basics down.

  4. David Bailey
    Jul 14, 2009 @ 10:28:53

    I had a similar experience with Gotan a couple of years ago at hammersmith. Standing around, feeling bored, and thinking that I could be at home, sitting in comfort and listening to this with a glass of wine…

    On the other hand, I also went to see Otros Aires – another neo band – in Clapham last year and that was fantastic fun, lots of dancing, lots of great music, lots of crowd interaction.

    The difference is, one was organised by a general music promoter, the other was organised from within the London AT community.

    So I don’t think there’s anything inherently evil about Neo music – it’s a route to tango. Sure, probably most people will “graduate” to traditional, but there’s nothing wrong in starting off with something you’re comfortable with.

  5. Sophie
    Jul 14, 2009 @ 14:54:34

    I discussed with a beginner once who after a few tango de salon classes made me listen to his “favourite tango CD” which was entirely nuevo songs and bands. I warned him that with his teacher, he’d never approach anything that was suited to that music, and explained the core differences between salon and nuevo. He disappeared soon after… I hope he found nuevo-heaven somewhere!

    Eleonor and Tangology and also Rene and Hiba of Tango-Fever are the closest thing to Nuevo in town I think. I’m not sure how they rate as teachers though. Other name that comes to mind: Adriana Pegorer and her Tango Release technique.

    I think it’s great to want to dance from listening to the music, if Gotan and Nuevo are her stuff, why not? Or maybe you could drag her to the Dark Side and convert her to Troilo, d’Arienzo and Di Sarli 🙂

    Alternatively, you can take your friend out to a nuevo-friendly milonga one night (such as 33 Portland Place, or Tangology on a Sunday evening at Wild Court), have her look at all the slightly different styles of dance/music, and have her check what she really wants to do – she could also ask the dancers whose style she really like for pointers to teachers?

    Finally although Nuevo was developped from salon, I would understand if nowadays a student would not have to start by learning then deconstructing salon but rather begin straight away with the contemporary dance aspect (dynamics) of Nuevo.

    I think there’s plenty of space for Nuevo on the great Dance spectrum, I’d be very interested to see it develop its full range in London rather than be slotted (forced?) in with Tango de Salon and having everyone hate one another over the differences in preferred style of music and floorcraft.

  6. Ms Hedgehog
    Jul 14, 2009 @ 16:15:07

    If you learn from a salon style teacher, that gives you all the options. You have the basic technique down, you follow well, and you can then use those techniques to dance with any man you like to whatever music appeals to you both. The other way round isn’t true, as Arlene said – you have to start all over again. So I’d suggest telling the friend that.

  7. Arlene
    Jul 14, 2009 @ 19:49:45

    @ Davil Bailey,
    I haven’t got a problem with Nuevo Tango music or anything with a tango influence. I prefer to listen to it rather than dance to it. It is not conducive to dancing in a close embrace and most of the songs are pretty long. Just as I prefer to listen to Piazzolla rather than dance to him.
    I can understand Stricty Salon’s reservations about recommending a teacher just because her friend listened to Gotan Project and that the friend thinks that is tango music. I think her friend should be educated about tango first.

  8. Arlene
    Jul 14, 2009 @ 19:53:22

    @ Sophie,
    I do agree that there is space for Nuevo in the great dance spectrum, but unfortunately not on the dancefloor where they mainly play salon style music where people dance in the close embrace. I think you know what I am talking about here!

  9. Arlene
    Jul 14, 2009 @ 20:00:18

    @ Ms H,

    I know many people that have started with the same person as I did and they all had the same problems when they switched over to the salon side. Fortunately I changed teachers after a few months, rather than years! Though better late than never I guess. I was also spreading my Tango wings on the teacher front and got terribly confused at one point about my posture and bending the knees. I have since learned that the bending of the knees, as opposed to the upright but slightly bent knee, is used more in Nuevo. Took me a while to get that one. Also, each teacher thinks that the way they teach is the correct way. It is, for them.

  10. yabotil
    Jul 15, 2009 @ 13:38:52

    I used to bring lots of people to modern jive. I always took care of them and made sure they were having a good time at the expense of myself having a good time. However, I could only handhold them for a while and when I stopped, eventually they stopped dancing.

    It took me a little while to realise that dancing is not for everyone. I think most people will benefit from it but there’s no point stressing over whether someone you introduce dancing to is going to like it or not.

    Just as Arlene says, the best you can do is recommend some decent teachers. You could point her in the direction of some venues that play the music your friend is into. Eventually if she decides that she is into tango, she will find her own path.

  11. Rachel
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 23:13:57

    If you have the technology, why not burn your friend a disc or two with some (ahem!) real tango music and try to get her hooked on that too? Apart from anything else, if she only likes Gotan she’ll soon run out of places to go and people to dance with!

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