Ask Arlene…What is the best way to improve as a Tango dancer?

From: Mr Milonga

Ask Arlene,

I’ve heard many people say that they have learnt more from dancing in milongas than they have from going to classes week in, week out.

Many women believe that once they’ve picked up the basics a good leader should be able to lead them. Other women are fed up of going to classes where they outnumber the men and have to spend time waiting for an available man who might be a poor leader.

Many men are happy to be able to lead the basics, as they are not interested in leading ’show moves’, choosing to develop their style in a milonga.

Some people hate learning sequences as they are ‘artificial’.

So Arlene, in your opinion what is the best way to improve as a tango dancer and why?

Dear Mr. Milonga,

I don’t know the best way to improve as a Tango dancer.  I only know what works for me, right now.  I did all of the lessons and classes in the beginning and then added going to the Milongas.  After awhile, I stopped going to classes and focused on the Milongas, partly because of time constraints and partly because the classes didn’t do anything for me.  I also had private lessons, and have been to a few workshops.

I have been very lucky to dance with good and experienced dancers when I was a beginner.  I am still dancing with those nice men that are still around.  I am selective when dancing as I don’t go out much these days, but I am open to dancing with people I don’t know and that seem to have some musicality and dance close embrace and don’t do too many tricky moves.

If I were to give advice to someone starting out, I would suggest what I always do – networking.  Go to beginner’s classes from a good teacher and before the Milongas.  Get to know people.  Go to practicas.  Try and dance with people better than you, if possible.  Practice, a lot.  They say practice makes perfect.  I don’t really believe there is a cut and dried formula here.  As with any dance form, the more dancing one does, hopefully the more one will improve.  Though there are those that started when I did and they seem to have gotten worse.  I really don’t get that.

I am sure there are a few people out there that may have an opinion on this one.  Over to you.

Ask Arlene…How Many Steps Does a Good Leader Need?

I have received two questions from men covering the same topic, so I will address them both here.

From:  Mr Walker
Hi Arlene


(for a follower to enjoy the dance)


From:  Claus

Dear Arlene,

Have read your Ask Arlene with great interest, but did not come across this one. Thanks in advance!
Having taken classes for almost a year and attended practicas for 6 months, I am at a quandry: all the advice is to dance away at the practica as this is the best way to learn, but my step/movement repertoire is small. So I need to learn (to lead), yet there are expectations for me to lead with something interesting. Come the practica and I am at my usual catch-22. What is your advice?

Dear Mr. Walker and Claus,

I am of the less is more camp.  KISS (Keep It Simple Sweetie).  As long as one is in touch with the music and can walk in time (not too fast, and not too slow), then sometimes (or most times) that can be enough.  For a leader, I think it would be worthwhile to look at videos of older milongueros and watch what they do.  They do NOT use ganchos or make their follower do voleos.  They tend to use smaller steps and dance around in a smaller space.  They follow the line of dance.  They do not use show moves.  By focusing on the music, rather than on fancy moves, the dance ends up being enjoyable for both parties.

Learn how to do a giro well.  Most men think they know how to lead it, but they usually don’t.  Lead with your upper body, not your arms.  Focus on the embrace.  It is little things like this that make a dance enjoyable. Remember, sometimes the most significant part of the dance is what is felt between the parties involved, not what can be seen by others.

Claus, are you sure your followers are expecting something more in the fancy footwork department or do you feel unsatisfied with what you are doing?  All women want is a really lovely dance and to be transported by the music and their leader to a different place, which is not really possible if one is trying too hard to impress.  The idea is for the woman to close her eyes and enjoy the experience and not to have to wonder what fancy moves she is going to be made to do.  If the women are expecting fancy moves, then maybe they have been watching too many show clips or going to classes where they teach dancing large and the fancy steps that go with that.

When you are truly comfortable with how you are dancing with the music, I am sure you will find a way to make the dance more interesting.

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