You can’t learn Tango from YouTube!

I am going to have a little rant.

I read Tango Bob’s post about YouTube and it got me thinking.   I jokingly told Bob that one could possibly learn something from watching videos.  However, most people wouldn’t actually know what to look for.  How would someone know what is good or bad if they are just starting out?  I read a lot of Tango Blogs and a lot of people post YouTube videos of people who they think are wonderful dancers, teachers, etc.  It even happens on Facebook. Being ever open-minded, I usually play the video.  I usually end up watching things that make me cringe.  I have to restrain myself from leaving a comment like: You gotta be kidding me?!  After all, I was a beginner once.  Most of it is nuevo or show crap.   A gancho here, a lift there, an open embrace and kick to the back of your head here.  Need I say more.  That is NOT Tango, and it certainly isn’t the Argentine Tango that I have learned and have fallen in love with.

What particularly irks (and saddens at the same time) me is that a lot of beginners think that this is the real deal, and they all want to do the fancy moves that they see in the videos.  Please, don’t.   Some of what you are seeing is show or stage Tango.  All that acrobatic stuff is for the stage, where it belongs, and not for the dance floor, where you can really hurt someone doing that.  The people who perform stage Tango on stage are highly skilled and trained dancers.  These videos should be labelled with a hazard warning:  FOR STAGE USE ONLY – DO NOT TRY THIS IN A MILONGA.  Every time I see a stage performance like Tango x 2 or Tango Fire I inevitably hear someone say, “I couldn’t possibly do that!” and I am thinking,  ‘You are too damn right about that, and neither should you try!’  I have nothing against stage Tango and have enjoyed going to several performances, but that is where it should stay.

As for nuevo, well, I have done my fair share of that when I started out and didn’t know much better.  I can do it, but I prefer not to.  I no longer take classes because people teach moves.  I don’t want to know moves.   Besides, I’m a follower and I don’t need to know the move!  I just need to know HOW to move.  A YouTube video will not teach you that either.  As for my issues with nuevo, it isn’t that I don’t like people who do it.  I dislike it when people do it badly in a milonga, when they are being annoying and not following the line of dance or are bumping into people.  I do know of people who dance large in the milongas and they are mindful of others, but there are very few of those and they are the exception to what I consider to be the norm of nuevo dancers.

Another thing that irks me about some of these YouTube videos is the music.  One can pretty much guarantee that at least a third (I am under guestimating here) of the so-called Argentine Tango dancing is done to non-tango music.  What the heck is that all about!?  Some of it isn’t even Tango-inspired music!  I just don’t get it and I don’t really want to.  As far as I am concerned, Argentine Tango is about the music and when you dance it to non-Tango music, then it changes the concept of the dance and just makes it contemporary.  If I want to look at contemporary dance, I will go to an Alvin Ailey performance or something like it.

Look, to me, if you dance Argentine Tango to non-Tango music, you might as well learn Ceroc instead.  Ceroc is meant to be danced to any kind of music and I have even danced it to Gotan Project at the Casbah in South Kensington – and that was weird.

So, back to my rant about YouTube.  I don’t have anything against YouTube or the people that put up their videos.  In fact, there are some lovely videos of people dancing Argentine Tango to authentic Tango music.  I am sure something can be learned by watching these videos.  After all, people can learn by watching others.  The other thing people can do is to talk about what you are watching.  I have been very lucky to have more experienced dancers discuss what was happening on the dance floor with me.  This is nice because…and that is not nice because…..  My gripe is when beginners think that just because they see something on a video that looks cool, it must be a good thing to try.  Well, don’t.  If you don’t know how to do something, don’t do it.  Have someone teach it to you instead and then you might just be able to do it without injuring someone.  Thats’s what we have teachers for!  But if teachers are going to be teaching show Tango moves…well, that is a rant for another time!