Argentine Tango is classified as a dance, but what sets it apart from other dances is that the process of learning and teaching tango is unlike that of the rest. In fact, learning tango is not even comparable to learning a dance. If anything, it’s more akin to learning a language.
A dance that’s more like a language—how do you learn that? Well, just think of it as similar to learning a new language. So, the basics are to first learn the vocabulary (steps), then the pronunciation (execution of steps) and then the grammatical rules (rules that apply to the tango style that you are dancing). Simple concept, right?
Now, here comes the challenging part. In learning a language, you have to have something to say in order to practice speaking with another person. And for you to be understood, you have to say it well. The ability to express yourself clearly has little to do with the language itself but comes from your innate ability to be creative in expressing yourself. The exact same idea goes with learning and teaching tango.
A language teacher would teach you the language with its structure and order. At the same time, they would try to teach you literature so you could understand and master reading in that language. When it comes to creativity, it is entirely yours to incorporate to the language but the teacher is still going to at least try to teach you how it’s done. A tango teacher can teach you the steps and how to dance them well. They can be a language and literature professor all in one and it’s a significantly difficult task that only few know how to do.
What I usually hear people complain about tango teachers is why they keep teaching sequences. Why they keep repeating the same sequence over and over like robots and that they never teach about the creative part of dancing tango.
You see, the equivalent “words” in tango is steps and the sequence its poetry. In order for you to create good poetry is when you have read countless poems by other people. Yes, you can write your own poems without being influenced by others but you could do even better with more ideas and styles learned from others. Tango teachers, especially in Tango classes, teach you sequences to inspire you to cultivate your own creativity not by showing you exactly how it’s done but by leading you in the right direction.
Not everybody can create their own sequence though and most tango dancers will only keep the sequences of others, even tango professionals. And that’s perfectly fine. Students who are aspiring to learn the dance must be able to reach a certain level of understanding in order for them to appreciate the small things in dancing Tango.
For you to enjoy a certain sequence of steps, you have to have tried other sequences created by other dancers to see what you like and suits you best. You can either stick to just one way of dancing or sequences that you like or create your own movement as you see fit. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are in the moment and experience the emotion brought about by the dance that is Tango.
In Tango lessons and classes at the Brisbane House of Tango, we endeavour to not only teach you how to move in a natural way but also encourage you to explore your own creativity in dancing Tango.