The Traditional Way Men Learned to Dance Tango

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During the early years up until the 1940’s, young men learned Tango the same way as everybody else did in Buenos Aires. Ask every elderly man in Buenos Aires how they learned to dance Tango and you’ll get the same response over and over again. They would often start with, “I was 12 years old and there was this pretty girl…”. Unlike 12-year-old’s now, 12-year-old’s in the 40’s or earlier were effectively young adults as they were full members of the workforce at such a tender age. Most of them would have left school at 11 and started working in factories like an independent adult.

It was right around this age when they started to feel attracted to the opposite sex. Back then, they did not have many options to meet girls. Tango was basically their only way of meeting young women and this encouraged them to an all-men dance practice to learn Tango. They will watch other men dance and eventually join in, dancing the part of the woman. When he had learned enough of being a follower, he would then be allowed to dance the man’s part with another young man so he can practice dancing the role of the leader.

Argentine Tango Classes BrisbaneThey will continue to learn dancing, alternating the roles of leader and follower until they are good enough or until they learn some more. They will then be asked to don a suit when going to a dance or milonga. The entire process starting from their first Tango practice until when they were allowed to attend milongas took way more time than you would expect. Most elderly men say it took them up to three years or more to be considered good enough for milongas. Back then, women would not dance with men whom they haven’t seen dancing before, so the young men’s first dance with them would have to be arranged. Milongas were filled with so many good dancers that women would not want to waste their time dancing with someone they were not certain could dance well, unless he was especially attractive. The scenario would usually be that one of his friends (who is more experienced in dancing) would ask a woman to dance with the boy as some sort of a favour. If it went well, then he can carry on dancing as other women would no longer hesitate to dance with him as they’ve already seen him dance. If it didn’t go so well, he’d have to go back to the practica and keep on practicing before he’d be given another chance. Nonetheless, men kept going to practicas even when they’ve become more experienced. They’d go for about a couple of hours each night to dance with beginners before going to the milonga. For them, real Tango dancing happens in practicas. The Milonga, to them, is just a way for them to get noticed by women.

Learning Tango could basically be compared to how a child learns language. First, they listen, then, after a few months, they would start to make noises imitating the sound of words. Slowly, they start to speak simple words and short phrases, then gradually learn how to speak sentences and carry a proper conversation in a few more years. The child may grow up to be a linguist or they may stay inarticulate. Nonetheless, the fundamentals of learning the language are just the same.

Source: http://www.history-of- tango.com/learn-to- dance.html

Tango: More than just a dance

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Tango, once labelled as an erotic dance, was only performed in localities of lower class. Fast forward to the present, tango is now being danced by people from all social classes and is even dubbed as the most elegant dance in the world.

Private Tango Lessons BrisbaneTracing the roots of tango to the date that it was created or to identify the person who invented it is impossible. As far as we know, it originated in Rio de la Plata in Greater Argentina in the late 19th century. It was brought about by the collision of different people and cultures —a mixture of Europeans, African slaves and Peones (farm labourers) who all moved in to the seaport in search for a better life. This was followed by the emergence of Barrios (slums) and the sudden boom of prostitution that ultimately made Tango the artistic outlet of overall misery.

Argentine dancers and orchestras began travelling to Europe at the dawn of the 20th century. A “Tango de salon” was then developed in Paris as it was known to be the birthplace of trends and new fashions. However, it was still regarded by Europeans of the upper class as a vulgar dance thus it was not considered acceptable in the social norms of that time. In the later years, various standardised styles and techniques have been developed as English dance teachers formed a new version of the dance. Tango was officially announced cultural heritage by UNESCO in September of 2009.

Because new influences and techniques were mixed, European tango was born. Now, what is the difference between Latin Tango and European Tango? It’s all about the people’s attitude towards dancing. Whilst people in Europe prepare and make time to go dancing, things are far more casual in Latin America. People just turn on their radio while doing their chores and dance to the beat whenever they feel like it. It’s sort of a common occurrence in households where pieces of furniture are pushed aside to make room for the entire family. They never had to go to dancing schools or attend Tango lessons or classes to learn how to dance. They just allow themselves to be taken over by the rhythm. They don’t follow any rules and figures. They just follow where the rhythm takes them. They dance at family celebrations, gatherings of friends or even on the streets. Tango is virtually everywhere. It seems as cliché as a scene straight out of a musical but in Buenos Aires, dancing is basically their way of life.

In addition to the fact that tango has become more popular than ever in the last decade, it has now been regarded as a new method of treatment for neurological problems. A study has been conducted on patients with neurological problems and it was found out that dancing tango slows down the progress of some neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer and Parkinson’s disease. Tango improves the patients’ balance and enables them to walk backwards. And to top it all, it gives them joy and rids of their feelings of isolation brought about by their disease.

 

Sources: https://creativecultureint.com/tango-more-than-a-dance/

https://neuro.wustl.edu/dancing-to-ease-disease-tango-with-a-beneficial-beat/

Learning Tango: More Than Just Learning a Dance

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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.

Tango Lessons near meA 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.

Tango: A Form of Meditation

Argentine Tango,

Tango - A MeditationOver the years, many cultures worldwide have been using meditation to quiet the mind and get to states that are favourable to both psychological and physical wellbeing.

Tango dancing, as discovered by scientists after years of studying its functions, can enable a person to achieve mental states similar to that of people who meditate regularly. Also, it is likely that highly skilled Tango dancers are able to enter deeper levels of the mind. This coincides with the greater connection that a dancer has with his/ her partner.

The US National Library of Medicine conducted an experiment that aimed to prove that Argentine tango has similar effects as that of mindfulness meditation in terms of decreasing the symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress. For the experiment, they assigned 97 people suffering from depression to either a tango class, a meditation class, or neither.

Contrary to other types of meditation where you enter into some sort of sleep-like state, mindfulness meditation is a kind of meditation where a person is aware that he/she is meditating.

They have arrived to the conclusion that tango, just like meditation, can treat depression and manage stress effectively.

An even more comprehensive research was done by St. Mary’s College of California. Using an Electroencephalograph (EEG), they measured brain activity of dancers. They attached electrodes to the scalps of Tango dancers, as well as a group of volunteers who stand as a control group.

It was discovered in the study that just like in mindfulness meditation, tango dancers trust on internal focus and attention while dancing. Also, another thing that a person can benefit from meditation is not only can they decrease stress levels but they may also enhance their cognitive abilities.

Here’s how it works. As a person meditates, the mind relaxes and enters a state of heightened alpha-wave activity, the same waves that appear prior to sleep. These waves fill a considerable portion of the brain which ultimately settle in the frontal areas. If this is prolonged, the brain may exhibit theta and delta wave patterns as it enters into lower frequencies.

In conclusion, the study has proven that the more experienced a tango dancer is, the more powerful is their alpha state in comparison to other subject groups. Whilst all other subject groups did display an alpha state, the neural efficiency hypothesis has been perfectly demonstrated by the experienced tango dancers, suggesting that the use of mental resources is less for those who have more experience with the same activity.

Furthermore, just like with meditation, the more one practices tango, the more capable they are of entering these relaxed states. With more practice comes more chances of entering deeper relaxation states which ultimately leads to experiencing more positive qualities.

So…keep practicing!