All tango beginners start at the same level but progress at different rates and in their own ways. They are all novices, often unsure about what to do first, how to walk, and how to embrace a partner. The first time at a milonga can be a harrowing experience for some as they take their first step into the world of dancing tango socially.
Ideally, it would take one to two years for a beginner to reach the intermediate level, another three to four years to reach an advanced level, and five more years to reach a master level. Then again, there isn’t really any standard as to how long it would take a person to progress into another level. It all boils down to their individual pace. Some would only take 3-4 years to reach the master level while others get stuck in the intermediate level for 10 years.
Unlike learning ballet, there is no prescribed order in progressing from one level to another. It’s just a matter of signing up for a particular class. It’s commonplace to find a variety of different levels of dancer in a single Tango class or workshop. Anybody can learn tango. Whether you’re musical or not, or whether you move easily or not, it doesn’t matter. You could be young or old. There is no right or wrong reason for wanting to learn tango. It may be to meet a potential partner, general exercise or the challenge of learning a new skill. What matters is that you enjoy the dance whilst you’re learning the basics and slowly discovering the wonders of dancing tango.
So how does one become an advanced dancer? Just like in any other domain, one has to have the passion and the drive to learn tango along with religiously following a routine of practice. However, one should not settle on just taking Tango classes or lessons. Going to milongas is also an important part of the learning process. On the other hand, if you keep going to milongas without properly learning the basics, you will only enhance your bad habits. It needs to be a good mixture of both.
Passion without dedication amounts to nothing in becoming an advanced tango dancer. This and, of course, good tango teachers to guide you and teach you what you need to learn are paramount. Unlike traditional professional dance education though, there is no standard way of teaching or a good way of dancing. It’s basically about what you want and what the teacher can offer you. Tango teachers are of every kind, not only in the style with which they dance but also the way in which they teach. There are no good or bad teachers, some are just more suited to different students. You just have to find the one whose style of teaching works best for you.
When can we say that a person is advanced in tango? Well, for starters, an advanced dancer has good posture, feels at ease when dancing, and someone who has a comfortable yet functional embrace. The leader is able to navigate around the floor safely whilst effectively leading their partner and the follower should be able to keep their balance without the leader’s help and complete their movements whilst maintaining connection to their partner.
We can say that a dancer is truly advanced when they know how to adjust their dancing to effectively dance with their partner, no matter what their partner’s level of expertise. No matter how good you are at dancing, you should be able to dance according to your partners ability.
Advanced dancers should also be musical, able to improvise easily, and, of course, someone who has a good understanding of the tango vocabulary. When you consider all of the aspects it takes to be truly an advanced Tango dancer, very few dancers actually can be considered such.
At the end of the day, however, whether you are considered an advanced tango dancer or not, it will always be about the connection that you create with your partner and the enjoyment you derive from dancing tango.