Officially tango is broken into a few different styles like salon, nuevo, milonguero or fantasia. But in addition you will hear terms like Porteño, Villa Urqueza, Tango Liso or Orillero (not to mention all the ballroom versions of tango, of which I am not addressing in this writing) and others. What do these terms or styles mean to tango or to you? One day in an advanced tango workshop class when an instructor asked the question: “How many styles of tango are there?” There were several replies, but the reply that resonated the best in a room of 60 tango addicts and even the maestro tango instructor was: “As many as there are tango dancers.” This is the truest statement I have ever heard regarding tango styles.
Once upon a time it was frowned on by some in Buenos Aires if you “stole” their steps. Nowadays they sell their steps as a gross national product. Tango has become a huge business around the planet. Tango is a complicated dance, it does require study and diligence – do not plan to become a welcome dancer at local milongas without applying yourself. You can get by for a while without lessons, because local communities are always hoping to expand their numbers, but it is not numbers they are looking for in the end. Most tango dancers spend a great deal of time and money to learn what they know about tango (in many cases this includes expensive trips to Buenos Airs and festivals), so what we are looking for in the end is rich, comfortable tango dancing.
You will find one instructor say there is only one tango and this is it… of course they need to sell lessons to make a living and that is their sales pitch. But all too often you study with them then dance with someone from another town or community and you are hyper challenged – if not down right confused. Have heart here, this only last for a while. Eventually you learn that there isn’t only one style of tango and you learn how to dance with differing styles and techniques. Keep dancing. Find and instructor that can teach you to dance every where with everyone.
It would be fun to take all the people that dance tango, color each personal style and them seam them all together. I think what you would get is a rainbow of the full spectrum of tango. Since there is a varying color gradient to each and every tango dancer, you would actually have to dance with everyone that does or has ever danced tango – so obviously that can’t happen. So how would one ever learn so many styles? Truthfully you can’t learn or study them all. But perhpas if one looked at the primary colors one could get an idea of what each style is like. This is what the previous list of salon, nuevo, milonguero or fantasia does for this analogy.
What I have tried to do is take a look at each primary color so that when I am out dancing and I run into a magenta, I realize it is a combination of red and blue and I can adjust my lead. This is what I want for our community and for our students, the ability to dance with anyone that might ask them to dance at a milonga in Tucson, Phoenix, San Francisco, London, Sydney or Buenos Aires.
When we invite workshop instructors to Tucson, we invite cross cultural styles, and we seek out instructors that are community builders that dance with the local community. Of course this means that there are times when you will hear seemingly conflicting information. However upon closer scrutiny I always find the common denominator.
I am no longer a formally religious man, nowadays I would consider myself spiritually scientific. There were three years I spent in theological ministry school in my youth, and at times tango styles and passions there of remind me of theological arguments. There was the dogma I was instructed to learn (and from the religions perspective, hopefully believe), and then there were the writings of theological giants that were conflicting, and at the same time there were opinionated references to trivia that sometimes left me wondering why one would want to ponder such trivial differences. For instance I once read an argument about the placement of a comma in a passage of scripture, “Verily I say unto you today, you will be with me in paradise.” -vs- “Verily I say unto you, today you will be with me in paradise.” The was whether you go to heaven the moment you die or at a later time. From my perspective: Who cares!!
It was this attention to detail and argument that ultimately caused me to abandon plans to me a minister. What I found as a common thread that I kept is to love and forgive one another. That is still here and in its many nuances works very well for my peace, sanity and abundant living. Tango could be divided like politics with liberals and conservatives on extreme lefts and rights (and in my humble opinion) with the very good dancers lying right in the middle. I would fall further on the liberal views of tang simply because it allows me to dance more fluently and be more versatile and community minded in my tango.
In the end I don’t care what style someone dances or like — though I am not fond of ballroom tango dancing or the music — I like dancing with anyone that loves Argentine tango and its music. In this love of dancing out and about on this beautiful planet, I try to bring what I find that is lovely and beautiful to Tucson so we can learn from them.
Please remember in all of our offerings there are no black and whites or finite structural answers in tango. There are however some common denominators like cruzadas, ochos, ocho cortado, sacadas and such. In the execution of each I have noticed a few truths:
If you pivot with your heel and toe firmly fixed to the floor, you can hurt your knees.
If you don’t step under your body you will be off balance.
If you slouch or have bad posture it will cause back pain for you or your partner.
If you don’t dance to the music (or are not listening to the song) it is hard to dance with you.
If you pull, tug or yank on your partner they will not have a good time.
If your embrace is too tight or stiff it will exhaust you and your partner.
If you dance pigeon toed you will be constantly be off balance – and so will your partner.
If you don’t step you can not dance.
If you can learn the tango walk it applies to all styles of tango.
There are other ifs I am sure, this is just the list that comes to mind, I would happily add to this list. If you have something of value that is a constant – regardless of style – that should be here, add it in the comments and I will approve and place it here.
Tango is not a religion. No matter what anyone says or what you may here, there is more than one style of tango and there are many shades of each style. What I love about tango is there is a tango style in you right now, with care, study, respect and discipline you can find your style. Our goal is to create an ever richer and constantly maturing tango community in which we all can dance.