A student recently asked me this question this week. I noticed he was picking up his feet in a funny way so I corrected him. He answered by saying "I saw this on a video in YouTube". The problem with YouTube today is that most videos on YouTube are not demos of how you should dance in a social milonga. Nowadays couples perform demos to get visibility, promote themselves and get high rankings on YouTube in the hopes of getting hired to teach at festivals and travel. Often they are prepared numbers, figure based and choreographed numbers.
So what you should be watching if you are learning to dance tango salon? I have created a list of videos on the Tango Soul YouTube channel named "Tango salon to watch". These should help point you in the right direction.
I was fortunate enough to start dancing tango in the milongas of BsAs in 1995. Between 1995-2000 tango was still what I call "Al piso" which translates to "on the floor". Like you can see in these videos there is no jumping or bouncing around like you see in most milongas nowadays. Unfortunately. the milongas today are not a good resource to watch and learn, so you need to rely mainly on videos from the past.
Due to a phenomenon in 2000 called "Tango nuevo", a mix of modern dance with tango influence everything changed. Many of the roots of social dancing were lost since people started learning from strictly tango nuevo dancers , tango show dancers and ballroom dancers. And that’s why everybody that started to learn after 2005 has had little exposure to tango salon due to the change in the dance form and expression. So what they call "Tango Salon" or "Traditional Tango" today is in fact very different from what its used to be before 2005.
Today you will find in Tango Marathons & Festivals teachers who dance to perform and entertain the attendees. And of course the teaching follows in the same direction. The question I get the most often is “how do I learn to dance tango salon al piso?. Here is a list of things that might help you:
Watch the videos we recommend
Practice your walk, musicality and embrace
Don't focus on tango tricks or figures
Ask questions and take advice from those who have what you want.
Remember never to perform for the outside but dance for your partner
Study the orchestras… A LOT! It takes three to tango and the orchestra comes first.
Tango festivals and marathons are not your best investment to learn how to dance tango salon unless the teachers are tango salon “al piso” dancers who are focusing on teaching to dance in a traditional milonga. Ask your teachers for their advice before spending your money.
Research the teachers you are learning from. It is easy nowadays to create an online profile that sells whatever you want. That includes deleting part of your history and promoting solely because it is in fashion or sells. This happens a more than you think. Find out what you want and ask those who you look up to about the teachers you want to take classes with.
Don’t get offended if find out you were misled or wasted your time and money somewhere. It happens to everybody. The ones that succeed in achieving their goals are the ones who humble themselves and are not afraid to constantly go back to basics.
I hope that this helps you on your journey of development in your tango and that you can also save time and enjoy yourself in the wonderful culture of Argentine Tango dancing.
*Tango Soul hosted "El Congreso", a traditional tango congress between 2008-2011. The focus was on the culture of tango salon and hosted teachers who taught tango social dancing.
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