Recently, one of my students asked me this question. It has taken me a long time to answer and, while thinking about the answer, I finally decided to write this blog entry.
The reason I needed a long time to answer is because this question made me feel profoundly uncomfortable. First, there's the obvious conflict of interest: This is a guy who is waiting for my answer in order to decide if continuing with his hobby or not. And my business IS the hobby, so I'm obviously interested on having more people in but of course, at the same time, I'm interested in being honest and straight with my students who are, in the end, my clients.
It is the wrong question to ask
Having acknowledged that slightly uncomfortable fact, I can now talk about the main reason for my discomfort: this question is based in an understanding of Argentine tango that I profoundly disagree with. Simply put, I feel it is the wrong question to ask and I don't want to answer it because I disagree with what it assumes Argentine Tango to be.
Argentine tango is a something we do out of love. If you love to travel, you don't ask yourself how talented you are at it. And there are people who are better than others at getting themselves familiar with a new place in a short period of time, or at reading the new place in a better way, at spending less money or time in searching for things to do, etc. In a similar way, if you love to dance, it doesn't matter necessarily how good your moves are. In both activities - dancing and travelling - there are certain skills involved that don't necessarily come naturally and that one may learn with some guidance and practice. Of course, it is a slightly strange comparison: travel and dance are not alike in that dance requires the ability of reproducing movements that comply with a certain aesthetic quality and here is the challenge of learning Argentine Tango (or any other dance, for that matter).
“Argentine tango is a something we do out of love”
Argentine Tango is not a sport, it is a social dance
But, as much as dance requires a certain skill, Argentine Tango is for most people a hobby, a passion, or even a lifestyle, and not necessarily something they will do for competing or comparing themselves to others. In a separate post, I have written tips to learn Argentine Tango, two of those tips were related with the joy aspect: enjoy the process and simply enjoy to dance. Why did I repeat this idea? Because joy is at the core of this social dance: the joy of embracing strangers, the joy of meeting new people, the joy of interacting with them through the movement, the joy of improvising, the joy of making silly mistakes and laughing about it, the joy of listening to the amazing contrasts of its music, the joy of looking at others dance, etc. I say that you have to choose Argentine Tango because you love it not because you are talented at executing it’s movements. The question of talent is the wrong question to ask because it assumes that it is an activity that one does to excel at it, like a sport. And Argentine Tango is not a sport, it is a social dance. Argentine Tango encompasses so much more than the movement: it offers encounters, the possibility to express yourself, to get to know a different culture, to travel, to meet new people, to connect in a different way to strangers using movement instead of words.
“The question of talent is the wrong question to ask because it assumes that it is an activity that one does to excel at it, like a sport”
What you really need to learn Argentine Tango
As an instructor, I have seen over the years that the most important factor to predict whether a new student will be able to learn to dance in a social way is not talent, but passion. I have seen very talented people who do not get to dance Argentine Tango because they simply become interested in something else and lack the interest in the dance to persevere at it. I have also seen students who lack that innate “talent” to move according to the aesthetic of Argentine Tango but love it so much that get immerse in it by listening to music, attending to multiple lessons by different teachers, getting different practice partners, talking about tango with other fellow dancers, watching movies about it, and eventually become beautiful dancers people love to dance with. And what makes a beautiful dancer? It is not whether if you can make an impressive gancho or colgada… it is the fact that you are able to connect authentically through an embrace and engage in a sort of “conversation of movements” where - just like in any good conversation - you manage to offer your truth and be open to what the other offers.
Anyone can learn Argentine Tango. It is not a dance that requires special talent but only love.