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How to learn Argentine tango II: Alone or with a partner

Updated: Apr 5

Are you considering to start learning Argentine tango? Or perhaps, have you already started attending a course and are a bit lost on how to continue? In this series of blogs, I will be developing different topics regarding the learning process and try to share the best tips to ease your way into the wonderful world of Argentine tango.

“Do I need a partner to come to the lessons?” This is probably the most often asked question when people are thinking about taking an Argentine tango course. What is more: the assumption that a partner is needed to start learning prevents many people to even start searching for a course. The short answer: Tango is a pair-dance, so it does take two to dance it but you can definitely attend lessons and learn it without a fixed partner.

Alone or with a partner: It takes two to tango

This is actually true. Even though there are solo technique lessons, these are essentially designed to improve the couple experience. One of the beauties of the dance lies precisely in the fact that we must master a way of communicating with another person with movements instead of words. And we can do this with anyone: a lover, a friend, someone from your city, or another continent, people we know or complete strangers.

Tango offers a shared somatic experience that takes place in the context of its music and it’s influenced by it. This somatic experience is perhaps one of the greatest sources of pleasure of the dance. And it will be very good for you to understand, at the outset, that this other person does not need to be a romantic partner or someone from the opposite sex, because that way you will actually be able to enjoy it in all it’s beauty, variety and complexity.

Argentine Tango with a romantic partner

For those of you who come with a partner and wish to stay dancing with them: Yes, Argentine tango can be a great experience for a couple looking to share a hobby and spend time together. That being said, the strong recommendation is to change partners: if you miss this, you are certainly missing an important part of the experience. Here are a few reasons for changing partners:

  • Learning tango together can put pressure in the couple: I often observe that couples tend to look for blame (often in the partner) when things don’t work… I also did this when I danced with romantic partners!! Sometimes this brings out aspects of the relationship that might be challenging for the couple, which can turn the experience into something unpleasant. The truth is that, specially at the beginning, responsibility for things that don’t work is often shared because both partners are learning. One good way out of this cycle and bring some “air” to the situation is precisely to try with someone else. After that you can return to your partner with a different perspective and even more appreciation.

  • Argentine Tango is a social dance. So, even though you have a partner with whom you dance with, you will be missing part of the fun if you don’t try changing partners. To be clear, you can decide how often to do it. Your partner can still be your “main” partner, but there is a beauty in being able to establish a somatic connection with others. If you miss that, you are missing a big part of the experience.

  • Changing partners will definitely improve your dance as a couple. At the beginning we tend to feel that it will be better if we learn with one partner only. Trust me, it is much better to try with different partners. It is not uncommon that couples that start dancing together and don’t want to change partners eventually end up patching up each other’s gaps. Unfortunately, this will not help either to learn to lead or follow. So, even if you come with your own partner to the lessons, my suggestion is to try and change partners often, or at least every now and then. You will be surprised at how this will force you to adapt to different bodies and ways of moving, and how this ultimately helps to improve your own dance and therefore also the dance experience with your romantic partner.

Learning Argentine Tango without a partner

It is not uncommon for people who want to start dancing Argentine Tango, to simply refrain from doing so because you think that you cannot do it without a partner. This is not true. Lot’s of lessons don’t require you to have a fixed partner and it is possible to start by yourself!

If you consider to start lessons by yourself, here are some advices for you:

  • Try to be open minded about the roles in the dance: Just as with many other social roles, the roles in the dance are starting to become more and more flexible. Today, together with the traditional couple where the man leads and the woman follows, we also have women who are leaders, men who are followers, and people who do both roles. The fluidity of today’s roles allows for people who are interested in dancing not depend on the interest of members of the opposite sex for dance.

  • Find a practice partner: Don’t wait to find a dance partner before you start dancing. I think this is one of the biggest mistakes because the best place to meet people interested in learning how to dance are the lessons! Start attending the lessons and the milongas and it is precisely there where you will be able to find dance partners. Also, try to have an open mind, perhaps you imagine that you will find one practice partner with whom you will be dancing every week for a significant amount of time. But I believe it is easier if one has a more flexible approach: you might have several different practice partners or your practice partner may be someone who primarily wants to do the same role as you but you help each other to practice.

  • Go to milongas! Oftentimes, specially here in Finland, people think they need to have a certain basic level of command of the dance to attend the social dances (milongas). This is not true. The milonga is a social gathering, where people listen to music, they talk, they watch people dance, and they also dance. You don’t need a certificate that says you have a certain level to go to a milonga. Even though your movement-vocabulary is limited, you can still use it to dance. It is perfectly possible to attend and dance only a couple of tandas (groups of 3-4 songs that are danced with the same partner) at the beginning and then simply watch and listen to the music. Watching is an important part of the danceç: we learn a lot by observing. The same can be said about listening to the music: by listening you will get acquainted with the different styles the orchestras play and develop your own taste of music.

  • Take private lessons: If your budget allows it. Taking private lessons is a good way to move forward as a solo dancer. You get the entire attention of the instruction, personalised feedback, and you get to dance with an experienced dancer. If you combine the previous tips with this one, perhaps just one or two lessons per month can be sufficient.

So, do you need a partner to dance tango? Yes, you do, but you don’t need a partner to come to the lessons or the milonga! Dancing with different partners is one of the most beautiful aspects of the dance, and you can do this if you come to the lessons with a partner or by yourself.

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