Unlocking the True Essence of Tango: Beyond the Dance Moves

Marcelo Hector Solis
5 min readMay 20, 2024
Unlocking the True Essence of Tango: Beyond the Dance Moves

Unlocking the True Essence of Tango: Beyond the Dance Moves

Perhaps you were asking yourself: Why a Tango School?

When I receive a new student in my class, I only know that he or she wants to learn to dance. However, teaching to dance Tango involves not only showing the moves but also giving the student a sense of placement, making him or her aware that you cannot just make any move at any time.

I must give the new students a sense of Tango as a whole and make them understand that they are learning a culture.

I heard someone calling Tango a “sub-culture.” I do not agree. All the elements I have learned while studying Tango are substantial in general society and the broader world culture. I learned the importance of my body as the root of my existence. I learned a lot about my interaction with others and how my happiness or unhappiness affects everybody around me. In sum, I learned that everything I do affects everybody and everything in this world.

I have realized the importance of teaching the beauty of Tango.

In my classes, I teach almost all the elements you may have in your checklist that every Tango instructor claims to teach. Name your favorite element; there is a big chance I teach it.

However, the meaning that the move carries within is more important than the element itself.

A while ago, I attended an event related to Tango. I was chatting with a couple. They told me they took some tango classes. They asked me if I made my students change partners in my classes. I replied that yes, but that it was not obligatory, as I knew many couples liked to remain together during the class.

Then they said they were learning “colgadas” in one class and found it uncomfortable doing “colgadas” with other people.

I told them that learning “colgadas” did not make much sense because if they went to Buenos Aires milongas, they would find out that nobody was doing “colgadas” there.

They were surprised, and, I think, a little incredulous of my assertion. Since they never went to Buenos Aires, they could not tell for sure. But I do.

In my more than 20 years of teaching Tango in the Bay Area (and more than 30 years teaching Tango in Argentina and worldwide), I have discovered that the main obstacle to teaching a new student is to overcome all the previous ideas about Tango he or she brings to the class and change them into understanding what Tango really is.

Now, you are probably asking: What Tango is in reality?

My answer is that tango is what happens in the milonga. And when I say milonga, my image is that of the best of the most authentic milongas in Buenos Aires.

This guides my instruction, which is why, along with others who are after the same goal, we created the Escuela de Tango de Buenos Aires.

Embracing the Cultural Roots of Tango

To truly appreciate and master Tango, one must embrace its cultural roots. Tango is a dance that reflects Argentina’s social, historical, and emotional landscapes projected to the world. The music, the lyrics, the movements — all these elements are deeply intertwined with a way of life. Understanding the origins of Tango provides my students with a richer context for their learning journey.

The Role of Music in Tango

Music is the heart and soul of Tango. Each note and rhythm tells a story. To dance Tango, one must connect with the music on a profound level. This means not just hearing the music but feeling it and interpreting it through movement. My students are encouraged to listen to classic Tango orchestras, understand the different styles, and learn to dance harmoniously with the music.

The Social Aspect of Tango

Tango is inherently social. The dance floor is a space where people come together, communicate nonverbally, and share a unique connection. This social aspect is crucial for understanding Tango. Although not obligatory, the practice of changing partners in class helps dancers adapt to different styles and builds a sense of community. It mirrors the social dynamics of a milonga, where dancers interact with multiple partners, enhancing their social skills and empathy.

Technique and Expression in Tango

While technique is essential, expression is what makes Tango captivating. Each movement in Tango should convey emotion and tell a story. This expressive quality sets Tango apart from other dances. I focus on the precision of steps and helping students express themselves through the dance. This balance between technique and expression makes Tango both challenging and rewarding.

Creating an Authentic Learning Environment

For a Tango school to be truly effective, it must recreate the atmosphere of an authentic milonga. This involves more than just teaching steps — it includes fostering a sense of community, encouraging cultural immersion, and promoting the etiquette and customs of Tango. By creating an environment that mirrors the Buenos Aires milongas, my students experience the true essence of Tango.

The Lifelong Journey of Tango

Learning Tango is a lifelong journey. There is always more to learn, refine, and experience. The joy of Tango lies in its endless possibilities for growth and discovery. I instill in my students a love for this ongoing journey, encouraging them to explore, experiment, create, and continually deepen their understanding of the dance.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the essence of Tango lies in its rich cultural heritage, music, social dynamics, and expressive potential. Our tango school aims to impart technical skills and artistic and emotional depth to the dance. By doing so, I offer students a truly transformative experience that goes beyond the dance floor and resonates in their everyday lives.

The creation of the Escuela de Tango de Buenos Aires is a testament to this holistic approach, ensuring that the true spirit of Tango is preserved and celebrated for generations to come.

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Marcelo Hector Solis

I was born in Argentina. I have been intimately involved with Tango all my life, and have been an dancer, choreographer and instructor for over 30 years.