At what age did you begin learning Argentine tango?

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by jantango, Mar 12, 2013.

  1. jantango

    jantango Active Member

    Portenos (those living in the city of Buenos Aires) born in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s learned tango at an early age, usually around 12-14 years. They had time to practice and listen to tango on the radio. Dances were the way to meet someone to marry. There were no classes. They went to the neighborhood clubs to dance and hone their social skills.

    Today, tango attracts older adults who never danced before. It is no surprise they feel awkward and take classes for years.

    I got a taste of tango when I was ten years old. My parents were taking ballroom dancing lessons and showed my sister and me what they learned. It wasn't until I saw an exhibition of Argentine tango in Chicago (age 43) that I got serious. That was 22 years ago.
  2. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Was what they showed you Argentine Tango or ballroom tango?
  3. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    That's how just about everyone learned to dance, at least in Europe & US, at that time. We didn't dance AT, of course, but my parents met at a dance, nearly everyone did. They had time. Time for listening to the radio and absorbing the popular culture. There were dance teachers, but most people learned by watching their peers and practising. Outside the small world of the hobby dancers, most people still do.

    Actually, it does surprise me (or at least it would, if I didn't regularly see that lots of dancers in many other styles are perpetual students: the classes (and in tango, workshops) is the major attraction - they don't actually dance much, if at all). Tango is a very simple dance. It is based on walking to the cadence of attractive music. Anyone of average intelligence should be able to dance tango to a decent standard in a couple of hours. And yet...

    But to answer the question, I started dancing in my late 20s, newly married, but tango came along five years ago, and I'm in my 50s now. Classes really screwed me up. I didn't start to dance tango until I stopped taking them seriously, and now I consider myself to be self-taught, and I take no more than three or four classes/workshops a year, but dance quite a lot. That works rather better for me, and I have got better at it.
    Mario7 likes this.
  4. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    If it's not too personal, UKDancer, in what way would you say classes screwed you up?
  5. Subliminal

    Subliminal Well-Known Member

    Fixed that for ya. ;)

    (And it depends on what you mean by decent standard too. I don't know anyone who mastered floorcraft in a few hours. heh.)
  6. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    Well OK, I'll extend the learning phase to three/four hours for those without the above average body coordination, but I don't think athleticism counts for much in social dancing, unless you tend too far in the opposite direction. As for mastery of floorcraft, that is well beyond a decent standard, but the essentials boil down to understanding a couple of simple rules, based on courtesy. Tango is simple.
    Bailamosdance likes this.
  7. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Smart aleck!

    I think UK makes some interesting points about dance lessons and perpetual students, though. When my parents and heck, even my older siblings, were in their teens and twenties, dance was something everybody did socially. Few people took lessons. You watched other people or, later, TV. You practiced. And you danced. It was a minimum expected social skill. Some people were better at it than others, but pretty much everybody dd it.

    Then along came the 60s,maybe? And now there's a great divide between "ordinary" people and people who dance. And people who dance go to great lengths and great expense to do something that, 40 years ago or maybe even 30 years ago, was a given. *sigh*
  8. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    Not too personal, but I don't want to hijack discussion, so have replied to you directly.
  9. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member


    Thank you! :)
  10. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    I guess I don't see this as being true at all for leaders.
  11. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    I think it was 49 for me. I'd have to ask the wife to be sure. She's better at remembering things like that. Believe it or not, it was my idea (even though I didn't have much of a dance background, other than disco in the 70s).

    We needed a hobby to do together, once our world stopped revolving around our son. My wife did have a dance background, and she loves the arts in all forms, so I thought I'd give it a try. I never thought I'd be the one who liked it more than she did.
    Yogur griego likes this.
  12. Bailamosdance

    Bailamosdance Well-Known Member

    The true definition of a social dance is that someone can just 'do it'. Once you add mystical layers to this ("the magic of tango' etc) it becomes a marketing ploy as well as a gateway to real dance. When people say things like 'there are no steps' I always point out that tango does not stand in place, but is based on walking... steps.
  13. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    I became an avid folk dancer at about 16 yrs old. That included many dance styles and forms, including some tangos. I didn't particularly like them. They were sort of pretentious choreographies.

    At the age of 43, 22 years ago, I discovered AT in a different city, and immediately loved it. It was two years before I could really get involved with it on a weekly basis.
  14. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    Are you suggesting that social dance isn't real dance?
  15. Bailamosdance

    Bailamosdance Well-Known Member

    lol not my intention. I meant, social dance is not the same as studying dance in a bigger sense. Balance, timing, etc are not part of learning social dance 'on the fly'.
  16. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    Perhaps we would have to agree, first, on what the absolute basic building blocks of the dance are, and then what skills & understanding are the minimum necessary to have a simple dance according to those principles. Of course, I'm being a little tongue in cheek in naming a couple of hours, but I expect beginners to be dancing in almost any social style in a couple of hours. Tango, as it does not rely on any particular step patterns or figures, ought to be simpler than more structured styles: it's a simple dance.
    Bailamosdance likes this.
  17. Bailamosdance

    Bailamosdance Well-Known Member

  18. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    I think many leaders want to be told exactly what to do. It gives them a feeling of confidence and security, that they are doing it "right". Improvising is difficult for many people.
    Yes and no. It can be very simple and it can be quite complicated.
    Yogur griego likes this.
  19. Yogur griego

    Yogur griego Member

    Thanks Jantango for this thread, some good arguing going on here. Here is my perspective:

    There is still a problem about seeing tango as a simple, social dance outside of Europe. I meet many people who have been dancing for years and still do not seem understand anything about musicality and contributing to the dance flow, dancing socially in the sense of finding consensus on the dance floor, etc. These people have often not participated in classes for many years and do the same tricks all the time. I am fine with that, I prefer to keep my dance simple as well, but there is often a lack of good teaching. Teaching that surpasses just showing a fancy figure and let people practice it. Tango is still a very difficult dance in a technical sense, even if you forget about exaggerated stage moves. It's the dance that embodies detail and precision. It is much more simple in a way than, let's say, salsa (full of figures and variations that we do not do as tango dancers) but I still think the simple stuff must be done in a very sophisticated way to really make it elegant and beautiful. And that is what many people do not do, as a result of bad teaching.

    Jantango has often emphasized that most people are just copying stage dancers. However, many people could benefit from their knowledge of technique, because there is still a lot of bad dancing happening. I do not care whether someone has not improved his tango in many years, that's his own matter, but I currently experience so much bad dancing that negatively influences dance flow, social responsibility, etc. I meet followers that just do not get even the most basic concepts right (posture, balance) after having spent years doing classes and probably repeatedly learning how to do a overturned volcada sacada Chicho Frumboli whatever.

    So, it's certainly possible to see tango as a simple dance, and it is, but in the background there is a very, very steep learning process that a lot of people just can't get right. The older porteƱos Jantango refers to were blessed with a variety of much less commercialized learning options. They learned everything in a natural way, under the supervision of more experienced people, not under the supervision of Mr. Visiting $$$ Workshop.
    PinkBlossoms and Mladenac like this.
  20. alexandrahweis

    alexandrahweis Active Member

    I started learning a few months ago, I am 15.
    Mario7 likes this.

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