At what age did you begin learning Argentine tango?


Active Member
Well, I should have known that a simple question would turn into a lively discussion on this forum. It was hijacked in many directions, but at least a few were willing to say how old they were when they started learning Argentine tango: UKDancer was about 50, DChester 49, Anda Bien 43 as I was, Alexandra Weis is the youngest at 15, Sixela was 23, Bastet was about 30, and Twnkltoz was 38. All except one were too old to learn choreography which is often too difficult and too demanding for an adult body, unless trained in dance or similar discipline. The young couples who teach can't relate to a person 60 years old nor should they bother learning the choreography for exhibition.

Another question -- if you knew then what you know now about the dance and the music, would you have taken a different path in your experience? What advice would you offer to an adult interested in learning tango as a first dance?


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...a few were willing to say how old they were when they started learning Argentine tango...
When I started dancing, in my teen years, I thought the best dances were the ones most challenging, physically and mentally. It took me several years to begin to think that there were other aspects to dance that could be more rewarding. No one actually told me that, but I had the opportunity to observe some ethnic communities dancing and I realized that there was something more, that I, as a hot shot dancer, did not understand. Sometimes I wonder if it takes newcomers to AT, or any dance, a few years before they realize that the hot shot stuff is not the best stuff.


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I am content with my path. I first learned the walk and connection, and balanceos or whatever they're called. Then I mostly learned on the floor with the occasional lesson where I learned to improve my following, how I hold myself, ochos, molinettes, and so forth. My only druther is that I haven't had more money for classes and private lessons. There's still a lot I want to learn/fix. Being a ballroom dancer, I probably put too much emphasis on how the dance looks, which makes it difficult for me to truly free my legs, etc. Despite that, I feel I made a good transition from one discipline to the other.


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I started when I was 21 -22 around 8 years ago.
Knowing what I know now, I wish we had focused on how to walk, posture and the embrace instead of stuff like giros with a gancho in them. Going back to basics to unlearn all the bad habits and try to do the basics well has been a lengthy process and no end seems in sight.

Steve Pastor

Staff member
OK, not that anyone is twisting my arm, but I started AT in 2003, which means I would have been 52. I had lessons with Megan Pingree and Bill Alsup for 6 months and then 6 months with Alex Krebs. Then I took 2 1/2 years with Steven Payne.

Last week I ran into someone who taught AT here in Portland for a number of years (She was at the country western place saying how much fun it was.) She also said that some of the other teachers in Portland thought that Steven just made up his own style. Well, it was in fact "apilado," although he never called it that. When I asked him he told me he had learned from milongueros in Buenos Aires (no names offered, and I didn't ask). What he taught was consistent with what Robert Hauk was teaching at that time, as well as other people who were teaching an "apilado" style. I feel that Steven used his background in contact improvisation to explain how things work when using that kind of "energized embrace."
My only regret is that I was spoiled rotten by that style, and not being able to dance it (it takes two) makes AT too much like other dances I do (at least it did here in Portland where I used to go all the time - it didn't feel that way in Buenos Aires) .

I think I started my country western / west coast swing / etc in 1992 when I was just 41!

I would tell adults to find someone who emphasizes connecting to both your partner and the music, and don't be afraid of taking classes, or even series of classes, more than once.
...if you knew then what you know now about the dance and the music, would you have taken a different path in your experience? What advice would you offer to an adult interested in learning tango as a first dance?
I started tango when I was in my late 40's. I'm now 54. I had no prior dance lessons. Aside from liking "slow dances" in high school :) , my "dancing" after that mostly happened at wedding receptions.

My wife signed us up for a slow waltz class for my 47th birthday. The last of our children had gone of to university and we had time (finally!) to ourselves. I wasn't looking forward to it; to her surprise I enjoyed it. When that class finished we signed up for tango. Not knowing anything about the dance, other than the usual stereotypes, we signed up for a class. Turns out is was a ballroom variety. We enjoyed it very much. After that we signed up for our first AT class. A couple months later, after I'd done some reading, lots of listening, and watching YouTube clips, I discovered every lesson was an exact copy of one from Dario's Tango Guide. Talk about steps, patterns, sequences, all in open embrace - yikes! We switched teachers and had lots of bad habits to get rid of...

For "an adult interested in learning tango as a first dance" I'd advise doing something very different that I (we) did!. Find a good teacher who explains the movements (not patterns, how to lead and follow) and the embrace, although new dancers are not likely to be comfortable dancing in close embrace, the teacher should demo and talk about it. I'd suggest newbies give it a try - you will likely enjoy it! The teacher should talk about the music fairly soon into the classes. At least the very basics: the mood and the phrasing. Seek such a teacher and pay their rates, which will likely be more than the "bargain" classes available. It is difficult to remove bad habits and thinking; better to get a good start in the first place.


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In my experience as a teacher, I've observed that dancers trained in ballroom or ballet have a difficult time shedding their previous training and adapting to a different concept of dancing.
That is generally true, and I do still work on overcoming certain things, but I seem to have transitioned better than some (at least that's what leaders tell me). I also learned to dance WCS like a WCS dancer and not like a ballroom dancer. My ballroom still shows through every once in a while, but I manage to keep it beaten down most of the time. :)


Active Member
uff, only Brigitta ´83 and Eric ´87 are ahead of you.
He mentions Brigitta Winkler (Germany) and Eric Jorisson (Holland) who went to Buenos Aires to investigate tango at its source. They have more years than most foreigners, but not nearly as many years as the milongueros viejos who started learning as boys, some as many as 70 years ago. They have kept tango alive as a social dance in Buenos Aires all these decades with no motive for profit, only love for the dance and music.
I am grown up surrounded by Finnish tango as music and as dance, since early fifties. Some of the songs are originally Argentine tango arranged in Finnish way and with text translated. In the beginning of the eighties I fell in love with Piazzolla and bought the LP even if I did not have a player, but one of my friends helped me to get it over to tape so I was rescued!

The exact start to dance Argentine tango was for me, as for you JanTango, a tango performance! A friend bought tickets to a visiting tango show in spring 1998 and during the pause I picked some information sheets. There was a milonga afterwards and I persuaded my friend to follow and take a look. So my second step on the Argentine tango road was a visit to a milonga. That summer I visited the outdoor milongas twice a week and moved to indoor activities when the autum came.
..... and I am still there!
Today, tango attracts older adults who never danced before. It is no surprise they feel awkward and take classes for years.
I remember that you told us in some posting about your music and dance training before tango, at early age.

I grew up in a little village without possibilities to training in music or dance. I was dreaming of dance those days but it was impossibly. When I moved to an university town I was glad about all possibilities to visit people, watch movies and my studies so dancing was no big issue then. So the music and dance training had to wait until I became aware of how importand tango was for me, later in life.

I started to take classes to train my body and I have taken classes to train my music awareness, musicality. Yes, it takes longer time to proceed as an elder learner but there is also a deep joy when I find more flow in my movements, I cooperate better with my partner and feel deeper for the music.

Jan, you were trained earlier - I am training now

Why should I feel awkward?


Well-Known Member
uff, only Brigitta ´83 and Eric´87 are ahead of you.
He mentions Brigitta Winkler (Germany) and Eric Jorisson (Holland)... They have more years than most foreigners, but not nearly as many years as the milongueros viejos who started learning as boys, some as many as 70 years ago...
Jan, what is the use of 70 years with poor technique? Never found a place of such low dancing skills among local female dancers than in BsAs. (And also such a high gap between social and professional dancers.) You seem to be unteachable: simply open your eyes.

Today, tango attracts older adults who never danced before....
For heaven´s sake, without our worldwide survival assistance your purpose of living would already been extinct (Which wasn´t for the first time in tango history).


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Sorry Jan, for answering in a sharp manner. I´m sick and tired of this discussion, which actually isn´t any. Also yesterday a guy in the bandoneon forum was moaning about the sellout of his cultural heritage (i.e. the oversea selling of bandoneons). Tango now is a common worldwide property, nothing argentinians could ever again claim a right to any more in particular.
Potential hijack alert!

Which milongas, and when, were you going to?
I was curious about that, too. Then I remembered that for some people the idea of what good dancing (or even what dancing, period) signifies, is quite different from mine, or jantango's, or most dancers in the milongas in Buenos Aires we love to go to. So, probably, if there is the case here, it could not be much of a discussion...


Well-Known Member
Or it might be a great discussion.

First, I don't think that any of us would like to have our feet held to the fire over something said in a moment of anger/exasperation.

Secondly, my take, as a person who does a lot of social dance (not tango, but still) is that social dance skills can be very uneven, in the same dance venue. In my mind, that's one down side of eschewing formalized/codified training. Some social dancers are very, very good. Some social dancers are horrid. *shrug* I think it's possible for any dance scene to be simultaneously good and bad, depending on whom you dance with/watch and what you experience when you do.


Well-Known Member
Yeah. Gotcha. Just pointing out that it's all subjective. I'd be very surprised if the milongas inn BsAs didn't have a high level of dance overall, BUT it's still possible that opendoor's observation is valid, in the context of his experience.

And don't forget. All this was said through the filter of anger. That tends to color things a bit. And being online is instantaneous. I've been on the receiving end of that a time or two (hundred) myself. Hasn't always been fun. :D

Things happen. *shrug*

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