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Free tango lessons & introduction!

Among the standard ballroom dances, the next in popularity behind the waltz and the foxtrot is the tango. Unlike waltz and foxtrot, tango steps should have a sharp staccato placement. Tango is also characterized by stunning, sharp head-turns. Many of the figures are provocative. The melancholy drone of the bandoneon, an instrument similar to an accordion, can accent the sometimes steamy choreography. The Dance Store sells a great instructional video on Tango.

Free Video Instruction
The Basic Step of American Style Tango

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Tango Learning Area


The Moves

Today, there are three main styles of tango: the American ballroom style, the International ballroom style, and the Argentine style, which is popular in tango nightclubs. Both American style and International style travel around the ballroom following the line of dance. The Argentine style is usually danced in a close embrace, and the Argentine style involves intricate foot and leg actions. The Argentine basic steps are built out of grapevines, figure eights, and other interesting footwork patterns. The Argentine style does not travel so much and thus is better suited for nightclub dancing.

The 8-Count Basic of American Style

The Tango 8-count basic step is a simple combination of two slow walks and a "Tango Close." The five steps are counted "Slow, Slow, Quick Quick Slow," resulting in a total of 8 counts. When social Tango was first introduced, many instructors used a simple vocal cue to help their students remember the steps: "Walk, Walk, Tan - Go - Close". The latter cue would help beginners remember when to close the feet, and thus the term Tango Close came to describe the last three steps. Tango walks normally curve gradually to the left. In proper character, the feet are picked up and placed onto the floor using a sharp staccato action. Sway, rise, and fall, and continuous body flight should be avoided. They are not consistent with the character of the dance.
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The Music

Tango music has a tempo of about 120 beats per minute. Argentine Tango music is traditionally played by a small orquestra, which often includes a violin, piano, guitar, flute, and especially a bandoneon.

Some of the many popular and influential orchestras included the orchestras of Juan D'Arienzo, Francisco Canaro, and Anibal Troilo. Osvaldo Pugliese and Carlos di Sarli made many recordings.

The post-Piazzolla generation (1980-) includes musicians such as Dino Saluzzi, Eduardo Mederos, Enrique Martin Entenza and Juan Maria Solare. Piazzolla and his followers developed Nuevo Tango, which incorporated jazz and classical influences into a more experimental style.

Other notable tango musicians and composers include Astor Piazzolla, Carlos Gardel, Rodolfo Biagi, Alfredo De Angelis, Juan de Dios Filiberto, and Enrique Santos Discepolo.

Click on the link below for helpful examples of both Tango songs and CD's which feature Tango music.

Tango Music Examples >>
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The tango is said to have originated in the brothels on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Argentina. According to legend, Tango dancing began as interplay between a prostitute and her pimp.
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Tips & Info

Here are some "universal tips" for learning how to dance a partner dance such as foxtrot, swing, or waltz.

  • First, acquire a few audio CD's of the music and play the music over and over in your home or automoble. Next, count the step timing in time to the music. This you can do sitting down, perhaps while driving. For example, for waltz, call out the 1,2,3 1,2,3 step timing in time to the music. For foxtrot, call out the step timing using slows and quicks. For cha cha and rumba, it's important to recognize the first beat of each measure. Otherwise you may dance on the incorrect beat. If necessary, have your instructor assist you in learning to count the step in time to the music. Dancing in correct time to the music is absolutely essential. Continue this "sitting down and listening" exercise for as long as necessary until you can easily and automatically count the step in time to the music. The Ultimate Ballroom Practice CD sold by The Dance Store might be a helpful
  • Next, practice the basic step, including the step timing, until the step is automatic - like tying a shoe. Using east coast swing as an example, practice the triple step, triple step, rock step basic until it's automatic. Next, practice this basic to music until it becomes automatic. Many basic steps can be practiced without a partner.

At this point, your brain is "freed up" to allow learning steps and patterns because you no longer have to concentrate on timing and step counting.

Many folks get frustrated if they can't dance competently immediately. Certainly individuals vary in dance aptitude, but all dancers must go through the awkward stages before they get to the polished stage.
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