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Argentine Tangos
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Argentine Tango: A Student Perspective

by Batt Johnson
July 27, 2002


Argentine Tango: A Student Perspective

By Batt Johnson

July 27, 2002

"Argentine tango is so hard to do." "How can you do that?" "It even looks hard." These are comments I hear everyday from my fellow dance students. "I can't do that, it is too difficult." This is usually said right after the teacher says, "Argentine tango is just a walk." But the student did not hear that because they were too busy talking and not listening. Tango is a walk. Not only that, but it is done on the beat of the music. Unlike salsa on two, now THAT is difficult. The reason is because the other dances you step on the FIRST beat of the music. Salsa on two, you step on the SECOND beat of the music. But of course, you still dance on the beat. You just start on a different beat. Until you learn this and become accustomed to stepping on the second beat, it will always seem strange. In tango, you can step on the first, second, third, fourth beat and it is no big deal. Tango is a walk. How did you get to this class? You walked, and have been walking for many, many years. So the logic follows: If you can walk into this class, you can tango.

The common image of tango is a holdover from the classic 1921 black and white movie The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse when dressed in a gaucho/flamenco type outfit, Rudolph Valentino grabs an unsuspecting damsel played by Helena Domingues, tosses her into the promenade position and places a rose between his teeth, then begins to walk cheek to cheek from one side of the bar to the other. This is what most American people see in their minds when you tell them that you are a tango dancer. The tango music they are probably most familiar with is the music we dance the American or ballroom tango to.

The music of the Argentine tango is quite strange to most American's ears. We don't really know this music for it is not part of the American culture. All of the other music that we dance to can be heard in many places. You can turn on the radio or television and hear the music of hustle, swing, samba, Peabody, fox-trot, American waltz, Viennese waltz, jive, jitterbug, lindy hop, merengue, cha-cha, bachata, salsa, all of it. But, Argentine tango music? Never. You can't go home after a long hard day at work and turn on the Argentine tango radio station, or turn on the television and see the latest installment of "Tango Tonight" on MTV or VH-1. Every now and then you hear tango music on a television commercial. I have an extensive background in music, meaning my ear is familiar with most music of the world and I don't think that I have heard the music more than five times in my life before I walked into a dance studio over three years ago for my first lesson.

The point is, I don't think that Argentine tango is that difficult to dance. I think that what most Americans are reacting to is the music. They are not familiar with the music. If you only listen to Elton John and Bruce Springsteen and Madonna, you will never understand Argentine tango. We should work to reeducate our ears. To become familiar with the music, I lie in bed with my Walkman on, before going to sleep and I listen to tango music every night. How can you NOT learn the music if you listen to it every night? Now, I know it, I feel it, I understand it. Most dance students don't listen to enough music, no, let me rephrase that. Many dance students don't listen to ANY music. If you are a student, you will never learn how to interpret this music or any music with movement of your body if you don't listen to music at times other than when it is time to dance. From one dance student to another, be smart-listen to music.

Batt Johnson-Lover of Dance


Batt Johnson






Don't let poor presentations prevent your professional growth!



Batt Johnson, author of Powerful Principles for Presenters, communication consultant and teacher at Cornell University and New York University, has a proven record. He can help you and those in your corporation conquer self-consciousness and achieve self-confidence while gaining the competitive edge.

BATT JOHNSON o 212 - 501 - 1957


Teaching the art of communication for public persuasion

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