Argentine tango is an ideal dance for couples because both follower and leader have to co-operate in order to make the dance work. In other partner dance classes, such as Modern Jive or Salsa, the leader can ‘muscle’ the follower into position if the follower is deemed to be following ‘incorrectly’. In Argentine tango couples dance classes this will not work (or at least shouldn’t be allowed to 🙂 ) especially if you wish to learn to dance the Argentine tango well.
Argentine tango is a partner dance, i.e. it requires two dancers to work together, with each dancer being allowed by the other to perform their respective roles as successfully as possible. There is no fixed choreographic sequences to learn (although individual tango figures do have their own step sequences) because Argentine tango is an improvisational dance where the leader creates a structure to the dance, within which the follower can express themselves with the way they follow, and decorate their part of the dance.
So, in couples dance classes for Argentine tango we must learn to co-operate and by this I mean the following:-
- The leader should ‘invite’ the follower to step in the direction required, but not pull, push or otherwise force the follower into position. This requires a clear lead, and sometimes patience. As a leader grows in confidence they should also develop the skill of having a ‘Plan B’ for when the follower does not accept the invitation. These skills will be learned in your couples dance classes for Argentine tango 🙂
- The follower should learn to ‘tune in’ to a leader and trust the lead without sabotaging the structure the leader is trying to create. This is one of the most difficult skills a follower needs to develop, and partner dance classes are the ideal environment to learn. Followers cannot improve this skill except by dancing with many leaders (both good and bad, so that you can learn the difference).
- Leaders should give time for followers to express themselves with decorative movements, so leaders need to learn to avoid the need to be constantly stepping to the main musical beat (but still learn to be musical). Leaders should learn to be generous with their pauses to allow followers to contribute to the dance in their own way.
- Conversely, followers should not abuse the time given by the leader for the expressive decoration. When a leader starts looking at his watch, tutting and shaking his head, it’s time for the dance to move on 🙂
So should only couples attend partner dance classes?
At most social events such as a milonga (tango social dance), numbers are usually roughly even at most venues, but there tends always be a few leaders or followers spare. This is why it is usual (but not mandatory) for leaders to circulate and ask different followers to dance.
Of course since it takes two to tango, ideally people will join a class, workshop or course as a couple, but this is not always going to be possible.
On courses or workshops which I advertise as ‘booking only’ then I will try balance leaders and followers. Couples will always get booking preference, while single leaders or followers may not get an instant booking confirmation until a matching dancer has also booked. You may see me manage this balancing by temporarily disabling booking for certain types of ticket if the balance is becoming unmanageable. I post all events I organise on my Facebook page, so you can always add a comment to the event expressing your desire to find a partner.
When I run open drop-in classes, everybody is welcome to join in, but there are no guarantees that any particular class will be perfectly balanced, or that there will be enough leaders or followers to go round. In these cases I run a ‘bus stop’ system for spare leaders or followers to wait for a partner to pick them up as people dance round. Please be aware that some couples do not wish to dance with other partners so there maybe no one willing to handle ‘spare’ dancers…
So, to guarantee you will have someone to dance with all the time, you are advised to find a partner to join with, for the opposite role. Please note: a leader and follower is usually a man and a woman, but if two women want to join with one learning the leaders role, or two men join with one learning the followers role, that’s fine 🙂