Learning to Tango

Can one learn to dance by reading, listening and/or watching video? Of course not – but it’s a decent start. Below runs a good starter list of some early do’s and don’ts you may deploy when starting out learning this wonderous South American art form. And Gateway Tango will do you a favor by skipping over the typical fruity introductions involving words like “sensuous,” “sensual,” “sensory” and “feel.” Just, as Nike’d say, do it.

• Do listen to the music. One hundred years after tango’s wider introduction into world culture, tango in the popular consciousness is often reduced to a stereotype. Say “tango” to the average folk, and he/she will automatically hear “La Cumparsita” playing in his/her head while imagining the female partner of the dance geared up in backless dress with a rose between the teeth. In reality, tango music has subgenres, varying tempos and more beyond da-da-da-DAAA, etc.

Heck, here’s something remixed and ready for the 21st century – the point is that this music is no longer repressed by the clichés of the accordion and percussion.

• Don’t just get with the first tango instructor to come down the pike. Sensible advice in the internet ago for purchasing anything, lessons or tangibles: Research it! Every service provider has a Yelp page these days and a city like St. Louis has dozens of readily available options in proper dance instruction. Sure, anyone can teach the basics, but beyond the very basics, expertise in teaching will definitely be desired.

• Do stay mindful of posture. You may not be a full-time desk jockey like yours truly, but the odds say you spend too much time sitting in an unfavorable position. While a good tango instructor will dog the lazy incessant about posture, the serious tango student will take note of his/her posture at all times in order to enforce better (necessary, really) habits on the dancefloor.

• Do practice alone. It sounds silly and everybody hates to practice, but such a habit has worked for amateur dancers for a century now – heck, you can probably still get those foot mats wherein the steps of the tango are printed. In any case, tango dancing at the highest level may look complex (and it is), but like all dancing, tango does begin with five to eight basic steps from which all other moves deviate. These are the foundation and must be learned.

It’s surely been said (written?) before, and Gateway Tango says (writes?) it again right now: YouTube is your friend. Here’s a good, simple, quality ‘Tube on an 8-step starter for tango. This is just one of the goodies you can play on the high-definition TV or computer screen as you practice.

• Finally, do dress as closely as possible to The Tango Cheeseballs in the video below; also, do aspire to this level of tango greatness. You may not ever reach the stratosphere these dancers occupy, but it’s the attempt that’s important – and fun!