What is essential in tango: connection

In learning traditional tango we want to distinguish between what is essential and what is inessential. When we look at dancers of tango we see many things that are merely aspects of individual expression or that are merely decorative. Most of these are not essential to tango because you can dance tango well without them. If you see some tango dancer having a certain facial expression or some other affectation or doing some decorations, does that mean that you can’t dance tango well without that? The reality is that most of what stands out to an onlooker who has little understanding of tango are its inessential aspects.

Experienced tango dancers focus first and foremost on connection: the connection between the partners through the embrace; the connection of their dancing to the music; and the connection of their dancing to the energy of the dancefloor. The key to connection is a good embrace and good leading and following. The dancing should express the music by marking the beat and pausing. Finally, the dancing should connect to the energy of the other dancers on the dancefloor and should not stand out as radically different from what everyone else is doing.

If the dancers don’t have some particular facial expression or some other affectation this doesn’t mean that they are not doing good tango. But if they are not connected in their leading and following through the embrace; their dancing does not connect well with (or respond to) the music which merely serves as a background; and their dancing stands out as out of sync with the dancing of the other dancers (or upsets the dancing of others), then there is something fundamentally wrong going on and we can’t say that it’s good tango. So in your tango practice the goal should be to have better connection to your partner, to the music and to the energy of the dancefloor. These are the essential skills. The other aspects are mere inessential affectations and are superfluous and thus best avoided until we have more experience in the essential things.


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