Tango is not only a fascinating dance but also a fascinating philosophy, culture and lifestyle. The search of tango is the search of connection, love, unity, beauty, harmony and humanity, i.e., an idealism that is not consistent with the dehumanizing reality of the modern world. The world divides us as individuals, but tango unites us as a people and species. In tango we are not individualists, feminists, nationalists, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, etc., but interconnected and interdependent members of the human family. Tango calls us to tear down the walls, to build bridges, and to regain humanity through connection, cooperation, reconciliation and compromise. It is a dance that teaches the world to love.




December 21, 2019

Never Forget Why We Started


As the second anniversary of this group is approaching, we can be proud of the progress we’ve made in the past twenty-two months. Our number is steadily growing. Our dance skills have improved a lot. We now hold our own milonga on a regular base. When we go out to dance as a group, people are impressed by us. We start to have an impact on the tango community of this city.

But there are no grounds for complacency. We are still far away from our goal. Our number is still small. Our dance skills are still not adequate. We are still a marginal section in the local tango scene. The entire community remains in the shadow of the Nuevo influence. There are still a lot for us to do both in terms of personal development and community building.

But some of us feel so good about themselves that they don’t want to remain in low profile. They want the public to see what they are capable of. They want to try new things and dance with new people. They chose to miss classes when there are conflicting events to ours. Some think they are good enough to be on their own and don’t need the group anymore. Some left already.

While exploration is commendable, we shall not forget why we started. This group has a mission. We are not individualists who come only for personal gain and will leave when that goal is reached. We are here for a much bigger cause: to build a strong tango community, to promote the milonguero style of tango, to reform the tango culture in this city, and to bring more people into our cause. (See Champaign Milongueros Group Charter.)

This requires commitment, teamwork, discipline, responsibility, grit and personal sacrifice. If we only think about our own interests and neglect the responsibility, we will end up repeating the mistake of those before us who have wandered in tango for many years and still do not have a place to dance. People seeking independence will discover soon or later that they need a home group to study, dance, improve themselves and enjoy tango.

Having a group of like-minded dancers is important because we cannot enjoy tango with just anyone. We can only enjoy tango with people who hold the same philosophy, dance the same style, use the same embrace, know the same steps, and reached the same level of proficiency. Tango is not a personal skill. It is the collective work of a group of like-minded and well-educated dancers, without whom one alone cannot enjoy tango no matter how good his/her personal skill is. That is why we must work together to build such a group.

But that is not an easy task. People are different and unleveled. Some are quicker learners and better dancers than others. It will take time for everyone in the group to reach the same level of proficiency. Meanwhile, those who are better may lose patience and think it’s just easier to go out dance on their own. When we put personal interests above the group, we lose the vision, the group suffers the consequence, and we will all pay a price.

However, if we stick and work together to support, encourage and help each other, the group will grow faster and become stronger and better sooner, and we will all benefit as a result. It takes committed people to make a strong group. It takes a strong group to make an impact. Until we become such a group, we cannot convince people to join us, and we cannot make a real difference. Therefore, the most important thing for us to do now is not to flaunt ourselves, but to refine ourselves. History will be made by those who stick to the cause, work together, and don’t give up.

September 6, 2019

Learning Tango: Two Perspectives


The following behaviors are common among beginners: (1) They are eager  to learn steps but neglect the fundamentals. (2) They don’t follow instructions carefully. (3) They want to run when they still cannot walk well. (4) They imitate the movements but don’t pay attention to technique details. (5) They lean back to avoid intimate bodily contact. (6) They use the arms and hands to lead and follow. (7) They grasp hold of the partner to do steps. (8) They focus on personal performance and neglect the partner. (9) They don’t listen to the music. (10) They dance according to their own will and anticipation. (See Learning Tango: Imitating Steps vs. Developing Skills.)

These are all due to one reason: They focus only on the steps and themselves. Tango to them is just a personal skill and they think if they acquired that skill, they can dance tango. That wrong perspective leads them to overlook many other aspects of the dance.

Tango is not steps but what the steps express, that is, the feelings stirred by the music. The emotions of the song affect the dancers and arouse their sympathetic feelings. Tango is the expression of that feeling through movements. (See Tango Is a Feeling.) Tango is also a teamwork. The two partners who listen to the same music share their feelings via direct bodily contact, which is intimate, personal and soulful. Dancing tango requires seamless cooperation. Each dancer must follow the music as well as match the movement of the partner in order for the two to dance as one unified body. Different bodily movements carry different messages. For example, when the man’s right chest becomes tense and pushing and his left chest becomes soft and pulling, that indicates he wants the woman to swivel her hips to his right, and when his left chest becomes tense and pushing and his right chest becomes soft and pulling, that indicates he wants the woman to swivel her hips to his left. Often, the changes of the body are so subtle that they cannot be seen and must be felt. Tango is a sophisticated body language. Learning tango is not primarily learning steps but learning that body language, learning to feel, communicate, lead/follow, comfort and bring contentment to your partner with your body. (See Tango Is a Language (1).)

This perspective requires the dancer to lay emphasis not on the steps but on the body, embrace, connection and communication, to use the sense of the body to feel, to pay attention to the music, to listen to the inner voice and feelings of the partner, to share with the partner what you feel, to agree and cooperate with him/her, and to please him/her with your body. Tango is created to feel. It is the dance of love. (See The Fourteenth Pitfall of a Tanguera.)

The transformation from a step-oriented, self-centered and single-focused beginner to a feeling-oriented, partner-centered and multitasking team player is a long process. Beginners will not fully understand the essence of tango until they have accumulated enough personal knowledge, skills and experience. But right perspective from the beginning can shorten that process and save them from wasting time on wrong approaches. (See The Four Stages of Your Tango Journey.) Unfortunately, many students get this too late.

July 26, 2019

How to Dance Milonga


Among the three genres of tango music, milonga is the fastest. Milonga music is 2/4 time. There are two beats in each measure and each quarter note receives a beat, counted as 1-and, 2-and (or 1 +, 2 +; 1 is the downbeat), which is twice as fast as tango. (See Tango Music and Its Danceability.) How well one dances milonga depends on one's ability to handle its fast rhythm.

There are three ways to do that.


Milonga Lisa

The first way is milonga Lisa, in which the dancer uses two feet alternately to step only on the downbeat of each measure, that is, right foot on 1 of the first measure, left foot on 1 of the second measure, right foot on 1 of the third measure, left food on 1 of the forth measure..., in even speed.






Milonga Lisa is the simplest way to dance milonga. But it feels a little monotonous.


Dynamic timing

Another way to dance milonga is using dynamic timing to let the two feet step alternately on both downbeats and upbeats in different speeds. You can step on 1 of the first measure, step on both 1 and 2 of the second measure (slow, quick-quick), or vice versa (quick-quick, slow). You can also step on all beats and subdivisions: left foot on 1, right foot on +, left foot on 2 (quick-quick, slow); or left foot on 1, right foot on 2, left foot on + (slow, quick-quick); or left foot on 1, right foot on +, left foot on 2, right foot on + (quick-quick, quick-quick). Using dynamic timing to dance milonga is more interesting, but it is busy and could be tedious if the whole tanda is danced this way.






 Milonga Traspie

The more advanced and more relaxed way to dance milonga is milonga traspie. Meaning stumble, traspie refers to the stumble like steps used to reduce the movements, thus slows down the pace of the dance.

When the foot is blocked by an obstacle, it would either cross over to land on the other side of the obstacle, or rebound in the opposite direction. Similarly, there are two ways to do milonga traspie.

The first is double-step traspie, in which the dancer steps twice with the same foot on two consecutive downbeats in slow-slow timing. The first step resembles the foot meets the obstacle. The second step resembles the foot crosses over the obstacle. The first step is not an actual step but only a tap carrying 50 percent of the body weight. The second step is a real step carrying 100 percent of the body weight to allow the other leg to be free.








The second is rock traspie, resembling the foot rebounds in the opposite direction after meeting the obstacle. The dancer uses a rock action to transfer weight from one foot to the other foot back and forth three times in quick-quick-slow timing: (1) steps forward/side/back with one leg and transfers 50 percent of the body weight to that leg on the downbeat, (2) pushes with that leg to transfer weight back to the standing leg on the upbeat, (3) pushes with the standing leg to transfer weight completely to the other leg again on the downbeat to free the standing leg. 






Whether using tap or rock, traspie cuts down the movements to allow the dancer not always have to completely change weight from one leg to the other leg on every beat, thus makes the fast-paced milonga easier to dance. 

Experienced dancers mix all above methods in milonga dancing to make the dance more diversified, expressive, interesting and fun. The following are few examples.









July 20, 2019

Learning Tango: Imitating Steps vs. Developing Skills


One reason beginners are eager to learn new steps is that they want to succeed in the milonga as soon as they can. Many of them regard tango only as steps and think if they can imitate the steps, they can dance tango. As soon as they successfully imitated a step they start to imitate another step instead of spending time to temper the basic skills. They believe in this way they can learn faster and be able to dance sooner.

What they don’t know is that whether they can dance well is not decided by the number of steps they know, but by the behind the scene skills on which the steps are built: posture, embrace, connection, communication, torso lead/follow, lightness, flexibility, balance, stability, pivot, dissociation, gear effect, cadencia, musicality, and basic steps like walk, salida, resolucion, cross, front ocho, back ocho, media luna, molinete, giro, rock and traspie. These are the building blocks of all tango steps. Those with a solid grounding in these basic skills can dance beautifully even with few simple steps. Those lack these basic skills, their dance looks awkward and ugly even though they may know a lot of fancy steps.

The purpose that the teacher teaches a step is not just teaching the step, but more importantly training basic skills. For example, when teaching back ocho, the teacher instructs the students to use dissociation, because that skill can benefit them in many other tango steps as well. But students don’t understand that. They only focus on imitating the step by crossing one leg behind the other leg and leave out the hard work of swiveling the hips. Instead of taking the pain to develop the skill, they take a short cut to get quick results. Consequently, even though they may have touched many steps, they have mastered none, their basic skills remain poor, and their dance does not look good.

The eagerness to succeed is a big obstacle to learning for beginners. Students must understand that it is not the fancy steps but the basic skills that decide the quality of their dance. They need to focus on developing skills rather than copying movements, so that what they learn in each step may become the building block for the next step. By proceeding in an orderly and gradual way, by carefully following the instructions and paying attention to technical details, by taking pains to do drills, and by obtaining a solid grounding in basic skills, they will be able to achieve twice the result with half the effort overall. This is the only way to become a good tango dancer. (See Tango Is a Language (I).)

April 21, 2019

Changing Direction with Rock Steps


Rock refers to using a rebounding action to transfer weight from one leg to the other leg when the two legs are apart and not collected. It is a three-step sequence typically done in a quick-quick-slow rhythm: (1) step forward with one leg, (2) push with that leg to transfer weight back to the standing leg, (3) collect the free leg and change weight again. The first two steps are rock steps, carried out when the legs are apart. The last step is a normal weight changing step to allow the other leg to take a new action. Rock can be done in various ways: back and forth, left and right, forward and side, back and side, vertical or diagonal, linear or circular, on spot or drifting, with or without turn, with or without pivot, with or without dissociation, etc. Rock steps are often used to alter the direction of travel in dancing. The following video show you how.




This lesson includes three parts. In the first part, the man starts with the basic forward-back-collect rock pattern: He rocks forward with the left leg, transfers weight back to the right leg, and collects and changes weight to the left leg again. He then repeats the sequence with the right leg. This pattern can also be done diagonally by stepping to her left with his left leg and stepping to her right with his right leg. The woman mirrors the man’s movements. Notice that she does not collect the free leg but lets the free leg remain in place as her weight is transferred back to the standing leg. She keeps the knee of the free leg straight and tilts up the foot to make the movement stylish.

In the second part, the man changes the rock pattern to a forward-back-side pattern: (1) steps forward with the left leg, (2) transfers weight back to the right leg, (3) steps sideward with the left leg. He then repeats the sequence with the right leg. Notice the 90-degree turn of his body when he rocks to either side. The woman keeps her standing leg in place, but moves her free leg side to side as she mirrors his movements.  

In the third part, the man demonstrates how to use rock steps to change direction at position 5. He first leads the woman to the cross, then uses a forward-back-side rock pattern: (1) steps forward with the left leg, (2) transfers weight back to the right leg, (3) steps to the side with the left leg. The last step changes the direction of travel 90 degree to the left. He then adds a forward-turn-collect pattern: (1) steps forward with the right leg, (2) transfers weight back to the left leg while pivots the left leg 180 degree counterclockwise, (3) collects and changes weight to the right leg. The two rock patterns are combined to form a revised version of ocho cortado, which is done on his right side instead of on his left side, though. Notice that in doing the second rock pattern the woman steps forward with her left leg, pivots 180 degree to the left, then steps back with her right leg, which is a common technique used in the change of direction.

Other rock patterns could also be applied at the cross, as shown in the following clip.




In this example the man starts with a forward-turn-turn rock pattern: (1) steps forward with his left leg to lead her step back with her right leg, (2) turns right 90 degree and changes weight to his right leg to lead her change weight forward to her left leg, (3) turns right 90 degree while collects and changes weight to his left leg to lead her step forward with her right leg. On her part the woman uses a back-forward-forward rock pattern: (1) steps back with her right leg, (2) transfers weight forward to her left leg, (3) steps forward with her right leg. Notice, again, as her weight is transferred to the standing leg, she does not collect the free leg but lets the leg remain in place, keeps the knee straight and tilts up the foot to make the movement stylish.

The man then uses a right-left-turn rock pattern: (1) steps diagonally forward to the right with his right leg while turns his upper body 90 degree to the right to lead her right leg pivot 180 degree and her left leg step on his right, (2) pivots 90 degree to the left with his right leg while transfer weight to his left leg to lead her transfer weight to her right leg, (3) continues the pivot with his left leg to lead her left leg to step forward and pivot 180 degree to face him, while he collects and changes weight to his right leg. The woman uses a left-right-forward rock pattern: (1) pivots180 degree on her right leg to let her left leg to step on his right, (2) transfers weight back to her right leg, (3) steps forward with her left leg and pivots 180 degree counterclockwise to face him. Notice the dissociation of her upper body and lower body when she walks back and forth on the side of him. The whole sequence is another creative variation of ocho cortado.

The couple further exploit rock patterns in another video.




This time, the man uses a forward-back-back rock pattern in a circle. After leading the woman to the cross, he (1) steps forward in a curve with his left leg to lead her right leg to step back to her right, (2) steps back in a curve with his right leg to lead her transfer weight forward to her left leg, (3) steps back in a curve with his left leg to lead her right leg to step forward to his right. Notice that his upper body is turned to the right to allow her walk in circle around him. He then uses a back-side-turn rock pattern: (1) steps back in a curve with  his right leg to lead her left leg to step forward, (2) steps to the side with his left leg to lead her right leg to step to her right, (3) pivots to the left with his left leg to lead her left leg to step forward and pivot 180 degree to face him, while he collects and changes weight to his right leg. The result is a circular version of ocho cortado. It is the most interesting variation of ocho cortado that I have seen.

Rock steps are featured steps of tango milonguero that contribute to its simple, compact, rhythmic and elegant style. The patterns described above are only a few in a pool of rock patterns commonly used by the milongueros. Familiarizing yourself with these patterns can help you improve your dance.