Tango is not only a fascinating dance, but also a fascinating philosophy, culture, and lifestyle. The pursuit of tango is the pursuit 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.




July 26, 2019

How to Dance Milonga


Among the three genres of tango music, milonga is the fastest. Milonga music is 2/4 time with 16 sixteenth notes in each measure, counted as: 1-and, 2-and, 3-and, 4-and, 5-and, 6-and, 7-and, 8-and, which is twice as fast as tango. 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 downbeats, that is, right foot on 1, left foot on 3, right foot on 5, left foot on 7, in even speed.




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


Complex timing

Another way to dance milonga is using complex timing to let the two feet step alternately on both downbeats and upbeats in different speeds: slow, quick-quick, slow, quick-quick; or quick-quick, slow, quick-quick, slow; or slow, quick-quick, quick-quick, slow; or slow, quick-quick, slow, slow, or quick-quick, quick-quick, slow, slow; or slow, quick-quick, slow, slow; or slow, slow, slow, quick-quick; or quick-quick, quick-quick, quick-quick, slow, etc., which requires very good handling of the rhythm of the music. Using complex 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, resembles the foot rebounds in the opposite direction after meeting the obstacle. In rock traspie, 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 busily 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 their 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 only regard learning tango as imitating steps. Once they can imitate a step, they think they have learned the step, and their attention is shifted to imitating another step instead of spending time to temper the step. 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 leading and following, 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 good 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. 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 dancing. They need to focus on developing skills rather than copying movements, so that what they learn in each step can 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 practice, 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).)