Weekly Adventure: The Tango Dance Lesson

Lately, my boyfriend and I have been really into the idea of taking dance lessons of some kind–the “idea” meaning we hadn’t actually done anything like that since we first started talking about it and spent more time enjoying the misty, out-of-reality, dreamlike image of us gliding along the dancefloor like professionals.

Given the timing of the Olympics, I obviously had U.S. ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White in mind. (Buzzfeed’s comparison of them to modern day Disney characters is beyond accurate.)

Though my recent adventures with roller skating definitely solidified the idea that I wouldn’t be able to take my skating skills to the ice, the dance part was still on the more open-ended side of the scale. I enjoy dancing in various clubs, and not just grinding or swaying- I throw a few two-steps in there, and try to get my heartrate rising, and maybe think that I know how to swing-dance even when I don’t.

We were ready to get some rollerskating on, '80's style. Not as easy as it looks.

We were ready to get some rollerskating on, ’80’s style. Not as easy as it looks.

However, we finally got our chance to take part in some real life dancing when he and I met up with a friend of a friend who went to Yale who me met through various random circumstances and ended up going to this Lithuanian Dance hall night called “Save Your Soul”  where I promptly got sweaty, gross, and had a lot of fun dancing. It only happens once a month but is probably one of the most fun things I’ve done since moving to Baltimore, which is saying a lot.

Our friend of a friend that we met introduced us to the real world of actual dance lessons: Argentinian Tango.

For the past few weeks, we’ve been coordinating a date to meet up and practice the first few basics of the tango so that my boyfriend and I can join in at the Charles Village Tango Lessons currently being offered. Last night, we finally got that chance, and I had my first real dance lesson of my life (besides ballet lessons when I was maybe 5 and had no idea what was going on).

beautiful tango dancers

Let me start by saying that dancing is as athletic, technical, and challenging as any sport I’ve ever done, and you have to look elegant while doing it. Of course I arrived in my stereotypical black skinny jeans and loose blouse, wearing socks and boots that were not the appropriate footwear to slide across the floor as a tango dancer would. Classic.

When we started, our friend began by playing music and asking us to walk in a circle, our heels in the air, our bodies angled forward. We were to walk on the first and the third beats. One, pause, three, pause, walk.

Next, we linked up together to try–me, following backwards, while he led me forward.

From what I’ve learned as the female in the dance, tango is really about feeling your partner’s every weight shift and responding to it gracefully, setting your weight down as he places his feet, shifting as he shifts.

When we were first starting, I often forget to just listen to his movements. I, the forever athlete, was trying to mirror memorized movements. I was trying to learn a new sea kayaking paddling stroke in my head (turn the blade towards your feet, move outwards in a c formation, pull towards your hip), when I should have been feeling the motion and the music more.

Slowly, it got easier and we added more steps besides just walking backward and forward together. We tried a “rock step”, which is exactly what it sounds like- rocking back and forth. We added an outside step. We mixed the steps together and tried to time it with the music.

Finally, we ended the night with the “ocho”- a move more for the female part. I was getting a little nervous, as I usually have little coordination when it comes to this kind of thing. In an ocho, the female is rotated by the male and moves backwards in an almost serpentine way, making figure 8’s with her feet as he turns her and dances forward.

Here’s a video of how it’s meant to be done:

After watching that video, I was a little intimidated to say the least, and the idea of holding my weight paused as he shifted me was really confusing. After a few tries though, we started to get it, and even managed to kind-of get back into normal steps after dancing ochos.

As we turned off the final song and wiped surprising amounts of sweat from our brows, my knees were aching (I keep too much of a straight leg while dancing, I need to find more soft knees), and we were starving. Dancing is way more tiring than you expect it to be, especially while learning something new.

On Thursday, we’ll be starting our professional lessons! I’m sure I’ll have plenty more to tell then (hopefully no disasters!).

Best,

Jenna

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3 thoughts on “Weekly Adventure: The Tango Dance Lesson

    • Hi Professor!
      It is pretty hard, though a great experience, I think. As an update, we had our first official lesson yesterday, and it was pretty hard! The teacher was incredibly helpful though–he’s been dancing since he was 8 and was in a New York dance company, can’t remember which. We weren’t quite so terrible by the end of the lesson! Thanks for the comment!

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