Tango Isn’t for Everyone

When someone expresses an interest in learning tango, I often hesitate. I know tango looks fun, sexy and beautiful, but it can be a serious commitment. It’s a hardcore pursuit. Yes, some people casually dance tango as a hobby. But here’s the reality: tango is like a vampire that bites into your heart and changes your soul forever. Once it bites you, you will be seduced into an endless quest that steals your time, money, mind – and your heart. Therefore, be warned…

You better LOVE technique. If you have a passion for nitty gritty, detailed technique that teaches nuances of movement, leading/following, connection, posture and body organization, then you will be captivated by tango. The amount of technique to learn will deeply humble you. If you just want to have fun, remember that your partner’s idea of having fun is usually based on doing this skillfully. Most tango dancers don’t just “play around”. Technique is what makes the dance feel amazing to your partner. If you care about that, awesome! If you don’t, maybe partner dancing isn’t for you….

It takes money. If you aren’t investing in truly learning tango, you probably won’t be dancing much or enjoying it when you do. Private lessons, workshops, tango shoes, milongas, practicas, outfits – it adds up quickly and it’s quite addicting. You’ll drop serious money on private lessons. I know a guy who blew his annual tango budget by February. Tango is like a heroin habit. Only death and paralysis can stop it.

It’s a long commitment. Tango is not a dance that gets mastered in six months or five years. It’s not a “once a week” kind of a dance. There’s no “low hanging fruit” in tango. This is a multi-layered skill that endlessly unfolds for those who seek its elusive mastery. You’ll think you learned a move – and then you’ll spend years learning how to do it correctly. Ochos are only easy when you’re doing them wrong.

And it’s intimate. A good dance for me goes like this. “Hi, I’m Karen”. Seconds later, I have melted into his body and my lips are barely inches from his. It’s four legs and one heart – and we are slowly stripped into total vulnerability as we unveil ourselves through a 9-minute exploration of one another’s skills, potential and expression.

By the end, we know each other in ways we may only intuitively understand. I know if he embraces a woman with tenderness, command or caution. I sense whether he seeks the heart, mind or body of a woman first. I know whether he thinks or feels more. I feel where he is confident, where he is shy and where he is selfish. I sense what he hungers for and what he fears. I know whether he sees me as a conquest, a collaborator or an executor of his command. I know if he is a risk-taker, an explorer or an inventor. I know if he approaches tango as an artist, an engineer or an architect. I know if he is a witty conversationalist or a curious listener. I discover what makes him sexy, beautiful and profoundly captivating – even when all he is doing is “just dancing”.

Tango can be insanely difficult. Expensive. Toilsome. Humbling. And deeply unmasking.

It’s not for everyone. For some people, it’s not for them “right now”.

When I began, I was told that I didn’t find tango. Tango found me.

Let tango find you. And be ready when it does, for tango is a relentless thief. It will gently swipe away your time, money and perhaps your ego – if you have the courage to surrender it. Tango unmasks our true character, our vulnerabilities, our weaknesses and our magical unwrapped talents. But only for those willing – and able – to give tango what it asks of us first.

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Photo by Peter Forett


About Epiphany

epiphanies on life and spiritual living as I chase wisdom - one insight at a time.

Posted on September 12, 2016, in Dance and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 38 Comments.

  1. Agree…and having a hard time finding another dancer with the same mindset and journey!


  2. the descriptions of tango almost sound like those of the highly refined martial art aikido . I have done both. both rely on inward and outward connection and can be highly addictive.


  3. Albin Maksimovic

    Reading this article I just had to laugh !
    Every type of dance require some level of commitment, but people dancing tango are focusing on perfection in dancing and have forgotten that the main reason for dancing is to spread joy, socialize and have fun together with other people !

    For me the calculation is simple: you move in the rhythm + you have fun = you are dancing !

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well what is making this true is only if you find a partner that have the same formula and then it somehow matches yours. your way of dancing Tango is not better or worse. It’s just different!
      People dancing tango ? don’t you?


    • Obviously you’re not a tango dancer my friend and if you are then you’ve wasted your time ;))


    • Laughing too. Hopefully there’s a little room for the less pious….and less time for the Narcissistic search for the partner that is of your same “mindset and journey.” Honestly…. get over yourself.


    • At a Sunday practica at the Madonna Inn, a wonderful venue in San Luis Obispo, I overheard two young men talking with each other while standing at the bar. One said to the other, “They’re dancing tango. They’re not suppose to smile.” Well, the not suppose to smile is, in my opinion, not correct, but the observation of unsmiling dancers is. I think there are several reasons for this, not the least is that it’s not always true. A few dancers do smile – as I find myself doing – in the simple joy of connection and dance, but for most of us, this extremely difficult dance requires so much concentration to execute so cleanly, “effortlessly”, sensuously, elegantly – not to mention the requisite navigational skills for the leaders – that the immediate joy of the dance is either lost or never discovered.


  4. A nice post … so true. I enjoyed reading and thinking. Looking forward to reading more… 🙂


  5. I’ve been dancing tango since 2004.
    Guys, ypu ‘re not going to meet the girl next door like you would at a swing dance or a Country Western Bar. Tango is full of Divas, and it’s not going to change anytime soon.


  6. I started tango when I was 74. I loved the musicality of Tango, however I thought I was not a desireable partner. My problem, everyone was more than helpful and my teachers were so good. I’ve remarried to a man who has neve damage to his legs and balance problems. Is there hope here for a Tango couple?


    • Tango Instructor of 21 Years

      If your husband wants to learn and you are patient with him, working with a good instructor in private lessons could be very good physical therapy for your husband and a fun and healthy activity for you two to enjoy together. May you enjoy the dance for the rest of your lives!
      -Tango Instructor of 21 Years

      Liked by 1 person

    • I fully believe that anyone who loves tango can find a way to enjoy dancing tango – even if it means making some modifications or accommodations. I believe that what and how two partners choose to dance tango together is totally up to them. I believe a good professional can help you modify the dance as needed to make it fun, doable and fulfilling for you both. Tango on, my dear… 🙂


    • Hi Diane, I happened to be reading this article and saw your comment. I can help with your husband’s nerve damage 🙂

      I work with the most effective home health device in the world, which regenerates and rejuvenates every cell in the body, accelerating every natural mechanism, essentially giving the body the energy to heal itself. This therapy will actually repair the nerve.

      I would love to help.



    • You make me happy, I am 62 and started 1/2 a year ago!!!!!


  7. Shimkeun h. Gonzalez

    Nice article. It is true…tango cost a lot to learn. What’s worse for me is I have to hire a dance instructor for every milonga I want to go cause here in manila there is only 1 guy who is hobby tango dancer. The ratio of male and female is like 1: 40. So, most tanguera in manila end up hiring a d.i. tango for us takes fortune… I really wish We have more guys to dance here. I want cabiseo. A real one…..


  8. Carmelo Darmanin

    Tango is for every one. Tango was born in the poor suburbs of Buenos Aires. For the average Argentinian the milonga was a moment of great Joy and Celebration. People learned tango by going to milongas every weekend. Close embrace tango is danced by all argentinians, and IT IS NOT DIFFICULT TO LEARN. Lately all sort of complicated moves in new forms of tango have appeared creating a lot of confusion and a lot of disappointment in many people who tried to dance tango. There is now an industry of teachers, it feels like someone is trying to reinvent tango with a lot of unnecessary complications, and of course lot of money to spend to learn the new forms of crappy tango. I enjoy immensely the milonguero style simple and elegant that fills me with passion and joy and satisfaction to share what I know. To those who want to deform this great dance I can only lift the two fingers salute and tell them to go to hell. To those who want to experience the joy of tango go on, book a flight to Buenos Aires and that will be the beginning of your beautiful journey to discover the passion, the joy of Tango.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Very nice to see someone taking a stand on this.


    • Hats of, being myself from Buenos Aires but having gone into tango at 40, I know what you said is true, yesterday I met a woman who told me she have done 4 workshops before coming to the milonga, paying over £100 yet she was dancing worst than many any other day, I took her to the dance floor, this is not a coincidence , in my experience people who spend a lot of money into private lessons and intensive workshops often dance worst. I started taking 2 normal group classes a week and dancing 1 day a week for the first 4 to 5 months, then dancing 2 times a week from 5 to 8 moths, after the first year I was dancing 4 times a week and only keept one class with an old time Milonguero breed and born in Argentina, I still meet some of the people that started earlier than me, they keep spending money into more and more workshops and they just can’t dance, can’t embrace properly , and many girls can’t follow.The point is, in tango IF YOU ARE ATTRACTED BY THE EXTERIOR FORM OF IT you will fall into the claws of teachers that continuously teach you isolated sequences, this is equal to trying to run before you can walk. The second important thing is respect for the traditions and codes of tango.


  9. Karen wrote: “You better LOVE technique. If you have a passion for nitty gritty, detailed technique that teaches nuances of movement, leading/following, connection, posture and body organization, then you will be captivated by tango.”

    That’s true only for people captivated by tango dance classes.

    It is not true of the social dancers of the milonga.

    Ricardo Vidort: “Today people teach in methodic ways, but the tango, the real Tango Salon, does not have method, because it is a feeling. Technique and choreography are only for performance, this is tango which has been learned for hours for show business”


    • Chris First you have to separate between Milonguero style and Tango de Salon an even in what Ricardo Vidort was doing (Milonguero Style) , there is technique, which different from choreography, They old milonguers didn,t use the word technique simply because their technique came as consequence of dancing a lot, great dancers like Gavito or Osbaldo zoto did use a lot of technique, which is different from clownish and often out of time choreographic movements some tango teachers feed to the masses today.


  10. Totally agree but not that many people truly give themselves over to it…there are many hobbyists. Nothing wrong with that I guess…but you’re right in that there’s nothing like dancing with a master…it’ll take me a few more decades…:)


  11. Your words really resonated with me. As I was reading it, I had difficulty believing that these words are actually being said by someone else and I am not talking to myself. If I were to add anything to this already perfect thesis, it would be the transformation and healing capacity of tango, physically, psychologically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. Thank you for sharing! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Fierce
    in feminine form.


  13. Words only ruin everything. The search for essence is very private. Watch, think, feel. And be yourself. Than embrace the music and gently hold your partner. Thats all.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Seriouse and beautifully put. I couldn’t write it better.


  15. I pretty much agree with this (and *do* love me some technique!). I would suggest one edit though: rather than making the claim that “maybe partner dancing isn’t for you…” if you don’t like technique, a stronger claim would be “maybe Tango isn’t for you.” There are lots of partner dances that are far quicker to pick up lightly, and more forgiving about the persnickety need for precision – e.g. salsa and blues 🙂


  16. A problem well stated is a problem half solved. – Charles F. Kettering, inventor and engineer (1876-1958)

    I define dancing (social dancing) as 1) movement 2) with another person 3) to music & rhythm. You use your senses (3 of 5), to move with another person. All the senses flow through the Brain. Therefore, the Brain, Cerebellum, and Neural Systems are important to dancing.

    Competence & mastery are the result of ability & motivation, as in all endeavors. How dancing feels is more complicated & subjective. But, i know that doing the 3 things in the paragraph above, bring me pleasure & satisfaction.


  17. I would agree with most of what is written here. The number one factor for an enjoyable dance for both the follower and leader is connection…and connection is what keeps tango dancers dancing in my view. It is truly addictive- why? because connection is a basic human need ( we all want to feel connected), and tango allows this to happen. The issue is that no-one is going to have such a great track record of connection. It takes all the technical aspects mentioned in this article ( balance, posture, musicality etc..) but also that X factor- cant describe it, its just that chemistry and clicking with the partner.
    Just like love…yet another basic human need.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I love this article. I hope we will meet one day on a milonga!


  19. Dear KK – I have been methodically reading the entire history of your blogs on the Tango subject. I have become an Addicted Admirer and find your writing thoroughly wise and inspiring. HOWEVER, I find myself objecting to your concept (that I hear from many others as well) that AT is difficult. I can only accept that thought if you intend to earn income from teaching, or you are a “For-Performance Dancer”, or are just plain ego driven. Otherwise, I feel that it can be easiest to learn (and “master” to a Social Dance level), in just a few hours, is no more expensive than most other recreational endeavors, and “technique” is only as important as you may choose to make it important.

    The only part I agree with is that AT is different from other Social dances because of the intimacy. If you simply change the first sentence to:

    “When someone expresses an interest in learning PERFORMANCE tango, I often hesitate.” Then I can agree with most of what follows.

    I have not yet completed your entire blog list, but I sincerely thank you for everything up to this point.

    Your newly devoted fan,
    Andrew “AA”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Andrew! I greatly appreciate your support and kind words! My sentiment may be based on what I’ve experienced in the region I live in. I know many men who have quit because they felt it was so difficult to learn. It got much more enjoyable for me once I began learning the technique that allowed me to connect more effectively with my partners… before that it did feel more awkward and frustrating for me! And learning all that technique totally made social dancing easier and much more enjoyable for me.

      I am curious to hear more about why you feel that it is not difficult to learn… does that include learning tango after already becoming skilled in other dances or as someone starting dancing for the very first time?

      I actually do agree that it truly about the music and connection with one’s partner, so part of me wonders if this focus on technique is also an “American” thing… If I am dancing with someone who is wholly connected to the music and their heart, I find it much easier to flow with them. But some people are very focused on technique, their steps and communication of their intention, versus just allowing themselves to be moved by the music. I wonder if that’s where the difference is. So in order for me to connect well with someone who is highly focused on technique, I oftentimes feel that I need to speak in their language, by responding with technique. But this is an area I’m constantly exploring for myself and seeking to deepen my insights and understanding.


  20. Hi there. I need you to remove this post from your website. It does not credit me as the author nor did I grant permission for it to be posted there. Greatly appreciate your attention to this. Thank you.


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