Learning Tango in Argentina

Beginners Can Learn Tango in Buenos Aires

There are a lot of reasons to go to Argentina for vacation.  It’s a big country with lots to see and do.  It’s got hot, cold, mild weather, mountains and pampas (plains), hills, the food is great, the people are warm and welcome tourists and, all in all, it’s just a remarkable country.  But for most people, especially women, when they think of Argentina they think of one thing for sure……the Tango!

You might be pleased to know that there’s a significant industry down in Buenos Aires that does a very good job of offering tourists, and/or beginners, an introduction into the basics of Tango.  You can take as brief or as long a course of instruction as you want but still it would certainly be one of the more unforgettable and valuable experiences you could have while you’re there because dancing is something you can always take with you anywhere the rest of your life.

Image via Flickr

So…..what would you do if you were in Buenos Aires for several weeks and wanted to learn some Tango?

Probably the first thing you should do is go on one of the Buenos Aires Tango Tours.  Lots of studios and individuals offer Tango tours.  You can find Tango tours that include airfare to and from Buenos Aires or you can find Tango Tours for people who are already in the city.

In these tours you’ll not only have lessons with either a male or female instructor but you’ll usually get to visit some typical Tango milongas (we would call them ‘Tango clubs’).  Most tours also throw in some cultural sightseeing that’s generic to Argentina in general.

The instructors will usually be somebody who speaks your language.  They might even be from the US as there are a number of Americans living in Buenos Aires and involved in the Tango scene.

Image via Flickr

During this tour you’ll have a chance to see some of the various styles of Tango.  Yes…there are several different sub-genres of Tango.   This could be important because later, when you decide to pick one instructor, you’ll want to know what style they teach.

If, by chance, you’re not a ‘groupie’ and you’d rather go off exploring the Tango scene on your own there are a large number of what’s called Tango Palaces where you’ll see Tango oriented entertainment.  The only negative with those is that they don’t represent Tango as it’s really done by Argentines today…but they are entertaining.

The city of Buenos Aires  is well aware that a lot of people are interested in Tango and if you’ll check with any of the tourist agencies, private or public, when you get to Buenos Aires you’ll be able to get lists of all the places where the city sponsors free lessons.  There are free lessons and there are also lots of clubs you can go to and pay a little bit for lessons either in a group or privately.

In the ‘Milongas’, or the Tango clubs, the normal patrons seldom arrive before midnight so if you’re there earlier you’ll have plenty of time to watch the Tango culture, meet some people and probably find somebody who’ll give you some lessons on the floor (if you don’t already have an instructor).  You’ll find that most Argentines are very happy to talk about Tango and help you learn it. They’re very proud of what it means to their country.

Laura de Altube and Demian Garcia Milonga Class

Milonga Lesson at the Argentinian Tango School in Buenos Aires, 2007

There are at least three official Tango magazines in Buenos Aires which will have a lot of interesting information about where all the clubs are, lessons available, etc.  The three magazines are B.A.Tango, El Tangauta, Punto Tango and La Milonga.  The tourism kiosks spread around the city also can give you a Tango Map which shows many places and events of the local Tango culture and community.

These magazines will point you in the right direction but be prepared for a completely different world if and when you finally go to a real Milonga.  Some Milongas are more traditional and strict on their rules regarding interaction between the sexes but there are a lot of rules that you definitely don’t want to break.

For example, if you’re a guy, don’t come with a girl unless you’re with a group.  The other single ladies will assume you’re already ‘taken’.  It’s the same if you’re a woman….i.e. don’t come with a guy (unless it’s your teacher or you’re with a larger group) because most of the Argentine men will assume you’re with that guy and probably won’t ask you to dance.

Once you’re in the ‘club’, be careful about how you ask people do dance.  We won’t go into it here because by Western standards it’s a bit complex.  Suffice it to say that Tango is very interesting on and off the floor and that’s part of what makes it so addictive once you get into it.

But the point is….you can do it.  You can enjoy Argentina a lot and learning to Tango can be one of the most memorable parts of it.

Leave a Reply