Learning a (foreign) language can be accomplished many ways; some of us might pick up a dictionary of useful phrases – just enough to get by for a couple of weeks in a foreign country, others may enroll in college classes to learn vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure and colloquial nuances. There are people who learn by repetition and others who learn by comprehension, and of course, there are many variables.
Tango is a language – a body language – and it can also be approached in multiple ways.
The Tango Tourist:
A dancer who learns useful phrases (possibly dozens of them) and strings them together, trying to fit them to the music but not always successfully. The Tango Tourist struggles with improvisation. The dance becomes a series of prepared, choreographed sequences or figures which may be danced in a variety of orders but which unavoidably hold an element of predictability. The dance becomes repetitive and lacks luster but the opportunity for social interaction may be huge.
The Tango Fanatic:
A dancer who takes classes and workshops endlessly, jumping from one technique to another, without appreciating the different approaches: classical, traditional, modern or historic. Nonetheless, the Tango Fanatic develops an enviably wide repertoire of moves and an eclectic style. Dancing with a Tango Fanatic might feel disjointed and can certainly be challenging. The dancer lacks consistency but will have endless stories to tell from a wide variety of influences.
The Tango Aficionado:
A dancer who studies the dance through a disciplined approach. The first step is to learn the alphabet and form words. Next is to establish a vocabulary from which to create sentences. Sentence structure requires grammar and punctuation. The Tango Aficionado can select words and create sentences, paragraphs and short novels that express individuality. Patterns are improvised in the moment, express emotion in response to the music and may be forgotten instantly. The dance is never repeated; it is executed with precision and style demonstrating skills of fluidity, form and honed technique while conveying a personal expression.
At Tango Fantástico the approach is to encourage expressive and fluid dancers who can create and improvise using the skills of practiced technique.
A Tango Tourist can always repeat a phrase and pass it along to another. They may not know the skills or technique that would improve it or provide an alternate ending but a general idea can be passed around.
A Tango Fanatic may be capable of selecting portions of different sequences and splicing them together. Variety is the spice of life but unfortunately the dance may become disjointed.
A Tango Aficionado may be hard pressed to repeat a wonderful improvised sequence – the moment is gone, the feeling has passed and the reward lingers only a short time as a residual effect.
Who has the most fun?
It depends on the personalities involved.
This is why we must allow for all tango dancers to share the floor – each was inspired in a unique way and therefore they will be drawn to the features that so inspired them. Some will evolve.
Who is the best?
The maestros have all endured some form of discipline, structure and measured progression. None has arrived at a revered position without extraordinary effort in developing individual technique and skills. And though they may have long since transcended the grueling path to success, we need to respect that physical perfection takes a great deal of work and focus, and recognize that a maestro cannot impart what took years to acquire in one or two workshops.