Well, true Tango aficionados probably would consider our current dance class a devolution from the Argentine style. And I have to admit that American Tango (at our level) doesn't have the same spontaneous flowing flair as the Argentine version.
But it's easier to learn. Therein lies much of our satisfaction with the ten classes we've had so far from Lora at Salem's RJ Dance Studio.
When we took Argentine Tango classes last year, we were taught an eight-count Argentine Tango basic movement. I've heard that some Tango instructors eschew this movement , wanting the dance to be entirely spontaneously led and followed.
That's pretty intimidating when you don't have much dance experience (maybe also if you do; we kept being told that "Tango is the Ph.D. of social dances"). Speaking as a beginning leader, it's nice to be able to lean on a pattern when your male brain hits a blank what-to-do-next spot.
American Tango also has a basic pattern with eight counts. You can see it, along with some other basic moves, most of which we can do, here (someday I'll get brave and put up a YouTube video of us Tango'ing, but that day hasn't come yet).
I'm no ballroom dance expert, that's for sure. However, I can say from personal experience that if you've tried Argentine Tango and found it too difficult, given American Tango a try. There's more structure, as most patterns we've been taught hold to the eight counts in the basic movement.
Quick (Q) is one count. Slow (S) is two counts. The basic pattern is S, S, Q, Q, S (eight counts). A rock step also is S, S, Q, Q, S. But a box turn is Q, Q, S, Q, Q, S. Also eight counts, with a different beat.
I'm not at all musical; I'm a bit more mathematical. So my male brain resonates with the eight count patterns in beginning/intermediate American Tango. I can dance along softly muttering to myself, "quick, quick, slow, quick, quick, slow."
With Argentine Tango, I often was muttering also. However, it was more like "what the heck…now what?...oops, that didn't work…" Lora tells us that we'll eventually be able to throw Argentine moves into our American Tango. So all that earlier muttering won't be wasted.
I don't want to over-emphasize the differences between the two Tango styles, though. Both feel wonderfully Tangoish when you dance them well. Which, now and then, we're managing to do.
Last Saturday Lora glanced at me while we were practicing a pattern and exclaimed, "Brian! I didn't see how the first part of that move looked, but the last part looked great." That made my dance class day.
Having been a dance geek back in high school (plus college, and graduate school, as well as most of the subsequent years), I'm surprising myself now. I'm really into this whole Tango thing. We'll probably try to learn some other ballroom dances eventually.
So, guys (and gals), if I can enjoy dance classes, anyone can. Try it. You'll probably like it. There's something elemental about moving around a room to music with someone in your arms.
Like I said in my "Tango, where men lead and women follow" post:
Tango is the most challenging form of physicality I've ever attempted.
It stretches you where it hurts: in your most basic sense of who you are as a man or woman. Learning Tango is much tougher for a man. He does the leading, even when he barely knows any moves to lead. He has to be decisive yet not domineering, a difficult balance to strike.
The woman has her own challenges. While on the dance floor she has to dampen her desire to lead, even if she is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. She has to respond to the man, becoming an extension of his intention insofar as possible.
Yet, and this is the most interesting aspect of Tango, the man follows almost as much as he leads. And the woman leads almost as much as she follows. Here is where Me Tarzan, You Jane morphs into Tango Zen or Tango Taoism.
A leader becomes a follower becomes a leader becomes a follower…until the music ends. After I lead a move the woman takes over. I'm following her movement now, until it's time to reclaim my role as leader.
Tango. Life. Love. Marriage. Relationship.
It's all the same. It's all about balance. It's all about Tarzan and Jane. And Jane and Tarzan.
(For a glimpse of what we sure don't look like, the Show Tango on the 2007 American Ballroom Challenge is worth a view.)