YouTube as a Source of Tango Information

Since its availability in 2005, and particularly in the last few years, YouTube has become a popular source of visual information, including information about tango as a dance. Prior to taking tango lessons or observing tango danced live in a social setting, many people interested in learning about tango consult YouTube in an attempt to gain a visual gestalt of the characteristics of tango as a dance. The goal of this post is to examine the information available on YouTube as a representation of tango as a dance, and whether this is an unbiased portrayal of tango as it is danced in the social environment of the milongas of Buenos Aires, the gold standard of authenticity for tango social dancing. YouTube will also be examined as a potential source of accurate information about tango as a social dance.

The tango danced in the milongas of Buenos Aires will be referred to here as Tango de Salon, which includes Tango Milonguero and Tango Estilo del Barrio, and is not intended to designate specifically Tango Estilo del Barrio, often referred to as ‘Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza’ or ‘Salon (style) Tango’, particularly outside Argentina. The milongas that serve as a point of reference are the Traditional Milongas, the predominant form of milonga in Buenos Aires, in contrast to the recent appearance of Informal Milongas and Social Practicas in Buenos Aires.

Strategy in Selecting YouTube Videos

Tango videos were selected from YouTube using the following strategy. Two key words were used as search criteria: (1) ‘Tango’, and (2) ‘Argentine Tango’. YouTube does not select videos in response to a search that are necessarily the most commonly viewed in the search category. However, the number of views is reported. The 5 most frequently viewed videos in each search category were noted. In the event that YouTube does not always include the 5 most frequently viewed videos in response to a search inquiry, each search was conducted 3 times. Only videos showing ‘dance’ (broadly defined as people moving across a floor as music is playing) were included. This search process identifies the information about tango as a dance that is most frequently viewed on YouTube. From this one can also infer that this is the information about tango as a dance that is most frequently viewed by people who are naïve about tango and who are consulting YouTube as a source of information about tango as a dance. It is known that YouTube video availability is not the same in different countries, so it is best to assume that the tango video visibility reported here is most accurate for the United States.

Video Category: ‘Tango’

(1) Tango Argentina: 15,228,956 views

This is a performance of Stage Tango by highly skilled tango stage performers. The music (Quejas de bandoneon) is consistent with music played in the milongas of Buenos Aires, although the Troilo orchestra version emulated is played infrequently there. As a performance, it is not a depiction of Tango de Salon. The rapid movements using a considerable amount of space and moving in unpredictable directions (i.e., not following a line of dance), as well as the attention attracting conspicuous movements, make this performance an unsuitable example of the type of dancing that is adapted for the milonga setting. Undoubtedly the dancers are aware of this, but the naïve viewer is not and thus is kept in the dark regarding the appropriateness of this type of dancing in the milonga environment.

(2) Al Pacino – Scent of a Woman: 14,786,465 views

As is typically the case when motion picture actors portray dancing, the skill level leaves something to be desired. This dance is an awkward mix of some Ballroom Tango steps and attempts at Stage Tango poses. The music played is not authentic Argentine tango music, but rather a choppy rendition by the Tango Project of ‘Por una cabeza’. Despite the inauthenticity of the dance and the music, this scene is often used as a model for couples desiring to perform a ‘tango’ dance at their wedding, and dance instructors in North America (whether or not they are competent in dancing Tango Argentino) frequently receive requests to train prospective brides and grooms for a wedding performance to be billed as ‘tango’ using this music.

(3) Shakira – Objection (Tango) (first 1:00): 8,473,366 views

This is from a music video, i.e., it serves as an advertisement for a recorded song. Only the first approximately 1:00 of this video attempts to portray tango. The music is ‘La cumparsita’ and although the tempo is not consistent throughout, making it inappropriate for the milonga, the quality of the music is on par with contemporary tango orchestras in Argentina. Presented in the video is a stereotype of a streetwise Latin male in macho mode engaging a reluctant woman in provocative clothing in a seductive scene. The man has good stage tango skills and Shakira does not look completely out of place in this limited exposure. However, once again, this is not Tango de Salon, i.e., dancing that is appropriate for the milonga.

(4) Tango Fire – Verano Portenas: 7,990,113 views

This is an actual recording of a stage production. The music is Piazzolla’s ‘Verano porteño’, not intended for social dancing and not played at milongas in Buenos Aires. The performance is mostly modern dance with some added (and often crude) simulated sensuality. There is nothing resembling the intimate embrace characteristic of dancers in the milongas of Buenos Aires. There is almost nothing in terms of movement that is representative of Tango de Salon.

(5) Shall We Dance? Movie Clip: 5,583,471 views

Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez (the latter in the role of a ballroom dance instructor) execute an awkward combination of Stage Tango poses and movements borrowed mostly from Ballroom Tango with popular electrotango band Gotan Project’s “Santa Maria (del Buen Ayre)” playing in the background. Included also are awkward attempts at expressing sensuality. This is neither tango dancing nor music that is suitable for the milonga.

Category ‘Argentine Tango’

Perhaps the category ‘tango’ is too broad, including some forms of tango (such as Ballroom Tango) that are not Argentine in character. Assume the viewer is interested specifically in the tango from Argentina. The top 5 most frequently viewed videos retrieved with the search terms ‘Argentine Tango’ are listed here.

(1) Tango Argentina (cited above)

(6) Tango Dance by Gustavo and Jesica from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Song: Claudinette, by Lidia Borda: 2,561,972 views

This is a fairly lifeless demonstration of Stage Tango danced with a tango cancion lacking in rhythm (i.e., not designed for dancing) playing in the background. The demonstration is rich in sacadas, arrastres, puentes, ganchos, boleos and numerous opportunities for the woman to lift her legs high off the floor. The dance does not move across the floor; there is little actual walking. It is not the Tango de Salon of the milongas of Buenos Aires, and despite the label advertising the dancers as USA Stage Tango Champions, it is far from the standard of stage dancing exhibited in tango stage productions from Argentina.

(7) Argentine Tango/Milonga–Amazing! 1,820,662 views

This is a demonstration of milonga con traspie given by El Flaco Dany Garcia and Luna Palacios at a milonga at the now closed Plaza Bohemia at 444 Maipu in downtown Buenos Aires. In contrast to all of the other videos reviewed in this post, it demonstrates, for the most part (e.g., excluding the underarm turn around 1:45) a type of dancing that could be done at a milonga in Buenos Aires, although very few dancers achieve the skill level demonstrated in this video. Dany Garcia is a milonguero who has participated in milongas in Buenos Aires for many years and thus his dancing is representative of the social environment in which tango is danced. However, as is the case with many demonstrations, the dancing does not follow the counterclockwise ronda characteristic of milongas in Buenos Aires. The music is ‘Tango negro’ by Juan Carlos Caceres, which is played occasionally for dancing in the milongas of Buenos Aires (Music Played at Milongas / Tango Social Dance Venues).

(8) Nicole Scherzinger & Derek Hough – Argentine Tango – Week 9: 1,358,796

This is a typical Dancing with the Stars performance in which a professional ballroom dancer leads a celebrity, an amateur at dancing, through a series of poses, in this case borrowed mostly from Stage Tango. Absent is the embrace and walking characteristic of Tango de Salon. The music used for dancing is an emulation of Gotan Project’s electrotango ‘Un musica brutal’, music that is not used for dancing in the milongas of Buenos Aires.

(9) Argentine Tango Street Dancers: 918,966 views

This is a recording of street dancers on Avenida Florida, a pedestrian mall in downtown Buenos Aires, where many tourists wander and shop. The performance is Stage Tango, with standard Stage Tango movements and poses, although there is some walking. The music, Tanturi’s “Asi se baile el tango” is played regularly for dancing tango in the milongas of Buenos Aires.

One More Video: Argentine Tango without Music

This video did not meet the original criterion for inclusion as ‘tango dancing’, i.e., requiring music in conjunction with movement, but is included here because it was referenced in the search for ‘Argentine Tango’ and had over 1 million views, and completes a list of the Top 10 ‘tango’ videos on You Tube.

(10) Dancing the Argentine Tango: Modern Argentine Tango Steps: 1,644,041 views

In this video the instructors demonstrate movements that they correctly introduce as ‘show tango’, declaring it ‘modern’ (in contrast to the ‘older’ milonguero style), ignoring the fact that many thousands more people dance Tango Milonguero than Tango Escenario in Buenos Aires today. They show a series of movements such as drops, ganchos, boleos, sacadas and the sentada without music, describing these movements as ‘sensual’. This video presents movement without music that is inappropriate for the milonga, focusing the viewer on the wrong movements and ignoring the central role of music in the understanding of tango.

Consequences of Commonly Viewed YouTube Tango Video Content

In the United States (and probably in many other parts of the world outside of Argentina and Uruguay) for the prospective tango dancer wishing to learn about tango before embarking on a course of instruction, with the intent of acquiring skills for dancing tango in a milonga environment, consultation of YouTube for information about tango will provide an impression that Stage Tango, with its conspicuous movements and dramatic poses, characterizes the tango dance. It is also noteworthy that much of the music used in demonstrations of tango dancing in popular YouTube tango videos is not the type of music that is played for dancing tango in the milongas of Buenos Aires. Of the 10 most viewed videos labeled as ‘tango’ on YouTube, in only two did the dancers use traditional tango music for dancing. The naïve prospective tango dancer does not know and the YouTube videos do not inform the prospective dancer that there is a difference between the tango designed for the stage and the tango defined for the milongas, and also that there may be a difference between the music used for performances and the music used for social dancing..

It is interesting to note that none of the Top 10 Tango Videos demonstrates Tango Nuevo, although this genre of tango appears to be the most popular in instruction at tango festivals in the United States and elsewhere throughout the world. It is unlikely that naïve dancers are capable of differentiating between Stage Tango and Tango Nuevo (Is Tango Nuevo a Form of Stage Tango?).

In any case, regarding opportunities for obtaining tango instruction, there is also an abundance of tango instructors, many who travel from Argentina specifically for the purpose of instructing foreigners in the execution of movements that are inappropriate for use in milongas, who will reinforce the misperception regarding tango dancing that may be derived from YouTube. The traveling instructors of Stage Tango and Tango Nuevo from Buenos Aires further feed the bank of misinformation by adding videos of their performances to YouTube as a means of advertisement, and recorders of additional performances given by these instructors at workshops and tango festivals provide further free advertisement and misinformation by uploading videos of these performances to YouTube. Except for the performance by Dany Garcia, notably absent from the most viewed tango videos is an accurate representation of tango as a social dance. Thus, it should come as no surprise that social tango dancing in the manner that is danced in the milongas of Buenos Aires is underrepresented, and elements of Stage Tango and Tango Nuevo are overrepresented at the tango social events advertised as milongas in the United States and, by extension of inference, in other parts of the world outside Argentina.

YouTube as a Source of Accurate Information about Tango de Salon

Despite the overrepresentation in YouTube of videos of tango dancing that portray Stage Tango (or even Ballroom Tango) dancing, YouTube can provide accurate information about Tango de Salon, if one knows how to use the resources available. Some sources of accurate information about tango social dancing in Buenos Aires milongas (i.e., videos of dancing in the milongas themselves, or demonstrations of Tango de Salon) available on YouTube are listed below:

(1) Milongas de Buenos Aires

This list contains over 175 videos of social dancing in the milongas and social practicas of Buenos Aires. It is done without commentary. There is a wide cross-section of milongas that have been selected for recording. If there is any bias, it is that this playlist gives an apparently equal representation (possibly even overrepresentation) of short lived sparsely populated milongas and practicas, as it does of the densely populated traditional milongas with considerable longevity.

(2) Milongas and Milongueros of Buenos Aires

This playlist by Jantango contains 59 videos of tango dancing in Buenos Aires, mostly of social dancing in milongas, but also including some demonstrations of Tango de Salon given at milongas and at other locations. The focus is upon capturing the dancing of milongueros, men who have danced tango in the milongas of Buenos Aires for many years, and the milongas selected for recording are those in which these milongueros dance.

(3) Milongas in Buenos Aires

This is a playlist of 37 videos complied by Oleh Kovalchuke from Kansas City, Missouri. Most are recordings of tango social dancing at traditional milongas in Buenos Aires. Oleh also has complied a playlist of 116 videos under the heading ‘Los Milongueros’, many of which are demonstrations, by men recognized as milongueros, of tango dancing that would be considered appropriate for the milongas of Buenos Aires.

(4) 100% Tango Milonguero

This is a collection of 91 videos of demonstrations (mostly at milongas) of Tango Milonguero, the predominant stylistic variation of tango currently danced in the milongas of Buenos Aires.

(5) Viejos Milongueros in Buenos Aires

Patricia Muller has created a YouTube playlist consisting of 18 recordings from the 1990s of Tango de Salon in such milongas as Sin Rumbo, Glorias Argentinas, and Confiteria Ideal, as well as practicas from Sunderland Club.

Value of YouTube as an Accurate Source of Tango Information

Prior to YouTube, they were few video recordings of tango social dancing in the milongas of Buenos Aires that were publicly available. Daniel Trenner had a video called ‘Salon Dancing in Buenos Aires’ that consisted of recordings made in 1992 and 1993 of milongas and practicas in Buenos Aires, including some that are still in existence today – the milongas at Salon Canning and Glorias Argentinas, and the practica at Cochabamba 444. It appears this video is no longer available for sale. There has also been a privately circulated and sold video by Barbara Durr and Michael Bronfenbrenner entitled ‘A Night in the Milongas of Buenos Aires’ that has recordings of predominantly Tango Milonguero in mostly Traditional Milongas from around 2000-2004, including some milongas still in existence such as El Beso, Centro Region Leonesa, Sunderland Club, Torquato Tasso, Club Gricel, La Viruta, Salon Canning, and La Nacional. However, these videos generally were available only to people who already had some tango experience, probably a considerable amount of tango experience in most cases. The value of YouTube is that there has never been so much recording of authentic tango social dancing from the milongas of Buenos Aires made freely available to the inquiring public. The problem is that this information is hidden behind the overwhelming mass of tango recordings that, as a whole, provide a biased view of tango as a social dance.

In order to counteract the flow of misinformation regarding Tango Argentino, it is the responsibility of those who have experienced Tango de Salon in Buenos Aires to provide prospective and current tango dancers access (as in internet links) to an accurate visual representation of the tango of the milongas of Buenos Aires, for example, on tango websites, as has been done in Tango Voice previously (Milongueros Dancing in the Milongas of Buenos Aires). It is the responsibility of instructors of Tango de Salon to provide visual documentation in support of the tango they teach, as a countermeasure to the inaccurate portrayal of tango as a performance art for a social setting that is commonly taught by visiting instructors from Argentina and their resident counterparts who in their home countries market tango for profit rather than for authenticity.

Summary

YouTube videos labeled as ‘tango’ are a common source of visual information for the naïve prospective tango dancer regarding the character of tango as a dance. A review of the most commonly viewed YouTube videos that are retrieved under the search terms ‘tango’ and ‘Argentine tango’ reveal that, in almost all cases, the dancing presented is either Stage Tango or a mix of Stage Tango and Ballroom Tango, the latter being more common in recordings derived from commercial media such as motion pictures and television programs. From this it is apparent that most of the information viewed on YouTube regarding tango as a dance does not provide a sufficient opportunity for the naïve prospective tango dancer to view the Tango de Salon danced in the milongas of Buenos Aires. The most commonly viewed videos also provide a biased perspective of the music to which tango is danced in the milongas of Buenos Aires, in that only two videos out of the ten most popular referenced used Traditional Tango music for dancing. Nevertheless, despite this initial biased portrayal of tango dancing and music, YouTube can be a valuable resource in that there exist several playlists that contain numerous recordings of Tango de Salon danced in the social setting of the milongas in Buenos Aires. In order to counteract the biased flow of information emanating from marketers of tango outside Argentina (i.e., tango instructors promoting a version of tango that is unsuitable for the milonga environment), organizers and instructors who wish to create a Buenos Aires tango atmosphere in their own community should promote awareness of the rich library of accurate visual information regarding Tango de Salon that is available on YouTube.

9 Responses to YouTube as a Source of Tango Information

  1. jantango says:

    There are actually 149 videos on my YouTube channel, but most are “unlisted” and can only be accessed from the blog. I continue to record and upload videos of the milongueros viejos in the milongas.

    I agree that viewers don’t get to see social tango as it’s being danced today in Buenos Aires.

  2. Chris says:

    I suggest the reason a YouTube search for “tango” finds very little Argentine tango is not down to bias, but to the fact there’s a lot more to tango than Argentine tango.

    Likewise that reason a search for “Argentine tango” finds very little salon tango dancing is not down to bias, but to the fact there’s a lot more to Argentine tango than salon tango dancing.

    For a result that’s representative of salon tango, we would search instead for “salon tango”. The results show about 2% (by views) of the number for tango plain. To me that seems not at all misrepresentative or inaccurate.

    Much as social tango dancing is large part of our lives, it is a tiny part of what’s called tango by the world at large. To accept this is to approach a better understanding of (for example) the phenomenon you described here:

    In order to counteract the biased flow of information emanating from marketers of tango outside Argentina (i.e., tango instructors promoting a version of tango that is unsuitable for the milonga environment…

    The typical tango instructor hereabouts serves customers who do not want a dance suitable for the milonga environment, not least because they have never seen a milonga and are unlikely ever to do so. Such classgoers want a dance suitable for the class environment, and that’s what they get. I have to say I see little evidence that what you characterise as a “biased portrayal” leads to the confusion suggested. Yes, most of what instructors and YouTube promote as tango is commercial dancing, but No this is not often mistaken for social dancing by newcomers who, as you describe, are looking to learn the dance they’ve seen in a milonga.

    My thanks to you for reporiting the findings of your research.on this interesting subject.

    • tangovoice says:

      People who are naïve to tango are not familiar with the term ‘salon tango’. If they seek information about tango on YouTube, they typically use search terms such as ‘tango’ or ‘Argentine tango’, as is evidenced by the more than one million views each of almost all of the ‘top 10’ videos referenced in the searches.

      Yes, tango is more than just dancing; the dance cannot exist without the music, although some find no problem calling their dance ‘tango’ if some other kind of music is playing in the background. The interest here was in determining what perspective of tango dancing is provided by YouTube. In fact, when using the search terms ‘tango’ and ‘Argentine tango’, videos of dancing are what is most commonly viewed. No videos of tango music without dancing were reference among those that were the most commonly viewed, although one video of ‘dance instruction’ without music was referenced.

      Regarding tango instruction that serves only for training in the classroom but not for the milonga, as is evidenced by students who take classes but do not attend milongas, there may be multiple reasons for the existence of this phenomenon. It appears that a significant proportion of tango students who take classes but do not attend milongas are lacking in confidence as to their readiness for the tango social dance environment. The lack of confidence may come in part from their perceptions of their own dance ability, but also from their lack of social confidence, i.e., the probability of success in finding partners to dance with at a milonga. In the tango classroom, where they are likely to be assigned partners, they satisfy their desire for dancing with someone. This is a dimension independent from that regarding what tango instructors teach in that this phenomenon occurs among instructors of all kinds of tango. The only qualifier to be attached here is that the kind of people who gravitate to show tango are those who have exhibitionist tendencies and thus are less likely to be intimidated by the public environment of the milonga.

      Just as there is a subpopulation of tango dancers who take classes and attend milongas, there is another subpopulation of dancers who attend milongas but who have had little or no tango instruction. The latter population is more disruptive and dangerous.

  3. Chris, UK says:

    TV wrote: “It appears that a significant proportion of tango students who take classes but do not attend milongas are lacking in confidence as to their readiness for the tango social dance environment.

    The dance classroom is a tango social dance environment – a significant number of people go there to enjoy dancing with and meeting members of the opposite sex. Low confidence in milonga readiness is not a “lack” for people who have no interest in milongas because they get what they want in classes. Nor does this come from “lack” of ability in dance and hence success in finding parners. My probabilty of success in finding a satisfactory dance partner in a class is just as low as their’s in a milonga. That’s simply because we are doing different dances.

    “The only qualifier to be attached here is that the kind of people who gravitate to show tango are those who have exhibitionist tendencies and thus are less likely to be intimidated by the public environment of the milonga.”

    I agree. Plus many are classgoers newly graduated to instructor, looking to exhibit/advertise to prospective customers. They aren’t welcome to do this in other instructors’ classes and aren’t good enough to get a place to do it on stage, so have no alternative but to exhibit in milongas. Most sad is that some milonga organisers hereabouts activerly encourage this by asking all the other dancers to leave the floor.

    there is another subpopulation of dancers who attend milongas but who have had little or no tango instruction. The latter population is more disruptive and dangerous.

    My experience is very much the opposite. Notably in BA, where generally the best partners I’ve found, and the guys with whom I most like to share the floor, have never taken a tango class in their life. The worst dancers are generally those who’ve taken (and often given) the most classes. I see this correlation pretty much everywhere I’ve danced in the first and second tango worlds.

    • tangovoice says:

      Regarding social confidence and milonga (versus tango class) attendance, there are many tango dancers who do not attend milongas because they do not believe they dance well enough (even if they do dance better than many of the overconfident incompetents who populate milongas throughout the world). There is also the issue of general social self confidence, the ability to invite someone to dance (or attract invitations), which may be due in part to self-perceptions regarding physical attractiveness or social skills, in additions to dance skills. Limitations in these areas are circumvented to some degree in the class environment where partners are assigned through partner rotation.

      Regarding tango instructors, there are good tango instructors and there are bad tango instructors. Perhaps the latter category has greater membership. However, the tango world is more complicated than the images created by the black-and-white pigeon-holing conducted here. Tango instructors are portrayed as poorly skilled opportunists who do not produce dancers capable of functioning in the milonga setting and the best dancers at a milonga are those who have never had a tango class. Whereas there are undoubtedly many tango instructors with limited skills and limited effectiveness in producing good dancers, there are also some (perhaps a limited number) of tango instructors who do produce good dancers. This relationship is true for many areas of knowledge where the material to be learned is somewhat difficult and the quality of instruction varies. However, to suggest that a skill such as dancing tango can be learned by observation alone (role models needed here), without guidance from someone who is more knowledgeable, is illogical and not supported by factual evidence. Just as one cannot be handed the keys to an automobile and instructed to ‘get in and drive’ without instruction, it is not possible to show someone the milonga dance floor and tell this person to dance without some instruction (although the consequences may be less destructive in the latter case).

      – Regarding the best dancers in Buenos Aires having never taken a tango class:

      During the Golden Age, men learned from more experienced men in practicas. Women learned from family members in the home. There may not have been a specific identified instructor or a syllabus, but there was instruction. Today in Buenos Aires learning tango generally occurs in formal classes as it does in most of the rest of the world, although learning tango can still occur in an informal setting among friends or (rarely) family. In milongas in Buenos Aires today (unlike in many other places around the world), it is difficult to find an unknown partner to dance with without first demonstrating some skill in dancing. Elementary tango dance skills are not learned on the milonga dance floor; this is not the place to make the mistakes that occur in the learning process. No one (not even an Argentine) is born with an innate ability to dance tango; it requires learning and tango is a difficult dance. Tango cannot be learned by observation alone, although observation can provide an example to emulate. Learning tango needs to occur somewhere and to acquire good skills it needs to be learned from someone who has a higher skill level. That person or those persons may or may not be formally identified as ‘tango instructors’ who receive monetary payment for their services, but they are teachers.

  4. Chris, UK says:

    However, to suggest that a skill such as dancing tango can be learned by observation alone (role models needed here), without guidance from someone who is more knowledgeable, is illogical and not supported by factual evidence.

    Good then that no such suggestion was made here. 🙂

    Learning tango needs to occur somewhere and to acquire good skills it needs to be learned from someone who has a higher skill level.

    I agree that’s best. Salon tango is a folk dance that learned, as any other, by dancing with people who can already dance. This traditional way of learning tango dance has thrived for over 100 years and prevails today in homes, practicas and milongas worldwide. Such social learning is inherent to social dancing of the improvised, music-based kind that we know and love.

    Completely different is the commercial tango class teaching method invented in the 1980s. This is based on instruction, partnering beginners with others who can’t dance. It exists not because it’s successful in teaching salon tango, but because it is successful in teaching alternatives to salon tango – non-social forms such as show tango, neuvo… and the easy-to-copy pattern-based class dancing which yes unfortunately some have been mislead into believing is what everyone else calls social tango.

    As to your claim that Golden Age dancers learned by instruction from teachers, I must say this is contradicted by all the evidence I’ve encountered, ranging from historical accounts of recent researchers like as Christine Denniston, back to the direct testimony of such dancers themselves. In those days there were no teachers.

    • tangovoice says:

      Completely different is the commercial tango class teaching method invented in the 1980s. This is based on instruction, partnering beginners with others who can’t dance. It exists not because it’s successful in teaching salon tango, but because it is successful in teaching alternatives to salon tango – non-social forms such as show tango, neuvo… and the easy-to-copy pattern-based class dancing which yes unfortunately some have been mislead into believing is what everyone else calls social tango.

      – It is true that learning in formal classes is hindered by beginners dancing with beginners. Today there is a shortage of experienced dancers willing to guide the learning of novices. On the other hand, there are varying levels of expertise within a tango community, and dancers whose tango is still developing are not necessarily the best guides for novices. In many tango communities there is already an overabundance of unsolicited instructors of this type on the milonga dance floors who offer their lack of tango expertise as free advice. A Golden Age Buenos Aires style practica initiated outside Buenos Aires today is only likely to lead to a proliferation of misinformation that is worse than that transmitted by teachers of tango who earn money from this endeavor.

      – However, there is a stereotyping of tango instructors that persists here. Not all tango instructors are charlatans teaching a dance that is maladapted for the milonga. There are a significant number of instructors who teach tango de salon / tango milonguero. Some are even regarded as milongueros. The wheat needs to be separated from the chaff here.

      As to your claim that Golden Age dancers learned by instruction from teachers, I must say this is contradicted by all the evidence I’ve encountered, ranging from historical accounts of recent researchers like as Christine Denniston, back to the direct testimony of such dancers themselves. In those days there were no teachers.

      – This is playing with words. First of all, the quotation (about 2:25 in the interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sA0hkISB2M4) in Spanish is ‘Antes no habia profesores’. A ‘profesor’ is someone who someone who teaches as a profession. There were some ‘profesors de tango’ in the Golden Age, but they primarily served the rich who could afford to pay for dance lessons. Rarely did the person attending a milonga utilize such instructional resources. For men, at least, learning occurred in the practica, in which there were no paid instructors. However, that does not mean there were no ‘teachers’. If man A shows man B a certain tango movement and man B acquires that knowledge, man A has taught man B and he is a teacher, albeit in an informal sense. So, to say that there were no teachers of tango in the Golden Age misrepresents how taught was learned.

      – Clarity in language is important, otherwise there is miscommunication.

  5. Chris, UK says:

    “A Golden Age Buenos Aires style practica initiated outside Buenos Aires today is only likely to lead to a proliferation of misinformation that is worse than that transmitted by teachers of tango who earn money from this endeavor.”

    Does this have any basis in experience? Because, again, my experience is the wholly the opposite.

    The world’s largest tango scene outside Buenos Aires today (Berlin) has 20 practicas a week. They are extremely popular and successful for those learning to dance. They suffer much less bad instruction than the typical class because the learner a) gets to judge by dancing with the source, and b) can walk away from it at any time. Soon an instructor without an audience finds somwhere else to go.

    Contrast this with the typical segregated beginners class. Here, the instructor has a largely captive audience, excludes experienced dancers equipped to expose bad instruction, and gives each pupil very little opportunity if any to judge directly by dancing with him. It is this formula that generates the fewest good dancers and breeds the most bad instructors.

    “to say that there were no teachers of tango in the Golden Age misrepresents how taught was learned.

    I think you’d find the published research on this matter to be enlightening. E.g. Christine Denniston: “There was no such thing as a Tango teacher and no such thing as a beginners’ Tango class before the Tango revival began in the mid 1980s.” For details, see her book The Meaning of Tango: The Story of the Argentinian Dance.

    • tangovoice says:

      Yes, beginners dancing with beginners hinders the learning of tango. A fundamental cultural shift towards greater unselfishness and community spirit, in combination with a reservoir of skilled dancers, is needed to implement an effective instructional environment where there is group instruction. The hindrance to achieving an adequate level of social tango dancing characteristic of Buenos Aires milongas is not the mechanism of a single instructor or instructor couple teaching; it is the knowledge and skill levels of the participants. A practica environment as a means of developing tango dancers will only be effective in producing good social tango dancers if there is a reservoir of good social tango dancers available to impart their knowledge. A group instructional environment with misinformed and poorly skilled guides will only result in the further proliferation of misinformation. In that case a single expert source of information would result in better tango community development.

      It is an overgeneralization to classify all tango instructors as purveyors of tango misinformation. A formal tango class with good instructors can provide accurate information and good guidance in the learning of tango. It is the participating individuals more than the learning environment that impacts the outcome.

      Regarding no tango teachers before the 1980s in Buenos Aires, this depends again on the definition of ‘teacher’. Indeed there were very few professional instructors, i.e., tango dancers who were paid to teach a formal (i.e., organized and structured) class. Neverthless, the learning of tango occurred by less skilled dancers being guided by more skilled dancers. This is teaching, with the more skilled dancers being teachers. To argue otherwise is just playing with semantics.

      This conversation is repeating the same arguments without resolution and is off topic. The topic of this post is ‘YouTube as a Source of Tango Information’. This conversation is therefore closed.

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