The Art of Dancing
By Katie Smith (London 1925 – 1st edition)
Chapter VII – The Tango
This fascinating dance merits an interest which it does not receive from the general public. This lack of interest and apparent unwillingness to dance the Tango is mainly due to two statements, which are frequently made: (1) That no Englishman can dance the Tango; and (2) That the steps are very numerous and complicated.
Let us take the former statement. An Englishman is quite capable of dancing the London Tango, though he may be ignorant of the Spanish and Argentine Tangos, out of which the London Tango has been evolved. At the present time the London Tango is definitely standardized, and any capable dancers who wish to learn it have an ample choice of professionals capable of teaching it.
A study of the original Tango is necessary for the student of the history of ball-room dances, but not for the ordinary dancer.
Take a parallel. It is quite unnecessary to study Latin in order to learn to speak French; yet Latin is the “mother language” of French.
Then follows the latter statement that the steps are numerous and complicated. Now, whatever may have been true a few years ago, at the present time the Tango is very simple, and anyone who can DANCE can learn it in three or four lessons. It is an actual fact that there are more sequences of steps in the Foxtrot than in the Tango, as danced in the recent Championships.
The rhythm of the Tango is not “caught” at once, but anyone with a musical ear can soon master it. The Tango rhythm is a mixed one, whereas the Foxtrot and Waltz rhythms are constant. Take two instances. The rhythm of the Reverse turn is: Short — Short — Long, Short — Short — Long. The rhythm of the Promenade is Long — Short — Short — Long. It must be clearly understood that the above words “Long” and “Short” only refer to musical value, not to measurement.
The footwork of the Tango is different from that of other ball-room dances. Whereas in the Waltz, Foxtrot, and One-step the feet glide along the floor, in the Tango they should be lifted and put down again by bending the knees.
Another point deserves mention. Each step should be a separate and detached movement, made rather suddenly and as late as the musical beat allows. Each step should be “held” and then the foot jerked forward into position at the last possible moment to be in time to the musical beat.
A few years ago the Tango was non-progressive, i.e., a couple danced the entire dance in the same part of the room, finishing within a few feet of the spot where they began. The fact that there was so little progression in the Tango undoubtedly hindered its acceptance by the public as a ball-room dance.
The present progressive Tango, as danced in the recent championships, meets this objection, although the character of the dance necessitates progress which is slow when compared with that of the other ball-room dances.
No special partners are necessary for the Tango, because this dance has not been simplified and its steps standardized. The old Tango, with its multiplicity of steps, belongs to the past.
Do learn to dance the modern Tango. Don’t be frightened out of the modern Tango by the ghost of the old one.