"Tango is nothing," and other mantras to dance by. An evening with Susana Miller

October 12, 2018, Edmonton Alberta Canada. The following is this dancer’s attempt at reconstructing the memorable lesson and dialogue.

Tango is nothing.
It is just life set to music.
Tango is just life, nothing more.

Excercise: walking.


Tango is just walking.

You all know how to walk. I do not need to teach you how to walk. If you can walk, you can dance tango.  If I try to teach you how to walk better, to make it look like something special, like performance tango, I make it worse.

You don’t make it better. You already know how to walk. Walk like you know.

Tango is nothing. Tango is just walking.


Excercise: shifting weight.

Shift your weight from side to side. Like you would in a supermarket.

You can do this. It is not difficult. This is easy.

This is tango. Shifting your weight. We all know how to shift our weight. We do it all the time in the supermarket. If your don’t do it in a supermarket don’t do it in tango. If I try to teach you how to do this better, I make it worse.

Tango is nothing. It is simply walking and shifting our weight.


Excercise: breathing.

Throw your shoulders back. Take a deep breath. Open your chest.

We all know how to do this but we forget. Especially when we dance. We tense up. We forget to breath. But dancing is breathing. We need to open ourselves so we can be open to our partner, so we can embrace, feel our partner.

Straighten your spine. Present your back to your partner, not your chest. Your spine supports your dance, your embrace, your walk.

Relax your hips, your knees, your shoulders. SInk your hips into the ground. Raise yourself from the waste by straightening your spine. Stay level. There is no up and down in tango.

You can do this. Your body knows. This is easy. This is tango.


Excercise: hugging.


Imagine we see our sister in the supermarket. We are happy to see her. What do we do? We go over and give her a hug.
Give the person next to you a hug.
See? It is easy. We know how to do this. We do this all the time.
The body knows what we need to do. Do what your body knows, what feels natural. Do what we do in the supermarket.

Now extend your arm. What is this? This is tango. Tango is nothing. Tango is simply hugging with your arm extended.

We all know how to do this. If I try to teach you how to do this better, I make it worse.

We don’t want to make it better. We want to do it the way we already know. We walk, we shift weight, we breathe, we hug. That is it. That is tango.

Excercise: holding out your hand.

Greet someone. Hold out your hand. Take your partner’s hand like it means something.

Why is this something? Because hands are very sensitive. We learn so much from someone’s hand, how they take our hand, how they hold it. We read respect, affection, gentleness from a hand-hold.

Hold someone’s hand like it means something, not like it is a wet rag.

This is tango. It is simple. It is holding someone’s hand firmly with attention.

Excercise: making eye contact.

Look into your partner’s eyes. Just natural. Don’t look away, down, aside. You can’t trust someone who looks away, who can’t look into your eyes..

Hold their gaze. Don’t try to make it better. Do it the way you would normally do it to someone you like. This is simple, but maybe not easy.

What do we communicate when we look into someone’s eyes? It says we like someone, that we respect them, that we are excited about being with them.

Look someone in the eyes. Smile with your eyes, welcome them, invite them to dance with your eyes.

This is the cabeceo. It is not difficult. We all know how to do this. This is simple. This is tango.


Excercise: keeping the eyes level.


Walk around the floor with your eyes straight ahead, parallel to the floor.

Keep your eyes looking ahead when you dance. Don’t look down or away. There is nothing there to see. Keep your eyes level to the floor, following along the wall. This will keep your back straight and your chest open. It will help you with your axis.

So here we go. We make eye contact. We move toward our partner. We breath. We hug our partner. We extend our arm and we hold hands. We press cheek to cheek. We shift our weight side to side. Now we walk.

See. we can all do this. This is tango. It is nothing. Things we do in a supermarket. Things our body already knows.

If we try to make it better we make it worse. If you had never taken a dancing lesson, this would be completely natural. I have to unteach what you have been taught so you remember what you already know.



Styles of Tango:

There are two main styles of dancing tango, salon and milonguero.

Salon style is what most of us see on youtube and what a lot of teachers teach because it is fancy with lots of kicks and pivots and it is hard to do. It looks good but it is not natural. It is not what your body knows. You will not be able to dance salon until you are eighty because it puts unnatural pressure on your body. Salon is great when you are with your family, dancing with your sister in a gymnasium with bright lights and people watching. It looks good. But it doesn’t feel so good.

That is not how we dance in Buenos Aires, in the small clubs, where the lights are dim and the floor is crowded and you are dancing with a stranger. There you do not care how it looks. Noone is watching.

You care how it feels. Feeling is more important than form, than fancy steps. You go with the feel of the music, the flow of the floor, the warmth of your partner’s body against yours. This is milonguero. This is tango.

Tango is nothing. It is walking, hugging, moving to the flow of the music. It is feeling the warmth of your partner. His attention, her affection.

If we try to make it better, we make it worse. That is just what it is.