Getting better at any partner dance, whether it’s Argentine Tango, ballroom dance, or salsa is much more enjoyable when you have a consistent partner to practice with. Here are some guidelines for picking the perfect Tango partner.
Partner Dance Essentials
Willingness to Learn
Tango is a never ending learning game. You have to gain and retain knowledge to really enjoy the dance.
This makes it easier to find the other person’s center, axis, leverage volcadas (leaning in), and colgadas (leaning out).
It important to know what your partner desires to achieve. Does the other person wants to reach a certain level, perform, apply their learning to a social events like milongas/ practicas, exercise, make friends, improve posture, and/ or learn something new? It’s good to figure out their motivation early on so you understand why they are learning to dance and what areas your partner will enjoy working on more than others.
Some people are fantastic dancers to watch, but when you dance with them, it’s like being thrown around like a burger on a frying pan. This could be due to dance chemistry and how the other person responds to your movements. Men are much more visual so looks can play a large part, however women respond more to how the partner makes them feel.
Are they a good tango dancer? Is this someone who can challenge and inspire you to get better? If they are not the greatest, do they have the potential to be? Are they proactive with their learning? The ability or potential is an important factor that needs to be considered.
Common Courtesy for your Partner
Show up on Time
They are taking time out of their day to practice with you. Make it worth both of your while.
Brush your teeth, shower, and avoid strong perfumes/ colognes. If you smoke, avoid smoking in your home so it doesn’t sink into your clothes.
Be Respectful, Patient, and Positive
Just because someone does not get the move the first time does not mean they are not “tango worthy.” They are processing lots of new information and for some dancers it takes longer to break down the step.
Favourable Dance Partner Attributes
Your body is an instrument in Tango. Liking the same style of music or artists is great, whether it’s nuevo, traditional, or the latest Katy Perry song. It’s important to keep in mind some dancers dislike obvious rhythmic music like Canaro and Donato, while others love interpreting songs with no clear rhythm like Pugliese and Bajofondo.
How You Learn
People who take longer to learn may retain information in the long term versus people who mimic the movement quickly may not remember it the following week. There are so many different ways people learn, whether it’s through copying the movement, kinaesthetically, explaining the body mechanics, or a mixture of these elements. Having somebody that learns similarly or complements your weaknesses can be a fantastic learning dynamic.
Brings additional dance material that was not learned in class. This could be informative blogs or videos they found online. Tangomeet.com is a great resource of expert Maestros around the world.
Practices by Themselves
Things that can be worked on like embellishments, enrosques, and ochos can be practiced with a small wooden surface at home, at the studio before class, or at the gym. Your balance and coordination is your own responsibility. Making sure you can perform the movement without taking the other person off axis is greatly appreciated!
They can dance the same time duration. I had a dance partner for 2 years who could dance 8 hours and be completely energized, however my limit was 4 hours. So Sundays he would dance with me for 4 hours, which I made clear was my threshold and then he would go to practica for an additional 4 hours. It’s okay to be upfront, compromise, and set your limitations so you can plan your desired practice time accordingly.
Strong core and posture is something to be worked on constantly. In Argentine Tango, you are both leveraging yourself off the other person and having a strong center makes dancing much more effortless. Also, imagining a string being pulled upwards can help maintain your axis at all times, involving lots of self awareness.
Everyone has their own preferences on who they choose as a dance partner. We are all human and maybe there are things that your partner needs to work on are forgiving, like showing up 15 minutes late or they don’t have the greatest posture, however you know they are actively working on it.
You need to weigh the pros and cons to see if this person is worth investing your time in. Dancing is something to be enjoyed. If it starts to feel like a chore to dance with somebody, it may be time to move on. Maybe you are not the right fit for each other. You can always say hi at Milongas and in class. Just because you have practiced with them before does not mean you have an obligation to dance with them forever.