How to Prepare for a Tango Performance

Argentine Tango Sentada
Tango Performance at Russian Club in Sydney, Australia

Preparing for an Argentine Tango performance can be a great way to motivate and accelerate the learning process. It can be fun, challenging, rewarding, and frustrating. Whether the result is something you would be proud to showcase on YouTube or something you are embarrassed about, it’s a great way to see how far you can push yourself, how well you can work with your partner, and grow together as a dancers. 

The choreography of Tango is usually the first thing that attracts people to the dance. It can be intricate, intimate, varied, and expressive. Argentine Tango is traditionally an improvised dance with no preset sequence of movements. However, performances vary from choreographed to improvised. Both have different preparation, which will be elaborated. 

Choreographed Tango Performance

Choreographed performances are fun to plan and predictable. With lots of practice, these Tango performances are a great opportunity to showcase adornments and lifts if you two are comfortable. Because there are set patterns, mistakes can be made due to blanking out, bodies shaking due to nervousness, foot placement, loss of balance, timing, and the list goes on.

The Choreography Process

Argentine Tango lift
Tango photography by Nick Fancher
  • Research and watch your favorite Tango dancers 
  • What type of Tango Music would you like to dance to? Will you two be dancing to Milonga, traditional or tango music? Then, pick a song you both like! 
  • Discuss which movements you would like to incorporate within the performance. Do you two want to showcase your adornments, barridas, a sentada or lift?
  • Establish that specific beats in the music that have certain movements be executed. Flowy circular movements like planeos and volcadas can take longer and it is important to establish when each dancer is stepping on the beat.
  • Combining the movements and sequences to create a beautifully choreographed piece. If certain ideas aren’t working, throw it out and try something else!
  • When the idea is finalized, record it on your smart phone or Go Pro. You can use a Hamilton Octopus Tripod to hold your Smart Phone in place. It can be placed on flat surface or wrapped around certain objects that are stable so the phone doesn’t drop. Also, a Go Pro is great due to it’s wide angle lens and can capture large spaces.
  • Hire a coach to offer suggestions and make corrections.

Preparation

  • Practice as much as possible! Every day is preferable. If your partner can’t make it, practice the movements and embellishments by yourself.
  • Stretch after dance practice to maintain flexibility and prevent injury
  • Check out the venue and space you will be dancing in. If it’s small, set up benches and tables to block off an accurate amount of space so you don’t take up too much space. If it’s a large space, make sure to use a majority of the floor and keep in mind where the audience will be sitting. 

I really enjoyed the choreography of the performance by National Tango Champions, Carlos and Maureen Urrego due to the extensions, variability of linear and circular movements, and the lifts. The song is very dramatic and is a great opportunity to tell a story through the dance. The song is ‘Patetico’ by Fabio Hager Sexteto.

Improvised Tango Performance

Improvised performances can be intimidating because the lead is suggesting the movement and it’s up to the follow to interpret it on the fly. It is a truly unique and sometimes frightening experience due to uncertainty of what will happen next. Here are some tips on how to prepare.

  • Practice at least 4-7 times per week so you are in sync with your partner’s body
  • When movements are unclear or feels uncomfortable, communicate with your partner so that the movement is more natural.
  • Record yourselves dancing Tango. If you don’t like what you see, view a video of dancers you admire and study how they execute their movements. Record again and self adjust.
  • If you can choose a piece of music you are improvising, practice with the music and see what comes out! If you do not have that luxury to know what song you both will be dancing to, practice with types of music you think the DJ would play. If you are going to perform at a venue where the DJ is known for playing Tango nuevo, dance to Otros Aires, Baja Fondo, and Romantica Milonguera. If the DJ is renown for loving traditional tango music, dance to Ricardo Tanturi, Osvaldo Pugliese, and Juan D’Arienzo. 
  • Hire a coach or teacher to provide feedback and suggestions. 

My Experience

Here is an example of an improvised Tango performance my dance partner and I did at Dance Edge’s Lincoln Street Salsa Event. There were 150 people and I was definitely nervous! I remember I was so surprised by how much power my dance partner had due to all the adrenaline pumping through our bodies. The ending where Francesco invites me over to do a Tango pause, he told me later he wanted me to step on the ground and extend my back leg. However, due to so much power I wrapped my leg around his and he accommodated.

Performing at the salsa event was to showcase to salsa and bachata dancers that there is an opportunity to learn the ultimate partner dance, Argentine Tango. I had a Milonga coming up and wanted to bring awareness of the event. Also, that there was a Tango event happening.

If you are a Tango teacher, performance is a great way you can showcase your aesthetic and athletic skills as a dancer. It’s highly recommended to  incorporate moves learned in class to show that learning Tango is attainable.

Also, having great fundamentals gives the performance professional polish: posture, embrace, a great walk, and musicality. Incorporating basic to advanced movements to showcase the breadth of Tango vocabulary makes it entertaining to watch. This is an excellent way to inspire students to work toward improving their dancing and practicing more! If you are happy with the performance or segments of it, it’s an opportunity to share the experience on social media, YouTube, and your website. 

Wrapping it Up

Improvised or choreographed, a Tango performance can be a fantastic experience to grow as a dancer. Whether you are performing at a Milonga or performing with an orchestra, there are many considerations to take when performing. 

Argentine Tango drop
Tango photography by Nick Fancher

If you are happy with the outcome and someone has recorded a video of the performance, it’s great to share the experience online.

If you and your dance partner are not happy with the performance results, take it as a learning experience. If there are certain moves that you weren’t happy with, be sure to practice them so you will be prepared the next time. Your Argentine Tango performance could inspire somebody to try a new move, practice more, or start their Tango journey.