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. 

Tanguera Inspiration, Eleonora Kalganova

Eleonora Kalganova and Michael Nadtochi sentada

Eleonora Kalganova is one my favorite tangueras because she is not only a great tango dancer and choreographer, but her adornments are one of a kind. Furthermore, she has an elegant and flashy of sense of dance and fashion style.

I find very few females are able to incorporate close embrace and open embrace like Eleonora. In fact, many tango dancers choose to focus on one embrace and style (milonguero, salon, nuevo, etc.) This is because the body composition is so different for each. However, she has learned how to incorporate all of these different tango philosophies and has showcased this authentically. She has created a strong fan base who appreciates her authenticity. 18,700 followers on Instagram and hundreds of highly viewed videos on youtube.

She came from a ballet and ballroom dance background, and has transitioned to become an Argentine Tango dancer. I’ve heard many Argentine tango dancers state that ballroom dancers cannot become great tango dancers, which is clearly not the case. Becoming a great tango dancer doesn’t have to develop with someone who has strictly learned tango. 

Eleonora Kalganova and Michael Nadtochi Partnership 

The partnership she had with Michael Nadtochi is engaging to watch because of their musicality, creativity, and chemistry they have created together. They performed together for a number of years, however they unfortunately have moved on to different dance partners. 

Eleonora Kalganova and Michael Nadtochi dancing to El Choclo by Héctor Varela y su Orquesta Típica

The dynamic performances she has with Sebastian Arce are stunning to watch. Sebastian’s dance partner is usually Mariana Montes, however Eleonora and Sebastian have collaborated in Russsia. Some are choreographed, while others are improvised.

Eleonora Kalganova and Sebastian Arce at Moscow Tango Festival
Organito de la tarde at Ithaca Tango festival

Eleonora Kalganova also posts videos on Youtube and Instagram to show that females can practice Tango by themselves and have fun! She has gorgeous embellishments that add spice to the dance.

It’s important to realize what you can offer to your partner by practicing by yourself first, whether it’s a roulo or an ocho. It’s always good to practice by yourself at least once a week and then see if you can incorporate the movements when dancing with your Tango partner.

My recommendation is if you have a few favorite dancers you admire, watch their material and see if you can mimic it. If you can’t figure out the movement, you can always ask your instructor to break down the step for you. To improve your Tango it’s important to have someone you admire and see as a role model to inspire and shape who you are as a dancer. In addition to that, it’s important to add your own elements to make the dance your own.

Tango Workshops: Taking your Tango to the Next Level

The best tango dancers and teachers are usually traveling and teaching other experienced tango dancers around the world. To take your dancing to the next level, I strongly believe you should take workshops, attend tango festivals, and soak in as much knowledge as you can from the Tango Maestros.

Ochos at the Australian Tango Festival

Considerations of Tango Workshops

  • Do you like the way they dance? This is where you have to make your own judgment and ask yourself if you want to move like them.
  • Ask people in the Tango community if they have taken classes with that maestro. If so, did they learn a lot? Did the teacher make adjustments and provide feedback or just taught patterns without making corrections?
  • Do you have a regular partner to practice with? If so, can they come? If they can, this was will make it more effective to implement. Alternatively, if your partner cannot attend you can teach your partner the movements and technique the next day. You are more likely to remember and implement your knowledge if you execute the movement and technique shortly afterwards.

Beneficial for you if…

  • You’ve been dancing Tango, have the foundations, and know various patterns
  • Realize that Argentine Tango is something you want to invest time, money, and energy into
  • Desire improve your technique

Tips

  • Stand in the front row or close to the front for more visibility
  • Bring a dance partner you practice with frequently. If they can’t make it, teach them the movement and technique the next day
  • Record the video of the pattern learned after the class if the teachers permits it
  • Take notes on things you’ve learned and want to apply to your dancing. Type it up and refer to it periodically.

Cost

Tango professionals charge anywhere from $15-$50 for a group class. They are priced higher than local maestros not only because of their knowledge and expertise, but also because the inviting studio pays for there flights, accomodation, and the couple usually performs at the host’s Milonga.


Private lessons range from $100 + per hour. It’s good to book in early so you can get into a desired time slot.

Ladies Tango Technique Workshops

I have had a lot of amazing Tango teachers, however a majority of my local teachers were men. Whenever a female tanguera is in town, I highly recommend taking a class with them! I have learned body mechanics and embellishments from mostly leaders, however it’s always great to learn from an experienced follower! Here are the women I recommend and why.

Mariana Montes at the Singapore Tango Festival

Mariana Montes- Best female technique workshop I have ever taken. Lots of great exercises for linear and circular movements, incorporating counter body and arm/ embrace exercise that you can do by yourself. She made a lot of body adjustments, rib cage, pushing the core in, and feet through out the workshop, which I appreciated.

Maureen Urrego– Made lots of adjustments with the feet and circular movements during the group class. I also took a private lesson with her and Carlos Urrego who helped me further with this.

Moira Castellano– Made physical adjustments and useful tips on dissociation

Sigrid Van Tilbeurgh– Explains the body mechanics for boleos, ochos, and giros. She even had a board displaying the human body and pointed to each part of the body that should be activating

Juana Sepulveda– She is tiny, but her boleos are huge! Her class was massive, but she corrected and danced with many of the ladies.

Glad I went, but wouldn’t take again

Roxana Suarez– She gave lots of exercise for linear movements, however did not make any physical adjustments. Very approachable and friendly.

Yanina Quinones- Lots of exercise on circular movements like boleos and ochos. Didn’t make many corrections, but a great dancer!

Bucket List

On my bucket list is Eleonora Kalganova! I love her solo videos on YouTube where she practices holding a bar or against a wall.

Tango Couples to Take Workshops From

Carlos and Maureen Urrego– Carlos is great at explaining the upper body movements when leading and Maureen is not shy to correct you multiple times on the same mistake, which I appreciate.

Claudio Peralta and Janna Lopez – Really enjoyed their Stage Tango workshop. Claudio explains in Spanish and Janna explains in English the body mechanics of each movement.

Gianpiero Gialdi and Maria Filali- The best workshops were on musicality and syncopation. Now it’s easier for me to use my body as an instrument and hear syncopation more clearly.

Tango Teachers I do NOT recommend taking Workshops With

Javier Rodriguez- He made some funny analogies about Tango and he is entertaining, but was quite arrogant. I went to his workshops because his technique is flawless. Also, my partner and I like his older material when he danced with Geraldine Rodriguez. However he didn’t give much personal attention to attendees.

Javier Rodriguez and Moira Castellano Workshop in Sydney, Australia

Claudio Villagra & Helena Hernandez- They are very dynamic duo to watch, however they didn’t provide much technique adjustments in the workshop. I also went when I was dancing less than a year so maybe they thought I couldn’t take the constructive criticism.

In the End

Take workshops with people you admire as dancers! It means you are serious in taking your Tango to the next level if you use that knowledge to improve your dancing. If you want to go for the fun atmosphere and meet your favourite tango dancers in person, that’s also fine, but ultimately you should be attending the workshops to improve your dancing.

How to Choose a Tango Partner

Argentine Tango pose black and white
Argentine Tango pose black and white

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.

Similar Height

This makes it easier to find the other person’s center, axis, leverage volcadas (leaning in), and colgadas (leaning out).

Similar Goals

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.

Dance Chemistry

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.

Ability Level

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.

Good hygiene

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

Music Taste

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.

Learning Material

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!

Duration

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.

Body Fundamentals

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

How to Market your Dance Studio on Social Media

Paid social advertising, especially on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, can be an effective way to market your dance studio. Benefits include

  • More students attending classes and events
  • Increasing traffic to your website, which boosts your Google ranking
  • Building an email list 
  • Budget-friendly
  • Feasible to manage
  • Here are some social media campaigns I created for Sydney Tango House bring in new students and establish brand awareness

Choose your Dance Studio’s Target Market

The demographic for this dance studio was 18-40 years old, so we targeted university students that were in a 5 mile radius of the studio. Also, young professionals with interests in dance, music, and art were the most successful paid social campaigns.

Sydney Tango House also has integrated the video on their website. It’s a great way to show the space, the teachers, the various level of dancers, and the fun atmosphere.

Create Your Paid Social Campaign

  • Gather videos and photos from class using a Go Pro or SLR. Great lighting, angles, and engaging footage are key to grabbing the viewers eye
  • Edit your footage on Final Cut Pro, Adobe, or iMovie
  • Choose dance music that is patent free. Facebook and Instagram will mute the music if you do not have permission to use it. Fortunately, the owner of Sydney Tango House, Emily-Rose Sarkova is a also a talented musician. The song used is by her tango orchestra Tángalo.
  • Export, compress, and save two versions of the video
  • Upload the advertisement to Facebook Ads and select your target demographic. Who do you want to walk through your dance studio?
  • A/B Testing: Experiment with two different advertisements and see which one has higher click and conversion rates
  • After figuring the highest performing ad, allocate a higher budget towards that campaign
  • Set a time limit on how long you want the ad to run and see more students walking into the studio

Creating a Paid social campaign takes time, effort, creativity, and a lot of cooperating parties. If this is not something as a studio owner is comfortable executing, you can always hire a digital marketing agency to create and manage the Facebook and Instagram campaigns.

Advertising for Guest Dance Teachers

Inviting renown dancers is a great way to promote your studio. It takes time, coordination, advertising, promotion, money, and a great attitude to do it, but it can be a very rewarding experience.

Sydney Tango House invited famous tango maestros, Murat Erdemsel and Sigrid Van Tilbeurgh. They are not only exceptional dancers, but exceptional teachers. Here is a paid social campaign we did to promote these tango dancers to come to Sydney.

Effectiveness of Paid Social Campaigns 

From our experience, most effective time to execute paid social campaigns and bring in new students was right after New Years. People want to try something new and why not try Argentine Tango? It’s  beautiful challenging dance that is danced all over the world.