Beginners take first steps in learning tango

Look up the word tango in the dictionary, and the words ‘passion’ and ‘intensity’ almost always show up in the definition. With the smooth combination of slow and fast steps and the ability of the dancer to be in tune with both the music and their partner, there certainly is an exciting fervor to the Argentine tango. Having no dancing heels or ruffled dresses in the closet, comfy sweats and flats had to do for the intro lesson.

Last Saturday at Academy Hall, the RPI Ballroom Club hosted The Milonga: A Tango Social. The evening began with an introductory lesson taught by Kevin Magee of the Albany Tango Society, followed by a social.

“Milonga is a tango. The word has two meanings,” explained Magee. “A musical form called the milonga has a fast rhythm, and usually you dance tango steps to it. Milonga, which is a tango social, is a time to get together and dance to music. Three types of music are usually presented: tango, vals—related to the German waltz—and quick step—milonga.”

Upon arrival, Magee started off by getting each participant familiar with the repetitive pulse of the rhythm, with two strong beats on four. Snapping to the beat, each person practiced the basic moves by way of two slow steps and three quick steps (to put it in words: step … step … run, run, run).

Once the rhythm flowed through the crowd, participants were divided into pairs. Each pair practiced the same steps, with a few stumbles along the way, only now with leaders and followers. Once the basics were mastered, Magee switched up partners and introduced a turn step. He then put on the music and let each pair get a taste of the quick tango beat.

I don’t have two left feet, but when the turn was introduced, I had some trouble keeping up with all the beat counts. When those moments occurred (quite a few times throughout the evening), I took the time to not just listen to but feel the music in order to get back on track. As a follower, I had to anticipate my partner’s moves. One tip of advice the instructor gave was to slightly press against the leader’s hand. This applied pressure makes the follower more in sync with the leader and able to expect which foot to start on.

At one point during the lesson, Magee demonstrated a move with me as his partner.

“I’ve been tangoing for seven years, but I’ve been a professional dancer since I was 19. I do ballet and modern dance also,” he said. Swift and precise with his steps, there was no wonder that I managed to avoid getting my feet tangled up as we tangoed back and forth across the floor.

The lesson definitely gave participants a taste of tango, as Ben Shippee ’13, who was at first hesitant to attend the session, would agree.

“The class was definitely interesting, to say the least. Overall, it was worthwhile and fun,” Shippee said. In the shuffle of partners, Shippee got to dance with The Poly’s Features Editor, who was also in attendance. “Yeah, Josh [Eason] and I made great tango buddies,” he said with a laugh.

During the tango social following the introductory lesson, the beginners took a step back to watch more experienced dancers take the floor. Their movements were very fluid and beautifully put together, but a little too advanced for the rookies who just ended their session.

Tango lessons for beginners are taught on Monday nights from 6–7 pm in Academy Hall. For those who are ready to make the quick transition from beginner to the next step, an intermediate class is taught Monday from 7–8 pm on the first floor of Academy Hall.