MADISON TANGO SOCIETY INC.

…bringing the best in Argentine Tango to Madison!

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Argentine Flag Dancing Feet in Tango Shoes

Frequently Asked Questions

What are practicas?

  • We hold weekly informal practicas on Tuesday evenings.  They are listed on our online calendar.
  • People are encouraged to change partners regularly.  This will improve your dancing no matter what your level of dance experience.

Do I need a partner?

  • No.  Both couples and singles come to practicas and milongas.

What is a milonga?

  • A milonga is a social Argentine tango dance.  Generally, the tango music is played in sets of 3 or 4 songs (tandas) with an approximate 30 second to one minute interlude of non-tango music between sets (the cortina).
  • It is customary for a couple to dance together for a complete tanda and then change partners during the cortina.
  • We hold one Argentine tango dance (milonga) each month, on the first Saturday of the month.  See Calendar.

How do I ask someone to dance?

  • Here, both men and women ask each other to dance.
  • In Argentina, it is traditional to use the “Cabaceo”.  The asker will make eye contact or a head nod, and the potential partner will reply “yes” by holding the eye contact and/or smiling.  We strongly encourage use of the Cabaceo.

What is dance floor etiquette?

  • At milongas, dancers move in a counter-clockwise (line-of-dance) direction around the dance floor.  It is important to remain aware of the other couples, especially when the floor is crowded, so that we keep the risk of collisions and injury as low as possible.
  • More is less.  It’s like driving.  Don’t cut right in front of other dancers.
  • The milonga is meant to be a fun and relaxing event.  If you would like to practice, please come to one of our practicas.

Where can I get more tango instruction?

  • Many people start learning by coming to practicas, but it also is helpful to have some formal lessons.
  • Please see our calendar for more information on upcoming practicas, lessons and workshops.

What kind of shoes should I wear?

  • Traditionally, women wear high-heel shoes up to 4” and men may also wear shoes with a small heel.  We recommend starting with a pair of shoes that you know are comfortable, heels or not.
  • Many of the dance patterns involve pivoting or turning on your shoes.  Therefore try to find a pair of shoes that will not stick to the floor.  Many dance shoes have suede or hard leather soles for this reason.
  • Please bring a clean change of non-street shoes to our events so that dirt and water can be kept off the dance floor.

What is the difference between Close-embrace and Open-embrace?

  • There are several styles of Argentine tango and all involve some degree of physical contact between dance partners.  Generally, these styles can be broken down into open-embrace and close-embrace, although there will be many opinions on this.  In the close-embrace there is frequently contact between the upper bodies (chests) of the dancers, and in open-embrace, there is a variety of different holds/contact points.
  • MTS members have learned tango from a variety of instructors and both open and close-embrace are seen at our classes, practicas and milongas.  If a participant does not feel comfortable with the degree of physical contact, he/she is not obliged to use that style.  The person may express to their dance partner that they would like to dance in a more open style, or may choose not to dance with that particular person.  It is usually customary to allow the follow to determine the level of contact.

Where did tango come from?

  • This is a very long subject.  We give a brief history here.  We encourage you to seek out more information if you are curious:
  • Argentine tango began in Buenos Aires around the end of the 19th century when European immigrants settled in Argentina.  The rhythm of the tango and some choreographic figures were influenced by the African dance, the Candombe.  French, German, and Italian melodies and instruments were also critical in the evolution of the tango, with one third to one half of the population of Buenos Aires being Italian immigrants.  The German instrument, the bandoneon (similar to a small accordian), is frequentluy heard in tango music.  Tango lyrics often revolve around the themes of lost love and nostalgia for the homeland.  Carlos Gardel, from France, was instrumental in introducing the lyrical tango.
  • Society did not immediately accept the tango, as its close-embrace and lower body movements were considered obscene and bawdy.  As a result, tango was restricted to the suburbs and upper-class brothels of Buenos Aires.  With the massive immigration of men from Europe, women were the minority.  Women would only dance with the best dancers.  Therefore, in the early days of tango, men would dance together to improve their dance, and show-off to each other and the women.
  • In 1913, the tango arrived in Europe, where it became popular among the intellectuals, especially in Paris.  People from all over the world were introduced to the tango in Paris and, as a result, tango became more accepted in the middle and upper classes in Argentina.  Tango popularity soared in thd 40’s and 50’s, when tango orchestras developed a following.  Shortly after WWII, Argentine’s economy declined and people had time to spend in the dance halls.  It was in the 60’s and 70’s when the now famous Astor Piazzolla began composing the avant-garde Nuevo Tango music.
  • Since 2002, Argentina and many areas of the world are seeing a renewed interest in the tango.  Despite the poor economy, tango has remained strong in Argentina, and Buenos Aires has become a popular vacation spot for many to come and learn the dance.  Currently, one can find tango in nearly every large city in the world and tango bands that have expanded into many genres of music.