Tango in New Zealand Tango in New Zealand

Musicality in Tango

These articles are based on a series of Musicality workshops given by Robert and Ceci around New Zealand in 2007.


Maybe it's stating the obvious to say that when we dance we dance with the music as well as our partner, but it's also sometimes easier said than done.  We spend alot of time in our tango classes keeping our posture just so, pointing our foot this way, stepping that way.  One of my first tango teachers, after a while, was saying things like: Ok, you've got the step, now really listen to the music.  I could really hear her italics, but what she wanted me to hear in the music was beyond me, and I was too embarrassed at the time to demand that she tell me what exactly she was on about.

There are two problems for us when we're trying to dance tango with musicality:

  • We haven't necessarily been listening to tango all our lives; it starts as just weird orchestral music with some kind of accordion thingy, and we might not even be able to pick the beat, let alone predict what's coming next.
  • Even when we know the music really well, we don't necessarily know how to connect something we hear with something that our body does in the dance.

In order to get our musicality going in tango, we need to

  1. find out what we like (and what we don't) - that means knowing names of tangos and orchestras
  2. listen to it alot - that means buying CDs and wearing them out
  3. listen carefully - that means knowing what to listen for in the music that will help our dancing
  4. dance in response to what we hear

These things interact - it's through listening alot that we get to know what we like, and when we listen in different ways, we discover things that can make us like a tango that previously seemed uninspiring.

All four of these points are more or less an exercise for the reader - frankly, there's a limit to what you can get out of reading about it, you have to do it yourself.

It's only point 3. that these articles attempt to address; There are a number of things I've heard and discovered over the years, which have helped me, and may serve as a method for discovering new things in tango. I'm sure I haven't discovered everything yet, and I'm sure that with some of the examples I use, you'll listen and hear something that I haven't heard.

Far from laying down the law about tango music, what I'm hoping to do is open up some possibly new avenues of exploration. Broadly speaking, they are:

  • the beat - how the main beats and what goes on between them define the style of the music and helps us dance together
  • structure [article coming soon...] - what the parts of a tango are, how they fit together, and how this might inspire us to dance
  • orchestras - how do the orchestras differ from each other, and how we might dance differently to each one



text: robert©fromont.net.nz August 2008

Dancing the tango and playing chess or the piano are the best ways to ward off senile dementia, according to a new study

The Times