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Buenos Aires, Argentina: The Tango Mecca

I dance Argentine tango socially, and as a former professional ballet dancer I now teach ballet to adults. My journey as a tango student and recreational dancer has provided me with valuable insights that I believe can greatly benefit our adult ballet students. The parallels between learning a new dance form and the challenges faced by adult ballet students are striking, and the lessons I’ve learned in tango can offer guidance, inspiration, and practical strategies to enhance your ballet experience.

What did I learn on my recent tango journey Buenos Aires?

1. Trust Your Training

When I first set foot on the dance floors of Buenos Aires, I relied on the extensive training I had accumulated over a decade of dancing tango. Preparing for this pilgrimage, I sought out technical instructors deeply rooted in the culture of tango and practiced locally with advanced Los Angeles followers. My dedication to the craft paid off. I arrived in Buenos Aires humble yet prepared, ready to honor the artistic legacy of this beautiful dance. There was no point in Buenos Aires where I felt out of my league, but I had dedicated years and hours of my life to serious training. My dedication to training supported my goal of dancing on the world’s most famous tango floors. Your dancing is generally a reflection of your focus.

2. Never Pass Up the Opportunity to Question Your Technique

My trip to Argentina was an invaluable opportunity to immerse myself in a new perspective on my technique. Just as ALIGN offers multiple instructors with unique approaches, I found it essential to place my dancing under fresh scrutiny. Although the general review of my technique was positive, I took away several key ideas for future improvement:

  • I can walk forward on my heel, and it’s aesthetically fine. Despite being coached to step toe-ball-heel, which I will continue, I believe a leader should have different styles of walks.
  • My embrace arm should be softened.
  • My open side arm could be strengthened.
  • Tango is always danced on two feet, not one. I personally do not believe this always applies, but it was a good note to consider

These ideas, while seemingly simplistic, underscore the importance of continually strengthening basic fundamentals.

3. You Gotta Step Up!

Pressure is a powerful motivator. A colleague once said, “fear is the greatest aphrodisiac.” Was I afraid to dance in Buenos Aires? Absolutely. The dancer floors are crowded. Argentine followers are experienced, stunning, and highly technical, making it a privileged intimidating experience to work with them. Buenos Aires has the best followers in the world.

Success in these powerful partnerships came from my deep dedication to my craft. I assume the followers could tell I was serious by the way I walked and presented myself. When it was time to stand up and walk on the floor, I did so with confidence, holding my ground under any condition. This is how we must approach our dance—always rise to the occasion, because you have a technique to rely upon, and then learn from every effort.

4. Be Yourself. Accept Yourself. Love the Process, Not the Results.

I had planned to take a break from classes one day, but a booming voice from the studio compelled me to stay. The name Balmaceda on the roster resonated deeply with me due to the family’s historical significance in tango. I spent the afternoon learning from Ernesto Balmaceda and could not have been happier. He confirmed my preferred way to lead the basic and brought many of my ideas about tango into clear context.

That evening, Ernesto invited me to his milonga. The venue felt like the Italian consulate building, with its grand white marble and black wrought iron staircase.

Beautiful Italian marble staircase at  the Ernesto Balmaceda milonga in Buenos Aires

My fondest memory of the night was watching Ernesto cut loose on the dance floor to pop music between the traditional 3 song tango sets . His commitment to his night, his milonga, and the enjoyment of his friends was a lesson in community building. This trip inspires me to love others and be myself. If you do this, you will dance freely and with commitment to your spirit. I believe you can witness this generous spirit in the dancing of Ernesto. Ernesto greeted me enthusiastically at the top of the stairs, escorted me into the venue with its 30-foot ceilings and impeccably set tables, and seated me in the center. The amount of graciousness and generosity I received was overwhelming. Ernesto’s gregarious sociability is a common wonderful quality of the Argentine tango culture. You may find this beautiful milonga on instagram @enlodebalmaceda.

5. No One Can Make You a Dancer

I have always known that I am responsible for my own dancing. No one encouraged me to attend ballet classes at the age of 15, I went on my own, and have always assumed my development was my responsibility. There will always be various opinions on technique, and the best approach is to try them all and decide for yourself what works best, reserving the right to change your mind. Dancers must constantly evolve and push themselves forward. Ultimately, each individual must make critical artistic decisions about how they approach their dance. Be yourself, decide how you wish to dance, and pursue it with abandon.

In Buenos Aires, I learned to make definitive choices about how to move forward with my dance. I now understand my personal choices more clearly, and they are perhaps the most important lessons of all.

Live your journey!

The photos below are captured at the beautiful Museum Of Decorative Arts, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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