Flickr - Ed Schipul

Why tango dancers always make such a long face

The question always end up when I pronounce the word « tango » in front of uninitiated persons « but why do tango dancers always make such a long face when they dance ? It is not a very friendly scene, isn’t it ? »

I thought a lot about it, and i arrived to the conclusion that tango is not easy, and not funny. It needs a lot of focus and a lot of work. It’s a very serious business. It’s as simple as that. And still, so many people are dancing it. Why ?

Fun and/or sensation

I think people go dancing for 3 main reasons. The first reason has nothing to do with the act of dancing in itself, it’s social interaction, just to meet people, make friends. Both next reasons are linked to the dance in itself :

  1. You dance because it’s fun, to build a nice groovy relation with someone for a 3 minutes dance.
  2. You dance for sensation, to feel a partner, a human beeing in your arms and build a body dialogue for a 3 minutes dance.
    And both of these feelings can be powerful and intense.

At first, as a beginner, when you start a whole new dance, you don’t master the steps. You have zero technique and your chances to share a symbiosis dance with your partner are quite limited. Your sensation level is close zero. But in every other dance except tango, it is still possible to have fun, to make what you can of the steps and still have a good moment and get your fun level up to a point.

You don't know the steps, but you still have the groove

You don’t know the steps, but you still have the groove

Your first blues dancing party


Your first milonga (tango party)


See what i mean ?

Tango is a serious business

It may be a little harsh to say, and not entirely true, but in general and compared to other dances, tango is not really fun. Tango is the art of sensation, art of movement in symbiosis. It is truly on of the most amazing dance in the world. Once you have the technique, after a lot of work, you can have fun, yes. Fun in challenging your partner, in adding embellishments, in moving with music…  But let’s be honest, it’s a long road.

So the pleasure of dancing, is to gain sensation. Sensation needs technique, technique needs work. And it means years of lessons and hard work. So i came up with 2 ideas :

First is, tango dancers always make serious faces when they are dancing, because they’re focusing on their partner, their feelings, and their way across the dancefloor. They have a lot to deal with. And they are not smiling, everything is inside.

Secondly, when you spend 5 to 10 years working on your tango to FINALLY feel the beauty of a shared tango move, you start being selective on your partners. And some dancers tend to forget that they were beginners and can be nice to newcomers.

That’s part of the main difficulties of the tango scene, it takes a lot of work to be recognize as a fellow decent dancer and get invited. It took me two years before i stopped telling my dancing partners “is it ok if i am a beginner ?” and to understand if they decline the dance. So i think that’s the saddest side effect about that dance, which makes people think that tango dancers are not fun and not nice, too proud, etc.

Of course that’s not true, i met plenty of happy, nice people, dancing with partners of all levels. But comparing to other dance scenes, it might appear tedious to start that dance, but i promise if you have the good spirit you will (eventually) find fun.