Who Says Ballroom Dancers Can’t Dance Tango?


I have often found that there is a scorn for Ballroom dancers among teachers of Argentine Tango. This manifests itself in numerous ways.

I disagree, and would like to address some of the more ridiculous statements.

  • “Ballroom dancers can’t understand Tango”.
    No one can understand Tango until they learn it. Even the most advanced Ballroom dancers are beginners when they start to learn Tango. Why in the world would you hold Ballroom dancers to a different standard than everyone else?

  • “Ballroom dancers can’t learn Tango”
    This is just flat-out absurd. Yes, Ballroom dancers have to learn a lot of new concepts. Ballroom is a lot more structured than Tango. There is less room for improvisation. But anyone who has danced with a really good Ballroom dancer knows that it is not choreographed, and can be very creative. Once Ballroom dancers get past the idea that there is a step pattern for everything, and master the concept of an embrace rather than a frame, they usually do quite well.  They ARE dancers, after all.

  • “Ballroom Teachers can’t teach Tango”
    Obviously, you cannot teach what you do not know.  But dance teachers can teach both, if they know both.

The problem is when a Ballroom teacher decides to teach Tango as another ballroom dance, teaching a set series of steps. Tango does not work that way. I do not understand why a Ballroom teacher who spent years mastering their craft would assume that a few workshops and youtube videos would qualify them to teach Tango. If a Ballroom teacher wishes to teach Tango s/he must put in at least the same hours of study that they put in to learn Ballroom, and must approach the process with the mindset of a total beginner. If they do so, it is quite possible for a teacher to be competent in both disciplines.

  • “I have never been able to teach Ballroom dancers to dance Tango”

This is a common complaint among Tango teachers who have no Ballroom background. If you do not understand how the dances differ, it is hard to explain it to your students. I firmly believe that every Tango teacher should spend enough time learning Ballroom to be able to understand the differences.

  • “I don’t want to – like to – teach Ballroom Dancers”
    This is just dumb. Here you have a huge community of people who ALREADY enjoy partner dancing, already understand the basic concept of partnership connection and musicality, and you do not want to teach them??? Yes, teaching Ballroom dancers can be a challenge. It is always harder to change habits than to make them in the first place, and Ballroom dancers arrive with a whole slew of habits that, while quite proper for Ballroom, do not work for Tango. But they also arrive with a whole slew of skills that, with proper guidance, can be effectively used in Tango.

Ballroom dancers and Tango dancers differ in a lot of ways, but they share one thing, and it is the most important thing – They love to dance. And for that alone we should welcome them.

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Tangoseed is the brainchild of Alden Stevens and Barbara Warren, two longtime Tango teachers. Their goal is to spread the love and learning of Tango without ego, competition, or drama. For 19 years they have been based in Rochester NY where they have been instrumental in growing communities in Rochester, Geneva, and Buffalo. Their Rochester home has been DancEncounters, which Barbara has owned and operated for 19 years. In January of 2017, Barbara and Alden will be relocating to Jacksonville with plans to make Jacksonville their permanent base.

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