Serious and Social Dancers

25th April 2010

"Most people learn by observation, and there are the few who learn by experimentation. And then there are those who actually TOUCH the fire to see if it's really hot." ~ -Anonymous

"There are two types of people - those who divide people into two types, and those who don't" ~ Murphy's Law - Barth's Distinction.


There are a number of different types of dancers in tango. Those who like Nuevo, those who like Traditional. Those who are interested in how the dance looks, those who are interested in how it feels. Contact and Fluid dancers. Huggers and Kickers. And so on.

This series of "Tango of Zero" articles considers two lesser known types:

  • Those who mainly want to dance
  • Those who want to socialise.

So, to kick off, we'll define these types.

The aim of the following articles is to explore these two types. By better understanding them, you can hopefully have a better idea of how to progress in tango with more lightbulb moments and less banging you head against a wall moments. Likewise understanding how the other side thinks is useful in many tango situations.

Social Dancers

The majority of people who dance tango in London aren't primarily interested in dancing tango. They go for other reasons such as to meet people, chat with friends, dress up, keep fit and have a night out.

They're also not really interested in learning. It's fairly common advice for women to turn up to the lessons to get to know the men so they'll dance with them later. This often leads to the situation where couples are chatting in class while the teacher is trying to explain something.

Serious Dancers

A serious dancer is interested in learning tango. They usually have a specific goal they want to attain and learning is how they intend to get there.

Female serious dancers can often be found practicing ochos in their kitchen. They enjoy learning as long as they have a good teacher. Many will put up with a bad teacher as long as they feel they're making progress and can't find an alternate teacher.

So which is better then?

I think it's human nature that when you classify groups, you get this weird form of competition between them. Nuevo dancers are "scruffy". Traditional dancers have "lousy taste in music". And so on.

(It's noticeable in the Modern Jive world that there's a similar friction between West Coast Swing dancers and Modern Jivers - but, for some reason, not between Tango dancers and Modern Jivers).

To me part of the beauty of tango is that it's able to encompass all these many forms of expression. Simply put, neither is intrinsically better than the other. They just have different goals.

So, many serious tango dancers actually like the idea of going to a new milonga where no-one knows them and spending the night getting dances with cabeceos; then after an evening of blissful dances going home contented without ever having spoken a word.

Social dancers on the other hand aren't remotely interested in this.

~ Christopher O'Shea, 25th April 2010

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