Argentine Tango: Perfect For Older Women
BY KITT WALSH
Whether you’ve been lucky enough to see the sultry professionals grapple in Buenos Aires (it is vertical foreplay, I can attest), caught a video of devotee Robert Duvall slinking through the dance or have fallen in love with the passionate moves on Dancing With The Stars, you may, like millions the world over, have fallen in love with the tango.
Tango is a social dance form that originated in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay. The musical styles that evolved together with the dance are also known as tango. Early tango was known as tango criollo or simply tango. Today, there are many tango dance styles including Argentine tango, ballroom tango (American and International styles), Finnish tango, Chinese tango, and vintage tangos. Argentine tango is regarded as the “authentic” tango since it is closest to that originally danced in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Having seen this sex-on-a-stick dance, it never occurred to me that the dance was rising in popularity among people over 50 until an acquaintance who was retiring asked her Facebook friends to recommend fun and creative ways to spend her retirement and several, from different parts of the country, all recommended she join them in learning the Argentine Tango. They said that not only would it keep her fit and active, but that wherever she traveled she could find a club or dance class to join for instant companionship. With tango, she’d never be a stranger in any town.
It turns out that dancing is one of the activities that can fight arthritis, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s, according to the National Institute of Aging and tango is the best style for those of us getting some twinges in our hinges, says Dr. William Hall, a professor of medicine and geriatrician at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry to Next Avenue.
“If I ran the universe,” he said, “I would tell every old person…to learn the tango. The tango has everything at once…music, romance, you are required to have agility, flexibility, strength, and you have to appreciate music. It’s the perfect exercise.”
University of Texas assistant professor and nurse Martina Gallagher even created a study around tango and old age.
“I went to see my aunt who is elderly and has Alzheimer’s disease and noticed that her body position was one of hugging herself,” Gallagher, who is also a tango student, told Fox News Latino. “In tango there is a move, a way you dance and we call it the embrace. Tango is basically dancing in a hug,” she said.
Argentine tango has the dancers standing chest to chest. forming an inverted ‘v” with their bodies and their feet stay in close contact with the floor most of the time. The ankles and knees brush the partners legs as they pass each other. The follower (the woman) stands upright on her axis unlike in ballroom tango where she pushes the man (the leader) away.
Another difference from ballroom dancing is that the leader and follower can both step off with the same foot, known as the “crossed” or “uneven” walk and there is a great collection of music meaning you can spend the whole night dancing only the Argentine tango. There’s even a version of a waltz and a fast dance called the Milonga (the same thing that Argentine tango dance parties are called.)
Perhaps the best difference is that innovation is welcome in Argentine tango—a lot of the steps are improvised, meaning perfection isn’t required.
Classes are given everywhere—in dance studios, tango clubs and even community halls and assisted living centers. Get a clearance from your doctor if you’ve got bad knees or hips and then go sign up (no partner required) and learn some steps, then attend a Milongas (dance party) and join right in.
Here are a few things you need to know:
The music for tango is played in sets called Tandas. This consists of 3-4 songs by the same orchestra from the same period. If you give or accept an invitation to dance (keep reading), you agree to stay with that partner until the Cortina is played. These 30-second long pieces of non-tango music get played between Tandas giving you time to get off the dance floor or change partners (Cortina is Spanish for curtain, like a barrier between rooms or two pieces of music).
Asking someone to dance (called the Cabaceo) is a whole dance in itself. It is done by catching someone’s eye, smiling and nodding, maybe raising the eyebrows or nodding towards the dance floor. Smile and nod back and the leader will come and lead you to the floor. You say ‘no” by avoiding eye contact. In Buenos Aires, the men do all the asking. Here in the US, the woman can ask the men. At the end of the dance, saying “thank you” (and answering “thank you” not “you’re welcome”) means you are done dancing with that person.
A practica is a practice session where you may take the floor to try out unfamiliar steps. Don’t use the floor for practice the rest of the time.
Dress up for Milongas with heels that tilt the weight towards the balls of your feet and respect the line of the dance. It is always counterclockwise. Never cut across the middle.
There you are. With practice, you too can be getting hugged in a close embrace by a man (and you needn’t even talk to him), enjoying fabulous music, dancing off calories and staying as supple as a willow in the wind.
Argentine tango may be the perfect activity for us women over 50.