The room has white walls, a silver chandelier, a wooden floor and floor-length mirrors all along its left side. On the right side, small black plastic stools stand around small white roundtables. And behind them, a shelf with tango shoes for sale. This is what the tango studio I go to normally looks like. That night, Melbourne Cup eve, the silver chandelier, normally unused, bathed the room in a golden light. Instead of ten people in casual clothes, haltingly practicing tango steps, there were 50 people dressed to the nines, men in nice dress shirts, waistcoats and slacks, women in party dresses, some with big flowers in their hair, some wearing those little hats Melburnians are so fond of. As the music played, these posh-looking but merry people began to dance. As the men spun the women, pivoting, the collective energy was like a hurricane or a tornado rising. To watch it was dizzying and utterly riveting.
I wish I could say that I had wowed everyone at my first milonga/Melbourne Cup party. But alas, I am a beginner at tango, in Week 8 of a fundamentals course at Tango Butterfly. My tango partner and I did take a few turns on the floor, but we came off as babies just learning how to walk, in a group of babies who already knew how to.
My tango teacher, Dana Parker, says that her first milonga was equally 'inspiring and memorable, but also intimidating and confronting'.
Says Dana, "To dance an improvised form of the dance with someone you do not know is a little nerve-wracking in the beginning. It is like conversing with someone in a foreign language when you have only learnt how to say, "Do you speak English?", "How much is this coffee?" and "In which direction is the post office?" But the cool thing is, it most certainly becomes easier and so much more enjoyable from there. It truly is a lifestyle choice which the classes can only provide a small glimpse of the true experience. The beauty of Tango can truly only be found in a milonga, and a good Tango class is one that helps to prepare you to reach the real magic - dancing Tango confidently at a milonga."
Dana is a law and policy trainer for the government by day and tango teacher by night. While she cheekily refuses to tell me her age (just like a woman), she does tell me that although she happily resides in Melbourne, she hails from South Australia. She has taught contemporary social Argentine tango in Australia since 2004, the majority of which was as a principal teacher and performer of TengoTango, Canberra's premier school for social Argentine Tango.
What's great about tango is the dual nature of it. You don't dance alone. You dance with a partner, and that makes dancing that much more beautiful. The sensation of dancing alone cannot rival the sensation of dancing with a partner. Of course, there are other partner-based dance styles – ballroom, swing and salsa. So why learn tango?
A few studies, like this one, show that social dancing helps prevent or delay dementia in old age. According to Dana, "Tango has more health benefits than other dance styles. This is why Argentinians healthily dance Tango up until their nineties and why Argentina has the lowest rate of dementia in the world."
Also, as a female, dancing as a follower in tango makes me feel like a real lady. The only other dance style which could rival tango in this sense is belly dance. Unlike belly dance, if you perform, you can keep more clothes on. It really is more about your technique than the way you look. I have found a quiet dignity in tango. And guys, if tango makes me feel like a lady, it should make you feel like a man.
Tango Butterfly is a great place to learn tango. Dana's classes, covering three levels, are conveniently conducted during weekday evenings and nights, with a couple of classes on Saturday afternoon as well. It's AUD$150 for a 10-week course (you can also attend repeat classes throughout the week for free). It certainly has been bang for my buck.
My tango partner, Richard, says, "It's about doing the simple things, but really well." Yes, the best thing about Dana is that she is dead serious about teaching technique. If she spots a weakness in your dancing, she will correct it until you get it right. Her classes are not about memorizing routines, they are about understanding the technique.
Tango Butterfly is located in Glen Iris, close to Tram Route 6 and the Glen Iris train station. If this location does not suit you, there are other tango studios in Melbourne that you can try. Tango Australia is a good resource to begin with. Also, where to get tango shoes? Check out Nueva Epoca, Capezio and Retro Vintage Clothing and Morena Dancewear. You will need to invest between AUD$100 to AUD$200 for your foray into tango.
I Have 2 left feet when dancing, and am not a good leader so for tango, the lady would need to be patient while I learnt to lead, i did have some dance lessons along time ago,swing latin, i love music and get moved by many styles tango sounds very romantic, liked comment about making you fell like a real lady