Tango Dancing in Bend, Oregon, Since 2003

Not Danceable as Tango (NDAT)
(a.k.a. Alternative)

Tango music presents distinct challenges to aspiring dancers. Finding the beat amid syncopations and melody is often non trivial and, once the beat is found, identifying phrases and sections require further effort. Thus, for some aspiring dancers, NDAT music (such as blues, swing and other world music) presents the opportunity of dancing tango-like steps to familiar tunes. In some communities a few NDAT music sets are included in prácticas and milongas, or there are events dedicated mostly to NDAT music.

Those interested in learning to dance tango should know that dancing tango-like steps to NDAT music is not tango dancing. NDAT music lacks the cadence and rhythm of tango music danceable as tango. Consequently, it is not possible to develop a tango walk by stepping to NDAT music. Furthermore, since the structure of tango songs is different from the structure of NDAT music, it is not possible to develop tango musicality by dancing to NDAT music. Also, dancers experienced enough to understand the connection between tango steps and danceable tango music cannot dance to NDAT music and tend to avoid events where this music is played as though it were tango; thus, beginners miss the opportunity to dance with more skilled dancers. The result is that tango dancing does not develop well in communities where NDAT music is played in lieu of tango music.

Clay Nelson has addressed this issue clearly and concisely:
From many years of organizing tango festivals, from many years of observing and attending other peoples tango communities and festivals, and from many visits to Buenos Aires, it is my belief and observation that to have a successful community you must promote and develop a community that is absolutely, insanely and madly in love with dancing close embrace tango to 30's, 40's and 50's golden age traditional music - not because that is what I love the most, but because it is the linkage between this style of dancing and this particular music that makes tango so addictive. keep reading

Our own observations support Clay's claim about the need to promote dancing close embrace to music danceable as tango in order to have a successful tango community. When visiting other tango communities we have noticed that NDAT music correlates with poor dancing skills. Events where NDAT music is played along with tango music tend to be populated by weak leads and their counterparts, anticipating follows, stepping off the music while moving in random patterns around the dance floor.

Playing NDAT music in tango events delays developing an appreciation for tango music in the community. Furthermore, understanding the connection between tango steps and music may take some time, as discussed in this posting by a Portland dancer, and this time is certainly not shortened by attempting to dance to NDAT music.

Yet, it is worth noting that it may be possible, for a very advanced dancer with a solid background in music, to dance to certain type of non-tango music in such a way that the dance becomes tango dancing. This possibility is analyzed here by a dancer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. But achieving this requires a level of expertise way beyond that of the regular social tango dancer.

Finally, we want to emphasize that dancing to NDAT music can be fun and enjoyable, as is dancing to many other rhythms. But NDAT music should be played in separate events because it is a different genre. Beginning tango dancers should be aware that their tango skills will not improve, and most likely will deteriorate, by attempting to dance tango steps to music that is not danceable as tango

  • NDAT music lacks the cadence, rhythm, and song structure of tango music danceable as tango, thus,
    • it is not possible to develop a tango walk by stepping to NDAT music.
    • it is not possible to develop tango musicality by dancing to NDAT music.

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In this website, unless otherwise indicated, we restrict the use of the word tango to name just the dance danced socially, in close embrace, and the music that dance is danced to. Also, we limit the use of references to materials by authors who dance social tango regularly.