Is Tango the dance of sex?

Is Tango really the dance of sex? Or is there something bigger going on?


9/19/20233 min read

A lot of people say Tango is the dance of sex.

We beg to differ.

People get this idea that "Tango = Sex" after having seen a Hollywood film with a hot Tango sequence. Or perhaps they watched a live choreographed Tango performance. Think: flying feet, long smoldering looks, the couple appearing to be in passionate love. Or in a passionate argument.

Show Tango (also called "Tango Fantasia") is terrific to watch! But you are not seeing social Tango. And social Tango is what we're all about at San Antonio Tanguer@s. What we do in social Tango is a lot more subtle than show Tango.

Don't ever mistake subtle for boring.

Social Tango is a dance that you experience, not a dance that you watch. In shorthand, we Tanguer@s dance "Inside Tango," not "Outside Tango." Let us explain.

A sexy show Tango is one that is built on the idea of attraction. Tango as "the dance of sex" certainly sells movies, dance performances, and lots of Tango classes. While sexual attraction can and does happen in social Tango dances, it's actually quite common to be dancing with people who are friends, acquaintances, or even outright strangers to whom you don't feel a strong attraction. These dances are about something broader than attraction: they are about human connection.

Sound boring? Trust us, it's not.

What is "connection" and why does it even matter?

Two factors will help you understand why social Tango is like no other dance.

First, show Tango is built on planned choreography, but social Tango is actually an improvised dance! It's true that there are many short step patterns that are taught in Tango, from simple to complex. But these step patterns can be combined by the leader like building blocks, allowing for endless creativity. The follower often gets the choice of how to express the step, and how to decorate it with footwork "adornments."

Second, not only is social Tango improvised, but the follower must interpret the leader's signals via only their connected arms and torsos.

Think about that for a second…the dance is improvised, yet the follower can't look at the leader's feet to know what the next piece of footwork will be. In fact, the leader's and follower's steps are rarely even the same for more than a few footsteps!

And yet – the follower will still know what's coming next. The leader will know if the intention was received correctly by the follower, or if instant adjustment is needed. How is this even possible?

The answer is: connection. When arms and torsos and hearts are connected, subtle signals can be sent and heard. The leader opens his or her torso a little to the right, and the follower instantly responds by moving in that direction. An entire improvised dance is constructed from these subtle signals.

Tango is a silent, intimate conversation.

Now you can understand why we Tango dancers talk endlessly about "connection."

During a social Tango, a silent conversation is taking place through arms and torso. You and your partner must listen carefully to this connection, and doing so will take all your concentration. When the dance goes well, you will both feel like you're flying, or in a deep meditation, or in a state of flow or happiness.

That feeling of flow is wonderfully addictive.

This feeling of being in deep sync with someone else is what keeps so many people learning and dancing social Tango all their lives.

But from the viewpoint of a bystander watching you and your partner dance, none of this is evident. It can sometimes look like two people are doing a non-sexy dance that isn't particularly entertaining to watch.

Just remember:

Social Tango is not about how things look to the outside world.

Social Tango is about how things feel between two dance partners.

Performance is Outside Tango. At a milonga, we dance Inside Tango, the dance of human connection. The best social Tango is one that is danced from the heart, not for the audience.

Care to join us in our addiction?