Photos by Grant Jones
My experience trying it for the first time
I wasn’t sure what to expect from a class by Ohio State student organization, Tango @ OSU. Besides the fact that I have never danced the tango, I had no idea what to wear. The main thing that the website suggested was smooth-soled shoes, so I borrowed my roommate’s old character shoes, picked out a basic outfit that I could move in and hoped for the best.
The tango class was held in the Women’s Field House, so I trekked over to West Campus. I met Mackenzie Jones before class started, and my worries were put away immediately. Jones is a second year PhD student in the Environmental Economics department. Her weeks are busy as all hell as she pursues her degree, but on the weekends, her hobby takes over and she can just enjoy herself.
While some of the women wore skirts and dresses, Jones had on loose pants and a crop top on that showed off her tattoos. It was comforting to see an inclusive dress code that said, “If you can move in it, it’s the right outfit.”
Though she has been a dancer for years, performing and studying different styles, Jones’ current focus is tango. She began her tango dancing over a year ago and picked up the passion for it quickly. Jones has been the President of Tango @ OSU for six months now and has been loving it ever since.
“I think that tango is a little bit more collaborative [than the other partner dances],” Jones told me. “You get a little bit more freedom. Normally, you have a lead that tells you exactly what to do. When you aren’t the leader in tango, if you follow, you can have your own voice.”
Jones also explained that unlike other, more structured dances, tango can be a bit more challenging to get used to.
“Salsa and swing are both pretty easy to pick up because they’re very structured. Tango is a little bit more freeform, so it does take a little bit longer to really pick up. On the other hand, tango is something that you can take a bit further than other dances, so there is that trade-off,” she explained.
The class itself started out pretty basic. We began with stepping to the rhythm in order to get used to the tempo of a typical tango piece. For the beginners, this was a nice start because it allowed us to hear the music before we truly tried dancing. Once the class seemed confident with their steps, we partnered off. Like most partner dances, tango requires both a leader and a follower. As a newbie, I danced as a follower for this class.
The focus of the class that I attended was the Tango Ending, so the instructor showed us multiple musical endings and some matching dance steps for each. We danced to different orchestras and composers while we learned about the different styles that could be included in a tango.
There was a range of experience among the dancers in the class. Those with more experience tended to lead while the followers were the dancers with less tango experience. We rotated partners, so I got the chance to learn from multiple perspectives throughout the class.
In doing this, I got some friendly tips from different dancers on how to perfect my style. By the end of the class, I was landing ALMOST every ending step. I could even add my own details to it with the help of my leads.
I got the chance to talk more with Jones after the class, so I asked her what her biggest tip for new tango dancers would be.
“Be relaxed,” she told me. “Tango is a style of dance that falls in between ballroom and latin in terms of stiffness. You want to be able to feel the music, but your hips should stay relatively still.”
If you’re interested in joining Tango @ OSU or want more information on the club, you can check out their website, u.osu.edu/tangoosu/ or find their group on Facebook, https://www. facebook.com/groups/tangoosu/.