06 April, 2013

Salsa vs Tango

It is natural for non dancers to compare Salsa and Tango. People can be either "salsa people" or "Tango people" like some people love cat others love dogs. One cannot and should not try to compare or choose one over the other as to which is better than the other. It is just like comparing Indian Classical dances, Kathak vs Bharatnatyam and asking which is better. Both are unique and fabulous in their own way. And person who does one form would find that form more for him/her. For a layman/ an audience/a spectator,  Salsa has more visual appeal. But Tango has more appeal for the doer. Once you are yourself doing and feeling it, you start understanding the connection, the embrace etc. Just like swimming- you cannot stand outside the pool and watch a person swim and understand what he/she is experiencing inside. You have to do it, get inside the pool, get wet and feel it to know what it is all about. Both are social dances.

Salsa is more of a fun dance, a party dance. It's kind of an open dance, in that the couple don't embrace, instead they hold one or both hands, changing often. It's a non-travelling dance - they don't travel around the floor, they dance in one spot, swapping back and forth, doing turns and spins, etc. There's a lot of spinning. Girls will spend a *lot* of time spinning. There's also often a lot of hip wiggling, but that depends partly on which kind of salsa you learn.

Tango is a more serious dance - not a party dance like salsa - tango music tends to be quite sad. As a dance, it's more intimate, tender and emotional. It is danced very close, the couple embrace closely. It is a travelling dance, you move around the dance floor anticlockwise. It is basically a walking hug, but as you get more proficient you can learn fancier stuff if you want. Contrary to popular opinion, it is *not* overtly 'sexy'. Just intimate.
Both are danced socially - people go to salsa clubs and milongas to dance for fun. 

In the words of Vanja Modzelewski, "I love the sadness, the melancholy, the drama, the passion and the yearning in tango music and I seek to express that in my dancing. Tango is a complete world of emotions, many of which stay invisible for the observers, but are clearly shared between the people dancing it. Watching tango is not the same as dancing it: It's like watching an ice cream cone with it's beautiful colors versus eating the ice cream and being able to appreciate it for its essence. That's why, if you were ever interested in tango, don't just admire it - do it! What we do in shows is quite far away from how we dance on the social dance floor. The first is for athletes, the second is for everybody. Everybody who can hug, can tango. :)"

It actually takes a lot of time for one to understand Tango music and get to appreciate it. For party hoppers, it appears very sad and gloomy. But once you start appreciating it, you cannot go back to any other form.