Copycats and Being “Unique”


This intro comment is going to confuse people slightly:  We’ve had our fill of hearing how everyone should learn and discover their “own style” of Tango.  “Be unique”, “don’t copy”, etc, etc.

Please read on:

Back in the good old days in Buenos Aires there were plenty of dancers to watch and learn from.  It was possible to absorb bits and pieces (aesthetically, technically, etc) from multiple AMAZING dancers.  No one went to a class with ONE role model; the milongas with all its dancers were the role models.

How is a student supposed to do that now?  Especially a student outside of Buenos Aires? All one can do is look to their teacher as a role model and (consciously or not) copy them in the beginning.  Only after years of dancing and feeling at peace with the dance can one begin to take an individual path.  Otherwise, dancers end up spending more time trying to look “different” and “unique” instead of actually dancing nicely with their partner.

The whole idea of finding your own “style” is quite ridiculous to us.  Firstly, we dislike the word “style”.  Ultimately, you can only  truly dance who you are – you can only dance “you”.  So if “style” means the way you stand, embrace, tilt your head, etc. (i.e., the external package), we repeat:  ridiculous.  There will be copycats, but you will see it right away when there seems to be more effort in replicating favourite steps rather than just dancing.   It will probably look soulless or forced.

Here is a very recent example of what copying looks like.  There is no denying that this couple (especially the man) is dancing someone else’s dance and not their own (and we all know whose dance it is):

This is an unfortunate example of how trying too hard to look and dance like your role model results in a completely unoriginal and soulless dance.  There is plenty of talent here, but it has been severely sacrificed.

Some people claim to have their own “style” – simply because the outer package looks different – but these same people (international and local dancers alike) are the ones you see doing Javier’s “moves”, Julio Balmaceda’s “moves”, Gabriel Misse’s “moves”, Osvaldo&Coca’s “moves”, or any other “youtube” move, one after the other.  That is far more average and dull than the people who may have similar postures as their favourite dancers, but actually dance their own dance.

It is the responsibility of a Tango teacher to teach proper technique (i.e., providing students with natural and comfortable postures and movements) so that partners don’t hurt each other or themselves.

It is the responsibility of a Tango Teacher to teach the concepts of Tango (i.e., embracing fully, taking care of the woman, dancing with masculinity/femininity, etc).

It is also the responsibility of a Tango teacher to teach the culture of Argentine Tango (which includes the music, the codes of the milongas, and more).

Withholding any of these or expecting your students to find them on their own is a sign of neglect and makes us wonder if these teachers even like Tango (and/or teaching it).

ANALOGY: Dear student, we want you to learn the Finnish language.  We won’t tell you what real Finnish language is, instead we’ll let you find it on your own.

Good luck with that ;)

About Movement Invites Movement

We are relatively young Argentine Tango dancers and teachers who are married both to each other and the dance. We truly found Tango after making an 8-month Tango pilgrimage to Buenos Aires and we are using this blog to share our thoughts and feelings about our Tango experiences. We are not aspiring authors and our writing skills are questionable, but we write our truth. View all posts by Movement Invites Movement

4 responses to “Copycats and Being “Unique”

  • tangocherie

    I totally agree with you! Whenever a look-alike couple such as this one takes the floor to perform in a BsAs milonga, as soon as the man assumes the butt-out posture and dances 20 seconds I am bored. These couples are all the same, cookie-cutter soulless automatons. I can’t tell one from the other and couldn’t care less.

    When the milongueros advise “dance who you are” and in your own “style,” they really do mean not to copy anyone. Each person’s own body and personality dictate how they will express themselves in dance, especially in the tango. And that’s what makes it so interesting. There is not just one way to dance–like Lloyd, for example, or whatever famous teacher is being emulated–but as many beautiful ways as there are dancers.

    In the traditional milongas of BsAs (not the see-and-be-seen-show-off places), you can observe as many different “styles” as people. And that’s as it should be.

  • jakilune

    I could not agree more with what you say and Cherie also… the video is like a “caricature” of tango ( I need to find the word in english) . I want some feeling, even if necessary to learn the steps and technique.
    Look Oswaldo Y Coca ( and you know what I really enjoy looking at in tango… Thanks for your blog

    • movementinvitesmovement

      Thanks Jakilune!

      We think it’s worth repeating (not just to you:) that while we don’t like or agree with people copying, we don’t believe that new students have much choice in the beginning. Of course, a student’s true self should shine through at all times. As well, we don’t care whether or not someone has an individualistic external package (i.e., the embrace, posture, head, etc) IF they are dancing their own dance. There are people in our community who mock anyone who has an external package that resembles that of their teacher or some big name. Yet these are the same people who, although having “individual” outer packages (ex, looking at the ground, low arms, or shuffling steps), dance nothing more than the replicated moves they found on youtube or learned from their teachers.

      So while someone may come on the floor and “assume a butt-out posture”, we won’t be put off by it until the dance shows itself to be soulless and/or a caricature of something or someone else.

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