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Experiencing the traditional tango class - Tango in Club Sunderland

(Photo copyright Rebecca Travaglia)

About seventeen ladies were shuffling for positions where their elegant heels would not come into contact with another´s calf. Blood on a dance floor is the last thing that anyone wants and with 9 cm heels, there is some potential for connection if you are not aware of your space around you.  The men were gliding up and down the lines on the floor like swimmers doing lane training at their local olympic pool, continuous laps while hugging invisible women.  The concentration was tangible within the room, almost drowning out the music. I risked a look to spy on my partner and see how he was doing on the men´s side of the floor, only to find him smirking at me, having been laughing at my intense look of concentration I required to successfully adorn my ochos.

This was learning traditional tango at its best. It had been awhile since I have set foot in a tango class thanks to the festive holiday season and travel, and returning to Buenos Aires jumpstarted my desire to re enter the scene. With that in mind, I set off to my first class at Club Sunderland on a balmy Wednesday evening.  Club Sunderland was founded in 1921 making it one of the oldest clubs in the city and celebrating its 91st birthday this year. It hosts a variety of other physical activities but is famous in the tango world for its traditional milongas and classes. The Wednesday night class is taken by  Carlos and Rosa Perez, well respected teachers of traditional tango and world famous for their classes which are, put simply, all about walking.

I remember when I first started tango classes, I heard that even if you practiced walking everyday for 50 years, you still would not have mastered the tanguero´s walk, casting somewhat of a shadow on my dream of being considered a capable tanguera. But if you don´t practice, you can´t improve and I have passed evenings pacing back and forth in my various living arrangements over the years. Back in class, the large studio was threatening to turn into a sauna as the men and women began their walking and I noted that the return journey to the far end of the hall near the air conditioner, was always completed faster, allowing more time for standing in the cool air.

Rosa took us through simple walking, both forwards and backwards, before adding adornos. Everything was going well until we moved onto ochos, which are difficult to do independently at the best of times, but adding adornos to independent ochos is a sure way to induce the wobbles. I noted some women holding out their arms for stability as if to gently meditating as they made their way across the floor. I opted for the intense fixation on a far away spot that doesn´t move, which was fine until I found myself at the back of the group and kept losing my point as the backs infront of me swayed from side to side.

Often beginners are understandably eager to learn tango steps, aching to get onto the floor to see if they can remember the sequence they were given in their class. But some of the best dances I have had is while simply walking. The strength of connection and space for musicality seems limitless and the joy of doing something so simple but so connected, never fails to induce one of those tango moments for me. This class gave me an opportunity to spend time focusing exactly on what my feet and entire body are doing, encouraging internalisation before practicing this with another person, walking around the studio with no thoughts other than connection, simple adornos and the music.

Things you need to know

Club Sunderland

Lugones 3161, Villa Urquiza, Buenos Aires.



Club Sunderland has a well run website which seems to be kept up to date and is well worth checking out to see what classes, practicas and milongas are run each week. It also has information about other events at the club should you feel like a change of sport.

The Wednesday night class is long and includes an instructed part and a free part for you to practice what you have learnt. The class runs from 8pm until 10.30pm. Some people (including names like Fabian Peralta) only arrive for the second part of the class.

The class is welcoming to new people and very easy to follow even if you only speak a basic level of Spanish. Some dancers arrive only for the practica afterwards. The cost (at the time of writing) of the class and the practica was 25 pesos.  It was my experience that the men received more personal attention than the women did, but that said, if you are struggling with the adornos, Rosa will offer advice to you. This class is great to go to if you have a partner, as you spend an hour or so practicing with the sexes divided and afterwards you have the opportunity to work together on what you have learned about your walk. Be prepared to only walk. There are no steps given in this class.


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