Yale Tango Club brings together community, embrace, and elegance
The Yale Tango Club, founded in 2003, offers students the chance to learn a new way of movement, connect with new people and travel to social dances across the Northeast.
Courtesy of Yale Tango Club
The Yale Tango Club offers students the unique chance to learn a new form of movement, one centered around connection and musicality.
The club, established in 2003, aims to teach students the art of Argentine tango through formal classes, “prácticas” and social dances, also known as milongas. Beyond emphasizing technical skills, the club prioritizes fostering friendships across the Yale ecosystem.
“We have members from graduate school, professional schools and undergrad,” said Jonathan Sun, GRD ’23 and former YTC President. “There are people from all the different schools that probably would never interact with each other, but they share a common theme now. They share something that they learn together.”
Formerly a small organization, Yale Tango experienced a post-pandemic resurgence stimulated by heightened recruitment efforts and an emphasis on travel. Currently, Sun estimates that there are about 150 active members in the group and the mailing list extends to 600 students. These dancers are not only bound by a common learning objective, but by that objective’s novelty and difficulty.
Argentine tango is an intricate form of social dance that does not rely on patterns. Instead, the follower must be constantly attuned to the leader, looking for subtle signs of where to go next. According to Sun, it typically takes two to three years to get comfortable with the dance form.
“[Tango is] really an improvised dance,” said Sun. “What that means is that any single motion that you make will be amplified or returned by your partner. So you learn not so much how to move yourself, but how two people move as one unit.”
Yale Tango offers free weekly practicás on Thursday from 6:30-8:30 p.m. The club also offers paid classes with professional instructors Robin Thomas and Dagny Miller every Sunday.
Thomas and Dagny travel to New Haven from New York City each week to support the YTC’s mission to inspire young people to connect over Argentine tango and encourage them to bring new life to the art form. They teach a beginner class from 2-4 p.m., an intermediate class from 5-6 p.m. and an advanced class from 6-7 p.m. every Sunday.
Sun said that Thomas and Dagny are the “best instructors” the program has for beginners.. He notes that their teaching style is straightforward yet engaging, which is crucial for a dance that often struggles to entice younger populations.
“You don’t really see young people doing tango, and every time you go to external events, we look so different because we’re in our twenties and everyone just calls us babies,” noted Sun.
Most university-level tango clubs include older community members or alumni that have been dancing for years. YTC is set apart by its youthful demographics and its dedication to bringing in beginners. In addition to weekly events, the club holds four onboarding cohorts a year to welcome new members and introduce them to the basics.
These three-hour beginner boot camps take place in September, November, February and April, allowing students to join the club throughout the entire year. Following their introductory session, new dancers are encouraged to enroll in a five-week beginner class series with professional instructors to refine their skills.
“It’s a bit of a learning curve,” said new Yale Tango member Rachel Stein GRD’28. “If you do not send the right signal and communicate, then you might get your foot stepped on, and no one likes getting their feet stepped on.”
When Stein joined the club, she was in search of a dance group that would resemble the bachata and salsa communities she was a part of as an undergraduate. Despite the difficulty of tango as a dance form, Stein applauded the club’s effort to integrate new members, calling it “a really easy way to make friends if you’re new to New Haven.”
Clara Wong MPH ’22, current clinical research coordinator at the School of Medicine and the former head of leadership for YTC, seconded Stein’s appreciation of how the club treats newcomers.
“I think one thing about us that I love the most is the patience that everyone shows towards each other — everyone here has their own tango journey — their own learning curve and tango being a partnered dance requires a great deal of patience and compassion,” Wong wrote to the News.
This semester, despite being a new member, Stein has already attended two milongas at Columbia University and Harvard University. She spoke fondly of traveling with the club.
Sun also emphasized the club’s new travel initiative by mentioning that YTC recently set up a communication channel with all of the Ivy League tango groups. Sun is working with other board members to plan a regional tango weekend in the spring with international instructors and participants from across the Ivies.
“Whenever we go places, people will just tango in public, which is one of my favorite things. Just dancing,” Stein said when reminiscing about her most recent milonga.
Prácticas and classes take place in both the Slifka Chapel and on the second floor of 80 Wall Street.