The Value of Dancing is Subjective. Deal With It.

I get frustrated with people who think one type of dancing is “better” than another. To me, dancing is dancing, and while each person may have their own personal preference, there is no way to objectively say that one type of dancing is better.

I recently responded to a comment in a blog I follow, Dance Escapade by Sean. The blogger had posted a video of some couples dancing international style tango at a competition.

A commenter on the post, who is clearly into Argentine Tango (and Argentine Tango ONLY), responded back, questioning the value of ballroom-style tango as a dance.

The only word I can use to describe what I saw in that video is abuse. I don’t understand how those women put up with being jerked around by partners who never look at them for one second….It is too bad that so many do not know what they are missing as dancers by not knowing the tango that was born in Buenos Aires. The English and American versions do not come close because they are all about steps.

From reading these comments and subsequent comments, it looks to me as if this commenter considers social Argentine Tango the only truly worthwhile pursuit in partner dancing–and all the rest is inferior. Those of us who are ballroom enthusiasts. Those of us who work hard on our technique, go to ballroom social dances and competitions–we’re wasting our time.  We’ve got the wool pulled over our eyes. If only we were enlightened, we would realize that ballroom dancing is all BS and we would focus on AT–the only dance that gets it right; the only dance that matters.

When I watched the video, I saw something completely different. I remember thinking, as I was watching, ” This is really awesome tango. How can you not appreciate this?”  At the same time I wondered, “Why is it that people feel driven to elevate their favorite form of dance as the best? Why is it necessary to devalue other forms of dance in order to establish the value of your own favorite?” I don’t get it.

How would you support such a statement, after all? And how would you measure quality of a type of dance to prove that it was better than another?

  • How much fun you have?
  • Feelings of satisfaction (which is different than fun)?
  • Technical difficulty?
  • How popular the dance is?
  • How easy it is to learn?
  • How expensive the training is (if you pay more, does that make it “better”)? How accessible (do you have to travel)?

I don’t think any of these things really help determine the quality of a dance. Quality depends entirely on you and your perceptions. Those perceptions are often formed by the dance culture you’re a part of. If you tend to hang out with mostly ballroom folks, chances are you’ll prefer ballroom and value those things about ballroom that make it what it is. If you hang out with AT addicts, chances are you’ll have strong preferences for AT and those elements that make AT unique. That doesn’t make either of you right. It’s completely subjective.

Looking for ways to prove that one type of dance is better than another is an exercise in irrational thinking.What’s more, it creates little imagined communities within the social and competitive dance scene where I really don’t think there need to be any. They’re more hurtful than helpful. If more ballroom people went to a milonga every once in a while, and vice versa, I think we’d all understand and value each other a little more.

We’re all dancers and we’re all here because of an interest we have in common. Let’s accept that the value of different types of dancing is subjective. If we don’t, we’re only hurting ourselves and limiting our vision.


  1. You’re right! Many people try to say other styles of dance don’t have as much value. Social conditioning has made us more closed minded.

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