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A quick rundown of our competition categories for SCTC 2018 (and how to dance them). We’ve provided some fun tips to help you prepare and make your best impression.

Let the fun begin!


All of the social categories are danced in a mock “milonga style” setting. Competitors perform in groups of anywhere from 8 to 12 couples, all out on the floor at the same time. Each group will dance 3 songs in a row, with each song typically being from different classic tango orchestras and with different style, pace, and character. This isn’t always the case but you will most likely encounter these 3 different themes in different songs played: SLOW/MELODIC, FAST/RHYTHMIC, and INTENSE/DRAMATIC.

Most social competitors will compete in all 3 categories. Even if you don’t like them all equally, you should register for them to help you warm up for the category you DO like. It might surprise you to discover which category is your best when under pressure.

TANGO SALON (the “serious” category)

This is the most exciting and most popular competition category. It’s also the most serious, the most competitive, and also has the biggest prizes (FREE TRIP TO BA). This category has historically been considered as the main event of tango competition, with its winner being held in the highest regard.

  • Embrace each other majestically, but look romantic!
  • Take a nice side-step, then do something magical or just stay looking majestic, then walk off.
  • Bang out the first embellishments in the song to capture the judges attention.
  • Then run off into some stall patterns while you wait for the first chorus return of the song.
  • Look extra sexy and amazing when the singer or expressive violion/bandoneon comes on.
  • Stay sexy when the music slows down, but prepare…
  • …for the FAST PART!!! (TRY NOT TO GO TOO FAST!) @#&*$^#*(^$#!!!!
  • Stop right when the music ends, and play it off like you weren’t even trying that hard.

VALS (the “turns” category)

Vals is perfect for constant movement and turns, and also known for known for walking a fine line between playful and sensual. The beat never stops and neither should you. Work on your turns in both directions. Work on catching the vals rhythm as you move in linear fashion. Also work on your embellishments within the vals timing. Followers should practice their ochos and mollinetes beforehand.

  • The music is pretty predictable; it just goes 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3…until the end of time. This leaves room for lots of creativity.
  • Walk, walk-walk-walk, one ocho, MAYYYYYBE one little pause…and thennnn…
  • … keep turning until the song ends (or you pass out, whichever happens first).
  • Yeaup, just keep turning like an astronaut in training. Turn one way, then the other. Go fast, and then faster.
  • Stop right when the music stops.
  • (OPTIONAL: take an antihistamine pill for motion sickness.)
  • OK FINE, you don’t want to turn forever? You can dance in regular time in certain moments to “slow down” without losing momentum.

MILONGA (the “fun” category)

This category is lots of fun for both competitors and spectators as it’s a lot of pressure to dance at high-speed with people watching. You don’t know the song and you’re not as warmed up like you would be in a regular milonga setting. And since every couple is under pressure to “perform”, you never know what wild moves will be put out.

Last note: milonga is supposed to be fun, not hard. This means you look better if you’re having fun and dancing your way out of all your mistakes rather than to be so safe that you don’t try anything. Don’t worry about the mistakes and there won’t be any!

  • Remember: this is the “fun” category so whoever looks like they’re having more fun is probably going to do better.
  • You’ll look cleaner and more together as a couple if you stay in parallel system more than cross system.
  • You can be more earthy, can bend your knees more, smile more.
  • Make sure you hit the milonga lisa and not always stuck in milonga traspie. (What’s the difference?)
  • Make sure you practice linear milonga steps, allowing you to cover ground as you dance.
  • If you feel the need to go faster, it helps to take smaller steps.
  • Milonga music is also somewhat repetitive, so use repeating movement patterns to keep you more in sync. It also helps to rehearse some cute choreo beforehand with nice/fun embellishments for both leader & follower.

SENIOR TANGO (the “musical” category) 

The senior tango division is a lot of fun and quite competitive. The more seasoned tangueros have knack for connection, elegance and musicality. They’re very calm and connected; they all look like they don’t get nervous. It’s common to think that the most athletic seniors will win but it hasn’t always been the case. Throwing out wild sacadas in the senior tango category can make you look too much like a showoff.

  • Take your time, be powerful without looking rowdy.
  • It’s especially important to look like you’re dancing, the senior division is notorious for looking really sweet.
  • Connection and musicality reigns supreme.


Stage categories are danced to your chosen song using choreography (memorized movements instead of improvised). You dance one song (per category) each day. Usually, stage competitors will wear fancier/flashier outfits and also more expressive make-up to play up the stage effect.

STAGE TANGO (the sexy category)

Last year was the first time the stage category was featured at SCTC and this year is looking to be more exciting. It’s been a great way to showcase the individuality and creative expression of different couples by having them dance their dance to piece of their chosen music.

  • Outfits are key! Be sexy and memorable.
  • You can spot a strong couple within the first 10 seconds of the choreo. Open strong and keep it strong up until the end of the song. (Don’t “save the best for last”.)
  • You don’t need to have fancy tricks through every part of the song; simple or slower movements timed perfectly with the music can have just as powerful of an impact if not more.
  • It’s most recommended to work with professional stage dancers who can put together the choreography for you based on your ability and personal style. You can also make your own choreo and then have a professional spice it up.


A fun category showcasing different dance teams and how they express the music with their choreo and group formations. It’s really interesting to see how different teachers come up with different choreo for their teams.

  • Pick a good song with powerful notes. This not only captures the audience/judges’ attention but also makes it easier for the couples to synchronize with each other.
  • Pick eye-catching formations that make it easy to get into place.
  • Timing is more important than technique. All transitions and big movements must absolutely be synchronized.


An exciting new category hosted by Oliver Kolker at SCTC 2018! This is basically the “slam dunk competition of tango” where you dance only the fast part of the song (aka “the varición”). You pick any song you like, and do at least 16 counts of the fast part.

  • This is the first time the category is being held at SCTC so we don’t know what to expect.
  • Pick a fun song, do some interesting flashy choreo, and stick the ending.
  • You only have to dance the fast part for 16 seconds and it’s choreographed…so it’s challenging, but more doable than you think. You can develop your choreo with help from professional stage dancers, or come up with your own using the classic method–Youtube inspiration (ha!).
  • Assuming there are enough entries, winners get a free trip to BA (including airfare & housing!)
  • Visit the official Pelando Variación homepage.

Round 1 just happened last night in Argentina. We can’t wait for the American PV showdown next February.

Want to try your hand at one of our exciting categories above? 


Looking for last year’s blog guides?: