Tango Tips

Video Angst

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog about watching yourself dancing on video. I called it “To Video or Not To Video”.

In the time of the Coronavirus, it seems more relevant than ever.

Every Zoom class we teach is automatically recorded and sent out to every student, so they can keep practicing and studying the material.

I knew it was only a matter of time before the comments started coming in:

”I really thought I was stretching my leg but in the video it doesn’t look like that at all!"

”I look down the whole time! I had no idea I was doing that!”

”I thought I danced better than that! Help!”

For many people, seeing themselves on film can be a wake-up call.

It can be the moment the image they have of themselves changes into something quite different.

The "B" Word

This blog post is all about the “B” word.

Don’t worry, it’s not the word you’re thinking of! You’re safely inside a pure tango, Brexit-free zone.

It’s another “B” word that I’d like to write about, and it has been a long time coming.

Hardly a week goes by without someone mentioning this word to me.

And my advice?

Don’t say it, don’t even think it!

Because the moment you do, everything starts to go downhill ….

The “B” Word

Let’s paint the scene.

You’re having a wonderful night at the milonga. The atmosphere, the music, the dances. And then a thought unbidden enters your mind.

“Is she getting bored dancing with me?”

A Couple Dancing Tango In The Close Hold

My students ask me this question so frequently that I honestly believe there can’t be too many leaders out there who have not had this thought.

And in many ways it is a good sign. Caring about your partner’s dance experience is a positive trait, reflecting a healthy desire to give as well as receive.

But the thought invariably triggers a change in your dancing. And not unfortunately the change you’re hoping for.

A Bad Tango Day

Have you had one?

After hours of hard grind in the office, tango is - for many of us - the highlight of our day.

The ultimate stress reliever. When we dance, life’s minor - and major - issues can melt away. All that is left is the music, our partner’s soothing embrace and our desire to connect with both.

Yet sometimes when we step onto the dance floor, things just don’t come together.

Our dance feels kind of like a car that won’t start. But this time it is our inspiration - not our tyres - that is flat.

The more we try to relax and connect, the more that connection slides further away.

Our dance has stalled. And this most certainly is not the moment we have been looking forward to all day.

The flatness is followed by a sharp sense of disappointment. The last time you danced, everything worked just fine. What has changed?

Tango In An Elevator

There are a few classic signs that you’re addicted to tango.

When the other day a new student told me - a few months after starting tango - that he was looking for a new flat with more space to dance in, I couldn’t help but chuckle.

I knew then that he was well and truly part of our crazy worldwide club of tango junkies.

Another tell tell sign? Grabbing absolutely any opportunity you can to practice your tango.

No matter when, no matter where. You look left, you look right. No one around? Quick, time to just trace out that little *lapiz* you learnt in tango class last week.

We are the Ikea generation. Experts at finding inventive ways to create more space.

You discover that the kitchen counter provides the ideal support to practice your ochos … provided of course your hand doesn’t accidentally switch the hob on!

A flight of stairs doubles up as the perfect apparatus to stretch out your calf muscles after a long night in the milonga.

And why stare into space when you’re waiting for the microwave to ping? It’s a total waste of valuable practice time!

Picture me then just the other night at our venue in Soho making my way up to our first floor dance studio.

That night I had put my tango shoes on in the changing rooms before going up to class. And I decided to take the lift rather than the stairs.

Tango: Little Girls Should Be Seen And Not Heard?

There’s one question that comes up time and time again in my classes.

When learning decorations*, followers often ask me worriedly:

”But won’t the leader feel that?”

The question takes me back fifteen years, when I was studying tango in Buenos Aires. I recall being taught that I should do adornments in such a way that they couldn't be felt by the leader.

And it reminds me of a story that an American living in Buenos Aires told me around the same time. He had taken the bold step of asking the Queen of Tango, Geraldine Rojas, to dance in a milonga.

As he floated around the room on cloud nine with his grand prize moving smoothly in his arms, he happened to catch a glimpse of them both in a mirror on the wall. He was astonished to see that her feet were moving frenetically, creating fabulous decorations. He had been entirely oblivious to them.

The image of a swan floating serenely, body still and quiet, as her feet beat rapidly beneath the surface is a beautiful one. But the concept that followers should somehow try to hide their decorations from their partners, troubles me.

It suggests that a follower’s decorations could be a potential irritation to the leader. And that the follower is somehow misbehaving by not doing entirely as she is told.

Both these sentiments should bother anyone who dances tango - male and female alike.

Little girls should be seen and not heard? That’s not my tango.

Tango Class Pressure

Is this how you feel when the teacher draws class to you in class?

Well, it’s good to know you are not alone!

As teachers, we're very used to students growing very tense whenever they think we are watching them!

And this in spite of the fact that we reassure them they don’t have get it right straight away and in fact we’re there to help them!

It doesn’t seem to matter how supportive, friendly and totally unintimidating teachers are, students seem to have an inescapable desire to show how much progress they have made … and somehow end up achieving just the opposite!

And it is particularly frustrating if things have in fact been going really well for a while, only for them to fall apart just as your teacher’s eyes are upon you!

So other than telling you that you are in good company, what else can we say to reassure you?

Your teacher sees more than you think. Not only will they be able to tell you’re feeling self-conscious and take that into consideration, but they will also be observing your progress throughout the class, even when you're not aware of it.

Three Pillars of Tango

Last week in each of our drop-in classes, we set a new challenge for our students.

Between now and Christmas, we'll be working on the the three "E"s - our three pillars of tango!

The three E's remain the three E's whether you're talking in English or Spanish: Equilibrio/Equilibrium. Elegancia/Elegance. Emocion/Emotion.

The final pillar: emotion, that's not something that can be taught, I can almost hear you say.

Well, we're here to guide you and inspire you to dance tango with emotion. And there are a fair few technical pointers along the way that will help you not only feel emotion but also convey emotion.

Tailor-Made Tango

Who are the best leaders on the dance floor and what is it that sets them apart from the rest?

You could argue that this is a subjective thing, but there is some consensus in the tango world on overall qualities to be aspired to.

If you are new to the tango scene, you might be forgiven for thinking that the best leaders are those with the widest repertoire of steps. Or perhaps those who can do the most complex moves.

You may even have watched them from the sidelines and resolved that you would learn to dance tango just like them.

And you may indeed have been watching fabulous tango dancers, but what they are doing - what is visible from the outside - is only part of the picture.

The question to ask is what does it actually *feel* like to dance with them?

Because this is what makes a good tango dancer.

Your dance partner cannot see the way you look from the sidelines. All she knows is how you feel to dance with. And in tango, your partner is always much more important than anyone watching.

So what use are flashy moves if they make your partner feel uncomfortable or take her off her balance?

love + tango



Dedicated to tango for 20 years and counting ...I'm delighted to share my tango thoughts, tips and passion with you!