-Making the effort to keep our feet together when we collect…
-Finishing a pivot first before stepping…
-Maintaining a solid frame even when we’re tired…
-Leading/Following every ocho instead of doing them while on mental “autopilot…”
-Making the effort to lead/follow a clear cross, even though it’s a step we’ve done a million times…

When we’ve already got so much to mentally keep track of, all this seems like extra stuff to worry about. Why overload our brains even further?

But these extra tango “details” aren’t afterthoughts or little decorations. Paying close attention to them not only makes our dancing look more polished, they help keep our thoughts organized. And from there, it’s easier to achieve that hyper-focused state of mind that drew us to tango in the first place.

Basic figures like collecting properly and finishing basic cruzadas might not be eye-catching or dramatic. But we’ll notice how much our dancing suffers without them. They might feel like small details, but let’s treat them more like essentials.

tiny sculpture

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As we learn more figures and start feeling better about our tango, something interesting starts to happen. More and more, we’ll encounter moments in our dancing when we feel we’ll either get the step right, or mess up completely.

It’s exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. Our brains are split between stepping boldly, or holding back to avoid the mistake.

Keeping safety in mind, it’s better to step boldly. Tentative dancing never feels good, nor does it look good. Remember, mentally holding back to avoid mistakes will also hold back our dancing.

polar bear

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It doesn’t matter if you’ve only started tango a year, a month, a week, or even a day ago. Go to practicas and milongas as soon as you can, and start putting whatever skills you have to the test.

Focus on gaining experience, and if you’re a novice, don’t worry if you know only a few steps.

Building experience feels scary at first. And after those first few shaky tandas, you’ll feel as though you need to take more lessons before you’re “ready” to hop onto the dance floor again. Don’t give in to that thinking; don’t wait until after your next class.

Yes, lessons are important (I have to say that because I’m a teacher), but nothing moves your dancing forward like experience, practice, and the act of doing.


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We may find it difficult to articulate why we enjoy tango so much. Simply saying “it’s fun” doesn’t cover the depth of satisfaction we feel while we’re on the dance floor.

Over the course of our tango journey, interesting things happen. For example, we discover a lot about ourselves, and experience moments when our tango learning helps us deal with other life issues or bad habits.

So let’s keep dancing and improving; Let’s just go wherever tango might take us. This might seem like an excuse to be aimless, but it’s quite the opposite.

We can’t impose a meaning on tango before we start. Rather, we have to let the meaning take shape on its own. At some point while we’re in the middle of dancing – and if we’re paying attention – the answers will come.

negative space

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Tango can be therapeutic. Dancing makes us feel calmer, more refreshed, and more happy. Not only does it help us cope with whatever anxieties and insecurities we have, tango also reveals what those issues are and how they affect us.

By discovering our issues, we’re in a better position to deal with them. Although tango is a way to handle the symptoms of our problems, we know it’s not the solution itself. The hard work of dealing with them mainly takes place away from the dance floor.

Tango is a much needed escape from our problems; it’s a good place, but not a hiding place.

hiding bear

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We shouldn’t dance tango with the aim of seeking happiness or inspiration. Doing so is a dead end.

That isn’t to say that tango won’t make us happy. It will, which is interesting given tango’s long history of expressing heartbreak and its association with mournful song lyrics. But positive things such as happiness and inspiration are by-products of the dance, and not the endgame itself.

The real reason we dance tango usually starts off simple, but as we are further drawn into it, the motivation becomes more complex. Maybe the ultimate explanation is straightforward after all, or perhaps it’s more convoluted. Maybe our true goals are good…or maybe they’re not.

Let’s not stop at happy feelings. We’ll discover more meaning if we dig deeper to figure out why.


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Learning tango requires a willingness to experiment. Its improvisational nature means we’ll discover a lot of figures through intentional practice, or by accident.

With this dance, we should expect plenty of surprises. How does that make us feel? Do we anticipate these surprises as we would a creepy-looking jack-in-the-box that might pop up any second and frighten us? Or instead, do we look forward to them as we would a wrapped birthday present containing a gift that’s sure to delight us?

In tango, it’s our attitude towards the unexpected that matters, not the nature of the surprise itself.


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