Regardless of where we are in our tango journey, we stand to benefit from the many insights, observations, and philosophies of instructors and organizers. Sadly, much of this knowledge doesn’t come to light during lessons and workshops due to time constraints.

My goal is to help change that…with the launch of my podcast!

Yes, in in mid-September 2017 I’ll be launching Joe’s Tango Podcast! The show will be done in an interview format, and I’ll be speaking with various tango instructors and organizers.

I’ve already had the pleasure of interviewing several wonderful people already, and what they’ve shared has been eye-opening and encouraging; I can’t wait to share their conversations with you in a few weeks!

This is a long term project, and as my interviewing skills gradually improve, my hope is that this podcast will serve as a free and valuable resource for your learning.

So starting next month, tune in to Joe’s Tango Podcast. It’ll be available on itunes, and within the next few days I’ll be deciding on a hosting service.

We’ll keep you updated!

joe tango podcast small

#tango #podcast



Learning a pattern that incorporates a new step is really useful. But mastering the pattern is only part of it all. Patterns are comfortable, and it’s understandable to want to stick with them. But getting comfortable ultimately hurts our dancing, and prevents growth.

The moment we get comfortable is when we should start asking questions.

Why does the step work the way it does? What exactly are our bodies doing to make the step work? What happens if we change one element or another? What else can we create? Can we combine this step with other figures we know?

Patterns and sequences should be seen as gateways to learning, and guides to understanding the heart of technique. But relying on patterns alone aren’t enough to make us good tango dancers.


#dontgettoocomfortable #tango


Ever take a tango class or workshop, and feel that you’re keeping up just fine? Of course.
And have you ever taken a class where it feels as though everyone else knows what they’re doing… except you? Most likely (definitely a “yes” for me).
The latter situation is often embarrassing, and results in a lot of self-criticism that gets overblown pretty quickly. It can even feel so bad that we may even consider quitting. Before we’re tempted to go on a bender to console ourselves, here are two items to consider.
First: Certain steps will be easier for us than others. What comes easily for us might be more difficult for another student, or vice versa.

Second: In tango, there’s no universal, objective mechanism that determines the “correct” pace of learning for everyone. Just because we don’t get something right away – or even over the duration of the class – doesn’t mean we’re problematic students or bad dancers.

Let’s focus on getting the step right instead of getting it quickly. By the time we’re proficient with a new step, it won’t feel all that new anymore. And there’s nothing wrong with that.


#learning #tango


When learning a step in our tango classes, our teachers show us their way of doing it. Emulating them is a good starting point. But once we’re able to comfortably do so, we shouldn’t just repeat the figure a few times, say, “Ok, I got it” to ourselves, then rush on to the next thing.

Chances are, the step we just picked up only scratches the surface when it comes to learning. We have to go further, and question the step. Why does it work the way it does? How does our movement affect our partner’s? What do we need to remember about timing, body position, and floorcraft in order to get the step to work?

And another big question: With this step, what else can we create?

We won’t reach our full potential as tango dancers if we do only what’s taught in class. We’re meant to experiment with the lesson material because, in most cases, our teachers simply don’t have the time to show us the full range of possibilities that a particular figure or step has to offer.

So in the midst of practice, have fun and experiment. We get excited about steps by first doing it the teacher’s way. But we remember them more easily and grow as dancers when we’re able to pull it off our way.


#tango #questionthestep


Eventually, we’ll reach a point in our dancing where we understand the basics enough to help beginners. That’s great!

But explaining tango and dancing it are two different things. Clearly presenting the tango knowledge in our heads to a newbie requires a different kind of skill set.

We don’t necessarily have to be teaching experts, but here are 5 little things that will go a long way in encouraging a potential tango addict.

KEEP THINGS SIMPLE: When a beginner tries something new, even if it’s basic, we’ll spot at least a dozen things we want to correct at once. Don’t feel it’s your duty to make a perfect dancer right away. Choose a few elements to start with first (e.g. weight shifting, a few walking steps, etc). And break them down to their basic components.
GO SLOW: Newbies are interested in learning, and also want to make a good impression on experienced dancers. They’re excited, and probably anxious too. But that doesn’t mean they want t0 go fast. Whenever it’s time to move from one element to the next, you’ll always be ready to do so before they will. So take your time.
DON’T COVER TOO MUCH: Occasionally, even professional teachers do this. It’s exciting when a newbie starts picking things up quickly. In turn, we become eager to show them more and more figures. But covering too much increases the chances of skipping over important fundamentals, or scaring beginners off completely.

As tango can easily overwhelm even the most talented learners, it’s better to spend time covering fewer items in greater depth. There will always be opportunities to introduce more figures, and they’ll only retain so much information in single session anyway. So let’s calm down and not try volcadas on the first day.

REPETITION: Showing a basic step to a newbie and encouraging them practice it over and over again might be a little boring to you, but it’s really helpful to them. Very few people master a step the first day it’s introduced. Showing them that repetition and practice matters will help give a more realistic and relatable picture of the learning process.

BE FRIENDLY (OR AT LEAST TRY TO SMILE): Those motivated enough to ask for help are exactly the kinds of people that a tango community needs in order to grow. Despite all the other activities available to people these days, they chose to give tango a try.

Encouraging words and a few smiles help a lot. But being overly critical with beginners and using a sharp tone of voice whenever they make mistakes is a huge turn-off. This creates the impression that they have to somehow prove themselves in order to join some sort of exclusive club. Remember, we’re a bunch of tango dancers, not a military academy or secret society. Taking ourselves too seriously makes us look goofy, insular, and self-important…but mostly goofy.

So whenever a newbie approaches us for help, don’t look upon it primarily as a test to determine whether or not they “belong.” Instead, it’s an opportunity to prove that our tango community is worth joining in the first place.


#tango #helpingbeginners


We know that tango is an addiction that provides so many mental and physical benefits. And when we start gaining a deeper understanding of it, we become eager to share what we’ve learned with others.

That’s when we realize how much we actually know when beginners start coming to us for help. For so long we’ve grown accustomed to being the ones seeking knowledge. Now it’s disorienting to find ourselves dispensing it.

Too often, experienced dancers are short with beginners. And they use a tone of voice that implies frustration when newcomers “don’t get it.”

Even though we might be right in showing beginners how to tango the right way, we’re presenting the information in a way that makes our community appear exclusive…or even snobbish. This can turn away a lot of good people, then we’ll be left wondering why our tango community is dwindling.

When we encounter motivated beginners, we can generally infer several things:

– They are brave
– They are hard-working
– They are likely to be perfectionists
– They are highly self-critical

Beginners don’t need us to be hard-asses. What they need from us (but what they usually never ask for) is patience.

Patience is often conflated with coddling and a tolerance for sloppiness when, in fact, it is quite the opposite. Being patient means we understand that no one masters something like tango over the course of a few lessons and practicas. Patience is about knowing when to give feedback, and when to let the beginner’s own self-critical thought process fill in the blanks.

Learning tango and explaining it are two different things. The key to doing both of them well lies with patience.


#tango #patience


When we absorb information during tango classes, it’s not enough to just pay close attention. We must also understand the way our brains process the new knowledge. Generally speaking, we have to “learn everything twice” before getting it right.

The first “stage” of learning occurs when the instructor verbally explains a figure or technique concept. We understand the ideas intellectually, picture everything in our heads, and it all makes logical sense.

The second “stage” of learning happens when we’re able to physically implement those intellectual concepts (actually dancing).

On the face of it, this is not a new or mind-blowing idea. So what’s the problem?

The problem, especially if we’re no longer beginners, is that we often underestimate the period of time separating stage one and two.

It seems as though stage two should happen right after stage one. We understand exactly what the tango instructor told us, so it’s just a matter of doing it, right?

Unfortunately, no. And we tend to get upset with ourselves when things don’t work out that way.

But consider this: Would we react in shock upon realizing we can’t fly a passenger jet even though we just read a really good book about airplanes?

This isn’t to say that tango is as complicated or dangerous as flying, but it’s not something we can do right after receiving a couple of verbal instructions. Our bodies and brains need more than a few lessons, or tandas, before they start cooperating with each other.

The most likely scenario is that we won’t get to the second stage for weeks, or maybe even months, after stage one. For tango, this is normal. So keep practicing, and resist the temptation to surrender to frustration. The end result, whether it takes days, weeks, months, or years, is always worth it.

rocket stage