We know by now that neither the leader nor follower should be trying to take total control of the dance.

It’s important to trust that our partners know what they’re doing, and this requires a significant amount of “letting go.”

But why is it so hard sometimes?

Is it because a good tango partner is really that hard to find? Or do we feel dissatisfied with the ability of dancers in our community? Or, deep down, do we doubt our own abilities?

Before we can dance well with others, we need to trust ourselves first.

duck learning to fly.jpg

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#tango #trust



Regardless of our tango level, we’ll sometime have bad dances with people. Some of the reasons will be obvious (death grip embrace, leaning on each other, a little too much wine, etc).

But sometimes, it won’t immediately be clear why we’re not connecting with our partner. This is uncomfortable, and in an effort to correct the situation, we might inadvertently make the situation worse. Here are 5 things to keep in mind:

Avoid black-and-white thinking
Don’t assume it can only be the other person’s fault, or that we alone must be the culprits. In fact, don’t expend too much mental energy trying to figure out who’s responsible. Instead, switch to an action-oriented attitude, and…

Go back to basics
Breathe. For both leaders and followers, let’s focus on our balance and axis. And let’s make sure we’re executing the fundamental technique of every step, no matter how simple. If we happen to be leading, cut out the fancy figures. Go back to doing a nice, calm walk in time with the music.

Don’t force it
If something isn’t working, stop trying it. For one tanda, it won’t kill us to refrain from doing our favorite complicated steps or adornments. Our egos aren’t that fragile, are they?

Take it in stride
One bad tanda isn’t the end of the world, especially if we and our partners are making a sincere effort. Let’s focus on the parts of the dance that are working, and stick with those. And when we’re back on the dance floor for the next tango, let’s have the attitude of a fresh start instead of carrying baggage from the last experience.

It’s okay to not know why
Unless every dance we’re having has been an utter disaster (which is unlikely), it’s smart not to dwell on one bad tanda for long. Technical issues can be found and corrected during classes and practicas. So don’t panic, enjoy the rest of the evening, and know that there will be better times ahead.

We’ll all have moments on the dance floor when things don’t go our way. Like bad moods, they’ll pass. They are only moments, and they don’t define our dancing as a whole.


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In tango, we want to establish a strong connection with our partners. As we are taught, “connection” does not mean grabbing onto our partners for dear life. In fact, only a small part of it has to do with actual physical contact.

But from there, the word “connection” starts sounding abstract or vague, and comes close to sounding like new age-y ramblings that only make sense if we happen to be high.

Here are two ideas designed to make this “connection” idea more concrete:

I don’t mean this in a self-help kind of way, although I suppose that couldn’t hurt. But in the context of tango, let’s define self-awareness as something more literal, like knowing which foot we’re balancing on and being consciously aware of our technique as we move.

Instead of blindly reacting to our partner’s movements, let’s make note of all the details that constitute our own. Do we feel the way in which our core muscles influence our leg projections? Do we feel how much easier we move when our shoulders are less tense? Do we realize just how good a complete, balanced back ocho really feels?

Paying about 35% more attention to ourselves can have a big impact.

Trusting – not helping – our partners
We don’t control our partners, even if we’re leading. But we also must resist the urge to help them. We can’t prop up our partner’s axis, nor micromanage every one of his or her movements and expect our own dancing to look good.

We have to trust leaders and followers to do their part, while we make every effort to do ours.

For leaders, this means giving a clear invitation that doesn’t involve shoving or disturbing the followers axis. Once we communicate our intentions, we have to trust that the follower understands them.

For followers, take a complete, confidence step to where you feel each invitation. It’s not our job to figure out what’s going on in the leader’s mind. And allow the leader to sort out his or her own balance if they happen to get wobbly.

In tango, connection is likely a concept that can’t be described succinctly. But it’s very easy to understand once it’s actually experienced.

Perfect business partnership as a connecting puzzle shaped as two trees in the form of human heads connecting together to complete each other as a corporate success metaphor for cooperation and agreement as equal partners.
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In tango, it’s crucial that both leaders and followers stay closely connected and in tune with each other’s movements.

Sometimes, though, our partners get a little wobbly. Maybe they’re beginners who still need experience. Perhaps they just took a bad step, or maybe they have a few bad habits to work on. And since the majority of us are nice, empathetic people, we’re likely to act on the natural instinct to help them keep steady.

Despite our best intentions, doing this will hurt the dance. If we’re expending energy to hold our partners up, we can’t lead or follow at our best.

It might feel mean, unfriendly, and cold knowing that we’re allowing unsteady partners to experience the full extent of their own shortcomings. However, this is a very effective yet non-confrontational way of bringing their wobbly moments out in the open where it can be addressed.

Don’t sacrifice your own balance in the hopes that it will help your partner find theirs. It never works.


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#balance #tango


I want/don’t want my partner to feel [FILL-IN-THE-BLANK] about me and my dancing. 

While at a milonga, it’s not unusual for such a thought to enter our heads. And it’s okay to care a little bit about what our dance partners think of us.

But validation-seeking can easily get blown out of proportion. And when it does, we become obsessed with the irrational fear that we’re about to be judged harshly. Or, we feel as though we need to prove ourselves or else nobody will like us.


Either way, it messes up our concentration, and puts us at risk for doing the very things that might make those irrational fears come true. That excessive inward focus, the need for validation, is poison for our dancing.

It’s a waste of time to try influencing the way our peers perceive us. Ultimately, we don’t control whether or not a particular person will enjoy dancing with us.

Instead of focusing excessively on ourselves, which is a causal factor for many tango problems, let’s try focusing outwards instead. Trying to make the dance comfortable for our partners is a good place to start.

When we – as leaders and followers – approach tango from a place of mutual giving, we start to counteract the poisonous effects of needing validation.

Our partner’s opinion of us will still largely be out of our control. But at the same time, we’re free from the anxiety of being controlled by that uncertainty.

Here’s a previous blog post on validation


#tango #validationispoison


For Leaders: Let’s make our partner feel like they’re gliding, no matter how simple or complex our movements are. Their embellishments are invitations for creative interaction, and not there to throw us off. The occasional mistake won’t fluster us. We can work with errors, improvising them into something else. We can adapt to each follower’s ability level and style of movement. Beginners don’t bore us, and advanced dancers don’t intimidate us. We’re leading, but we don’t feel the need to constantly impose our will.

For Followers: We can handle whatever our partner throws at us. A small misstep here or there is nothing to freak out about, because overall we’re making the dance work. We are unflappable. We can trust ourselves to stay on axis. There’s no reason to anticipate the next move because we’re ready to step anywhere on a moment’s notice. The next figure is an adventure to look forward to, not a potential disaster waiting to happen. We can handle this.

If we have the attitude that we’re ready for anything, we probably will be.

Let’s pay less attention to the worries – Tango is not as scary as we think it is.


#tango #icanhandlethis


When did tango first start feeling like dancing? For many, if not all of us, it was the moment we tried out the embrace.

But as we start learning more figures, we tend to get so busy dancing that the embrace slips down on our list of priorities. It’s not until after we’ve gained some experience when we start recognizing its importance. This isn’t a fault so much as it is a natural process of learning, so don’t feel bad.

So before we go jaunting off on too many tango adventures, here are some reasons why it’s worth making an effort to revisit this seemingly fundamental element:

It’s always there: Physically, it’s the most obvious way of connecting with our partners. Our minds might be occupied with doing figures correctly and remembering technique. Figures and sequences have a clear beginning and end, but the embrace is constantly happening. And since it’s always there, we have endless opportunities to refine it. Let’s make the most of those opportunities.

It’s a rich source of information: We get a clearer sense of how a partner moves, what his/her comfort level is, and even a sense of his/her personality. It’s through the embrace where we feel the nuances of the figures, and depending on the partner, even the music as well.

It’s more than a technical formality: It’s true that much of the tango embrace can be understood through technical means. Without a good embrace, for instance, a basic step like a cross or ocho can feel more like a wrestling match. Our teachers are always reminding us to relax our shoulders, avoid pushing/pulling with our arms, and exercise good posture. But beyond this technical stuff, the embrace is also a means of communicating with, and understanding, another human being. Ever get lost in tango bliss, or have a really good dance that made your evening? At the root of all that was a nice embrace.

So at the next milonga, before we try any figure regardless of complexity, let’s first make sure the embrace is working. If it is, let’s keep it looking good from the beginning of the tanda until the very end.