DON’T UNDERESTIMATE EXPERIENCE

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.

knowledge-experience

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PRACTICE THE SETUP

We’re repeatedly told, by tango teachers, blog writers, other experienced dancers, etc, that practice is crucial. With tango, as well as other physical activities, there’s no secret formula to developing great technique when learning more complicated figures.

Practice is key.

But by pinpointing certain aspects of the figure, we can make learning more efficient and get the most out of practice sessions. Many of us choose to focus on the actual execution of the step itself by focusing on the most visually appealing components.

Although that’s effective to a degree, what comes right before that part is even more important. Practice the step, but pay special attention to practicing the setup.

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#tango #setup

PREPARATION

Good dancers are able to show up to a milonga, and they just start dancing well without a second thought. They move so easily and effortlessly! Are they naturally talented? Were they born with special tango genes?
Maybe a few of them are. But the vast majority are not. Dancing well at a milonga doesn’t happen suddenly. Unlike in the movies, beautiful tango isn’t brought about by sheer will and a single defining moment.
How good a dancer looks simply reflects the time they put into preparation and practice. It is a gradual – sometimes painstaking – process. And for the average tango addict, it’s one that never seems to move fast enough.  Yet it’s a simple formula, and one that benefits anyone willing to stick to it.

gerbil-lifting#tango #preparationandpractice

3 REASONS TO BE CONSISTENT

The simple act of showing up regularly to dance might not seem all that exciting, but it’s instrumental to becoming good at tango. Here are a few reasons why.

It increases the chances of having that “good dance”
Wayne Gretzky, Mia Hamm, and Pelé are remembered as top goal scorers in their respective sports. But in order to achieve the numbers they got, it means they probably missed more shots than other players, too. We don’t immediately think of that, but it’s worth pondering.

Venturing out to a milonga is not a guarantee that every dance will be good. In fact, some will definitely not be good. But the more we put ourselves out there, the better the odds of us “scoring” that memorable dance or tanda. The most important element is the willingness to try…and to do so again and again.

In the long run, it trumps talent
Not a gifted dancer? Not a natural?
Most of us aren’t. But consistent lessons, practice, and dancing does add up. It’s an uphill climb, and we almost never progress as quickly as we’d like. But every improvement counts, no matter how small. Over time, it definitely pays off.


It greatly reduces the (irrational) fear of dancing in public

Showing up at a milonga is scary the first few times. Although feeling self-conscious is normal, the fear of looking bad hurts our focus and adversely affects our dancing. But repeatedly putting ourselves out there on the dance floor works to cut that anxiety down, and eventually helps us feel more at home while at a milonga. That sense of familiarity tends to stay with us, even when we visit different venues for the first time. When we’re more at ease, we can concentrate on enjoying ourselves. And everyone dances better when they’re having fun.


Like doing a step correctly, being consistent is a habit that needs to be practiced. The idea is simple, not all that exciting, and there’s certainly no magic involved. But for success in tango, it’s the closest thing to a magic bullet that we’re going to find.

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AN EXTREMELY IMPORTANT BUT EASY THING TO PRACTICE

During a tango class, we’re taught to move a certain way, depending on what we’re learning. For example, instructors tell us the importance of dissociating our upper bodies during circular movements, to relax our legs at specific moments, to hold less tension in our arms, etc. As we encounter these details, we naturally start paying more attention to what our bodies are doing.

This elevated sense of body awareness is just as important as learning any step. But once class or the milonga is over, the awareness tends to stop. Yet unlike other elements of tango, body awareness is one of the easiest skills to practice while away from the dance floor. No, I’m not suggesting that we obsess over tango 24/7, although there’s nothing wrong with that if it makes us happy.

Here’s a simple idea to get us started: Think about your sense of balance while walking or standing still.

It’s something we take for granted, and rarely reflect upon for any length of time. If we were to read any article about robotics, particularly research on designing robots that walk on two legs, then we’ll appreciate just how amazing a feat it is for the human body to do something so easily. Some really smart engineers out there are having an extremely tough time getting robots to do what our muscles and tendons effortlessly accomplish while we’re standing around texting.

So let’s think about what our bodies are doing the next time we’re waiting in line for ice cream. Can we feel our muscles making the dozens of micro adjustments which enable us to remain upright? Which muscles are we moving? Are they only in our legs, or are they also in our abdominals and back?

It may not seem like much, but consciously thinking more about what our bodies are doing –  starting with a task as simple as standing still or walking – helps put us in a body awareness mindset that’ll pay off during the next tango class.

robot fall

#tango #bodyawareness

GETTING THE MOST OUT OF WORKSHOPS

It’s amazing that, year round, there are so many Tango festivals to choose from. Workshops are a great way to improve our dancing. But if we’re not prepared, they can end up being counterproductive. Here are a few ideas to help us get the most out of the next tango workshop.

Be kind to your fellow students: Even though organizers do their best to clearly label workshops as “Beginner,” “All levels,” “Intermediate,” or “Advanced,” participant skill level will almost never be consistent across the board. If you’re paired up with a less experienced person, don’t lose your cool, especially if they’re making a sincere effort. Sometimes it’ll be hard to not let the frustration show, but we’re all learning, and everyone has something to work on…even if it’s patience.

Mistakes will happen: If we could do the figure perfectly, we wouldn’t be at the workshop. Mistakes are not a sign that we’re bad students, and messing up in front of others should not be a source of shame. Mistakes are part of the natural learning process. In addition to being patient with our fellow students, we also need to be patient with ourselves. The only reason the instructors make it all look so easy is because they’ve messed up the steps more times than we did before finally getting it right.

Do it their way: The instructors may teach a figure that’s very familiar to us, only they might go about it differently. Let’s do it their way, even if it’s not the way we learned it. We might find that their method works better after all, or maybe we’ll hate it (for now). In either case, it’s useful to know that there’s more than one right way to tango. Keep that mind open.

Don’t try to impress anyone: Maybe you’re a hotshot dancer, or a even a teacher yourself. Maybe everyone in your hometown is tripping over themselves to dance with you. But trying to flaunt your status at a workshop just makes you look like a dreaded tango snob, and the instructors probably won’t care. Every year they see hundreds, or maybe thousands, of dancers who are just as skilled as you. So focus more on what’s being taught, instead of constantly reminding all us little people about how good you are.

Don’t take things personally: Any criticism or validation we receive is a reflection of our tango, not our character. Let’s use it to move our dancing forward.

Take a video: When the lesson is over, the instructors will do a demo of what they covered, and most will let us videotape it for our own review. Having that video summary is a very helpful resource, so make sure your camera battery or phone is fully charged. Even if you were able to keep up with all the lesson material, take the video! Don’t rely on your memory.

Make it your own: It’s nice to be able to do a figure exactly the way it was taught. But most are designed to be modified, explored, and played with in different ways. It’s a good sign if you find yourself putting your own twist on a step.

Know that it takes time: It’s unrealistic to expect ourselves to master all the workshop material in one class. Even after a long period of regular practice, we might not be getting it 100%. The dumbest thing to do is to give up. Understand that it’s normal to grasp a figure several weeks, or even months, after the workshop took place.

Have a plan when it’s over: Tango festivals, and the workshops that come with them, feel like holidays or big events. But when they end, it doesn’t mean the learning is over too. This seems pretty obvious, but regular practice is crucial. The thrill of the festival will eventually subside, and it’s up to us to make sure it was worth the time and financial sacrifice. So let’s grab a trustworthy partner at the next práctica, and keep the fun times going!

tango

GETTING IT WRONG

We’ve all heard the saying that practice makes perfect (or permanent).

And you might have seen this motivational poster with a more clever message:

practice

It’s good advice, of course. But in tango, when we do things wrong (which is part of the natural learning process),
it’s important to know why.

Is correcting a mistake simply about addressing something technical within the dance? Or does the problem
originate from somewhere inside our heads?

The dance floor is the most logical place to start when addressing our tango challenges, but there’s also a
lot we can work on when we’re away from it.