Here’s a simple Back Ocho adornment exercise to help our basic tango technique…

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#tango #backocho #technique



When we’re just starting to attend milongas, or if we’re at an unfamiliar venue, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. In these instances, our tango suffers not because of lack of knowledge, but because our brains are trying to remember a million technique points at once. Here are three ways to calm the mental overload:

Concentrate on one area of technique, even if it’s just breathing
Keeping posture, connection, remembering to disassociate during a turn, foot placement, musicality…Trying to consciously tackle them all at once, right this second, will ensure you’ll do none of them well.

Start by focusing on just one thing you remember in class, even if it’s just steady breathing. Once that starts working, then move on to another technique item. Getting one thing right usually leads to other positive results.

Slow down a little
For leaders, keep in mind you don’t have to constantly be in motion with every single strong beat of the song. And you don’t have to throw in every figure you know in order to have a good tanda.

It’s okay to dance only the steps you feel comfortable with (or are able to remember in the heat of the moment). Moving forward at half speed, or even taking the time to pause, counts as dancing too. Moving too quickly exacerbates whatever anxiety you might be feeing.

For followers, try slowing down each step. You’ll know where the leader wants to take you a split second before he/she actually invites you there. Take the time to complete each movement, whether it’s a weight transfer or pivot. You won’t fall behind…but it is possible to get ahead. And that really messes things up.

Focus on those shoulders and arms
Having tense shoulders is a common problem for many dancers, and it’s the tango equivalent of driving with the handbrake up. It’s true that relaxing them is the solution, but keep in mind that our shoulders don’t do so naturally. It takes conscious effort to maintain tone without tension. But getting that right, regardless of how much mental power it takes, will help make us so much easier to dance with.


#overwhelmed #tango


Get lost in the dance, that is.

Sometimes, it’s the best thing to do. Every now and then, we need to let ourselves be carried by the music and energy of the moment. But if we take this too far, our dancing will lack polish and start looking sloppy.

On the other side of the spectrum, there’s consciously keep tabs on our technique. This is also important, but too much of that becomes a problem as well. We’ll tense up, get too bogged down with how we look to others, and miss the fun.

When our tango isn’t working, often it’s because we’ve either “gotten too lost” or we’re “too mentally awake.” The challenge is knowing when to pull ourselves back from either extreme, instead of doubling down on the very thing that’s making us unhappy.


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#getlost #tango


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


Not all tango steps and concepts are difficult. For instance, the more basic stuff is easy. However, it’s worth making the effort, both, physical and mental, to get those steps right.

And not just the first few times after it’s introduced, but every time.

All the amazing dancers we admire on Youtube? The flashier, audience-pleasing steps reflect flawless technique, which are rooted in getting those basics right…over and over again.

Whether we’re naturally gifted or not, regardless of how good we want to be, or whether or not we aspire to perform, proficiency with basics is a must.

Just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s not important.

3hours funny



The last entry was about the ocho, where I focused more on technique. Today I’ll write about the non-technical aspect of learning that step.

The ocho is conceptually simple, but does that mean it’s easy?

It’s comprised of many detailed components (e.g. disassociation, balancing on one foot, being careful not to step too early, etc), so the challenge comes not just from executing each element correctly, but remembering them all as well.

At some point, we’re likely to encounter a “frustration phase,” where we realize this simple step is harder than it appears. Then, that stupid voice in the back of our heads starts creeping in, telling us that “maybe we can’t do it.” We may start comparing ourselves to more experienced dancers (or dancers who at least appear to be so), which perpetuates the spiral of negativity.

One way of getting through the frustration is sheer willpower, by ignoring the negative voice(s) in our heads and just putting in time and effort to improve. This method is respectable, and it works.

But mentally, is it the best way?

As we know, there are numerous components of the ocho. If we act on our first instinct, we’ll try perfecting them all at once. This leads directly to that frustration phase.

Individually, however, the ocho components are pretty manageable. Tackling a few parts at a time is much less daunting. And once we start mastering one or a few elements at a time, the rest of the figure tends to fall in place.

A difficult figure, whether it’s an ocho or anything else, can be looked upon as a series of easy elements or a combination of familiar steps. This approach isn’t a shortcut to learning, as there’s no way to circumvent time, patience, discipline, and regular practice. But adjusting our mental perspective can have a huge effect. Seeing tango as mainly a struggle versus mainly fun will have a serious impact on our long term enjoyment of the dance.

Basically, what it comes down to is this: If we approach a new step believing that it’s difficult, it will be. But if we go in thinking that it’s not as difficult as it looks, then it won’t be.


chicken and rabbit

This picture is probably irrelevant