Beginner's Hell thinking of quitting Tango

First post. My wife and I took Tango lessons for a year and she would have a big smile when we dance Tango. Then she went Tango crazy and does practicas all the time and workshops and classes and stuff. I work and cannot do 15 or more hours a week of Tango but I do a class and practice with her and do a Milonga every week. Now she dances with me but frowns the whole time we dance and constantly looks around like she is bored. But the really good ladies seem happy when they dance with me go figure and they do not look around like bored. She dances all the time with these old guys with years and years of experience and has this look of happy bliss with them. I feel very discouraged. What do you Tango experts suggest. Should I ask her to slow things down to my rate about 7 hours a week. Should I take privates without her to try to catch up. Should I take privates with her? Should we do less Tango it is maybe rushing? AT milongas I always make sure she has a dance we have lots of ladies more than men. I don't say this to be mean but should I dance even if it makes her sit sometimes we have lots more ladies than men so I could dance all night but she would get maybe half dances. So not to be mean but maybe she would enjoy our dances then. Should I just suffer I read posts here that say men eventually are better Tangos than women.


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I do my best to dance around 50% with my wife when possible. It seems to work well. She gets to dance with better and not so better dancers and I do too. We appreciate each other more.


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15 hours a week is a lot for someone that works full time... more power to you though if you can actually pull that off.

As for the beginners hell, it's more like purgatory for any partnered dance. It's especially long for the lead/men because you not only have to learn your steps, but how to communicate which steps you want her to do. Eventually it will click... for some guys it takes just a few short months, others as long as a year. But with 15 hours a week you should be on the shorter end of that timeline.

Her own discouraging responses though just could be from your own attitude. She knows you're getting frustrated by it and it definitely will affect her too. If you only know simple steps... just do them and enjoy them. There's nothing wrong with it.


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Haha my first posts here were along those lines and a "Beginner corner" subforum was even created just for me for a while. Short story of what happened to me and my female partner. We started tango at the same time.

Year one: She dances every night in all the best milongas of the town, gets invited by the teachers. I struggle in beginners' classes, I take as many classes as I possibly can, with different teachers, hoping I will learn quicker. Usually I am the one guy too much, the other leaders dislike me bc I borrow their follower. "It's you again? Why do you keep coming?" is something I hear a lot. Once in a month, my partner tells me to go to the milonga and she dances with me to check my improvement. One dance, not even one tanda.

Year two: same as year one. When I sit next to her in milongas she asks me to move away.

Year three: She agrees to sign up for an intermediate class, with me as her partner. We also go together to a weekly practica.In milongas she's not seen as fresh blood any more, gets invited much less, has plateau-ed in terms of technique.

Year four: I tell her that I will dance with a more qualified follower than her.
Work on your Tango at your own pace.
Dance with ladies who are happy about dancing with you.
Give your wife some space, allow her to be happy dancing with others. Don't take that as a personal insult. The most important thing is your marriage, not your dancing partnership. You are not a couple of tango pros, are you.
Don't forget to regularly do together with your spouse something you both equally enjoy and feel comfortable with. ;)


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You are to aggressive with your learning. And while not dancing watch dance of advanced partners.
And enjoy the venue and music
your DW is impolite, but it happens.


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You are not competing again anyone.
Learn tango at your own pace, listen to the music, enjoy the lyrics and slowly study the orchestras.

And then let it go with other women.
What I find with your woman is really rude behaviour because she is not supportive.
She compares him to the men with dozens of years of experience, which is totally not fair. I always feel sad when couples argue and blame their significant others in classes. While in fact their partner is genuinely trying and making good progress... :(
Oh well, I guess we all at one point or another need to learn how to be grateful and value others, especially significant ones, more...


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So, as Maggie pointed out, it takes longer to learn the basics of leading than it does for following. So the fact that your spouse is learning faster at this stage is not surprising or unique. I have to say that her response to the situation is not very sporting, but maybe there's more to it. Here's what you need to do:

* Take one lesson a week on your own. And by "on your own", that means your spouse is not at the studio and is not watching. Do this not because you are trying to "catch up", but because you need some instruction that is focused solely on you and your understanding the lead role. You need to gain some confidence with the role, and to do that you need some time where you aren't worrying what your partner thinks about it.

* Dance with your spouse at milognas, but for the moment don't worry about what she thinks of your dancing, as long as she's willing to dance with you. Spend some of your time trying to get dances with other follows at different experience levels. Try to get far enough along so that at least one or two of the advanced follows will dance with you now and then, but don't focus exclusively on them.

* Spend a bit of time watching those advanced leads at milognas. Pick out one or two things that you know are areas where you need improvement, and watch how the advanced leads do it.

As newbie points out, follows hit the wall later, usually after a couple of years, and it happens at a time when leads of the same experience level are improving rapidly.
I am very cautious when dancing with my husband. I have much more passion & drive to dance. I want to have great technique, he doesn't really seem to care about that part as long as he knows the steps & what cues to get the follow to follow. If I try to be helpful, in any way, he takes it the wrong way & just stops altogether. The only way we can get through a dance is if I keep my mouth shut completely. So that's what I do. Instand in the proper area, with proper frame, emotionless, like a mannequin. I am sad about it, but I don't know what to do about it. A couple of times, I have asked our instructor, in private, if we can work on something specific that my husband was stuck on & it all gets worked out, but if I suggest something, he won't even try. I am also learning the lead's parts because I go a lot more often than he does, so I have an idea of what's involved in that role as well. Sometimes 2 people just shouldn't be partners in dance.


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she frowns the whole time we dance and constantly looks around like she is bored.
But the really good ladies seem happy when they dance with me go figure and they do not look around like bored.
You solved it all.
Your wife is not a real good follower. Not even close.
Otherwise she would know that it takes, by the construction of the dance, much much much less time for the woman to be ready to go to the milonga. The world-wide known and respected teacher Homer Ladas claims he can turn any beginner into a ready-for-milonga follower in half an hour. Even if you were taking twice the number of classes that your wife takes, she would still be far ahead from you. Next time she gives you the bored look, tell her to stop it, and to go to an advanced follower who will teach her one thing or two about the learning curves.
You're also right on another point, yes after some time the women are overtaken by the guys. There will come a time when you'll feel that you're giving her a charity dance when dancing with her.

And finally there is a say
"Dancing tango with one's husband is like reading yesterday's newspaper"
This transgression thing, yunno.
However skilled you may be as a leader, she will always find the other leaders more interesting.
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I think the first thing you have to think about is if you actually like to dance tango - i read your post and there is nothing about how you feel when dancing, if you enjoy dancing with your wife, if you enjoy dancing with other followers. If not i don't think this is a bad thing - most people don't share all their hobbies with their partners.

Second i think you and your wife should avoid seeing each other as "backup". Reading the OP it sounds like you are organizing your evenings around making sure that she is not sitting down. I think it is natural that if you only dance with with each other as the last option to avoid sitting out a tanda you will be somewhat resentful towards each other. Make dancing with each other a positive, active choice, not a negative one.

Third - and this will require very careful negotiation if it is true - you just might not enjoy dancing with each other. What makes for good real life partnerships are not the same things that make for good dance partners. People enjoy different aspects of this hobby - athleticism, performance, music, community, cosplay, and so on, and they might just not match. That it ok, and we should embrace this more, but it is difficult when we feel that whatever the other people do is the "wrong" tango. For me this is one of the hardest things to work on for myself - accepting that others tango, even if it is not all that compatible with "my" tango, is also the "true" tango.

In general i don't think that leaders eventually get better at tango than followers, i think their learning curve is different (somewhat like the salsa graph above). Leaders have to spend the first two or so years not only on learning technique, but they also have to discover their own dance during this time. During this time followers (mostly) just enjoy the leaders dance, and how their technique makes that possible.
Later leaders can just incrementally hone and improve what they are doing, and they are ok. For followers you get a big hurdle at the years 3-5, when their technique and movement skills are in place, and they have to discover their dance. There is much less support for them than for leaders, and it often ends up being extremely frustrating, and a lot of followers drop out or start feeling that following is pointless at that time. I don't know if it is much of a comfort, but i can almost guarantee that your wife will become unhappy with tango in a few years. There is a "dance hell" for everybody, it just comes at different times. I think the followers "advanced dancer hell" is much worse than the leaders "beginner hell".


Active Member
I would think that if you take a class and practice with her once a week, she'd have plenty of time to bring up any problems she had with your dance. Next time you're in a position to give each other feedback, bring it up. "I noticed last time we danced at the milonga, you seemed distracted. Is there anything wrong?"

It's possible that since she's gone "tango crazy" and is really throwing herself into it, she's getting good very quickly. She knows you're doing the best you can so she doesn't bring it up, but isn't good at hiding her frustration during while dancing. In either case, the solution is the same: ask her about it next chance you get.

One thing NOT to do is ask her to dance less because you can't dance as much. That will just cause resentment.

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