The Art of a follower in Argentine Tango..!

I have been chatting with friends and students of mine and thought I should put an article together with what we came up this is for all dear followers!!!

To all dear Tangueras!

Have you ever been out in a milonga and felt like this:

Are you thinking:
“I don't know, I feel bored” or
“You know, it is the energy in the milonga” or
“It really depends on who is going” or
“After dancing with some of these people I feel that my level is dropping” or “where did all the good dancers go?”

Have you ever thought you might be Tango depressed? (The more I think about it, the more I believe this might actually be a medical term...haha)
Jokes aside, it happens to everyone, you are not the only one and plus it is not just you being, sad or unmotivated or uninspired, there are some valid reasons why you are feeling like that..!

Let’s assume for the sake of this article that all of the above and twice as more are true..!
That would mean that you have spent all this time doing something that bores you, in places that are not to your liking, with people you don't necessarily like and although you are dancing, despite all odds, you are getting worse!!!

Then why are you still dancing Tango?
The moment of crisis! TANGO CRISIS!!!
"Why am I still doing this dance? Why take classes? Why practice? Why even sacrifice my night for a milonga?"

And yet here you are!
Which, means you don’t need me or anyone, to tell you why you need to take classes, or to prove to you that it is worth going to milongas, or to talk about the importance of practice..?
You know all that already, what you don’t know is how to get out of this Tango- crisis cycle!

So let's take a step back from all this and see the bigger picture here. It must feel disappointing, frustrating, tiring, maybe even embarrassing sometimes to put yourself out there and not get what you need or even what you deserve, so would it really help now if I told you that the more you practice, the better you will become and therefore your experience in the milonga will be better..?

NO! It wouldn’t help!
Firstly, because you know that already!
Secondly, you see no point in practising, because you feel you have already invested too much time and this is not enjoyable, so what’s the point?

So before we get to what to do, let's identify some mental icebergs we--followers--have entering the milonga.

1)”If I get better, I will get more dances”.

This is not necessarily true!
For various reasons... the basic ones, firstly everyone perceives “better” in a different way. Secondly, the better you get, the higher your expectations and thirdly the milonga is not a competition is a social gathering so whether people will decide to spend 12mins, with you right in their face, has to do with many other things aside from your level.
Bottom line, get better for yourself not in order to get more dances!

2) “I am in a milonga, I HAVE to dance”

The milonga is a party, you shouldn’t feel obligated to do anything!!! So you dance because you want to and if that is not happening use your time there, the same way you would in bar with friends. Chat with people, enjoy your drink, listen to the music etc...
It is like going out at a bar with some friends, hoping that you will meet someone nice at the bar. It doesn’t mean that you HAVE to meet every random person in the bar and it certainly doesn’t mean that you will. So you go there ready to enjoy yourself, to chat with your friends, being open to engage in conversation with different people and that might take you somewhere or not, but no matter what happens you don’t stop having a life.
Same thing in a milonga!
Go in with an open heart and an open mind, engage in conversation, smile, get to know people, if that leads to a dance that is great if not it is ok! Make the best out if it! A milonga is a club with Tango music basicly!

3) “Nobody is asking me to dance, therefore I suck!” or “Good dancers never dance with me, so I suck!”

It is terrible to feel left out, to watch people enjoying their dances, while you are sitting there waiting. It doesn’t mean though that you suck! Instead of letting these thoughts take over your mind, as you are sitting there in your seat, take the lead, go where the fish are...for example the bar..! And again talk to people! Most of the times people won’t ask you to dance because they don’t know you, and the more you distance yourself from them the worse it is. People do not always choose by level!!!

4) “Nobody is asking me to dance, they are so unwelcoming!”

It is terrifying going to a milonga, and especially going to a milonga alone. Everyone seems strange, that is expected but also scary, but it is just like the song: “People are strange when you're a stranger”. Most people in the milongas are wonderful people, you only need to give them the time and the space to get to know you and you to know them! Make yourself feel at ease and then people will respond to that!

So what we really have is a combination of dance and social skills and both need time and practice of course to blossom.

We are looking at a person who is getting better because she/he loves Tango, who dances only because she/he loves to, who feels confident enough to improvise while dancing and who brings in a beautiful personality! Who doesn’t want to dance with this person? Who doesn’t want to be with that person?

So what do we do..?

  1. DO NOT even think about practicing to start! NO practice on day one! You don’t have the motivation yet, and motivation doesn’t come from outside it comes from within. You need to feel good to start practicing.

  2. Choose pieces of music that you like. They don’t all need to be Tangos, though I would suggest that at least some of them are. You might feel that this music doesn’t speak to you, but just like people you need to get to know it first! Plus it is, what is playing in the milongas...But to start maybe out of 5 songs maybe 2 are traditional Tango, 2 are Nuevo tango and 1 is alternative music with a steady beat.

  3. Set aside some free time for Tango in your day. Be realistic here, not more than 30mins!

  4. Before that times comes bring out your best of shoes!!!haha
    So if your Tango-time is right after work, bring the shoes out before you leave in the morning or the night before, so when you get home you can’t escape it!

  5. DANCE!!! Wear those beautiful shoes and just DANCE! By the wall, by the kitchen table, a counter, a windowsill anything that works for you! Play with it! Don’t practice! Shut down your mind and just experience your body moving to the music! No embellishments, no choreography, no intricate steps, only pure movement!!! DANCE DANCE DANCE!!!

  6. Get into this with a child’s mind. Children don’t look at a video before they go to the playground, they just go for it. If you have come this far, I am sure you have enough to dance, so do NOT watch videos on improvisation or on Tango technique or anything for that matter. You are not trying to see how it should look on the outside but how it should feel on the inside! Believe me it is instant satisfaction after going past this fearful stage of the first dance. Instant satisfaction!!!

  7. Reward yourselves at the end..! Oh! this is the best part! Find something that you like to do and tell yourself you are going to get that at the end of your dance session. Like a nice bubble bath!!! Or a glass of wine--if the time is appropriate of course..hah!
    Or an improvisation video like this one:
  8. Try to be consistent, make it your thing, without making it a routine. Change your music, use shoes or don’t use shoes. Do whatever pleases you! Find yourself in Tango!!! And if you saw the video above say to yourself: If she can do it so can I!!!

  9. After a few times--how long, depends on you. Don’t rush yourself--you can start adding a few practice minutes to this. Maybe 10-15mins of working on basic things.

  10. Most importantly do what most people forget about, while trying to get better...HAVE FUN!!!!
How do I know this works..?
Well I do it every day! And yes, some days I feel great from the very first moment and other days I am on the verge of going for coffee but then I dance and it all gloomy thoughts go away. The satisfaction is instant and you just want to dance more and more!
After that, you really want to practice. You practice for those three minutes of instant satisfaction, those three minutes of freedom, those Queenie moments of Tango bliss! You practice for YOU!!!

Plus, if you are wondering if leaders will notice any of this, this is a quote I read in a blog this week: “Ladies must learn to improvise or else it is like dancing with dead weight..!”...Mmmm.. A bit of a strong statement, not really my style, but to the point and most importantly it means that leaders will be able to notice the difference.

Chrisa Assis
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