Saturday, 21 August 2010


I’ve been semi-retired from the tango scene for a few months now but am slowly coming back into the fold. Here, however, were the reasons for my (mainly) self-inflicted absence:

1) Too many teachers and workshops – I was confusing myself.

2) An altercation with a tanguera whilst doing tango

3) Getting into a rut and going to the same milongas.

4) Having a private lesson and becoming disillusioned with group classes.

5) Needing to spend quality time in my no-tango life and not just popping in for a flying visit

6) Another new job

7) A holiday!

And now some more details:

1. Too many teachers and workshops

Now I love doing workshops with visiting teachers, especially teachers who I’ve watched avidly on youtube but I ended up doing too many, or perhaps I just did them in too short a time-span? Most were useful in some way and I was given lots of tips on both style and technique but it was too much to take in.

I was dancing and suddenly, I heard this voice in my head saying ‘X says, “Keep your weight forwards slightly but make sure you are not leaning on your partner”; ‘Y says, “Don’t use your right hand as a crux to get you around”; ‘Z says, “Step backwards with long legs, leading from beneath your rib cage”; ‘A says, “Your feet are turned out too far”; ‘B says, “Walk lightly but strongly, don’t clunk”; ‘C says'; etc etc.

I froze mid dance-floor (thank god it was a practica) and just said to my partner, ‘I’m sorry, I just can’t dance at present’. I sat down at the side, paralysed by all of the faults that I could detect in my dance. It was too much. I couldn’t absorb it all and it was messing with my head. I didn’t dance for 2 weeks while I calmed down.

2. An altercation with a fellow tanguera

I hate arguing with people. It’s in my DNA. If there is a collision, I’m always likely to apologise even if it’s not my fault. Ha, well, I was practicing and this tanguera and I clashed heels, literally. I will admit upfront, that I should have thought more about my surroundings but I was too caught up in trying to figure out a step (not a worthy excuse I hold my hand up).

Anyway, we clashed.

I apologised profusely (I felt horrific) and she ‘refused my apology’. She said, ‘That was a ridiculous thing to do and I’m not prepared to accept your apology’. I was distraught and apologised again (and again) but she just kept saying she was not prepared to accept it. Eventually, there was nothing else to do but leave her stewing (people had begun to gather round at this stage – embarrassment all around, the teacher was looking distinctly uncomfortable).

I was really upset, especially as this was the first time I had met/seen this woman. It’s not as if we have a history or I regularly bash into her. I went home and cried. I didn’t dance for 3 weeks.

3. The same milongas, the same people

Sure, you want to dance with your friends but the truth is the London tango scene while active is not gargantuous. You’ll always know someone if you go out but I got stuck into my comfort zone. I was going to the same milongas and dancing with the same people – on a loop. I’d forgotten what it was like when I first started, when I used to alternate between about 6 milongas. Now I was going to 2. I was having more nice, comfortable tandas and less unexpected and interesting tandas. There were less highs.

4. Having a private lesson

I actually had two, with different people. I learnt two important things...

a) First class (with a visiting couple): A private class on the basics, shows you that you haven’t been dancing the basics all this time. You’ve been ‘marking them out’. You understand the subtle nuances and realise that so far, it’s all been imitation.

b) Second class (with a teacher whose lessons I’ve been attending for over a year):You realise exactly how ‘little’ attention teachers merit you with in a group class. Unless, you are having serious trouble, you can easily slip under the radar. I was shocked when the teacher asked me to walk as they said they had never seen me walk before! What?! Do we not spend 10 minutess every week, walking up and down as a warm up? Have I never even merited enough attention in that whole year? All this time, I thought I was not having any comments because I had ‘got it’. Now I was given a list of 100 things that needed to be changed!

I don’t mean this to sound bitter and petulant. I was actually pleased to finally, be getting some constructive criticism but it made me wonder how value-wise the last year has been in terms of time and money. Once you reach a certain level, are you actually getting anything from group classes or should I be saving my cash for private classes?

5. My non tango life

This had been neglected for a while and people were beginning to forget my name. My boyfriend was also starting to suffer from my prolonged absences and so I made a concerted effort to spend more time with him, doing stuff he fancied doing – cinema, pub trips, nights in just relaxing (as opposed to bombarding him with tango videos and music – god I was obsessed!)

6. A new job

Yes, another one. I was the newbie yet again and had to put in some extra hours at the start, learning the ropes and making sure I had intelligent conversation for the project meetings (somehow my Top 10 Tango youtube video list was not going to elevate me to the heights of essential team player).

7. Holiday

Yes, I was away for a few weeks on a holiday which linked in with a huge family reunion. Tango was on the back burner.


  1. I think you have given yourself a very hard time. Please ease up. I hate to see people do this to themselves.
    I think you learned a lot in this last year and that is no bad thing. Even if it is what not to do. We all have our journey. I realised very early on that each teacher has their own way and I got confused at one point too. So I chose 1 for regular Monday classes and went to the classes before the milongas to meet people. Eventually, I stopped going to classes altogether and had a couple of private lessons. I used to go out 5-6 nights a week and saw the same people every night! There isn't much to say after you've seen someone 3-4 times in the same week! It did get a bit boring, but it was practice!Once in awhile, there would be someone new to dance with.
    As for the person not accepting your apology, well, she is an idiot and not worth worrying about. You apologised, what else could you do?
    Yes, there is life outside of Tango and Tango will always be there. Your friends may not! I am not dancing much these days, but don't mind as I have a full life. I was already cutting back before I moved out of London.
    A job is important. You need money to go to the milongas and to buy Tango shoes. Family is also important and so are holidays. That is real life. I hope you had a great time.

  2. Totally with you on the amount of real attention women generally get in group classes. As soon as you've stopped having major problems, it's basically just a practice session. That does often have a real value, but it's mainly the value of experience and getting to know people. Your instinct to just stop for a while was probably a fine one, we only have so much bandwidth, it takes time.

  3. Also, private lessons (with the right teacher) certainly can be better value than group classes. They cost about four to six times as much, but you need far fewer of them. For me, for example, it doesn't make sense to take them closer together than four to six weeks, and it doesn't make sense to take them all the time. But how to get the best out of classes and teachers is a big subject. Like Arlene says, I think what works for each of us depends a lot on our goals and personalities. I take private lessons now (although not all the time), but I delayed doing so till quite some time after I'd stopped taking group classes. I only did it when I knew I had something specific I wanted help with. And then I took quite a bit of time choosing who I wanted that help from, and it was not the same person I had previously taken group classes with. Then once I did start, we only worked on one or two things at a time.

    Depending on what you need, there are quite a few things you can do to keep it within reasonable boundaries and prevent it being too maddening an experience. But your mileage may vary ;)

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