Argentine Tango: My Take On “Do One Thing That Scares You”

August 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

Photo by ro_buk

Ben Casnocha’s post on his adventures in hip-hop dance class inspired me to write a little on my own dance-dare experience, six months into starting it.

In my case, Argentine Tango was that challenge that I threw down at myself. I have never participated in any dance lesson before, and to this day, stepping into anything that resembles a dance studio still intimidates me.

Tango is a play on opposites. A dance where the man leads and invites the lady into a sequence of actions. To do this effectively, the man needs to have the knowledge and ability to lead on the dancefloor- walking, carrying himself, navigating the dancefloor, being unambiguous in his directions. These are all disciplines to be mastered.

But tango isn’t merely a science where one follows rules and formulas to guarantee results. Tango, with its rich culture is an improvisational dance, where the element of joy and passion is evoked through the connection created each time a man and a woman embrace, and dance.

Here are some of my observations of this social game:

There are Practicas, and there are Milongas. The former are places where aspiring Argentine Tango dancers work out dance moves with others. The latter are social dance events originating in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where music is played by a DJ throughout the night, men ask women for a dance. Usually, three to five songs of a kind are played in a row (this is called tanda) followed by a short musical break (called cortina) to clear the dancefloor and facilitate partner changes.

Practicas: There are some followers that you’ll find helpful to dance with, hospitable to your intentions (if they are kindly), and a small handful that simply want ‘the perfect dance’. The latter, if you’re not able to give them that, you’ll find yourself in a deeper state of confusion, if you’re not already so.

Milongas: My humble experience on the dancefloor tells me I “choke” whenever I attempt to dance with someone I perceive to have much more experience that I have (aka burning up the dancefloor). It is not so much of how she dances with me, but psychologically I’ve already given up, to play the role of

“I am the inferior dancer therefore I will commit the mistakes that an inferior dancer makes.”

Semi pro and professional tennis players will find this mental state familiar, where you’re matched up against a player thats much higher ranked that you are. Roger Federer’s dominance in the 2007-2008 ATP season can be partly attributed to this psychological advantage he had over nearly everyone else he was up against.

The key to overcoming the choke, it seems, beyond picking up experience with such situations, is to give up the notion of ranking, or who’s the better player / dancer.

Practicas: It is often the fault of the leader if your follower is unable to get what your intentions are. This isn’t an assault to the leader’s ego, or simply “being the gentleman”, but a practical solution to solve issues on the dancefloor while dancing. By taking up responsibility for any mistakes you:

a. Save time trying to find out “whose fault was it?”

b. Forces you to seek for a solution to the problem at hand beyond you and your follower

c. Gives you more control over your own progress and learning in this intricate social game

d. makes you look a little less of a schmuck (if most leaders aren’t already)
Milongas: If you find yourself making a mistake, you just move on and keep quiet without saying a word. Hollywood isn’t to be trusted in its interpretation of life and culture, but I guess the line that Al Pacino uttered in “Scent of A Lady” was true after all.

“From women,” Graham Greene said, “one learns about oneself.”

Here’s to doing one thing each day that scares you.


Here’s Ben Casnocha’s post on his hip-hop adventures


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