My advice to beginning Argentine tango dancers

Welcome, new dancers! I love the first day of class, watchingpeople who come in saying, "Well, I've never danced before" or "I can't dance" go out there and DANCE! I've learned a lot about tango and about teaching tango in the thirteen years I have taught it. Here is what I would have focused on when I started if I had known then what I know now:

  1. Have FUN! Many of you came to class with friends or a spouse. You came to enjoy being with other people and learning a new skill. This is not supposed to be the stressful part of your day. Don't worry if you don't have a step perfectly: are you smiling? Do you feel better after class? Did it feel fun, at least for a minute? Good!
  2.  Make mistakes! Experiment! When I learned tango, I took it very seriously and did not have fun. I think I could have learned the same amount faster if I had just relaxed and let myself make mistakes. Tango attracts a lot of detail-oriented, intelligent professionals who are used to being very good at what they do. Learning something new as an adult can be difficult because we don't allow ourselves much space to make mistakes or experiment. You do not have to do tango perfectly in order to have a good dance.
  3. Focus on the fundamentals of tango: breath, energy, connection to another person. The steps are secondary to the exquisiteness of taking another person into your arms, tuning into their breath and energy, and then moving together. Most dance partners do not care how many steps you know. When the dance is over, do you want them to say, "My, s/he knows a lot of steps!" or do you want them to say, "Oh my goodness, that was fabulous! That felt wonderful!" Learn the music. I play many different orchestras during class. When you hear something you really like, ask me what it was.
  4. Listen to different orchestras. Pick one CD, or five songs from iTunes (or go crazy and buy everything in sight). Play that music while you drive, cook, get ready for bed, etc. When those songs are in your body, you will know how to move to them.
  5. Practice! You are lucky to have a practica in Salem. I encourage you to go to practice even with one or two hours of dance under your belt. You will learn much more quickly if you take the risk to dance with other people who look much more advanced. They remember being beginners and would love to dance with you. Try to go at least once or twice during this class, and you will find that it really speeds up how quickly you learn.

THEN, after those things are working, worry about the steps. I will teach you the basic steps during this class. In six weeks, you will have enough to get around the dance floor and have other people know you are doing Argentine tango. You can stop there, or spend a year, five years, or the rest of your life learning tango. It's your choice--or is it? They say that "Tango te agarra o no te agarra" (Tango hooks you in, or it doesn't). See you next week!