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Why leading Is *not* more difficult than following

posted Apr 20, 2018, 11:33 PM by Sophia de Lautour   [ updated Apr 21, 2018, 12:06 AM ]


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A common question that my students have asked over the years is -  which is more difficult - leading or following?  This thought provoking post from Joy in Movement posits that it is not...

I hear this statement all the time: “Leading is more difficult than following.” Sometimes apologetically, sometimes with the qualifier, “but just in the beginning and intermediate stages,” but always with the bottom line that leading intrinsically requires more skill, more thought, and more attention than following.

This might be okay if it were true, but it isn’t true, and this mistaken belief distorts the true nature of leading and following and leads to negative effects in our dance partnerships and in our communities.So why is leading actually not more difficult? If leading is not more difficult, why does it seem to be? And what can we do to restore the balance?

Why Leading Is Not More Difficult Than Following

When it comes to dancing skills, we tend to focus on the big four: vocabulary, musicality, improvisation, and floorcraft. But we often think of these skills in leader’s terms, ignoring the different but equally challenging skills that following requires. While leaders have to learn more skills of initiation, here are three areas where followers have to do more:

1. Followers have to master more vocabulary than leaders do.

Because leaders are responsible for deciding which vocabulary to use and when, they have to think ahead and be decisive. But it is precisely this decision-making responsibility that gives them the freedom to only lead a select set of vocabulary that they feel comfortable with. Followers, on the other hand, have to be prepared to follow a wide variety of vocabulary, a sum of the vocabulary of all of the leaders they dance with, including vocabulary they may be completely unfamiliar with.

2. Followers have more movement, balance, and timing demands.

Due to the structure of most dances, followers tend to move more and execute more pivots, turns, and spins. This, coupled with the fact that they are fulfilling someone else’s vocabulary ideas rather than generating their own, means that their balance and timing are put to much greater tests. Leaders who try or learn following tend to be amazed at how much more physically demanding this role is. The spirit if not the literal meaning of an old saying applies here: Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels.

3. Followers must develop more skills of inhibition and interpretation.

Followers must artfully balance two seemingly opposing skills: the ability to actively move themselves through space to the music and the ability to inhibit many of their own movement and musical preferences, tendencies, and desires. We often translate this for followers as “Don’t think”, but leaders who take up following quickly learn that this requires highly active listening and very concrete skills. Followers must seamlessly interpret and execute another person’s ideas in time and space as if they were their own.

Why Leading Seems More Difficult

In the beginning stages of learning, leading does indeed have a steeper learning curve. We see this steeper learning curve and quickly conclude that leading is inherently more difficult. But there are three hidden reasons influencing this learning curve that have nothing to do with the inherent difficulty of leading:

1. Men are less likely to have dance experience and more likely to have insecurities about dancing.

The primary reason the learning curve for leaders is steeper is not because leading is inherently more difficult, but because it is men who primarily lead. And many men have to overcome something that women usually do not: a lifetime of cultural baggage that has discouraged, ridiculed, and/or prohibited expressive movement such as dancing in the name of “masculinity.” Countless messages, both explicit and implicit, can accumulate over a lifetime to create a significant set of physical, mental, and emotional setbacks that make learning how to dance more challenging, regardless of the role being learned. This isn’t true for everyone, of course. But it is something to consider when it comes to evaluating learning curves.

2. We have a cultural attitude that leading is more important, more involved, and more difficult than following.

In our culture being a leader is considered important and valuable, while being a follower is considered weak and undesirable. This cultural attitude inserts itself into the dance world, creating that reality: We give leaders all the focus in classes, which leads to them experiencing a disproportionate share of the worries and concerns, as well as the credit. Meanwhile, we tell followers not to worry or think, or we don’t address them at all, zapping them of the power they can bring to the dance partnership. Both of these things lead to a sense of difficulty in leading and a sense of passivity or even laziness in following. This cultural bias also contributes to the subject of the next point:
3. In classes we challenge leaders in their primary skills but don’t challenge followers in their primary skills.

Because we see leading as more difficult and more important, we teach in a way that caters to leaders. Many if not most classes focus on a single piece of vocabulary, which creates a real-world situation for the leader but not for the follower. Since followers are not being challenged in the three skill areas identified above, they appear to be far more successful in class than they actually are in the real world of social dancing, reinforcing the misconception that following is easier than leading.

The result?

Because of these three things, not only does leading seem more difficult, it becomes more difficult. Our mindset creates the reality that we see every day in our classes and communities:
  • Beginning leaders become tense and overstressed, while beginning followers become passive and understimulated.
  • Social dance partnerships become imbalanced, leading to overactive leaders and underactive followers.
  • Followers may tend to stop attending classes and developing their dance past a certain level. (Sometimes this tendency is counteracted by a surplus of women in the community, leading them to study more rather than less in order to compete for dances.)
  • There are quite a few followers who study leading seriously but very few leaders who study following seriously, leading to a great skill disparity in those who explore the opposite role.
  • Different standards exist for leaders who teach solo or are the primary teacher in a duo compared to followers who do the same. Leaders who teach are far more valued than followers who teach. Leader teachers are far less skilled in follower skills than vice versa, further reinforcing the lack of follower attention.

How to Make It True:
Balancing Instruction Between the Two Roles

Teachers have a tremendous influence on how their students, and therefore their communities, understand and experience leading and following. Here are six ways teachers can encourage a fuller and more balanced appreciation of both roles:

1. Equalize feedback for the two roles.

Pay attention to the amount and the order of feedback provided in class: Give leaders and followers equal amounts of feedback, and don’t always give leaders feedback first, as order implies greater importance or priority. Oftentimes we think that leaders need instruction first or most because they initiate, but Lindy teacher Nathan Bugh has questioned that logic:

When it comes to learning and teaching lead/follow skills, the follower’s technique is a much higher priority than the leader’s. Her dancing ability, her awareness, strength, balance, use of the floor, etc. are the elements from which spring her following ability AND the leader’s leading ability. She is the beginning of the logic in the dance. In class, the followers empower the leaders to learn. Leaders judge their progress according to the results that their partners embody. Followers are the focus of the lead/follow process, and they have to follow before the leaders can lead.

2. Balance active and passive verbs for both roles.

Balance the usual focus or tendency of each role by using more active verbs for followers and more passive verbs for leaders. In other words, emphasize the leading aspect of following and the following aspect of leading. When I balance my language this way, I notice a far greater degree of connection between partners. Some examples? In my classes, I frequently coach leaders to “follow the follower into the step.” In one tango class I took with Momo Smitt and Courtney Moore, Courtney encouraged followers to feel the leader’s lead and then “take him there.”

3. Avoid teaching invariable patterns that don’t challenge followers.

As mentioned in #3 of the previous section, many classes teach a single static piece of vocabulary, which doesn’t challenge followers to inhibit, to interpret, or to respond to different balance and timing demands. Teaching simple and manageable variations of a movement or its timing or spatial parameters is essential for followers to develop skills of inhibition and interpretation rather than anticipating. It is also a more effective way to teach leaders to truly lead. Framing variations as a challenge for followers can take the pressure off leaders and activate followers while developing valuable skills for both.

4. Use exercises where the follower determines the timing or movement.

In one of their beginner tango workshops, Homer and Cristina Ladas did an exercise where they taught followers how to do a cross with their feet on their own and then had them decide when to do it with their partner as a deliberate “mistake.” Leaders had to feel when the cross happened and adjust to accompany the follower into and out of it. When I started using this simple exercise before teaching the full cross as a led-and-followed movement, I noticed the cross was learned more quickly and effectively by both leaders and followers. Leaders listened to their followers, leading the cross more organically rather than mechanically. Followers were much more active in establishing their balance and timing within the framework given by the leader.

Exercises like this emphasize the following aspect of leading and the leading aspect of following (see #2 above) in a very physical way. They also balance the responsibility and skill required by the two roles, reducing stress on the leaders and empowering the followers while more effectively developing the skills of both.

5. Watch for common statements about power and responsibility.

Besides not being true, many common statements we hear in class or on the dance floor contribute to misconceptions about the relative difficulty and importance of the two roles:

“It’s always the leader’s fault” may seem like a gallant statement, but it implies the leader is in control and the follower has no responsibility or power.

“Don’t think, just follow” is both confusing and belittling, encouraging followers to be passive and underplaying the level of skill required to follow well. We could equally say “Don’t think, just lead,” as dancers in both roles need to develop the ability to feel and move rather than get into their heads too much. But with both roles it’s best to emphasize specific ways of developing the ability to feel and move rather than issuing vague instructions that are more confusing than enlightening.

“Leaders are responsible for floorcraft” could be more accurately stated as “Leaders are more consciously responsible for floorcraft”, as the follower’s ability to inhibit, to interpret, and to precisely control the timing, balance, size, and shape of their movement is a major factor in the couple exhibiting good floorcraft. However, while either statement could technically be true, it’s better to focus on specific skills instead of making sweeping statements that have no practical value and only serve to reinforce harmful stereotypes about the roles.

6. Demand more following skills from our leader teachers.

There is a double standard when it comes to teaching both roles: Leaders with little skill in following are completely accepted while followers with an intermediate to advanced level of skill in leading find themselves not being taken as seriously as solo teachers or as primary teachers in a duo. Followers who teach usually feel a great sense of responsibility to study the leading role, and this isn’t a bad thing. But leaders who teach need to step up and take more responsibility for studying and developing their skills in the follower role. Students also need to rethink the subconscious double standards they may hold, which may deny opportunity to teachers of a particular gender or role who may be equally effective.

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Learner's Milonga - what's that?

posted Dec 7, 2017, 6:32 PM by Sophia de Lautour   [ updated Dec 12, 2017, 5:05 PM ]

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pic by Viet Nguyen

One of my passions is bringing new people into tango. For the past eighteen years I have been dedicated to this goal. I absolutely love the way social tango dancing can be life changing and transformative; all whilst being so much fun! 

This post is being written on the eve of SoTango fifth Learner's Milonga this year! My co-teacher Pablito and I are loving how this concept is encouraging more new dancers to attend milongas around Sydney and even tango festivals out of Sydney!

SoTango students enjoying dancing at their first tango festival (Bundanoon)

So here's my thoughts on / background to our Learner's Milongas...

Intent

SoTango's Learner's Milongas are designed for people who are experiencing one or more of the following:
  • Not feeling confident about dancing at milongas
  • Sitting too long at milongas 
  • Not getting dances with the people they’d really like to dance with
The Learner's Milonga provides and ideal opportunity for people to dance with a range of dancers (from beginner to experienced dancers) to improve their tango skills and confidence.

Background
Since its inception in 2013 SoTango has regularly arranged student outings to milongas and practicas around Sydney hosted by different tango schools and Tango Synergy (a not- for-profit association).

While some of our students enjoyed the experience, many found the experience quite daunting, opting for (or delegated to) the role of spectator over that of dancer - even at the Tango Synergy Practica which is a probably the most informal and inclusive of all Sydney's tango events.

Based on this observation, I identified the need for a tango social event that bridged the gap between taking tango lessons and dancing at milongas.

It could be argued that practicas fulfil that need and in one sense they do. Practicas or practilongas (a name we have used for quite a while) certainly help dancers practice moves that they will use in milongas. What they don't do so well is to help people fully acclimatise to the culture and codes of a milonga. Only going to a milonga can really do that. 

The catalyst
At the same time of coming to this realisation, and with beautiful synchronicity, I spotted an announcement of  a Milonga for Learners in Ashfield. The milonga was hosted by my friend  Alejandro Ibarcena of Urban Tango who (like Pablito and me) is dedicated to introducing new people into tango. Alejandro has been hosting such milongas around Sydney for some time now.

Consequently, SoTango's next student outing was to this milonga. Our students all raved about the experience and it was the first time I saw every one attending from our group dancing a lot and feeling comfortable dancing tango socially. This was a light bulb moment for me. I could see the Learner's Milonga concept worked!
Alejandro's event was thus the catalyst to the name of Learner's Milonga. Originally we were going to entitle our event as a Beginner's Milonga, but the descriptor of learner takes away the baggage and subjectivity associated with that of beginner

There really is such a divergence of opinion on what it means to be a beginner in tango. At one end of the scale there are those who (demonstrating the Dunning-Kruger Effect in action) feel qualified to teach after a few months of lessons! Then at the other end of the scale there are those who modestly still call themselves beginners after many years of dedicated training and kilometres on the dance floor…it’s a very subjective title.

Essentially we who love tango are all learners - if we believe that there is always something new to learn in tango, and that there is indeed!

Here, however the Learner's Milonga is particularly dedicated, as mentioned above, to people who are already taking tango lessons but not feeling confident to attend milongas. 

As far as I am aware there are now at least two milongas dedicated to learners in Sydney: 
  • SoTango's in Bondi Junction, which occurs every 2 months on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. 
  • Urban Tango's Milonga for Learners occurring on the 4th Saturday night of each month in the Blue Mountains.
It's only a matter of time before more Learner's Milongas pop up around the world - as the concept gains traction!

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Do you have the courage to live a passionate life?

posted Aug 20, 2017, 6:30 AM by Sophia de Lautour   [ updated Aug 20, 2017, 6:30 AM ]

Sharing this great post by Marlena Rich. Read here: ' Step Into the Mystery of Argentine Tango'

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It takes a while to recover from a tanda like that

posted Jun 26, 2017, 10:53 PM by Sophia de Lautour

The inspiration

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Painting of El Beso - by Michael Fisher

'In the tiny fish-bowl world of El Beso, the smallest gestures can assume enormous importance. Contacts between men and women are largely reduced to, on the one hand, the subtlest of silent mimes, the cross-room eye contact, the looks and half smiles and nods as decorous and yet as fraught with meaning as the gestures of characters in a Henry James novel, hinting at passion and betrayal in the way they pass a teacup, in a seemingly innocent remark about the weather, in the way they notice a tiny crack in a bowl on a mantelpiece. The conspiratorial raised eyebrow that says "I'll be yours for this Laurenz tanda, if you'll be mine."

And then there are the strange, diametrically opposite interactions that happen between us on the dance floor. We intersperse snatches of often very trivial small talk between songs with holding each other in our arms like lovers and moving, intimately physically connected, together to the accompaniment of often passionate and romantic, intensely beautiful and moving music. There is a huge and sometimes awkward gulf between what we say to each other and how we communicate on a physical level. I often wish we didn't talk between songs, but I do it because it is expected, a convention which is so firmly established that breaking it feels like a strong statement.

And, in that tiny microcosm of a world where every gesture is magnified, sometimes magic really seems to happen. Sometimes, you don't say a word between songs because you don't want to break the spell. Sometimes, your bodies seem to fit together perfectly, conjoined twins floating in embryonic fluid, long-term lovers well past the first fervour of passion suddenly rediscovering each other and feeling your bodies infused with a long, deep history, a profound carnal knowledge. Sometimes, you are aware of the whole of the other person from their head nestled next to yours to their weight being released through to the floor at each step and the music feels physical, it's not coming through the speakers, the source is not Lucía up in her eyrie, our deus ex machina of music, nor is it Laurenz's fat phalanges dancing over the buttons, confidently familiar with each one by feel, by the way his own playing has worn them down over the years, like a beloved lipstick reapplied many times that has been moulded into the shape of a pellet that perfectly fits a pouting mouth. Our twin sets of lungs like double reeds. Our bodies twisting and rolling against each other, connected from head to lower belly. With no more need than Laurenz had to think about positions and movements and where to place ourselves, thinking only about the music, flesh made music and music made flesh in the miraculous transubstantiations of our dance.

It can take a while to recover from a tanda like that.'

posted 27 January 2015

It takes three (or four) to tango

posted Jun 26, 2017, 7:42 PM by Sophia de Lautour   [ updated Aug 21, 2017, 4:56 PM ]

        
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In the old cliche
'It takes two to tango" the role of the music is ignored. The music is the ultimate leader in tango.  If therefore takes three to dance tango - or four if we consider social tango dancing and the impact of others on the floor. 

To illustrate this relationship I like to use the analogy of the earth (leader) and moon (follower) revolving around the sun (music) and the space between (others dancers)

The earth and moon both orbit around the sun. 
Guided by the music the leader and follower create their movement. The music enlightens and enlivens their movement. Inspired by the energy of the music the dancers respond with their unique physical expression, but always within the parameters of the music's rhythm, melody and mood.

The earth and moon are affected by each's gravitational pull
The leader's and follower's movement is dependent on and influenced by each other:

"If the Earth and Moon did not exert a force on each other they could each move independently of the other, but because they do exert a force on each other, their velocities are changed according to the magnitude and direction of each force and their respective masses. Since each is pulled toward the other, the Earth is pulled toward the Moon and therefore a little away from the path it would otherwise follow around the Sun in the absence of the Moon, and the Moon is pulled toward the Earth and therefore a little away from the independent path it would otherwise follow around the Sun in the absence of the Earth. If one or the other did not exist, the remaining object would orbit the Sun in an orbit nearly identical to the path the pair currently follows around the Sun, but since both exist they each follow a path that is roughly the same as their imaginary independent paths, but not quite the same paths as a result of their interaction with each other." 1

In tango a leader / follower simultaneously receives two 'pulls' - the pull of the music and that of their partner. 'Pull' here refers to a force that can suggest, open up or close off movement possibilities. The partner's pull is based on their position in space, velocity and direction.

A tango dancer needs to be able to stay simultaneously connected to the the music and ones partner.  S/he must find a way to synthesise both influences. From this synthesis comes the dancer's unique self expression.  Failure to do so will lead to loss of connection (orbit) with either the music or partner. The dance will be incomplete.

As suggested earlier, in social tango dancer there is a fourth element - the other dancers on the floor - the 'space between'.  It's a very dynamic space, the presence of which can greatly impact on the dance, depending  on how many 'others' there are!  A dancer's moves will be constrained by other dancers. When there is no room to move forward the leader may suggest the circular, spatially economic move of a giro. The follower, aware of space limits, will keep her footwork as small as compact as possible avoiding any temptation for kicks and flicks! When space opens up on a crowded floor the leader may be irresistibly drawn to take a spatially indulgent 'caminata'2.  

Not wanting to get too Newtownian, this post does not intend to reduce tango to classical mechanics. Tango is so much more than objects moving in space reacting to other objects. Tango is essentially the art of connection and an act of communion. That said, to be able to dance tango soulfully and pleasurably a practical understanding of the mechanics of tango is an essential prerequisite. 

In tango there is a complex alchemical interplay between leader and follower connecting and communing with the music and the other. From this alchemy the dynamism and magic of tango is forged!

1 C Seligman online astronomy course
2 'caminata': tango walk

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Why tango is growing in popularity worldwide...

posted Jun 20, 2017, 3:24 PM by Sophia de Lautour   [ updated Aug 10, 2017, 3:15 PM ]

Sharing this article which caught my eye today.  Have highlighted some of my favourite quotes from the article.

If this post tempts you to try out tango - go to SoTango's  free introductory tango lessons in North Sydney on Sep 4 and Bondi on September 6.


Why is Argentine tango so popular?
By James Kong March 26, 2012 02:21 BST

Tango is like playing chess, having a work-out, being on a date, travelling through space and time, discovering a foreign culture, going to a concert, and exploring one's creativity... all at the same time. Does it sound complicated?

Some may be surprised to read however, that it is much less complicated in the inside than it looks like on the outside - to summarise how it feels in just a few words, it is best described as having a warm conversation with very close friends. The biggest misconception in tango is that the man 'decides' and the lady 'executes' - in fact, the man's role is to make the lady shine on the dance floor, so all his attention is put towards this goal. It is therefore a truly selfless act.

Tango being a partners' dance, it involves a leader (usually the man), and a follower (usually the lady). So, what does dancing tango mean for each of them?

From the man leading...
The leader's main responsibility is to listen to the music and plan steps according to the emotions the music stirs in him. As tango maestros put it: "Music goes in my ears, is filtered through my heart, and comes out through my feet". It is said that when talking, unspoken body signs are at least as important as what is actually being said. In tango, communication goes 100% through one's body. The leader will therefore engage into a warm 'conversation' (using figures) with his partner. The impression he is also playing chess comes from the fact his environment is constantly changing: other couples are moving, music is accelerating, his partner did not understand his latest step, and so on. So, he needs to constantly adapt.
This is why gentlemen in management positions (or wanting to develop their management skills) love tango so much: it is the ultimate test for them. Being decisive, innovative, clear, and all this while being gentle and inspirational. Sounds familiar?



To the lady following...
Her role is far from being easier than his: she needs to listen carefully and understand the steps planned by the leader. For this to happen, she needs to be quick to respond, fully concentrated, and to trust her leader completely - or 'surrender' as some put it. She also needs to be 'light' (without trying to second guess what the leader is up to). But that is not all: if she barely executes the steps without interpreting them, it will soon become a bit dull. Thus, she needs to put all her heart and creativity, bring her own personality to the table and fuel the conversation, inspire her partner and contribute to the dialogue. So that, if a step is lead twice, the outcome never looks the same. As tango maestros put it, "The woman is not just a follower, she is to whom the tango is dedicated".

How does she do that? Adornments ("adornos" in Spanish - these little movements used to embellish the lady's dance) are amongst the most important part of the follower's arsenal to express herself. They need to be precise, quick, in tune with the music and the lead, without getting in the way of what the leader has planned.

As Nathalie, the founder of Tanguito, an Argentine tango school in Angel argues, they need to say something: "When drawing a lapiz (circle on the floor), mean it. When rubbing your foot against the leader's leg, mean it. There's nothing worse than half baked adornos, thrown in hastily just for the sake of it". A good follower is therefore someone who inspires the tango dialogue, with style, personality and technique.

... truly dancing together
While both roles appear very different, they share one thing in common: respect. Respect of oneself, of one's partner and of the dance floor. That means to forgive these parts of the tango 'conversation' that don't feel right, and show consideration to the other couples dancing around. That also includes showing respect to the music: in other words, to resist the temptation of throwing in impressive moves regardless of the tune. When all these ingredients are put together, it creates an exhilarating feeling of freedom and togetherness.

Because Argentine tango is so rewarding, it now attracts a new crowd to the dance. Young urban professionals are increasingly drawn to tango, and are often surprised to discover that tango helps them bring out the best of themselves - because tango relentlessly questions and challenges. In her group tango classes in London, Nathalie encourages both men and women to try leading and following. It's not surprising that this is how tango has always been transmitted, as you can never better understand your partner than when you've experienced things from their perspective.

Click here for the original post.

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Reproducing this article in its entirety, as links tend to get lost in cyberspace over time.  

8 Tango Myths Busted!

posted Feb 16, 2017, 5:07 PM by Sophia de Lautour   [ updated Sep 21, 2017, 12:09 AM ]

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Tango newbies, are faulty assumptions stopping you from taking your first tango lesson?

From my experience of teaching tango for over 17 years - these are the most common myths people have about tango...

1. It's full of complicated choreographies.
2. It's a ‘macho’ dance, with men leading and women following submissively.
3. It's a dance you have to start young (with all its kicks and flicks)
4. It's a very serious and melancholic dance.
5. It's “just a dance”.
6. It's a sensual, erotic dance (with shades of S & M)
7. It's that dance where the woman wears fishnets and a red dress (with optional red rose between the teeth) and the man a black suit. 
8. It requires a partner to learn how to dance.

Absolutely none of the above are true!

These and other 'alternative facts' about tango are debunked in the following article by the London based-tango school Tango Space10 Tango Myths Busted -   Click on the link for the article.

Thank you Tango Space for your work in revealing the true tango - the tango that aficionados all over the world are so passionate about! 

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The reason you don't take your first tango lesson...

posted Feb 6, 2017, 3:00 PM by Sophia de Lautour   [ updated Sep 21, 2017, 12:43 AM ]

...or don't practice your tango between classes...it's not lack of motivation.

In this TED talk (one of the 20 most popular TED talks ever!) Mel Robbins, a former criminal defence attorney turned on-air commentator exposes the myth of motivation.

Mel also explains how to make the micro-decisions that will help you to step out of your comfort zone - the pre-requisite action to any worthwhile goal.

Mel abides by the '5 Second Rule' (not the one about food dropped on the floor!).
You can read more about that approach here.

"So here's the one-liner definition of the 5 second rule: If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill the idea."

So when you hesitate to take that first tango class, do your tango drills, dance at your first Practica or Milonga, or perform tango in public...

Don't hesitate!
Take action within 5 seconds.
Be aware that your mind, if given time, will always find ways to stop you from taking action; bringing up a tonne of reasons why you shouldn't act (such as the classic one for Sydney-siders - bad weather!).

Just take action! 
Do something towards your desired goal - book that class, put on your dance shoes, or whatever else you need to do to get started!
Go do it!

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About 'levels' in tango...

posted Feb 3, 2017, 3:36 PM by Sophia de Lautour   [ updated Feb 3, 2017, 3:45 PM ]

Sharing this post by Chicho Frumboli (a tango pioneer and one of the most inspirational tango dancers in the world) translated by Julia Shiptsova (December 28, 2016)

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A message from Chicho Frumboli. Always fascinating reading that makes me think! I've tried my best translating, please forgive the imperfections! 

“There is nothing worse in tango than believing that we dance well and have a “level”. A boleo, a sacada, a gancho, a colgada executed more or less in the rhythm, and we already feel that we are “experts”, “critics”, “professionals”…. Tango has “this” that for my generation is something new. 

My generation worked every day to understand, grow, and improve, because the information wasn’t as clear as it is for today’s generations. To investigate, discover, get together with friends to practice what we have studied and learned in a class…. it all seems as if it were from another age…..

It’s not easy to keep “motivation” in any part of life. Routine is a pattern to follow “comfortably” for some. For others routine can be crushing and destructive in terms of learning or creativity. 

Some leaders and followers say it’s hard to find a partner to take classes with or to dance in milongas, someone “who would be at my level” as they describe it, but have they ever questioned if they themselves have that “level”?? 

I say this because of the competition that exists today. When learning tango, we have to think in being open and available just as much as in listening to our own bodies and in controlling certain moves that we maybe never thought we could get, in learning about the dynamics, the musicality, the syncopation, the dialog. 

The technique is the same for men and women, the only difference is that one leads and the other follows. However, I see that often men focus on the movement, without thinking what they express with it, a lot of times those movements have no content and appear more like a monologue that doesn’t include their partner. Hiding behind the movement impairs our ability to commit to the emotions or to another human being in that moment. 

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And women want to be led that boleo that they have perfected and also to be able to connect…. But what if the Wi-Fi isn’t working well? What if this time the Bluetooth is failing us? What do we do??? Abandon it all???

After working for Tango for over 20 years, investigating and creating ever since discovering it, I can tell that my technique is based on “giving and receiving”, listening and responding, on having a dialogue… those who are familiar with it know that it’s what it is. 

There are not many generous people in tango. 

What does the “LEVEL” mean? Maybe it’s something that allows us to be a part? To belong to a select group of people who woke up one day and decided that they can convert into critics and look down at others from a different height?? 

Or is it someone who is aware that there is always something to learn and is available to share? 

“Outfits” don’t make one a tanguerO, a “high boleo” doesn’t make one a tanguerA.

What does make us tangueros is the sentiments that we dance and listen to, it’s not only the connection, but also the sentiments for the music, for the shared movement, for the enjoyment of a tanda, with whomever, without thinking of their LEVEL. 

Learning is a divine state, a beautiful process of exploring. Let’s do it for the tango as the tango has been doing a lot for us. Let’s study it, understand it, take care of it, instead of destroying it with our human banalities.

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Let’s caress, embrace, let’s dance with love. The more we give… the more we will receive…
The trends, the critics, the experts - none of it exists in Tango. Let’s not contaminate it.
I’m waiting for you in the class to enjoy, to have a good time together, and to share with both, MEN and WOMEN, those who would like to keep growing, who feel that Tango keeps “motivating” them, those who would like to be a part and belong to its world, without the limitations. Abrazo!”

Mariano “Chicho” Frumboli"

Here's one of my all-time favourite displays by Chicho and his partner Juana...


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What tango habits would you like to develop in 2016?

posted Jan 11, 2016, 10:48 PM by Sophia de Lautour   [ updated Jan 11, 2016, 10:48 PM ]

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Recently read this excellent blog post by the 'author, thinker and life enthusiast' Mark Manson (is he perhaps related to Marilyn I wonder?) So agree with Manson that goals are over-rated. What's more important to personal success is the development of good habits. 

My purpose of writing this short post is both to etch this message into my own mindset, and to share it more widely because I think it's a wonderful message for the start of 2016 when so many of us are making our 'New Year's resolutions'. 

While on a catamaran in the middle of Sydney's glorious harbour a friend asked our intimate group of merry makers what our resolutions were. The boat's skipper replied (I thought very wisely at the time) that he did not make resolutions on the eve of a new year. He preferred to formulate them slowly over the course of January. 

I'm following the wise skipper's advice and that of Mark Manson - I'm deciding on what good habits I might like to acquire  this year. 

That begs the question as to what good habits I might like to acquire in terms of my tango development? As anyone who dances knows, the tango journey of improvement never stops, and that's what we love about it!  I am still working on my tango habits resolutions... January is not over yet my friends!

You can read Manson's post here. It's highly recommended it if you're in to improving your life in 2016 and onwards.

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