Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tango is not Rocket Science

VonBraun's Rocket Science Tango Studios:
Planning the first Volcada to put a woman on the Moon
Please tango teachers!   Will you please stop talking about how difficult tango is?  Tango is NOT rocket science!  The best teachers in all areas of life have inspired me to learn, not overwhelming me with how infinitely deep the subject they are teaching is.

Tango is perhaps the easiest dance on earth
, but with a learning curve that seems to go wonderfully on forever.   One could attempt to claim that all dances are this way, but I can only say that I have never experienced anything like it in all areas of my human experience: Tango is the easiest thing that is delightfully more and more challenging. 

Rocket Scientist tango teachers focus on the "infinity and beyond" of tango rather than how easy it is to start. Oh, and who do teachers often say for whom tango is hardest?  The male tango beginner! This is absolutely not the case.  What a great way to maintain the high "mortality rates" of baby male tango dancers than to say how hard tango is!  The woman with whom the guy came to the dance studio is probably already way ahead of him as a dancer because she took ballet or danced at parties with the other girls as the guys looked on.

The "Hard-as-Hell" School of Thought
Tango is not harder for the man. Tango is equally easy for men and woman!  Stop promoting gender imbalance in tango by this stupid "hard-as-hell" misconception!  The only thing that is hardest for the man is the psychological blocks that certain cultures put in his way, and Rocket Scientist Tango Teachers paradoxically belong to this anti-dance culture.  If nothing else, ladies and gentleman, this is bad business.

A man has the advantage of dancing simply and musically from the start.  Tango is not easier for a man because of navigation issues, but it is not harder than the woman's part. Go ahead and tell the men that it is harder than the woman's part, but remember you are talking to the guy who thought dance was effeminate, that men cannot dance as well as women, that he has two left feet, that he cannot hear the music (as he did so well as a child).  If you belong to the years of tradition of the "hard as hell" school of thought, do you really think it is worth adding to the "male dancer mortality rate"?  Do you want to be responsible for yet another "death statistic"--one more male tango-baby dead, killed by an overdose of stress hormones?  Of course not!  You love tango.  Even if you think I am wrong.  Lie!  Let him be "deluded" by the idea that following the music, enjoying movement and embracing are natural--if this seems like a delusion to you.

Address the Child Within
Tango is child's play.  Children dance perfectly well until they start learning that dance is somehow "foolish," "girlish," and worthy of unwarranted criticism.  So address the child within.  Children must learn to speak well or they will not succeed.  Not learning to speak well is a predictor of behavior problems and serious developmental delays.  In spite of the seriousness of the task at hand, we do not insist on perfection of one sentence until going to the next, as do some dance teachers. We do not tell how serious learning to speak correctly is, nor that speaking well will take a lifetime to master. Speaking well and dancing well takes a lifetime.  But so what?!  This is simply the wonderful truth about speaking and dancing and being a fulfilled human being. 

Teachers do better with guiding children, not intimidating them with lifelong learning.  Such reality lectures seem to be saying "school forever."  If dancer want more and more classes, that comes out of the joy of learning rather than marketing technical aspects that will require of dance PhD. 
 Adults are hearing "expensive tango classes forever."  Maybe there is some truth to this, but it may feel like aggressive marketing.  We are dancing, music-making, embracing animals. It is our nature to move to music and embrace.  Maybe the three R's are the beginnings of rocket science, but not the three M's:
  • Music is the leader, not a man or so-called "leader," and musicality is basic stuff not an advanced class. Male tango babies have a higher "mortality rate" (drop-out rate) when they are born in a culture, which first tells them dancing is effeminate and then, once dancing, that they are "leaders." Nonsense. This does not happen in Latin America. Men and woman follow the music and have equal responsibility for good dancing. Why do cultures who do not use the word "leader" and see dancing as normal for men have lower "rates of mortality" of male tango dancers?
  • Movement starts with the real basic step (the tango walk) and ways of being able to dance in very little space. Walking near traffic and driving a car safely in traffic are often skills people have. Babies at times learn to walk in spite of their parents.
  • eMbracing others is a human thing. We are good at this unless we unlearn it. Why is this started later as if it were advanced? Start with the all three M's!!! The period of gestation (the period before being "born" as a tango baby) is when the baby learns how wonderful the embrace is.
This is NOT rocket science. 

Note:  The more serious discussion is on the survivability of tango if the gender imbalance is not addressed seriously.  Follow this link and the further links at the bottom of the page of "Mortality Rates among Male Dancers."

Photo Credit:


  1. I'd say learning to dance tango is like learning many things. Easy for those who get it, but hard for those who don't.

    What's special about tango is that so many who find it hard don't quit in favour of something to which they are more suited. But instead allow an assumption that everyone else finds it hard to lead them to the conviction that everyone needs the benefit of their expertise to overcome the inherent difficulties. These are the teachers that make learning the dance as difficult for their students as it is for themselves.

    "It's hard" from a teacher is nature's way of telling learners to go elsewhere. The people qualified to help learners find how easy it is are those who have already found it easy themselves.

    There are many ways of connecting, of conveying feelings,I limit and focus on Argentine Tango.If one accepts this is a dance of passion a dance where this passion can be lived out in an imaginary world for a few transient minutes, then the quality of THE EMBRACE is a vital ingredient.
    When a child runs up to one with sheer unambiguous joy, there is no question as to the magic of this connection.
    This same ego-less giving of the unreserved whole is the essence of CLOSE EMBRACE, why is it that people find this so difficult.

  3. So true, Tango Therapist.

    However, tango is difficult for people who have been taught complex movements in tango before establishing the fundamental & beautiful 3 Ms.

    Those who don't give up on tango altogether, may look for another way. They may be fortunate to encounter someone who can guide them in the 3 Ms. In my experience, the big challenge for these people is unlearning unhelpful physical habits and mindsets, such as letting go of the urge to perform.

  4. Chris... I think some teachers emphasize how hard tango is to all their students. It is really bad marketing, and if they think that, then they should lie.

    Tango Salon Adelaide... this is a good point. If people start out with collecting steps, it is hard to bring them back to basics. But that is also not "Rocket Science." :-)

    David G: Embraces may be difficult, but that is a psychological thing (forgetting what it was like to be held by one's parents), and not a Rocket Science formula to be learned.

  5. I rarely do this, but I think that Darlene made a great comment on Terpsi's Facebook sharing of this post:

    It's easy... what isn't easy is thinking it has to be perfect or beautiful or "performance-worthy" before you can do it... at a Practica without bothering anyone (I really don't want it to be a problem at a milonga / it does require some basic skills).

    It doesn't.

    The embrace is the toughest thing for men to get (IMHO).

    When I "teach" I simply say "move to the music" and I backlead. People may hate it but it's how we move when we're kids.

    Let all the "teachers" mess them up with steps. I want them to hear the music and move to it.

    It's an organic dance. The "steps" come because we're limited by the confines of our bodies as they're turned towards each other. Nothing is wrong... Just keep doing it.

    I've had more men say to me, oh, I just did that step we learned in class as we're just moving.

    Exactly!!! I ask if they know "how" they did it or why... then they have to think. That's the hard part.

    Sooooooo... it is a hard dance WHEN you THINK about it. To get better you need to think about it.

    But if you don't just enjoy doing it to the music you'll never actually get to the point where you WANT to actively think about it.

    I loved the language analogy provided. Our sentences do not have to be perfect.

    "Me cookie" does actually work. "May I please have a scrumptious chocolate chip cookie?"

    Sure, works better.

  6. TT wrote: " I think some teachers emphasize how hard tango is to all their students. It is really bad marketing"

    Bad marketing for dancing, but good marketing for classes. If it weren't, these teachers would not be doing it. Success in the dance class business is about keeping learners classing rather than dancing.

    Darlene wrote: " To get better you need to think about it."

    To get better you need to not think about it. You need to feel about it.

  7. Compared to other dances I have done, Tango is the hardest of them. When I struggle to get something in Tango, it is encouraging to hear "Tango is hard" and realize it is not just my own incompetence. Hearing "it's easy!" is what would have me thinking of quitting!

  8. "Compared to other dances I have done, Tango is the hardest of them."

    It sounds like you're trying to learn in classes. Classes do make learning to dance tango very difficult - by using lecture, show, and worst of all partnering you with someone else who can't yet dance.

    Sadly many class teachers believe tango dancing is hard to learn - having themselves learned the hard way - and their teaching passes this handicap to new learners.

    To find out how easy dancing tango can be, trying learning it just by dancing with someone who can dance.


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