dancing

Podcast Episode 92 is now online

Hello Friends!

Episode 92 of Joe’s Tango Podcast is now online!
Listen here

My guest today is Mark Word. He's a clinical social worker who's passionate about helping victims of psychological trauma. Much of his experience also stems from the military, where he functioned as a Behavioral Health officer with the 101st Airborne Division. Before falling in love with tango, Mark was a professional musician, spent a number of years living in Europe, and also developed a passion for languages. 

Mark combines his expertise as a mental health professional with tango to explore the healing effects of tango, and has some fascinating answers for us...

More on Mark here:
His Blog

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Don't get stuck in the past

Over time, not only will our own tango evolve, but the community around us will probably change, too. 

Friends will come and go, as may teachers. New venues may appear, and old ones may close. Despite all this, it’s best to find ways to keep moving our tango forward. Yes, we’ll be nostalgic for times when certain dancers were still in town, or when classes and/or events were done a different way. 

But let's not get stuck in the past, or be too romantic about it. Constantly talking about how better things used to be is not a strategy for a better future.

The world of tango is aways in flux, regardless of how big or small our communities are. Sometimes the changes will be welcome, sometimes not. But regardless, there will always be opportunities for tango to enrich our lives. Ultimately, we are responsible for the amount of enjoyment we get from dancing. As times change, either we’ll have to look for it elsewhere, or we may have to create it ourselves.

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LET THE MUSIC TAKE YOU

When we feel like we're actually dancing, we realize that we've let go of anxiety and the mental struggle of remembering countless technique points. That feeling of smooth movement, even if it's fleeting at first, gives us a sense that we can indeed become tango dancers after all.

The sensation is like riding a bike for the first time, when the person teaching us lets go of the seat and leaves us to balance on our own. On the dance floor, we capture that feeling when we start making a better effort to move with the music.

We may still stumble every now and then as our muscle memory takes shape, but the key to our next tango breakthrough is closely tied to the music. So let's pay closer attention to it, trust it, and not be afraid to let it take us. 

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Podcast Episode 50 is now online!

Hello Friends!

Episode 50 of Joe's Tango Podcast is now online!

In this episode, we'll meet Jake Spatz, who's based out of Washington, DC.

My guest today is Jake Spatz. He began dancing tango in 2001 in Brooklyn, NY, and has been teaching regularly in Washington, DC, since 2005. He currently runs the popular Eastern Market milonga on Thursdays, where he has been the house teacher and a regular DJ for twelve years. Since 2010, he has taught for the student tango club at the University of Maryland.

Jake's work in tango has led to performances for the Washington Performing Arts Society, where he led a small troupe that opened for Broadway legend Chita Rivera; and he has been featured as a dancer at Disney World,  two television commercials, and a full-length stage play. As a dancer and DJ, Jake has been featured at the Philadelphia Tango Festival, Tango De Los Muertos, the New Year's Marathon in Providence, and numerous "big weekend" events around the East Coast, including a milonga thrown by actor Robert Duvall.

In addition to dancing, teaching, and DJing, Jake's tango interests have included translation and literary research. He edited the book In Strangers' Arms by Beatriz Dujovne (McFarland, 2011), and has translated the lyrics of more than 80 tango songs. 

Check out our conversation on iTunesSoundcloud or Stitcher.

Please take a few seconds to subscribe, give a 5-star rating, and a positive review (on any or all of the above mentioned sites). This makes it easier for new listeners discover the podcast. Thank you!

More episodes coming every Monday...

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FEELING vs AESTHETICS

When it comes to dancing tango socially, a good embrace and connection may not be apparent to an outside observer. But those elements are necessary in order to make tango enjoyable for our partners.

In a social setting, making the dance feel good is the priority.

But what about making our tango look good as well? 

Although not totally separate from maintaining a good connection, emphasizing tango's visual aesthetic is a separate skill set. It requires a deeper understanding of technique, body awareness, and concentration. It's also a bigger mental challenge, as we'll need to make sure the extra focus on ourselves doesn't compromise the connection with our partner. 

Again, making tango feel good for our partners is more important. But the added effort to look good has benefits, too. It shouldn't be viewed only as an opportunity to impress onlookers or to gain attention. It's much more useful when approached as a new mental challenge.

And any new challenge carries potential for growth.

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TANGO EXPERIENCE/LIFE EXPERIENCE

Most tango teachers will rightfully advise us to revisit basics, or steps we've learned before. Reviewing is a good idea, as it always helps to hone our fundamentals. 

And if we happen to be revisiting basics with an instructor we've never worked with, looking at what we already know from a different teaching perspective can be very helpful as well. 

But if we've been dancing tango for several years, how has our mindset towards tango changed over time? What kind of person were we way back then, versus now? For example, are we more patient? More rhythmic? More confident? 

Over the years, what has happened in our lives that might affect the way we now approach our dancing? Have our years of tango experience given us a new perspective? Or has our general growth as individuals been most influential in the evolution of our dance? Or a bit of both?

There's no doubt that tango will change our lives. But at the same time, changes in our lives will impact our dancing, too. Let's not overlook that the next time we review something we learned a long time ago.

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RETHINK LEARNING

While learning tango, it's understandable if we approach the dance with a "traditional classroom" mentality. The instructor teaches, and the students listen. When introduced to a new step, we try to do things correctly. When we mess up, we receive feedback and try to get things right. 

This structure is logical, and after spending a significant number of years in our education system (especially here in the US), it's what we've grown accustomed to.

But for tango, the "traditional classroom" method is only one learning strategy. It isn't necessarily wrong, but it's not the only effective way to learn. And since it may not be right for everyone, we shouldn't feel stuck with it. 

There's a lot of value in trying things out on our own by practicing with friends. Outside of classes or workshops is the time to go beyond what was taught, and to explore the dance. There's also less preoccupation with doing steps "correctly" or "incorrectly."

This free collaboration time shouldn't be viewed as an afterthought, or secondary to "serious class time." It's a necessary, and sound strategy for moving our tango forward.

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Can't avoid being nervous

It's natural to be nervous upon arriving at a milonga, especially if we're new to tango. It's such a different environment than a class or práctica, and we worry that we'll freeze up and forget everything we know. We may also worry about looking stupid, or accidentally bumping into someone. 

So naturally, we turn to improving our skills and attending more events. Although nervousness may diminish over time, it probably won't disappear completely. But don't worry. That's not the goal.

What we need to understand is that when it comes to learning tango, there's a fine line between nervousness and exhilaration. One will hurt us, the other will help move our dancing forward. One will hold us back due to reasons we've invented in our own minds, while the other will open up exciting opportunities. 

We know we need to make the leap from one side to the other. But what we often don't realize is that the leap itself is not very far... and perhaps that's the bigger problem.

Blog post archive (2013 - Sept 2017)

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