milonga

THE WATER IS NEVER AS COLD AS YOU THINK IT IS...

As novices, we're understandably apprehensive when we're about to attend our first milonga. But even if we're pumped up and ready to go, we'll likely come down with a case of the jitters once we notice the dance floor. 

To our inexperienced eyes, it will seem packed with expert tangueros.

Working the nerve to tango as a newbie is like approaching a pool for the first time: We can either jump in right away, or wade in slowly. Sooner or later, however, we'll have to get wet. 

It's always a little uncomfortable to leave our comfort zone and step into something new. And when we do, things aren't guaranteed to go perfectly. But at the same time, we'll find that the water is never as cold as we fear it is.

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Looking for the blog archive? Click here (Blog archive 2013 - Sept 2017)

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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A WILLINGNESS TO LEARN

What does it take to become a good tango dancer? Other than the ability to walk, we're often told that it just takes is a willingness to learn.

A true enough statement.

It makes sense, and is simple enough to understand. Yet figuring out how to step from point A to point B in time with music, which shouldn't seem all that difficult, suddenly becomes a much bigger challenge than we first thought. 

But if we take a second to unpack the "willingness to learn," there's actually a lot to consider.

Being willing to learn tango also entails the the willingness to give up partial control and trust our partner to do his or her part. Being willing to learn tango is also about being decisive with our movements, and fully accepting the possibility of being wrong. 

We need a willingness to not surrender to self-consciousness and nervousness, while at the same time fully experiencing those mental states. We also need a willingness to address other issues in our lives, such as the irrational fear of being judged and carrying unnecessary tension in our bodies. Those problems affect our dancing, and we have to pay attention to them while off the dance floor, and not only when attending class or a milonga. 

Once we have all that figured out, stepping from point A to point B in time with music is kind of easy.

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LET BEGINNERS MAKE MISTAKES

A lot of novice tango dancers are understandably timid. Although they've mustered the courage to show up to a milonga, it's a new environment and can be intimidating at first. Many experienced dancers try to help by taking them out on the dance floor, and that's great.

And once out on the dance floor, we experienced dancers make an effort to keep things simple for the novices. But we have to be careful not to make things too easy. If we spoon-feed them by making up for their mistakes or compromising our own form, we'll tacitly encourage bad habits. 

We should definitely get a feel for what our partners can or can't keep up with, and challenge them just enough. At the same time, we have to allow beginners to make mistakes. It's hard to let someone feel the full brunt of an error, because we remember how uncomfortable it can be. The purpose, of course, is not to shame beginners or scare them away. Instead, we're helping them build the fortitude to keep going on their tango journey.

If we made it through our bumpy beginner phase without being coddled too much, they can too.

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Tango style generator (use at your own risk)

Instructions: Make a phrase by combining one word from each of the three columns below, prefaced with the words, "Tonight, I will dance like a/an..."

That will create a style of tango dance. Try it out at the next práctica or milonga!* 

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*Not to be taken seriously - If you must, try this only with a friend who has a really weird sense of humor...

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DON'T GO IT ALONE

We always hear about how we're supposed to stay connected with our partners. Just about every teacher we've taken lessons will mention this. And yes, while at a milonga, we'll follow through...for a short period time.

After that, we start focusing on ourselves. Not out of selfishness, but because the perfectionist side of us feels that in order to dance well with another person, we need to first "work on ourselves."

But this is often the reason why a dance might feel stiff, awkward, or fall apart completely.

Connection with our partners isn't just an idea that sounds good while talking about tango. Paying attention to the person we're dancing with has to be happening all the time, and should be the basis on how we execute our form and technique. This mutual awareness isn't just a general act of giving and goodwill, it's also the best source of our creativity, dynamism, and energy. 

It's true that we have to make some time for independent practice. But ultimately, tango is an activity where all the benefits of "working on ourselves" only come to light when opening up to others.

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Blog post archive (2013 - Sept 2017)

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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