Mangled in Class

Tango Tia: I’ve taken classes for two years and am extremely tired of being pushed and pulled through moves by men who use their hands and arms to lead. If I say something, most of them get defensive and try to make it sound like I’m the one who’s at fault. How can I take lessons and not end up needing a chiropractor? Mangled in Class

Dear Mangled: Push-and-pull leading is a real drag and happens when teachers focus on steps instead of on technique. Find out who spends time preventing men from submitting women to tango torture and spend your dollars and class time with them. It could also mean taking private lessons and choosing your partners at milongas carefully.

Men: Do you need training wheels on the dance floor? You probably stopped using them after about age five. That’s what leading with your hands and arms resembles.

Teachers: Can you find enough strait jackets for your men students? If leaders practiced with their arms locked behind their back, they would be leading from their axis in record time. Strait jackets might be a little hard to find, so practicing with their arms at their sides or with hands in their pockets would be viable alternatives.

Tortured Toes

Tango Tia: I love my tango shoes but my toes keep getting banged in to and the pain is excruciating. One guy kicked me so hard I lost a toe nail. Is there anything I can do to keep this from happening? Tortured Toes

Note to Men: Could she be talking about you? Do you bump your follower’s feet and think it’s her fault because she needs to take larger steps?  Do you reach forward with your legs and feet instead of from your axis? Not sure? Then you are definitely leading from the floor up and likely to cause injury. Initiating steps from the top down is a must for keeping your ladies’ safe, and making you a more desirable partner. Not that you asked, but it would be good for you to move this to the top of your “Ways I can lead better” list.

Dear Tortured: Exposed toes are completely vulnerable however, you can improve your chances of protecting them by staying tilted toward your partner when walking back. (Weight forward on the balls of your feet, keep your back straight.) The best protection is prevention so keep track of who the owners of flailing feet are and move them to the bottom (or off of) your “Yes, I’d love to dance” list.

Need Advice

Dear Tango Tia: In the past year and a half I’ve learned a lot of neat moves that work okay in class, but when I try leading them at milongas, I have trouble remembering how they even start. My brain seems to be on overload and I’m not progressing like I’d like to. Do you have any suggestions?  Need Advice

Dear Need Advice: Seems to be on overload?  This is a serious case of it and you have described exactly what happens to 99% of the men learning tango. The other 1% are fortunate enough or wise enough to find instructors who spend considerable time on the basics and fundamentals along with steps and figures. Suggestions:

#1: Find one or more teachers for group (or even better, private) lessons who will help you develop skills and technique in embrace, posture, axis, walking, pauses and musicality. These will improve your dance exponentially.

#2: Find one or more partners who agree to practice the basics with you on a regular basis. (Include time for playing with fun moves to help make practice time, well, fun.)

#3: Choose one “neat” move to practice until it is set in your residual vocabulary and you can call on it at anytime. (In addition to the basics, of course.)

#4: Before taking any classes, find out what will be presented and back away from learning more steps. Attend practicas instead. Film your progress.

#5: Spend a month fine-tuning what you already know plus the move you’ve worked on.

#6: Take your new, improved, highly upgraded dance to the floor, and don’t be surprised at the number of compliments you receive from happy followers. You can thank me later.

#7: Let me know how you’re doing in a few months.

Feeling Ignored in Class

Dear Tango Tia: I’ve taken lessons for about a year and in almost every class the teacher spends most of the time talking to the men. Very few teachers explain in any detail about the woman’s part. How are we supposed to know if we are doing our part right if they don’t tell us what “right” is?  And, more importantly, why should I keep spending money on lessons that don’t help me?–Feeling Ignored in Class

Dear Feeling Ignored: There are no standards for teaching tango so any yayhoo can hang out a shingle calling themselves professional/teacher/authentic/certified/etc.,  and if it is a man, he may not know enough about the woman’s part to teach it. So he focuses on the part he does know and hopes the women will figure it out.  (Most women do figure things out, especially when dancing with men who have understood the directions.) If you plan to stay in tango, I recommend investing in private lessons from a woman whose teaching and dancing you respect. Also, before enrolling in your next class, ask former students whether he/she teaches to both sides of the embrace. (Women can be just as guilty of the same thing.)