Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Tips for practising tango technique with a partner

In this post I want to address technique practice for new and seasoned dancers alike, whether already practising, trying to or just considering it. It focuses both on 1-to-1 practice with a specific partner (in a practica or elsewhere) and on practising with different partners in a group class. There are also a few tips for how to address technique - where really necessary - in a milonga with minimal disturbance to the social dance. In all areas much of it is to do with constructive communication.

Why we start and why we stop practising

Before we dive in, you can absolutely have fun with social tango dancing without having a regular practice partner. Indeed this is how the large majority dance: classes and with the later addition of milongas - no additional focused technique practice. And that's fine. It is simply that by practising consistently with a partner (and on your own), between classes, you will discover new depths and joys to the dance. That's because learning tango is like learning a language; it benefits greatly from more repetition, experimentation and immersion.

We start practising because we want to improve at something. We continue practising either because we enjoy the process itself or the improvements gained are enough to continue motivating us.

When it comes to practising tango for social dancing the time requirements for significant benefits to your skills are fairly small. Even just 2 x 15 mintutes a week (between your classes) would be very worthwhile. Hence excuses along the lines of "we don't have time" will almost always be a way of avoiding saying 'we are not enjoying practising together' or 'we don't improve when we practice'. Because if you enjoy doing something and you feel the benefits of doing it, then you'll find 15 minutes for it. So let's look at some ideas for better enjoying your practice together and making it more productive.

Start with a plan

What specifically are you going to practice? The embrace and walking is always a good choice. Perhaps also include a couple of points from your last lesson to reinforce what you learnt. In any case, just being specific about the things you'll cover in your practice time will help you to stay focused.

Discussing with each other first, why you'd like to practice particular techniques or movements will help establish motivation for what you decide to have on your list. Be sure to hear your partner's preferences as well as share your own. And make sure you're both in willing agreement with what to practice before you start to work through your list. When that's done, if you're having fun you might find you start to experiment and other ideas come up that you're both interested in practising.

Doing things this way (having a todo list) at least until you establish a solid practice habit, means you'll avoid clearing some time to practice and then getting into conversations like "let's do X" - "oh, that's boring, let's do Y" - "but that's not what the lesson was on..." etc. and then, surprise, finding your practice time wasn't so productive.

If you're unsure what to have on your practice list, again, I'd suggest putting walking and fine tuning the embrace right at the top, even when you're already comfortable dancing a wide range of techniques and figures. Tango is built around a walking embrace and the upper bounds of the quality of your dance is set by how well you can walk together.

Practice communication while you practice tango

Like anything worth learning, Tango is challenging. While that's part of what makes it fun and satisfying as a dance, it also means you can expect some confusion, mistakes and maybe some occasional frustration along the way. How you deal with that with yourself and your practice partner is crucial to the healthy and enjoyable continuation of your practice. But as a teacher I see and hear of signs of let's call it 'obstructive communication' in group and private classes and on the dance floor, fairly frequently. It's often not done knowingly. It's just a set of communication habits that are not helping. Which mostly explains why many partners practise endeavours are short lived.

With that in mind, let's say you're practising and trying a step and for maybe the third or forth time it's just not working or feeling right. Which of the following possible reactions will you choose?

  1. blame yourself, including sweeping apologies for being a 'rubbish dancer' and rising levels of panic.
  2. blame your partner, with words or by tutting, sighing, huffing or rolling eyes.
  3. blame yourself while really thinking its your partner's fault, because you don't want them to feel the stress or shame of being at fault or you don’t think that addressing the problem will be successful.
  4. blame your partner while really thinking its your fault, because you feel unable to confront the stress and shame of doing something badly and admitting to it.
  5. pretend not to blame and get cross with anyone, but give 'subtle' signs that you are actually doing that, including sarcasm or growing disinterest/distraction.
  6. express what you're observing and feeling - without judging any fault - and check in with what your partner is experiencing with the technique or step.

Yes, option 6. above in practically all cases is the correct answer here. But let's look a bit more at how those possible responses can manifest and the effect they could be having on your dance practice.

When you're deliberately practising technique you're figuring stuff out, you're problem solving. And what's the best method humankind has developed for doing that? Yep, the scientific method. Dealing with observations, experimenting with a number of variables and again making observations to refine some process, understanding or product.

How to benefit from the scientific method (and avoid derailing it)

With tango practice, we have an end result in mind; a movement or figure, a quality of connection, a relationship to the music, etc. And we have some variables, such as posture, balance, tension or relaxation in various parts of our body, timing, the calibration between invitation and response, etc. The kind of observations we might make then are the state some of those variables, e.g. this arm is pushing out, or this arm is holding its shape, or my weight in going to the outside edge of my foot at this point in the movement, or the response to this invitation is faster/slower/lighter/heaver here. From these observations we can access or guess whether that state is taking us closer or further away from the result we're aiming for. We then try changing the variables for better results. In principle, all fairly straight forward, logical stuff.

Now, what happens to the above scientific process when we introduce a new focus on finding who has messed up and expressing discontent about it? More than simply being distracted from productive practice we're creating an emotional disincentive to continue. When blame, disapproval, condescension, insecure displays of authority or submissiveness, passive or overt aggression occur it's usually not a pleasant experience. If it happens regularly you probably wont want to carry on practising or dancing together.

OK, but what if you've made some observations and tried changing what you're both doing but you're still stuck and it seems like someone it just 'doing it wrong'? Is it then time to tell them (or yourself) they're messing up and that they should just sort their technique out?

Well, let's say in this case there is a correct technique and it's not being followed by one or both of you. If you've already made the observations about the relevant variables (positions, tensions and timings of your movement) and are simply struggling to make the changes you both want to try making, then what possible benefit could come from getting ticked off about it and creating some of those emotional disincentives previously discussed? Instead, try to figure out why making a change of some variable is difficult.

Is the difficulty a) to do with mobility or agility? Or is it b) more about trust and fear of being in a certain position? If a) then is there tension anywhere else in the body that could be released that would enable the movement (e.g. one side of the frame), or is it really a current limitation of your body? If b) is there a way of approaching the position or movement in a more gradual way, or making a game out of it, to build trust and confidence? Again, the experimental, methodical and creative approaches are more likely to result in success. Imagine you are two scientists working together to solve a problem.

When you start communicating in this way, if your partner was used to hearing or speaking in an emotionally loaded way around tango practice (or in general), then it could take a bit of time before they understand you're not still trying to make them wrong, or that you're not interested in them being wrong.

In the case of your tango partner being your life partner, you'll have more ingrained styles of communication between you. Where if in every day life you've found ways of working around or avoiding any communication malfunctions, that often doesn't work in tango practice due to the challenges of learning the dance. There is also the potential cost of a practice fall out spilling over. That's my theory for why couples in particular often struggle to maintain regular practice together. It may take a bit more concentration to shift communication style. But hopefully very much worth the effort.

For group classes and milongas

One thing the health and vitality of a tango community depends on is well attended group classes and milongas (and for bigger or more advanced communities, practicas too). Without those, not much of a community.

Classes and milongas are only well attended when people enjoy going, which brings us back to how we communicate with partners. With constructive communication, everyone benefits, because it's easer to then improve and the process is more enjoyable. With non-constructive communication, what we have is a heavy tax on fun, but without any communal benefit.

What led to this post is the fact that I fairly frequently hear about the kind of blame and disapproval laden comments (see section "Practice communication while you practice tango") that lead to emotional disincentives to attend classes or milongas. Several students have stopped dancing entirely because of such comments, who attended my classes over the last 6 months, and several others have been on the verge of stopping. From what I can tell, it’s not too different in other communities. That's bad for any community and also bad for business. [So I may be following up on this blog with a little communication guidance in classes..]

Of course, in group classes, everyone moves a bit differently and skill levels are variable within a certain range. So when you try a technique with one partner and it seems to work fine, but not so much with the next partner, it's easy to get frustrated, which is where 'communication malfunctions' can occur. So, if you find yourself tempted to make a comment as listed 1. through 5. in section "Practice communication while you practice tango", including tutting, huffing and similar, just take a moment. Consider the negative impact that will have, ultimately on everyone in the community including you, and try the more constructive, scientific approach.

As for milongas, if you can possibly avoid discussing technique with the person you're dancing with, so much the better. It can easily distract from the enjoyment of social dancing and, if it's about wanting them to change something, be potentially off putting. If something is persistently uncomfortable or dangerous, say something (as constructively as possible, e.g. 'would you mind if we try dancing with a slightly looser hold?', rather than 'your hold is too tight'). Otherwise, probably best left for your technique practice session. If you want to be more subtle about making a request you feel is necessary, you can try physically emphasizing the change you want your partner to make, and see if they mirror you. E.g. take the close side arm of your embrace away for a moment and then gently replace it, to see if they loosen their embrace in response.

Remember why you're practising

Tango can be many things, from an enjoyable social activity to a performance art demanding great athleticism and technical mastery. What are you working towards? Being on the same page as your practice partner (or at least recognising any differences in goal and adapting to them where possible) can help avoid frustration and increase the satisfaction you have in the results you get.

This is also about setting your expectations according to your own level of commitment to learning and practice time. So if you're looking at world class dancers, who train and dance for hours a day, and wondering why your musicality or the shape of your ganchos (or whatever) doesn't look that similar, when you practice maybe once a week, then it's time to adjust your expectations. Think more about what you'd like to use and improve on in your social dancing. Doing that doesn't mean your dancing has to lack excitement and dynamism. It's more a question of being smart about picking the challenge and complexity level of the movements you practice, given the time you have available.

Have fun

Because tango is such a rich dance with potential for great emotional intensity and intellectual, mind-body connection depth, it can all get a bit addictive. I say that, knowing that it's something every dancer who stays the course for more than a year or so will go through. That addictiveness can be a source of stress if you're not getting the fix or quality of fix you crave. Being mindful of that process, however, may help you maintain perspective. It's a dance. And the learning of it has no end. So be patient and enjoy the journey, for however long you stay on it.

You started learning tango because you thought it would be fun. Hopefully these tips will help it stay that way in your practice. If you get really hooked you might even find that your practice sessions are a particular highlight, where you get to deepen your knowledge and discover new and better possibilities for movement and expression in the dance.

Bonus section: Wait! I don't have a partner!

If you're serious about wanting to practice then you'll be able to find at least a little time for it. The challenges then may be finding a partner and finding a space to practice. Space is relatively easy to fix. If you can't afford to hire somewhere, then living rooms or kitchens will do. Even hallways (or indeed the ocean) are good enough. If you're lucky, there'll be some time before or after your regular group class where you can use the space to practice too. So then on to finding your partner.

If you're looking to improve your social dancing the main requirements for a practice partner are that there is at least some enjoyment dancing with them and that you can communicate constructively with each other (see previous sections). If you have that and you both want to practice then everything else can be worked around.

You might ideally want someone of the same or higher ability than you, but if you let that hold you up you might have no partner at all. Better to have someone in the same ballpark or at least a near by ballpark in terms of skill and start by refining simpler techniques and concepts. If you do that consistently, you'll both be pleased with your progress (even though you may be the more ‘technically advanced dancer’) and will grow to enjoy dancing with each other much more.

Finally, it's worth repeating, whether you have a practice partner or not, there’s a lot to be gained from regular solo technique practice.

Enjoy your dancing and dance practice.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

How 'trying on the shoes' of the other role will make you a better dancer

When we dance tango we aim to connect with our partner closely, so that leader and follower move in harmony. This is possible only when each dancer has a certain understanding and empathy with the other role danced by their partner.

The more you practice your technique the more you discover that as a follower it often helps to be assertive and active in how you communicate with your leader and be in charge of your own step even when you’re accepting an invitation for that step. And that as a leader it often helps to wait and be sensitive and receptive to how your follower is moving, or even to what they are suggesting.

So there is leading in following, and following in leading. In relation to that then, actually learning the other role will have a profound impact on your dancing. Not only will those crucial aspects of one role within the other be realized and strengthened, but those questions many dancers have about how does their partner want them to respond or connect, about what feels good for them in their role, you will begin to understand from direct experience and the intuition which that gives you.

Naturally the approach to learning the other role is important. Tango can be a challenging dance to learn just the one role in, so it’s understandable that some dancers might worry about getting (even more) confused by trying two roles. The anchor to prevent possible discord from random, involuntary or otherwise role switching, or such like, is simply empathy. The empathy you gain from learning how that feels, from the perspective of your partner’s role (actually if done deliberately and with good rapport it can feel great sometimes).

By focusing your initial efforts of learning the other role on the quality of connection in basic technique (posture, walking, crossing, simple pivoting), you develop a first hand understanding of what the other role is looking for. It’s that understanding that will make things more (not less) clear, when you’re back dancing your usual role in tango.

Perhaps one of the reasons for tango being as challenging as it’s often considered, is putting off learning a little of the other role. Because without that experience, a powerful learning feedback loop is broken. It’s that experience of dancing the other role that closes it. Otherwise tango remains for much longer somewhat like dancing with a mystery black box. Through much expert guidance and experimentation you could learn what inputs should result in what outputs, but how much quicker and further you could go, by opening up that box and learning how it works?

Photo from:

A breakdown of the benefits of learning the other role:

  • For followers: Let's say, for example, you're a follower who is unsure of the right amount of presence or resistance to give a leader when walking, and perhaps struggle to keep a smooth, clear connection because of it. By leading some walking yourself you will directly experience how different levels of presence from a follower feel from a leaders’ perspective, and what makes the connection clearer or less clear. Then when you go back to following you'll have a better idea of what will feel good for the leader and you and generally work well. The same principle applies to timing in ochos or crosses, or really any technique. 
  • For Leaders: Let's say you're a leader who finds their followers often lose balance or seem uncomfortable during ochos. By directly experiencing being led in different ways you will feel yourself how a follower wants to be led an ocho and so be able to rapidly improve your own leading of them (while also improving your own balance). Again, the same principle applies to timing in crosses or walking, or really any technique. 
  • For Leader or follower: Or perhaps you worry about only being able to dance relatively few steps and that your partner will get bored with them. By directly experiencing the other role you'll feel how wonderful 'just walking' or doing very simple steps can feel for your partner too if these steps are made with a finely tuned and fluid connection. 
  • For milongas and classes: In many milongas or classes leader/follower numbers are not balanced. Wouldn't it be great if in those cases you could enjoy dancing or practising a little in the other role and avoid sitting out? Many dancers who try this discover a love for other role too, all while getting more dance and practice time in.
  • For practice partners: If when you try to practice you find it hard to give each other informed, constructive and encouraging feedback, it may be due to a lack of understanding and empathy with what is involved in the other role and how each role fits together in a certain movement. By having a little experience in the other role yourself you'll be better able to work constructively and supportively together on your tango.

If you’re wondering how you can get started on learning the other role, well you’re in luck, as I'm running a workshop on just that, on Sat 10th Dec in Southampton :)

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Exciting tango happenings for Apr/May 2016

Hi there,
I hope you had a lovely Easter break! 

The year seems to have flown by so far, but gladly the cold (if not the rain) is flying away with it.

A couple of weeks ago I reflected on 10 years of tango dancing. Following from that, I made a little promo video you may enjoy here:

On to exciting tango happenings for April and May (and for a new taste of Blues dance, scroll to the end). 

Firstly I'm very happy to announce I'll be teaching two tango workshops on Sat 7th May, at TLC with Tracie. They will be a great opportunity to come and get a little more detail and time to absorb than you would in a group class, on techniques and movements you'll enjoy using in your social dancing. Here are the specifics:

May 7th, 12:30 - 2:30pm - Wraps, ganchos and free leg play

Learn all about how to get the most out of the free leg, for followers and leaders. This workshop delves into how to dance the playful movement of leg wraps, ganchos and more, with confidence, precision and safety. Suitable for all dancers already comfortable with walking, crosses, ochos and giros.

May 7th, 3:00 - 5:00pm - Vals turns and alterations

Dancing to Vals can be a sumptuous, twirling flight. In this workshop we'll explore a variety of particularly delicious turns and alterations, with a detailed breakdown of the follower and leader technique, that will bring more of that feeling to your Vals dancing. Suitable for all dancers already comfortable with walking, crosses, ochos and giros.

Both workshops can be booked now via TLC, and neither require a partner. It's £17 for one, or £30 for both workshops, per person.

Apr 9th - 10th  - Over this weekend I'm running another one of my weekend beginner Argentine tango courses. 2-5:30pm on both Sat & Sun @ The Hut, 2 Reynolds Rd, Shirley. There are still a few places left if you want to come and refresh and refine the very basics (two students did that on the last one and found it very worthwhile), or know any complete beginners who'd like to give tango a go. Here is the info and booking page:

Before that, coming up next weekend, Sat 2nd April there is a Milonga at TLC. 4 DJs and a great crowd. So hopefully see you there! Also, the highly regarded Mabel Rivero is teaching ladies technique workshops @ TLC on 1st and 2nd April, so any ladies who want to do that speak to Tracie now and she'll put you on the reserve list.

For anyone on the Isle of Wight on Sunday 3rd April, I've been invited to run two tango workshops there. See the FB event for details on that and how to book.

Wed group classes. I've been enjoying teaching at TLCs very much since November. It's been great to see so much enthusiasm and also some steady progress over those months from so many students. Over the next couple of months I'll be teaching a series of lessons on the Wednesdays on particular themes.

Wed 6th & 13th Apr @ TLC:
Crazy crosses/Cross city  -  everyone knows how to cross in tango, right? Actually this basic element of tango dancing has a whole world of playful possibilities beyond the staple cross over to the followers right. Come and explore some of them over these 2 weeks.

Wed 4th - 25th Apr @ TLC:
Advanced Giros (using colgadas, sacadas & wraps)  -  what is it that makes the giro a foundation of both basic social dancing and the most impressive tango performances? The giro can be simple and functional, but it can also be meltingly elegant in that simplicity, or expanded into something dazzling and intricate. These 4 lessons will help you find new life and delight in a variety of different giros.

While anyone who might come to the level 4 class on Wed (or feels ready to try) is welcome to drop in to any of the above, to get to most from it, it is recommended to attended the whole of each series of lessons on a theme. Why have only a slice, when you could have the whole pie?

Monday practica. Aside from the regular group classes the Monday practica has been up and running now since Dec, and everyone who comes seems to be getting a lot out of it. If you're serious about progressing in your tango skills, then regular practice (not just milongas and classes) is essential. There's no minimum standard for the practica, everyone is welcome, 8:30 - 10:30+pm @ The Hut, 2 Reynold Rd, Shirley. I'm there, on hand for the whole time to help with anything you might want to practice. If you'd like to come, please join the Practica FB group

Finally on the tango news, I'd like to run a milonga @ the Hut. No fixed date as yet, but I wanted to get your feelings on trying it in such a petite venue. The appeal for me is that small size, and how it can help create a beautiful togetherness and flow between the dancers and the ronda. It can be scary at first, but then you may find the unique charms of a cosy milonga quite enjoyable. That's why it will be called 'Milonga Abrigada'. So, if you're keen or at least curious about the idea of the milonga (maybe once a month at most), please let me know.

Blues dance - here's a chance to try it

Having a general interest in dance, a couple of years ago I stumbled across a variety of Blues style Mo'jive dancing and absolutely loved it, most especially the laid back, smooth grooviness of it, with clear accents of tango. I recently decided it was time to explore it a bit more, and perhaps what else Blues has to offer. Luckily enough it turns out there are some Blues specialists based on the Isle of Wight. Having been in touch with Basil and Mandy for a little while I've invited them to come and teach some Blues workshops in Southampton! The venue is the lovely Friends Meeting House in Southampton.

The first one on Sunday 17th April is aimed mainly at Jive dancers (but is open to everyone). So, if you know any who you think might enjoy some Blues, do let them know!

The second one on Saturday May 28th is aimed at tango dancers (and those who already did the Apr one).

You can find the full detail, more about the teachers and online booking for the Blues workshops here:
17th Apr -
28th May -
Any queries, just ask.

Happy dancing,

Saturday, 13 February 2016

New beginner's Argentine Tango, weekend course Feb 2016

Would you like to learn how to dance Argentine Tango in a weekend? 

Then this 2 day workshop is for you! Feb 20th - Feb 21st 2016

Argentine Tango is a beautiful, creative dance that can be as playful or sensual as you want to make it.

Tango has many benefits beside the joys of dancing it. It can improve your fitness, balance, confidence and posture, as well as being a great way to meet new people!

friendly expert tuition by Joe Hudson Friendly, expert tuition with Joe Hudson
The Tango Lingua approach is fun and relaxed, and focused on helping your body absorb the technique so you can get on and enjoy the dance. 

If you can walk, then you can tango! All it takes is an interest in learning.

Here's what you'll get from the weekend:
  • Learn the basic tango techniques of walking, the embrace, crosses and ochos.
  • Be introduced to simple elements of musicality and play in the dance.
  • Practice to different types of tango music.
  • Enough experience to go on to regular weekly group classes if you wish, or to dance in a social setting.
  • Lots of fun!

To take part in this weekend, just book your place below.
                    No partner required, although you're welcome to bring one.

tango class 1

tango class 2

Places are strictly limited to 8 maximum, for each weekend, so you get lots of personal teaching attention. That also means to ensure your place you need to book early.

Please book your place(s) with Paypal:

Cost: £48 per person (or £38 for unwaged/low income)

Saturday: 2:00 - 5:30pm
Sunday: 2:00 - 5:30pm

Date: 20th-21st Feb 2016

Venue: "The Hut", 2 Reynolds Road, Southampton, SO15 5GS

                (Go up the drive, and through the gate.) Parking available along the road.

What to wear:
If you have dance shoes, bring those. Otherwise ideally leather or plastic soles, and not too much room at the front. No metal heel, toe or marking soles please. Clothes should be comfortable and easy to move around in.

There will be a short break in the middle of each day for snacks and drink, if you'd like to bring any. 

Any other questions, please get in touch.

Read how other students have enjoyed Tango Lingua courses and teaching here.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Colgadas with changes of embrace - final workshop, 10th Aug - and farewell soon

I hope you're well and enjoying your dancing.

As you may already know, I've been planning some travels for a while and it looks like that's finally going to happen from the end of Aug now. So... the last workshop before I go away is coming up on Saturday 10th August, 2-5:30pm.

It's going to be on colgadas - an especially fluid and beautiful movement in tango. For those who haven't tried them yet or never got the hang of colgadas (excuse the pun) this will be a good introduction. For those already confident dancing them, there will be some cool variations for you to play with and a chance to refine your technique.

The way the workshop will be structured it will be suitable for anyone already able to dance crosses, ochos and giros. All skill levels will be suitably challenged :)

No partner required but pre-booking essential. For full details and to book your place see:

Group lesson consolidation:

While it's a bit quieter over the summer and without the beginner courses, the Monday lesson will be rolled into the Wednesday lesson, 8pm, upstairs @ The Slug & Lettuce, Southampton. It's been wonderful teaching at The Wool House and I hope to return, but no Mondays for now. Please come on Wednesdays instead. Everyone is welcome.

(Re last Wed, I think most people are checking the Facebook page for updates and so will already know, but last week there was a late notice double booking so we had to move to the Wool House. My apologies if anyone wasn't able to access the FB for details. Back to normal this week at The Slug and Lettuce!)

Private lessons:
If you want to really accelerate your learning, add that extra bit of smoothness, style and confidence to your tango, or explore new or old movements in more detail, private lessons are a great way to do it. For more info and booking see:

Get the latest news by liking the FB page:
If you want to know what's coming up in the group lessons, or get early notice on workshops, social events then the best way to do that is like the Tango Lingua Facebook page:

Skill swaps:
For a while now I've been experimenting with non-money forms of exchange for tango lessons. I've found it can be a great way to pick up new skills, get help, and get to know people better, while at the same time offer more of a chance to learn tango to those who couldn't otherwise afford it. Obviously money is a handy thing and I have just as much use for it as most people, but I recognise that payment for lessons (or paying the usual price) isn't always an option, and I really love sharing what I know and helping people find joy in their tango dancing, so I'm happy to do skill or resource swaps as well. Things I'm interested in at the moment include: help with marketing and event organizing, locally produced organic food, learning Spanish, physio and sports massage, clothes alterations, and learning other dance forms from professionals (e.g. salsa, jive, contemporary, jazz). If you think you would like to offer something along those lines in return for learning tango, get in touch!

Just a few words on my plans. I feel drawn to go exploring around different countries for a bit, not least to continue my learning and development in tango and other dances. I do plan to return, but can't say exactly when that will be.. I will miss all my students in Southampton and other places, I've got so much enjoyment working with everyone and sharing a bit of what I know. And a huge thank you to Claudia for assisting so well with the teaching these last months. The Wed lessons will continue until the end of August (check FB page for updates) and private lessons will also be available until then. I'll be posting updates from time to time on my adventures here (feel free to add me) and other places.

What to do if you want to carry on learning tango?
For lessons there are at least two other schools in the Southampton area: TLC and Nu Tango  If there are other options I'll let you know.. :)
There are also regular social dances organized by them and others.
Practice is also crucial if you want to develop a smooth and varied style. For that I recommend either joining a local practica (practice session) or starting your own as as group. If you want to tips on doing that, get in touch.

Take care, and I hope to see you soon,

Thursday, 20 June 2013

'Sexy leg wraps and ganchos' workshop on Sunday 30th June, new venue, and other news

It's been a while since I sent out a newsletter, I hope you're well and enjoying your dancing.

I've just made a little preview video for the upcoming 'sexy leg wraps and ganchos' workshop on Sunday 30th June. Check it out here:
If you'd like to learn how to dance these movements with confidence and style, you can find full details and booking info on the workshop here:
(No partner needed, but pre-booking required)

Venue change for Mondays and a new arts project:
The Monday lessons are now at the beautiful Wool House building, on the corner of Bugle Street, near Red Funnel Ferries. If you don't already know about it, it's a stunning, 15th century, grade 1 listed building. See a map here:

Most of you will know Claudia. Well she's running a rather exciting community centric arts project there: "This summer, Element Arts will open the space to the public, to host a variety of activities from exhibitions to workshops, loosely based around the stories and heritage of this building since it was built in early 15th century". Join the FB page for more details:
The main program will be starting from July, but already you can enjoy tango there on Monday evenings :) Same time, 8pm, with practica after the lesson.
And yes, there are also plans afoot for some milongas..

No new beginner courses over the summer:
Both Monday and Wednesday group classes will be for students already with some experience of tango for the duration of the summer. (If you are a complete beginner and want to start learning now, you may want to consider taking a couple of private lessons before joining the group class). As numbers tend to be a bit lower over the summer, if you come along you'll enjoy the learning benefits of a small group class :)

Private lessons:
If you want to really accelerate your learning, add that extra bit of smoothness, style and confidence to your tango, or explore new or old movements in more detail, private lessons are a great way to do it. For more info and booking see:

Get the latest news by liking the FB page:
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Skill swaps:
For a while now I've been experimenting with non-money forms of exchange for tango lessons. I've found it can be a great way to pick up new skills, get help, and get to know people better, while at the same time offer more of a chance to learn tango to those who couldn't otherwise afford it. Obviously money is a handy thing and I have just as much use for it as most people, but I recognise that payment for lessons (or paying the usual price) isn't always an option, and I really love sharing what I know and helping people find joy in their tango dancing, so I'm happy to do skill or resource swaps as well. Things I'm interested in at the moment include: help with marketing and event organizing, locally produced organic food, learning Spanish, physio and sports massage, and learning other dance forms from professionals (e.g. salsa, jive, contemporary, jazz). If you think you would like to offer something along those lines in return for learning tango, get in touch!

That's it.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Introduction to Aerial Technique in Tango - workshop notes

Content overview:
  • increasing and mirroring contact to set up good conditions for flight
  • lengthening, reaching and supporting – not jumping or throwing
  • using the hips and core for stability and balance
  • smooth, safe landings
  • putting it into practice with 3 aerial movements:
    • a suspended leap along the line of dance
    • leg wrap into knee lift, with and without turn
    • walking on invisible stairs

Workshop plan:

Aim and intro: to give a clear and accessible introduction to the techniques for flying and lifting in tango, with an emphasis on safety, smoothness and making it easy.

length: 4 hours, including break time.

Warm up:

include ankle, calf and thighs as well as back exercises.

Exercise: Lift off on parallel bars movement – lengthen legs and spine towards ceiling, while pushing shoulders and arms down (as if pushing up and suspending body on parallel bars).

Exercise: Squat exercise – as above, keeping shoulders down, but thinking about lifting from the hip. Knees stay slightly bent.

Go into above two movements from walking and from a change of direction.

Exercise: Stand side by side arms around waist of parnter. Slowly take their weight until you are entirely supporting them. Do slowly and keep the lift very low. Try both sides. The more surface area in contact, the easier it tends to be. Lifter lowers hips, draws and counterbalances.

Note: When you dance tango the aim is generally to stay together. This is especially crucial when one of you is in the air :) Doing this in a safe and comfortable way is a shared responsibility for both leader and follower. The approach we'll explore today is an application of the mirroring concept which one key to the Tango Lingua approach. This is where the quality and direction of intent from the leader is mirrored (i.e. reflected) by the follower through the points of contact. Now let's get a feel for that on the ground first.

Exercise: mirroring game, standing, fixed embrace, then with shifting embrace. Practice releasing and re-establishing contact points.

Exercise: use above concept to increase contact through a more wrapping embrace through a forward ocho on the closed side from side step. Take into a forward walk for follower and leader.

At this stage we're almost ready to approach our first flight. But first some important safety and technique points.

When flying do not jump I cannot emphasize that too much. If you jump then someone has to catch you. If they're not 100% ready to do that on your way down, and in the perfect position, their body will be subject to a large shock and possible injury. It will also look, let's call it un-smooth.

What's the alternative to jumping? Lengthening and stretching up, thus raising your centre of gravity, making you much easier to lift.

When lifting do not throw Similarly for leaders, do not throw your follower into the air, lift in a smooth, controlled fashion. Sudden acceleration into the air will lead to unpredictable results.

(Maybe for some really big lifts a jump can help, but we're doing small ones today and will focus on lengthening the body rather than jumping)

Question: what do the shoulders and arms do, and what would happen if they came up during attempted take off?

(should stay locked down, arms hold frame while airborne, else shoulders get lifted instead of you)
Repeat lift off on parallel bars and squat style movements.

Demonstrate first lift: suspended leap in line of dance.

Before you try it, you'll want to know about how to land :)

Just as the follower reaches and lengthens towards the ceiling when taking off, the follow reaches and lengthens towards the floor, the very instant they feel the leader is beginning to take them down. Do not delay.

For leaders, make sure the follower is well supported, all the way down. Do not drop at the last moment before they reach the ground. Hence the need to be really in tune with each other.

Question: Why might it be difficult for the leader if the follower doesn't reach for the ground, once the leader is indicating a decent?

(they have to carry the follower for longer, bend legs more and potentially have a greater strain on their back or risk of dropping the follower)

Leader tip: As with the warm up exercise, it's generally easier to lift with the hips slightly under your partner. When lifting make sure your spine is straight and not stooped over, align the shoulders back and down and engage the gluts and lower abs, to give extra stability to the spine.

Leader tip: step close to the follow on the step preceding the lift.

Leader tip: to make it easy for the follower to land on the other leg, making one big arching movement (the slow-motion leap), avoid pushing you hip through, which will tend to send their hips forward, making it more likely they'll land on the back leg again (the slow-motion hop...). To some degree you can also use the open side of the embrace to give a slight tilt toward the front leg.

Question: How can you get your hips slightly lower than the followers using the mirroring principle for contact?

(release, move, reconnect – in a smooth way)

Follower tip: Just as the leader is tensing their body when lifting you, if you do the same (mirroring the quality of contact) you'll feel lighter and easier to move in the air.

Follower tip: to land on the front leg, making one continuous slow-motion leap, picture you legs following the long arcing motion of the leader's frame as they lift you. Use your back muscles to balance the tension in your abs to avoid your hips tilting forward, and allow the back leg to bend slightly after take off – as you would naturally do if really making a leap.  

Follower tip: For added smoothness and style, let the arc of your hip and legs follow behind the arc of your chest. i.e. use contra-posture to give a beautiful cascading effect to the movement.

Movement 1: Practice 'suspended leap'.

Break time 20 mins for food and drink

Quick warm up

Introduce walking on invisible stairs movement. Cycling, stretching for floor on each cycle, staying in time with music. Secret to smooth take-off and landing is timing, and leader and follower posture. Each cycle could be a landing, reaching for floor.

Movement 2: Demo how to make more seamless take off (disguise adjustment of embrace during turn).

Practice movement.

Movement 3: Demo leg wrap into knee lift.

Counter balance, then lift.

Discuss role of compression is frame to 'freeze' followers free leg before lift.

Explore criticality of leading and following accurate step direction and length before the lift.

Show variations with turn and 'dip'.

General demo and Q & A.

practice time.

Feedback and questions welcome. Feel free to use these notes for your own purposes. If you'd like to go over any of the points or techniques with me in person, or have me come and teach this or similar to a group, just get in touch :)

[This was actually my first time presenting an aerial technique workshop, and it turned out everyone there was a woman. With a mixed group I would have been impressed with what everyone accomplished, but given it was all ladies this time (where were you men?), I'm doubly happy :) Just goes to show, with the proper technique lifting is no problem - even when they tried lifting me a few times (90kg+)!]