Category Archives: Tango

2015 – the year I stop being terrified of amazing women

As 2014 draws to a close I am approaching two years of learning this amazing dance – only a few months to go – and because it is that time of year I think it deserves a resolution.

I realised recently that I was missing an understanding of the kind of physical dancer I want to become.

Here I have made some progress – the key qualities I am looking for are : Milonguero, Precise, Playful, Still Framed, Musical, Stable and Quiet

I have also thought about my emotional response to – and engagement with – the dance. I believe that I honestly do care very much about the follower. I want her to feel respected and protected, to have the chance to dance what she feels in the music and to express herself.

But I have also occasionally had the chance to dance with truly talented, focussed, balanced followers that from the moment you embrace them are very clearly significantly more experienced than me. So much more talented, surer of who they are and what they are doing.

As soon as they hold me I can feel their focus, their restrained but electrifying energy – asking what I have – wondering if I can give them the experience they are looking for.

And always – on the few times I do get these opportunities – it absolutely and completely terrifies me.


So that’s my resolution for 2015. I am going to welcome those opportunities. I am actually going to seek them out, to ask them to dance – rather than hide in the corner, terrified that they will catch my eye and invite me.

I am going to breathe in, focus, and stop being scared of beautiful dancers.

Tango – I have been learning ‘how’ before I knew ‘what’ ..

I tried to learn.

I listened.

We listen

I asked how to do things, and I was told – this is how that is done. And this one, and now that one. Figure after figure.

I watched.

We watch

We all do this with complex subjects – we have to start somewhere.

Over time the structure builds and the vocabulary expands – but as students we get to a time when we need to be clear. We need a vision – we need to ask ourselves difficult questions – “What am I trying to achieve? What kind of a dancer do I actually want to be?”

I know now that this is where I am. Finally having enough understanding to be able to ask the right question – “How do I do exactly this – in this particular way?”

Perhaps as social dancers attending our regular classes this is in fact a moment of choice that a lot of students – especially leaders – never actually get to. It’s hard enough to learn Tango at all – let alone in a particular and individual way. Selecting and developing a style requires authenticity, confidence and skill and these things take so much time.

With other more literal art forms than dance it is clearer – in photography the difference between a street photograph and a landscape one is fairly obvious – as soon as you look at any image you can identify them. There are clear names, clear categories. We know where we are. We don’t even need to think to get to the next level questions – “is this what I like?”, “is this the kind of image that I want to make?” – our response is naturally along these lines.

As learners of social tango it all seems so different. As we learn we are of course imprecise – so our style is ill defined. There are broad labels – ‘nuevo’ ‘milonguero’ ‘show tango’ but within these are thousands of individual interpretations and even disputes about what they actually mean – for example that ‘nuevo’ is not actually a style at all.

For me this is a very important moment – maybe some kind of crisis. Now I have to be creative. I have to decide. Only once we really know what we are trying to achieve can we pause, then rebuild our learning with a new energy and focus.

I am hoping for a new experience from this moment on – because I am thinking on a different level.

We absorb material within the context of our own personal journey. We can reject some, and absorb others. But now I can begin the process of being the kind of dancer that I actually want to be – I can try to be precise. Because, finally, I am starting to know where I actually want to be.

I want to create an image to express exactly this, to allow the follower to dance like that.

We embrace and try again
We embrace and try again

We breathe, we embrace and as always we try again.

Open that door

So many things just need us to start – to move – get an opportunity, meet someone – and then if we do take that first step and stay for a while we begin to understand so much – our world changes and we are all the richer for it.

Before then ‘it’ was the kind of passion that ‘other people did’ – not us.

Sometimes, at rare intervals in our lives and for whatever reason you receive some kind of invitation, someone opens that door for you and asks if you might like to follow them – or perhaps  simple chance just waits  to see if you will react.


But however it happens for that brief moment a door will open for you and you do, or you do not, walk though. And if you are incredibly lucky then  behind that door lies a whole new world.

A world like dance, or writing – or photography – or whatever it is for you that engages with you and presents such an unlimited space for you to play,  to learn, and to progress.


And playing, learning and curiosity surely defines what it is to be human. To be alive.

Such a precious moment – but so few open the door, and even less walk through.

Don’t stand still. Do it.



It can’t be Christmas every day

I was at a Tango event when one of the followers I was with got to dance with one of the best professional dancers. When she sat down someone remarked philosophically that it’s all downhill from now – she had already experienced the best.

To which she replied – “it can’t be Christmas every day”

Which was a great response actually. And like so many people I just sat and thought – why not?

But I mean – really why not?

Why can’t we live at that intensity all of the time. Why do we accept mediocrity? I don’t mean we should drive ourself to exhaustion – just do everything really well. Dance better. Relax better. Make love better. Read better. Work out better. Chill out better. Cut out mediocrity – just don’t accept it

Is it just reality getting in the way? Perhaps we plan to have the most intense and pure experiences but we get distracted by everything that life throws at us? I don’t think so. I just don’t think most people are wired to want to excel. They don’t plan for it. They aren’t sensitive to mediocrity.

Why is it so hard? Surely life would be more exciting, more fun. The reward is there – who doesn’t want the most fulfilling life possible?

Surely there is more to relaxing well than just not trying very hard to do something else properly.

I have lessons with Greg at the Tango Club, and he often says ‘Just dance better’ – or ‘dance for her – make her look beautiful’ – we laugh that for some reason he doesn’t need to say how – but it still works and we dance better – he is so right – what is important if you have any creative sensitivity is that you focus on it, you care, you project into that woman so much attention and energy that she feels completely liberated and so, so special.

Before he said ‘dance better’ we had lost that focus, we were going through the motions, not celebrating Tango for what it is so capable of being. He snaps us back to the present, requesting more energy, more precision. He asks us to make this moment the best it can be.

How rewarding is that. I should do it all the time.

The way she dances makes my world stand still

In our dancing there is as yet nothing familiar. As a couple we wait for each other, we embrace to open a door to the future. Tango gives us a space in which to explore ourselves.

I ask and she responds. She indicates, and I in turn follow her.

We dance in the pauses, in the spaces that open between our worlds. And in those pauses we begin to see what is possible between us.

We are learning a new structure, a new vocabulary. We are learning each other.

As her extended foot slowly traces a graceful curve on the floor my world stands still – all time is suspended.

Defining my Tango Partner

I am just 14 months into learning Tango and still trying to be acceptable as a social dancer by the end of this year. As I continue on this journey I am beginning to feel the sense of expectancy that dancers often discuss – that one day, in some as yet unknown place, I will have the perfect dance with someone.

My attention is more on this possibility, it seems to define a new part of this experience – a phase that now looks outwards as well as inwards.

It occurs to me that in a sense the journey that I am on, my slow progress, is gradually defining that perfect follower for me. By becoming clearer in my own dance I am also describing the woman that will be that perfect partner for me, in that undefined moment in the future.

At the moment everything is imprecise and lacking in definition, and so the follower is also one of so many possibilities.

But as I slowly improve so she begins to be clearer to me. My half of our embrace is defining hers, as in the future we must fit together in a precise but as yet unknown way. My musicality must compliment hers, and her energies should flow with my own.

But of course the reverse is also completely true – that follower, somewhere in the world, is on her own journey – and therefore she is in fact defining me.

I find this so exciting, that a woman somewhere is unknowingly defining a path for herself that will ultimately intersect my own, that decisions and experiences in her dancing and emotional life are gradually choosing me from all of her own multitude of possibilities.

Seville – Home from home

I am so happy to be back in Seville. To feel progress in my Tango. To meet friends again. To dance. To be in the sunshine.

And to wander the streets capturing images..

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What a great place, such friendly, welcoming people. And how Tango so facilitates travelling by yourself. You have a structure, a knowledge – its like a common language.

Love it!