Practice, practice, practice…

Picture of Sallycat and Shaun practicing If I am to be the greatest tango dancer in the universe then obviously I’ve got to practice. A lot. From the moment I saw tango being danced, I KNEW I would do whatever it took. 

My trip to Argentina is part of my practice schedule. It falls into Level 12 of my personal hierarchy of tango practice for the beginner who wants to conquer the world, which goes something like:

  1. Stay for the milonga after your first class. Does require courage but it’s dark so you can pretend no-one knows that you can’t walk backwards in a straight line yet.
  2. Listen to tango music 24/7 to get the beat into your soul.
  3. Stay till the end of the milonga after EVERY class and keep smiling. The really good guys will run out of favourite dancers and eventually take pity on you.
  4. Watch films like The Tango Lesson (1997) and Tango, no me dejes nunca (1998). Watch them again. Believe it can be you.
  5. Attend all available milongas. Even if no-one asks you to dance you can see how it should be done.
  6. Attend all available classes. This way you get to know more guys who will ask you to dance at milongas and who won’t mind if you ask them.
  7. Practice moves learned in classes at all available milongas. By now you are getting favourite dance partners yourself and the best ones want to keep learning.
  8. Take some private lessons with fantastic teachers, money permitting. Get to the brutal truth of what you need to practice.
  9. Practice alone every day on the brutal truth.
  10. Watch tango videos on YouTube. Watch them again. Believe it can be you.
  11. Practice with an amazing partner. Dating a talented male dancer might help with this one but I reckon being best mates is a better option. Basically that way you’re more likely to keep your practice partner and surely that’s got to come first for the tango addict…
  12. Try (have courage) new practice situations: intensive 3 day workshops, London milongas, fly to Buenos Aires… and go back to Level 1. OK, so I should be able to walk backwards in a straight line by now BUT the first time an Argentine asks me to dance at a Buenos Aires milonga I will be shaking and quite possibly will fall over trying to do just that…

On my short tango journey, a little anger has been a great motivator for practice. Every time I have sat out for long periods at milongas, every time a guy has turned me down when I have been brave enough to ask for a dance, every time a guy has been rude (and they have) about my dancing, it has only served to fuel my passion to be the best I can be. When I don’t want to stand at the kitchen worktop practicing disassociation, when I don’t want to walk around the sofa putting decorations into every step, when I don’t want to dance endless giros round an imaginary square on the laminate floor… then I think of those guys who didn’t want to dance with me and I know, I KNOW that one day they will, and it will be me who can turn them down.

Last night I achieved a major milestone in my practice journey. My dream dancer of Hampshire wanted to practice with me for the first time, for a full two hours. So somewhere along the line, Levels 1-10 must have paid off. Of course I picked up many more points to practice, but at least this morning with Level 11 in the bag, I could face the kitchen worktop with a smile on my face… and he picked up something to practice leading too – triple volcada next week Shaun?

See pictures of me practicing with Shaun at Bar So, Bournemouth


7 Responses

  1. Yes, yes, yes!! Incredible progress, dedication and perseverance. Keep it up. Five stars. And great post by the way…fantastic advice for anyone who wants to get really good at this tango lark. You have to live it 24/7.

  2. What a terrible thing ambition is eh?

    The only items in your list I haven’t done are 2, 4 and 9, so I guess that makes me a total light-weight! The rest of your points are totally indispensible. The moment you go home early, the moment you let somebody’s comments get to you, and the moment you decide you can’t get any better is when you let a world of joy and excitement slip from your embrace.

    Also, chicks dig guys who can dance well so there’s no excuse for me!

  3. Please write a book for beginners one day.

    PS: It’s great to see your pictures dancing tango.

  4. Yes…definitely a must…those 12 points for the extremely addicted *grin* Not sure if I’m all there…me, it’s just listening to tango music 24/7 and practicing hours on end by myself and with partners…then maybe attend a milonga and see if I can really lead some of them.

    I can’t believe at times…but these days, I can…and look good doing it. Still, soo many things yet that I have to work on…like looking better…making the moves even sharper so it looks like I’m a professional dancer…and most importantly, always enjoying the dance no matter who my partner is. 🙂

  5. “… then I think of those guys who didn’t want to dance with me and I know, I KNOW that one day they will, and it will be me who can turn them down.”

    Oh, what a familar cry! I clung hard to that idea when I was new at the milongas and noone asked me.

    I’ve just made the decision to go to BsAs myself, so come January I expect I’ll be clinging to that idea again when I’m planchadoring… I’m so happy to have found your blog! It’s giving me courage.

  6. Kate. Have courage and belief. All is possible and believe me you won’t be planchadoring in Buenos Aires. Not for long anyway! If I can do it, anyone can… SC

  7. Sounds fantastic. Good for you. Thanks for the inspiration. I’m in BsAs and desperate to tango. I’ve had about 4 private lessons and things are going well but getting into the milonga society is daunting. I went with my dance teacher and that is certainly one way of doing it- I gotta try but as a very beginner getting a dance with someone who isn’t my teacher fills me with anxiety and i don’t want to sit in the corner forever. Just need to get my confidence up and i suppose lessons are the only way to go.


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