Followers in Tango! Heaven or Hell?

Dear Followers,
Have you ever been out in a milonga and felt like this:
Followers in trouble
Or maybe…even like this:
Followers in trouble
Are you thinking:
“I don’t know, I feel bored” or
“You know, it is the energy in the milonga” or
“After dancing with some of these people I feel that my level is dropping” or
“Where did all the good dancers go?”

Have you ever thought you might be Tango depressed? (The more I think about it, the more I believe this might actually be a medical term…haha)
You are not the only one and plus it is not just you being sad or unmotivated or uninspired, there are some valid reasons why you are feeling like that..!

So, followers, let’s assume for the sake of this article that all of the above and twice as more are true..!
That would mean that you have spent all this time doing something that bores you, in places that are not to your liking, with people you don’t necessarily like and although you are dancing, despite all odds, you are getting worse!

Then why are you still dancing Tango?
And this the moment of crisis! Tango Crisis!
Why am I still doing this dance? Should I more take classes? Is it worth practicing? Why even sacrifice my night for a milonga?

And yet here you are!
Which, means you don’t need me to tell you why you need to take classes, or to prove to you that it is worth going to milongas, or to talk about the importance of practice..?
You know all that already, what you don’t know is how to get out of this Tango- crisis cycle!

So let’s take a step back from all this and see the bigger picture here. It must feel disappointing, frustrating, tiring, maybe even embarrassing sometimes to put yourself out there and not get what you need or even what you deserve, so would it really help now if I told you that the more you practice, the better you will become and therefore your experience in the milonga will be better..?

NO! It wouldn’t help!
Because firstly, you know that already!
Secondly, you see no point in practicing, because you feel you have already invested too much time and this is not enjoyable, so what’s the point?

So before we get to what to do,  let’s identify some mental icebergs we–followers–have entering the milonga.

1)”If I get better I will get more dances”.
NOT true! Haha
For various reasons… the basic ones, firstly everyone perceives “better” in a different way. Secondly, the better you get, the more you expect and thirdly the milonga is not a competition is a social gathering so whether people will decide to spend 12mins with you, right in their face has to do with many other things aside from your level.
Bottom line, get better for yourself not in order to get more dances!

2) “I am in a milonga, I HAVE to dance”
The milonga is a party, you shouldn’t feel obligated to do anything. Dance when you want to and if that is not happening, chat with people, enjoy your drink, listen to the music. Go in with an open heart and an open mind, engage in conversation, smile, get to know people, if that leads to a dance that is great if not it is ok, make the best out if it, a milonga is a club with Tango music basicly!

3) “Nobody is asking me to dance, therefore I suck!” or “Good dancers never dance with me, so I suck!”
As followers we often times wait a whole night to get a dance. It is terrible to feel left out, to watch people enjoying their dances, while you are sitting there waiting. It doesn’t mean though that you suck! Instead of letting these thoughts take over your mind, take the lead, go where the fish are, for example the bar..! Talk to people. Most of the times people won’t ask you to dance because they don’t know you. Leaders do not always choose followers based on level!

4) “Nobody is asking me to dance, they are so unwelcoming!”
It is terrifying going to a milonga. And especially, followers going to a milonga alone. It is normal and understandable to feel a bit taken aback. Believe me though,  most people in the milongas are very nice people, you only need to give them the time to get to know you and you to know them. Make yourself feel at ease and then people will respond to that!

So what we really have is a combination of dance and social skills and both need time and practice of course to blossom.

We are looking at followers who are getting better because they love Tango, who dance only because they love to, who feel confident enough to improvise while dancing and who bring in a beautiful personality! Who doesn’t want to dance with THEM? Who doesn’t want to be with THEM?

So what do we do to become THEM?

  1. DO NOT even think about practicing to start! You don’t have the motivation yet. You need to feel good to start practicing.
  2. Choose pieces of music that you like. You might feel that Tango music doesn’t speak to you,  but you need time to get to know it, as it is very diverse. Plus it is, what is playing in the  milongas…To start though, just find songs with a steady beat, trying to include 1 or 3 traditional Tango songs.
  3. Set aside some free time for Tango in your day. Be realistic here, NOT more than 30mins!
  4. Before that time comes bring out your best of shoes!
    If your Tango- time is after work, for example, bring the shoes out before you leave in the morning or the night before, so when you get home you can’t escape it!
  5. DANCE! Wear those beautiful shoes and just DANCE. By the wall, the kitchen table, a counter, a windowsill.  Play with it. Don’t practice, just experience your body moving to the music. No embellishments, no choreography, no intricate steps,  only pure movement. DANCE
  6. Get into this with a child’s mind. Children don’t look at a video before they get on the swings, they just goo for it. You have come this far, I am sure, you have enough to dance, so do NOT watch videos. You are not trying to see how it should look on the outside but how it should feel on the inside! Believe me, it is instant satisfaction, once you get passsed this fearful stage of the first dance.
  7. Reward yourselves at the end..! Find something that you like to do and tell yourself you are going to get that at the end of your dance session.
    A nice bubble bath? A glass of wine? An improvisation video like this one:
  8. Try to be consistent, make it your thing, without making it a routine. Find yourself in Tango! And if you saw the video above say to yourself: IF SHE CAN DO IT SO CAN I!
  9. After a few times–how long, depends on you–you can start adding a few minutes of practice. Maybe 10-15mins of working on some basic elements of Tango, such as your balance, your projections, your walks, your ochos etc…
  10. Most importantly do what most people forget about, while trying to get better…HAVE FUN!
How do I know this works..?

Well I do it every day! And yes, some days I feel great from the very first moment and other days I am on the verge of going for coffee but then I dance and it just all goes away, the satisfaction is instant and you just want to dance more and more!
After that,  you really  want to practice. You practice for those three minutes of instant satisfaction, those three minutes of freedom, those Queenie moments of Tango bliss. You practice for YOU!

Plus, if you are wondering if leaders will notice any of this, this is a quote I read in a blog: “Followers must learn to improvise or else it is like dancing with dead weight..!” Strong, not my style, but to the point and most importantly it means that good leaders will be able to notice the difference.


Photo credit: Ed Yourdon via / CC BY-NC-SA
2)Photo credit: LHG Creative Photography via / CC BY-NC-ND

2 thoughts on “Followers in Tango! Heaven or Hell?”

  1. One thing left out is to acknowledge that leaders feel the same way, maybe for slightly different reasons, but leaders are not in Tango heaven (far from it).

    I understand that is another subject entirely, but to acknowledge it would have been useful.

    As far as the “leaders pick young and beautiful partners”, well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
    As far as young is concerned, it has been my experience that in general, the older the follower, the more snobby she is. This is however never mentioned in older follower rants for some reason. It is a trend that I see too much to ignore. The younger the follower, usually the more down to earth about the dance she is. I am not saying all older followers are snobby, but it is a pattern that is hard to ignore.

    1. Hey hey J,
      You are right, leaders are not in heaven either on the contrary
      That is why I have also written from the side of the leaders too here: “leaders! Tango is a man’s world too”

      it is funny you made this comment today because I asked a group I am teaching what they like & what they dislike in Tango and what they have done to make their dislikes worse?
      Interestingly enough both leaders and followers, young and old had one dislike in common, they felt ignored at some point in their Tango-life…And all at some point left the tango scene because of it..!
      I am thinking therefore that it might have to do more with our social skills than our dance skills… How would answer the above question?

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