Dancing and the Fear of making mistakes

Hi, Chrisa here,

I was teaching a beginner’s class last Thursday. At the end of the class I said to the leaders: “Practice this little routine, but don’t worry if you make a mistake… Tango is improvisational! Routines don’t matter, they are just tools”

I look at them and as I expected (after having said and heard THAT same phrase for years) they are looking at me like this:


In the past I would have gone through all these terrible and overused cliches, you find on the internet:
“There are no mistakes in Tango, only surprises”
“You must embrace the opportunity mistakes create”
“Mistakes are a way to success”

Instead I said something a lot more reassuring:
“You know what, I know I just made this even worse. I know you just want me to give a sequence, ask you to practice it a million times and send you off to the dance floors of the world reassured…. We will learn sequences, many beautiful sequences. BUT when you start making mistakes while practicing, remember IT DOESN’T MATTER!”

A mistake is NOT failure, it is a LESSON

The truth is we all hate making mistakes.
It is not really the mistake itself, but everything else around it.
The confrontation, having to start over, not knowing how to fix it and looking stupid…

The problem is, mistakes are unavoidable. They are bound to happen…
It is not a matter of if but when you are going to make a mistake.

So the best way to deal with them is to prepare for them, first, mentally.

Making a mistake DOESN’t mean you are a failure. It will only become a failure if you give up.

So with that in mind let’s see how we can prepare and bounce back from mistakes.

Action Step#1: Keep a record

When you are practicing keep a record of it.
I used to take notes. Writing down everything that was happening during my practice
Recording what exercises I did, with what intention and how I executed them.
I wrote down what worked, what didn’t and what changes I made for it to work. How the movement felt before and after the change… Everything!

This is actually how I came up with Intelligent Tango

Now I use a camera as well, but that notebook, and 2 more after that, have been my faithful friends during for many years

How that helped me?
Anytime I made a mistake and felt lost, I could go and trace my way back to where I started from and find possible mistake points which I would then revisit, and attempt to fix them.

Action Step#2: Mistakes turned into sequences

Our biggest fear, especially as leaders is that we will not be able to lead our partner, we will ruin the other person’s dance and we will end up looking like fools in front of everybody.

Be proactive!
Take any sequence. Practice it the same way you learned it in class. Then think of all the possible mistakes that can happen, and use them one by one to create a new sequences.

This is how I got the idea for these 2 videos on Improvisation:
Argentine Tango Improvisation #1
Argentine Tango Improvisation#2

And this is a great practice for followers too, as they can have a better idea of the many different paths a leader can choose from during the dance.

Action Step#5: Practice Smart–>Combining Tango drills to an activity you are very good at

Bet on diversity

Tango might still be “Under Construction” for you but there are other activities you are really good at.
Maybe you are doing other dances, or swimming or martial Arts… All these activities have ONE thing in common they are all MOVEMENT.

Find things that all of them have in common and focus on them while doing your activity.
For example say you want to practice your back steps and you are really fit because you love exercising.

Instead of just walking around the room getting frustrated because you are loosing your balance or you are breaking your posture… Make a COMBO of a Tango drill and fitness, like this:
Argentine Tango Technique– Don’t leave the gym yet

While you are doing an activity you are good at, you can notice the details of the movement that are valuable for your Tango progress. Then you take those details and you use them while doing your Tango drills.

This way you will shorten the frustration period and save yourself from going around in circles, because you will know what you are looking for!

Action Step#4: Build a good a network of teachers you can reach for advice

So first of all, talk to your teachers local or visiting. Reach out to them, ask them questions, use their suggestions in your practice AND follow up with them.

Every teacher wants to work with people who care. Show your teacher that you care and then they will share all their resources with you.

Be careful though, you don’t want to take advantage of them.
This is where your records can be of great help.

  • Make notes of your teacher’s suggestions– their actual words, not what you think they said, classic mistake
  • Compare what they are saying on a matter to your experience so far
  • Practice in the way they suggested. Make notes of the experience
  • Compare the before and after
  • Talk to your teacher, presenting specific actions and results.

The more specific and clear your questions are, the easier it will be for your teacher to guide you.

Lastly, offer something back. Now this doesn’t have to be some monetary exchange, but maybe you can find an interesting article on something you know your teacher would enjoy. Or a book or a video of another dancer you found interesting.

I have gotten book suggestions, TED talk suggestions, practice videos even movies sent to me by students and I love it!

I am sure your teacher will appreciate it too!

Action Step#5: Find a community that supports experimentation and diversity

Learning Tango is one thing. Having a community, a group of people you can rely to when you make a mistake and you feel stuck is something different.

I am sure you can find teachers who create a inclusive spirit in their classes if you look for people, who:

There is no way you can avoid mistakes… But you can at least build system that will allow you to predict them, prepare for them and swiftly bounce back from them.

We can be there for you if you want us to, just join the community of bautanz.com by subscribing below..!



Dancing and the Fear of Rejection

Does any of this by any chance sound familiar?

Leader: “I go to the milonga to dance. I hate small talk… why we can’t just dance.” or
“I just can’t deal with rejection.There are all these scenarios of what might go wrong going on in my head and I end up stuck. The cabeceo doesn’t work for me, btw…it just doesn’t!”

Follower: “I can’t say NO to someone, even if I know dancing with them will be unsatisfying. What if I end up sitting there all night?” or
“I have been dancing for a while and I have  been told to be a good dancer… I really put an effort to look good, happy and confident… but except for some  leaders that I know nobody else asks me to dance…”

The Fear of Rejection

The fear of rejection, is in fact part of our genes. It is something we have inherited from our ancestors who formed and valued tribes.
Being part of the tribe was extremely important since being a cast off could easily lead to death.

In those good old days, you had to actively pursue being part of the tribe if you didn’t want to end up in exile…and possibly…hm…dead!
Thankfully, that is not the case anymore! haha

Our bodies and our minds though being  super clever have kept this very fear, still in us to keep us active AND safe.
Being afraid of getting rejected from a group we care about, is THE very thing that will make us take action to become better and stronger within our group.

You, right now…: “So this is a good thing?
YES! But only if you don’t let the fear blind you.

The biggest problem for most of us though is that we started dancing for that very reason:
“it is a great way to overcome shyness, anxiety, insecurity, etc… The structured environment allows us to be someone else or a different part of ourselves, helping us work through these issues”

Only to find out that for us to successfully “work through these issues” we need to fight the battle with rejection face on. 

Lets put a scenario together…

We have our leader, Tom, who walks in a milonga alone, rushes through to the bar, sharing some shy hellos.
He is orders a drink and looks around on the packed floor, thinking: “Ok, here we go… You can do this!
An hour and a few mediocre dances later… He is looking around on the dance floor, thinking I have no idea how to this… Why am I putting myself through this s@$t..?

Tom is now starting to feel bewildered… The place is getting crowded, his partners seemed unsatisfied and the last time he tried the cabeceo nobody matched his gaze.

Tom (thinking): “I don’t get it… There are followers here who look completely unavailable. If you don’t want to dance, why are you here? Or they would rather dance with some horrible dancers… I mean I am not great but I am not THAT bad! Maybe Tango is not for me…”

At the same time at the other end of the pista….

Mary, has been sitting for 3 tandas straight. She is feeling devastated.
It is another Saturday night, that she has put in all this effort to find the perfect outfit, put make-up on, come in with a good vibe, smiling to everyone… And FOR WHAT?
To get asked only by her friends and some horrible dancers who copy ridiculous patterns off Youtube and then push-and-pull you on the dance floor to show off..?

She is now looking around, half smile on her face, thinking: “There is no point to this… Nobody wants to dance with me”.
Her eyes are glazing over as she is trying to figure out, what she is doing wrong…!

So what do we have here?

We have 2 dancers struggling with rejection.

Tom is afraid to step away from the bar, start talking and meeting new people or even just holding his gaze long enough until the followers get it.
And Mary is afraid to step away from her group, and start meeting new people. PLUS she is afraid to say no, in case she doesn’t get a chance to dance at all.  Without realizing that she is missing the chance to say yes to other dancers.

In the end they are both so frustrated and bitter, that no matter how much they try to be part of the party, it looks as if they are not even there.

Tom and Mary have a choice to make:

  • Either they start poking their heads out of their comfort zone, taking action against being rejected
  • Or they sit there watching all those other people doing that very thing and enjoying their time in the milonga.

If you are a Tom or a Mary ask yourselves:

“Cabeceo is hard. Getting more dances is hard. Becoming part of a community is hard. BUT what is the alternative?

If you love Tango and therefore you still think it is worth becoming part of a Tango community,  there is NO alternative. You need to deal with rejection and that means bringing in a strong combo of social and dance skills!

Action Steps for happier Milongas?
  • Change your mindset about what a milonga is.
    You shouldn’t think of the milonga as solely the place to dance. The milonga is where you see Tango in action. It is where you get inspired by other dancers and inspire other dancers. The milonga is the place to meet new people and reconnect with friends through a chat or a dance.
    Getting there with a altered mindset will help you reevaluate how you spend your time in the milongas
  • Find a good way to socialize, whether you are going with a group or without
    Here is a video that could spark a few ideas: Tango Festivals Networking Vol.1
  • Focus on your strengths! What are your strong points, is it musicality, is it smooth embrace, is it a good walk…? What is it?
    Find it and bet on THAT! The milonga is NOT the place to practice or correct the things you are not good at, it is the place to have fun with the things you do well!
  • Find a way to bounce back from rejection. Nobody likes hearing NO, or sitting there for hours before someone asks them for a dance.
    Rejection SUCKS! It happens though to everyone and you have to find a way to bounce back from it.
    One way to do so, is to focus on how are YOU are feeling when you are dancing Tango. What YOU are doing to get better and why YOU are doing it. Instead of looking for other people’s approval.
    Here an article on how to deal with shame: Dancing and the fear of shame
    And a video to make you feel a bit better: Focus on what you have
  • Practice smart! After you have pin-pointed what you are having trouble with, start building diverse practices around it. What I mean by diverse?
    Practices that are not strictly based on Tango BUT include elements from other activities that you do. This way you will get better, faster.
    A quick example: I have a student you has trouble with finding the beat. But he is a very good windsurfer. So I asked him: How to manage to follow the rhythm of the water and wind when you windsurf?
    And he said: “I listen to it with my body and then I let it guide me”
    Then here is your answer, forget about downbeat, upbeat, 1,2,3… Listen with your body and let the music guide you.
Is this worth it?

I think it is… Obviously! haha
Jokes aside though, if you do want to learn how to handle rejection better, if you want to be able to connect with more people, battle shyness and get more confident not only in the milonga but in life, learning and doing a social dance is a great way to do that.

I think it is worth it therefore, not only because I love Tango and dance but because I think that it can open up doors for you to great opportunities.
Opportunities that don’t stop on the dance floor or the door of your dance studio. But expand to asking someone out on a date or asking for a raise by building up the courage to create change!

If you want to learn how to practice smart, in order to enjoy your Tangos more but also to get more confident, courageous and creative, join our community of Bautanz by subscribing below and share your thoughts, experiences and troubles. I will be delighted to help!


Dancing and the fear of shame

Dance like nobody is watching

What are your thoughts on this overused phrase..?

  • Absolutely agree, you have to be yourself on the dance floor
  • Yeah right!
  • This is probably how advanced dancers feel
  • All of the above

I personally think, it is baloney!

Even as an advanced dancer you are fully engaging with the people around you. Not because you feel that they are judging you but because you are all sharing that moment

How many times haven’t you left a milonga thinking: “well I had some really good dances but the energy in that place is just sooooo unwelcoming?”
Or think of the last time you went to a concert, for example, and the audience was just sooo out of it, how it dragged your energy down too. Compared to a concert where the audience was feeling it, it was part of the action, and you just couldn’t stop singing!

The truth is it makes a huge difference if you surround yourself with positive, active, passionate people, compared to negative, passive people.

What we can’t confess to ourselves is what is keeping us back

The biggest problem with that phrase is that it is used to cover up a rather big problem… FEAR OF SHAME

The fear of making a mistake in front of everybody.
Looking stupid, incompetent or unable.
Afraid of taking a risk just in case it doesn’t work and you make a fool of yourself in front of everyone!

I was at the OACCPP conference last Friday presenting Transformative Tango with Carolyn Dallman Downes. Very exciting day during which I learned so much, one phrase though sparked the idea for this article: “shame leads to disconnection and disconnection leads to shame“.

You have probably heard leaders say things like: “I am not able to follow what the teacher says, I look like a fool there

Or followers saying: “Oh my God! How terrible did that look? We almost fell 3 times

Or having one or the other partner with this expression on their face:


While thinking: “You are killing my groove! You are making me look like an idiot!”

(If you are in the last category and you are thinking that the smile at the end will save the day…eeeeh Think again! People can tell! Hahaha)

What to do about it…
Step 1: Accept that people’s opinion matters!

Is it such terrible thing to admit?
A milonga is a social event, it is like a little town, where everyone sees and knows everything!

It doesn’t mean that their opinion will necessarily change the way you dance or your choices on the dance floor but before you say: “ I don’t care what anybody thinks” be ready to back it up with actions…or admit that you actually do care.

Step 2: Deeply get to know your community.

What usually happens is that we waste time trying to fight our fears staying away from milongas…BUT this only makes things worse! It just makes the monster bigger!

Instead, go to the milongas with intention to study them, to understand the community you are about to enter and not only to dance.

Step 3: Focus a big part of your practice on improvising. Instead of practising routines that don’t work on the dance floor.

Now you can understand how important the  a previous step… You need to know the dance floor and the dancers of your community, to know what kind of moves fit best.  Here are a few ideas that will fit perfectly on any dancer floor



Step4: Followers–though this is something leaders should think about too–really embrace.

Dance is not action-reaction, it is offer, absorb, create movement and give back.

You need to hold your partner. Really hug and that involves your arms and hands.
Especially connecting in the hands, is essential, because there are so many nerves ending in the hands, in the finger tips, if you practice on taking your mind to the hands, you will see, you will become more sensitive towards understanding your partner.
You will get a quick image of how they are feeling at that moment.
Are they comfortable? Are they tensed? Do they have a shoulder problem? Are they going by the book or are they a bit more open to exploration.
It is pity leaving your hands out of the dance. Engage and you will know your partner before you take one step on the dance floor.

Why am I referring to followers?

Simply because worldly accepting to dance with someone is not enough. You have to let them know through body language as well, that you are there to dance with them and you are fully commiting to the dance.

Step5: Leave your ego at the door.

The ego-dog at his own door is like a lion” Rumi, “Little book of Life”

Get into the embrace coming from a respectful caring place.
Come into the milongas with the intention to have fun, to meet new people, to share at least one smile with someone outside your group.
Look at the dance floor seeing only the beauty of communication.
Be on the dance floor with the intention to create and share something from your heart.

You might read these words and think… Yeah yeah, I still remember that time when… ENOUGH!

When we create a safe place people bloom. People express themselves, share. Mistakes become beautiful surprises. Risks become thrilling experimentation.

Steps on a beat become DANCE.

This is an excellent example of the work we do in Intelligent Tango

Tools and Tips on how to get a better Balance

“Oh! My balance is sooo bad!”

“I am doing great when I am practicing but I am still struggling when I dance”

“I get so frustrated when pushed, pulled and shuffled around by people who can’t lead and just copy sequences off youtube”

“Close embrace feels so unnatural. I feel I am continuously falling over”

Any of that sound familiar?
I am guessing you are nodding “Yes” here…haha

Many people struggle with balance but the reasons are NOT physical…

Balance is a rather common problem, even if your balance is good, I am sure you have danced with people who are very wobbly or you have been in classes doing the classic drills and have seen people huffing and puffing through them…

The problem is rarely physical. It is more about getting rid of common balance lies, and embodying very helpful rules.

Some common balance lies:

*It is something you have to hold
*You are either balanced over all or not
*Our partners are responsible for our balance
*To get better you have to do balance exercises

Some decapitating cues:

*Pull your bellybutton in
*Squeeze the glutes
*Stretch up through the crown of the head

Oh dear I feel I am getting a workout just by writing this…haha


Here are a few ideas on how to get out of your head, where a bunch of rules and taboos are not allowing you to move and express yourself, and how to get in charge of your body, your axis and your balance.



Rules that can help you improve your balance

I want to make it clear here, that no matter how great the rules are, if you just copy them they won’t work, you need to practice in order to feel them in your body.

The great thing about dance and Art in general is that it gives the chance to discover your body, to discover yourself.
It is not worth throwing all that away looking for shortcuts that don’t even work…

So here we go:

  1. It has to do with alignment, breathing, gravity, weight and fear managment
  2. You find balance through movement, not through holding
  3. Don’t rely only on muscle. Go deeper, find the movement of your bone structure–spine, ribs, hips
  4. You are responsible for your balance NOT your partner
  5. How you enter in the embrace and how much you engage in it will affect your axis and your dance
  6. Dance is NOT action-reaction BUT offer, absorb, create and give back!

Read more on Balance in our FULL BALANCE GUIDE Vol1 that you can get by subscribing here at this site!

Hope to see you inside,

P.S: We cover this in great detail, and through various channels in Intelligent Tango give it a look…!

Moving Fast in Tango means more than just walking fast…

Moving Fast….


Maybe not quick as Flash… haha… but fast enough to causes us trouble

So most people, after they manage to extablish a connection with their partner, moving at a regular pace is rather comfortable for them.
And it is usually going faster or slower or changing their speed during the song, that they can’t really control all that well, and that messes their dance and connection up.

So this drill goes somewhat like this…
You will start at a pace that YOU feel comfortable with.
Don’t put any music on, for now.
Instead, start with a speed and a rhythm you feel comfortable with, that you have control over.

The biggest mistake most people make is starting from the rules, starting from where they should be instead of, from where they are.

So start from where you are, and most importantly start paying attention. Start listening!

2 things to look for here:

  1. How the rhythm of your walk matches the rhythm of your breath
  2. Take your mind to different parts of your body and notice how they are moving. Your spine, your head, your hips, your shoulders, your hands, your naval, everything
Moving Fast doesn’t just mean walking fast

This is a very important shift of mindset that you need to create.

Most people have problems, moving fast, because they believe that they only need to move their feet fast.
In reality though, you need to practice on moving your whole body fast through space.

So what usually happens, to most dancers is that they are having a great dance and when they attempt to move a bit faster, they tense up and become robots again.
Or exactly the opposite, there are some people who can move their feet fast enough without tensing up, but they are still missing on the experience of moving their WHOLE body fast, which makes them tense up when they try to slow down.

So as you are practising your walk, find your inner rhythm, notice how that inner rhythm organizes/ directs your body’s movement, and then attempt to change your speed.

When you start to feel confident with this it is time to add the music!
And as you will hear me say in the video, find a song that you like WHICH though starts slow and builds up in speed.

So with no further a do, here is your video:

And if you want more musicality, subscribe to Bautanz to get the Musicality Guide Vol.#1 and other Tango goodies along with that




Rhythm, music and style in your ochos & boleos

Yesterday we talked about musicality in the walk, so today I wanted us to dig a little bit deeper into capturing the essence of the music. And we will be using ochos and boleos to do that.

It is not though a video on technique. But a video on flavour, taste, and style…

Why did I choose ochos and boleos..?

First of all they are a vital part of Tango, especially ochos.
The main reason though was that they come as a package with so many rules, do’s-and-dont’s and styles that the more we learn the more frustrated we get…!

Look at the beginning of this video for example…
Yes it is me…unfortunately…haha

Look at that  grim expression on my face… You can actually see what is going on in my head…

  1. Keep the body to your partner
  2. Hips stay square
  3. Hold that posture
  4. Step-and-turn (put a robotic voice to this…)

Who wants to be dancing like that?!?!
I look awful! It looks like I am doing military service here…  hahaha

Thank fully I didn’t stop practising…

What am I doing differently, in that second part..?

Firstly, even though in the first video I am focused, you can see I am not in the movement, I am in my head thinking about the “should”, “could”, “would”…
Compared to the second video, that I am in the moment, commited to the movement

Secondly, my whole body is participating in the movement. The ochos are more about connection and upper-and-lower body dialog than disassociation.

That is exactly what I meant yesterday when I said that if you leave all the work to the legs, you will never stop feeling like a robot.
In order to have an effortless, efficient, enjoyable dance, your whole body needs to be active.
And in order to be able to FEEL, embody the music, you need to allow your whole body to move, to dance, like I am doing in the second part of the video.

Thirdly, I am matching the energy, the style, the dynamics and the feeling of the ochos with that of the boleos.
This, interestingly enough is a big issue for followers…
How are we supposed to do a boleo?
Where should I place my knee?
How powerful should it be… etc etc

Good boleos come from a good ochos, those two are intimately connected!
So find THAT connection first and then the right boleo will come out of it. All the 3 boleo versions you can see in the video are correct, so you can use either one depending on the energy, the music, your mood, the space etc

Choosing between techniques

Because I know that many of you will see this video and think: “But MY teacher says your ochos shoule be like this… and your boleos have to be like so…”

I don’t care what your teacher says… And you know why?
Because your teacher is probably correct!

This video is not here to prove your teacher right or wrong though. This is not the issue…
The issue here is to encourage you to try different techniques, different ideas, different styles… And most importantly to get your whole body moving, to get your WHOLE BODY dancing!

Then and only then you will be able to fully express yourselves, through movement.  You will be able to attempt a taste of the different styles of Tango, and choose the one that feels better for you depending on the music, who you are dancing with, your mood etc.
This way every dance will be a special experience for you and your partners.

The scariest question of the video…

Is this going to take 2 YEARS?

It is true… THIS is how long it took me AND I practised every day for 2 hours A DAY.
You can imagine how frustrating that must have been. You can actually see the frustration in my face, in the 2015 video… its insane!

But you don’t have to go through that for 2 years…

You don’t have to make the same mistakes I made, you can actually save yourselves some frustration and anguish by practising a lot smarter, with the right material, sequenced in the proper way, here at bautanz.com by subscribing to this page and getting more goodies and Tango tips on your email weekly

Or through joining Intelligent Tango– the course,  where I have sellected the best exercises from my practice and I have sequenced them for you: https://bautanz.com/intelligent-tango-programs-and-courses/

Hope to see you there,

Constructing Dance

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