We get together for some Tango chatting!
You know some times a friend can be the best mentor, and this is coming from me a dancer… Do you know what that means?
That most of the times I hate my partners…and then I realize how much, each of them has taught me..! haha
Tango chatting with Jason Jiang
Jason Jiang is a good friend and active member from our community here in Toronto.
He is also though the organizer of the Shanghai Sientome festival which features many big names of the Tango world with Sebastian Arce and Mariana Montes leading the way.
He has been a DJ for big festivals the most recent on being the Tango Maya Fest happening every November in the spicy Cancun. Jason has been dancing Tango for many years and has a strong background in Ballroom dancing as well.
So in this interview, we attempted to reveal juicy Tango details that can help different dancers of different levels and with different goals.
This is what you will get from our chat:
- What it is like to dj for big festivals–such as Tango Maya Fest in Cancun: https://www.tangomayafest.com/
- How he managed some special circumstances
- What happens when Sebastian Arce shows up to teach a class
- Tips he got from his private class with Sebastian Arce and Maximiliano Cristiani
- How he uses these tips to practice
- What exactly he practices on and how
- How his vast experience in ballroom affected his Tango
- The Shanghai Tango Festival– Sientome Tango: https://sientometango.
- How he organized it, who, where, when and why
- How they manage role balance in the classes
and much much more
If you are looking for tools, tips, drills and inspiration, I think you won’t be disappointed!
Associated links mentioned during our chat:
Jason Jiang FB: https://www.facebook.com/jasonwjiang
Luciano Brigante and Alejandra Orozco
Tango chatting with Andy Kamienski
I invited him in for some Tango chatting where I got to see how he started Tango and almost quit in the first month.
How he blamed himself, for not being able to understand this dance
What he did to figure it out and how he managed the frustration of opposing information
I learned about his 23 trips–so far– to Buenos Aires, an interesting class with Gavito, the people he follows now, what inspires him and how he tries to inspire and teach his students.
We also dance, dance, dance at the end!
All improvised, as you can see I caught him by surprise too, but he had no problem showing me some of his moves..!haha
With no further a do here is the video:
Tango chatting between dancers
Tango Chatting– Tango Festivals Networking Vol.1
It is officially summer time and Tango festivals have already started.
If it’s your first or your 50th one I think you will find some tips here that will help you get more comfortable while in those huge gala spaces, full of people and at the same time full of potential.
Most of us have a distaste for big festivals simply because they make us feel uneasy. Maybe it is because they tend to be too crowded, or because we have nobody to go with.
Or because we have spent a certain amount to enter the event and we end up sitting for 3 hours.
That is why I am sharing with you today:
Part #1 of the Tango Festivals Networking series
If you want to go to the video right away here it is: Tango Chats–Tango festivals Networking Vol.1
I was listening to a Tim Ferriss podcast last week on “How to build a world class network in record time”. And I found many similarities, between big conferences and big festivals…
Everyone is trying to get noticed by the VIPs. Everyone is trying to dance or at least chat with them.
Booze is involved though tangueros–especially in certain parts of the world–might consider adjusting their intake–adding or reducing…I personally though think it helps at a moderate intake..haha
And you always have the ghost- dancers who are the ones who attended every lesson possible and end up attending the milonga though they feel that death would have been the sweetest relief.
“Small talk is Big talk” Tim Ferriss
So lets start with how you spend your time in a festival’s milonga…
Some of you I am sure have already answered:
“You dance as much as you can with any possible dancer from outside your community”
Ok! here we go…
The milonga is a party, and when a festival happens it is usually a bigger party! In parties of course we dance but also we meet new people. We build new relationships that can be useful on and off the dance floor.
For example, I am in Toronto but during festivals people from all around visit the city. So in the last festival I met someone from the US, one person from Germany and one from Italy. They were wonderful dancers and people and we still chat on and off through facebook. They have invited me over to festivals happening in their countries and though I haven’t had the chance to take them up on their offer yet,I know that if and when I do there will be at least one person to greet me there, dance with me and help me feel comfortable.
How did I do that?
Small talk… between dances and after our dance. And instead of sitting at one spot when I wasn’t dancing, I was roaming around the room and chatting with new people that were standing alone too, by the bar.
If you are even thinking: I can’t do that, I am too shy!
I was shy too… very shy..! It is another skill you need to work on though and if at any point during the night you feel you had enough take a break. Walk outside, for a few minutes, spend sometime alone, take a breath and walk back in.
Some small talk rules straight from Tim Ferriss (I apologize in advance for the language ladies…)
“Don’t dismiss people. Don’t be a dick. Don’t rush”
Tango Chatting rule#1: Don’t dismiss people
This is what usually happens… We walk in a festival with our group of friends, sit at our specific table/ spot, dance with each other, and Tango-gossip about the rest of the people there.
Don’t tel me you don’t do it. I will not believe you! haha
Even though we want to dance with other people we don’t make the effort to get away from our group and meet them. Sometimes we even rationalize our behavior by turning into a 5 year old saying: “Well they are not talking to me either”
Fine! They need to work on their social skills too but now we are talking about you!
Bottom line you need to break away from the group…
Fear (less) technique: The best person is waiting for you at the door…
If you are shy or introvert then you will find it difficult, to get up from your seat and go over to some stranger and chat.
But what if that stranger was already talking to you? What if that person wasn’t really a stranger?
Start with the person at the door, collecting the entrance tickets.
Lets see how you interact with them at a different level
- If you haven’t been there before:
Introduce yourselves after you pay, saying something like this:
“It is my first time at your festival… I am Chrisa, I came in from Toronto. (pause) Are there lots of people from out of town?
- If you know them already
“How are you doing tonight? How is the festival going? Lots of people from out of town?”
Well some people at the door are more conversational than others so if you are a bit lucky you might get right away to:
“Oh! yes! We have a lot of people from XYZ but especially the group from X are beautiful dancers”
Where you ask: “Really? I would love to dance with them, where are they sitting?”
Person at the desk: “Mmmm see this guy in the red shirt, he is one of them”
If you are not that lucky, they might stop at: Oh! yes yes, lots of people from all over.
Just ask: Anyone I should keep an eye out for a dance?
Now you are thinking…and how would they know?
Here is a person collecting entrances fees–aka seeing everyone who enters–at a Tango festival, not at the subway/metro/tub at rush hour…I think they probably have considerable down time… What do you think they do while waiting for somebody else to walk in?
Watch the dance floor and Tango- gossip!
So they know!
Shoe Change or Coat Hanging technique: Everyone is right there…
So maybe you are like me and you show up “late” based on your community’s standards at the milonga, and everyone is already there. Then you might have some trouble implementing this technique before the milonga BUT you can still do it after…haha
The shoe change or coat hanging technique is exactly what it sounds like, you chat as you change your shoes or hang/ take your coat…
- If you know them the person beside you
Smile and say: Hi! How are you tonight?
- If you don’t know the person beside you, it’s a great opportunity to meet them, unless they are creepy or disgusting…Hey it had to be said!
Smile and say: Hi! (Pause)
I don’t think I know your name? I am Chrisa!
- It is all about the shoes…haha
Hi! Can I ask you where you got your shoes…they look beautiful!
Then introduce yourselves…
- As you are leaving
Smile! It was a beautiful milonga! (Pause..they will say sth… hopefully)
I don’t think we have met, I am Chrisa!
Does it matter if you are talking to a leader or a follower? No
At this phase you only want to meet new people, firstly because it is nice to make new friends and secondly because you don’t know who they know! haha
Tango Chatting rule#2: Don’t be a dick
Avoid the VIP buzz! I have heard the craziest lines from leaders and followers when visiting dancers/ teachers are in town…
Follower being asked to dance: “No! I am saving my feet for so-and-so!”
Leader, while we were dancing: “So, how do you feel now that we are passing in front of the VIP table, anxious..?!?!”
Follower asking a teacher for a dance… when he said no, she turned to the teacher next to him and asked him instead..!
Do I need to go on? hahaha
Ok! It is a festival. Great people are there, people you probably look up to. To be excited is normal and expected BUT do you really need to forget any rule on politeness and social behaviour?
So what you should do before asking a teacher/ great dancer to dance:
Ask yourself 2 questions:
- Am I prepared to hear “NO” and how will I handle it?
- Can I add any value to this partnership? AKA am I good enough?
I am not going to answer these for you… You are on your own here…
But if you decide you are prepared and good enough, then you need to choose the proper time.
Because you might be great but if the timing is off then it doesn’t really matter…
So watch out for these signs:
- Is the teacher dancing?
- Have they asked or been asked-and-accepted a dance from somebody else?
- Are they deep in conversation or enjoying their time among their peers?
- Are they relaxing half-dead on their chair?
If they are not dancing and they haven’t attempted to dance with anyone other than fellow teachers. Also, if they are enjoying their time having a drink or relaxing for a moment after a full day of classes, you SHOULD NOT go and ask them to dance or hover around their table.
Same rules apply to asking anybody to dance, or joining in conversations before or after classes or at a milonga.
If there are 2 people deep in conversation DON’T interrupt!
Lesson to be learned from this… “When you are dick, it makes nice people do mean things” Tim
If it is more than 2 people, you can join a table or group but make sure you ask first, saying something like:
“Hi guys, would you mind if I took this seat?”
Most of the times people won’t mind and then it is the tough moment…
DON’T just join their conversation abruptly. Listen, observe and at the right moment ask a question on something you are genuinely interested in. To try to be the smartest person in the group..!
It is very annoying and rude… Instead until you meet the people better and make some sort of connection, play the idiot and ask more questions than the answers you give.
When you actually feels like the right time for a dance with someone, with the above rules applying and if you like the music playing, ask politely and:
If the person says NO to your invite to dance, what do you think you should do:
- Ask the person, right next to them?
- Complain and make them feel bad?
- Say, thank you and make a nice comment about the milonga?
If you guessed number #4, you are CORRECT!
Avoid all the rest or any other similar toddler’s reaction
If they say YES, you:
- Walk with/ meet them on the dance floor
- Make some small talk between dances, such as: what is your name? Where are you from? etc
Don’t ask what they do for a leaving, it makes people uncomfortable
- Thank them and if you are a leader, walk them back to their seat.
Tango Chatting rule#3: Don’t rush
If you really want to make a connection with a teacher, it is better to do it after a class you take with them.
You have to be careful though, you might have the nicest thing to say but if you rush to them right after the class, they won’t appreciate it.
Give them some breathing space and after a couple minutes go to chat…
How to do that:
- Acknowledge they are busy and tired, and get right to the point.
Don’t hover around their table
Don’t spend your time asking them about the weather etc
And if you have a question about the class to ask, ask when they offer time for questions and not when they have finished the class and sitting down for a breath between classes
- Say your name without a full bio…
Honestly they don’t care, how many festivals you have attended, how many classes you have taken and from whom, and what you think about yourself or Tango
- Don’t try pre- book dances
- Don’t ask them out to chat for Tango…
I can hear some of you laughing…don’t! Things like that do happen… And believe me it feels strange and sometimes creepy too.
So we have something like:
“Hi! I am Chrisa (pause) I know you are very busy and tired, I only wanted to say I truly enjoyed your class and I am looking forward to rest of your classes and your performance”
Wondering whether you hug them or not? Wait to see what they do, don’t rush in for a hug!
If you didn’t take the class, and you see them walking around afterwards, don’t pretend you took the class, they WILL KNOW!
Sometimes we have a question that we didn’t get to ask, or we feel we didn’t quite get it when they explained, say something like:
“Hi! I am Chrisa (pause) I know you are very busy and tired, I only wanted to ask one question____(add your question)”
Make sure that the question is actually ONE!
Now in which other aspects you shouldn’t rush..?
When you join a class and you have no partner…
Don’t rush in and with panic in your eyes run to the organizer, to the teacher and to every person sitting around asking for a partner.
Go in a bit earlier… Scan the room for people looking like they are alone… Go and gently talk to the organizer without expecting them to do the search for you…
Somewhat like this:
“Hi! I am Chrisa (pause) I have registered for this class but I don’t have a partner, do you know if any of these people are looking for a partner as well?”
Notice how I am implying that I will ask around instead of just complaining to them…
Wait and see what they answer and be prepared to take action and the responsibility to finding someone instead of throwing the responsibility back to the organizer
If the actually say: “Oh! Yes, that person over there is also looking for a partner”
Then you won’t rush over and book them as your partner…
“Hi! (sit and start rearranging stuff) I am Chrisa! Are you here for the class? (pause)
I am looking for a partner, would you by any chance be interested?”
If they say yes, awesome… keep talking to them though!
If they say NO… Again keep talking to them! Don’t dismiss them and rush away!
When else should you not rush?
When you get to the milonga…
Many people go to the milonga as if it is a work project… They HAVE TO dance. If they are not dancing it means something is wrong with them.
So the minute they walk in, they change their shoes and off they go to races…
If you value your time in the milonga, I think you need to share your time with people you like as dancers and/ or as people.
There is more value in dancing 3 tandas with people you like than dancing 10 tandas with people you dislike or you are not interested in
The milonga is a party…
Walk in. Look around.
See if there is someone you recognize there. Go say hello to them. If they ask you to sit at their table, do, if not, keep walking.
Find a spot. Chat with the people next to you.
Go to the bar and grab a drink. Chat with the people at the bar.
Overall spend some time making new relationships off the dance floor which will lead to dances and new friends.
Go back to your spot and notice the dancers on the dance floor. See which people you would like to dance with and notice where they are sitting. Are they alone or with a group, are they dancing only with their partner or with others too…
If you have a chance to chat with them, it is in fact ideal, cabeceo becomes so much easier.
Cabeceo… here are a few things to have in mind:
- Always use cabeceo–leaders and followers. Don’t just show up in front of someone and demand a dance
- If the other person is NOT looking back, it means that they might not want to dance, at that moment. Try again a bit later… They are NOT looking back again? Forget about it!
If on the other hand, they do look back at you, do NOT complain about trying to cabeceo them before.
- If despite all that I have said to you, you decide not to cabeceo them but to go and ask them right away:
- Be prepared for a NO
- Don’t tap them on the shoulder
- Don’t spook up from behind them
- When they say no, don’t ask the person next to them
- Don’t shout and call them names (It has happened)
- Leave like a decent person that you are!
- For teachers, specifically, don’t ask them at the beginning of a tanda…
Instead ask them at the 3rd or max 2nd song. I know you want the full experience, but you need to think about what they want too.
Bottom line here is that festivals are a great opportunity to meet new people and make new friends that might last you a life time…
Don’t throw the opportunity out the window… Optimize for happiness and full enjoyment.
Tango Chatting– Tango Festivals Networking Vol.2– Choose your class right
In our previous video we were talking about making the best out of the festival milongas.
Now it is time to talk about the classes offered at the festival.
I’ve had so many people come and ask me which class they should take, which milonga they should go to, which this, which that. We got in like half an hour conversations just for them to go back home and just book whatever…
And to top it all they come back after the festival and they complain!
You should not be complaining. You were warned
Because, though I am secretly hoping that some of you will get this I am going to lay out the criteria based on which, I choose classes and I have never but once been disappointed…
Level #1: If you are a beginner and this is your first festival (6-12months min)
Choose the technique classes. Why?
First of all you get exactly what you need to progress, secondly the class is most likely geared to individuals not couples, thirdly you can practice everything you will learn without depending on a partner and lastly you are still trying to figure out how Tango works so it is best not to have to deal with the partnership at the same time.
Now how many classes?
2-3 max over the weekend…
If you are thinking: “What? That’s it?”
No that is not it…
You would have to then find a way to record the information so you won’t forget.
Plus you would have to get to the milongas network and dance.
And believe me you can’t do neither if you change into a Tango zombie– being sleep deprived!
This is the true story of what happened to me on the first festival that I went and took classes. My teacher suggested what I am suggesting to you now, technique classes…
The thing is I didn’t take any time to record or practice any of the things we did while at the festival. Then coming back life took over and then a month went by and I could remember what we did but nothing in detail let alone remembering what had worked for me and what didn’t and what did I do about the latter.
How on earth did that happen?
Well I forgave myself then I wouldn’t forgive myself now if I did something similar…Haha…
What happened was that we were at a different city, we didn’t know our way around, we wanted to explore it as well and of course we wanted to go to all the milongas and thankfully we did…
Level #2: Intermediate dancers
So ok, this is a tough level… you are very close to becoming good but not quite there yet.
So what do you do… You keep calm, stay quite–aka don’t show off–and work!
Pick classes from the beginner level that touch upon subjects such as the embrace, or basic rhythmical patterns you know that sort of stuff.
Technique classes, as many as you can handle. And then as many classes determined for your level.
This festival is your opportunity, you need to squeeze out every drop of it.
Of course, record everything and find 5mins during the festival to run through the classes you attended.
If that means you feel like a zombie by the time the milonga starts, Instead of going and looking like death, choose to pass on that milonga and go to main milonga of the whole event.
Level #3: Advanced dancers
Now this is a fascinating level. From those of you who really are advanced based on experience, history and Gary Vaynerchuk…Haha… the 80-90% has already reached their potential… This is it!
If you are feeling or better knowing you are good, then either you will quadruple down with time or you will have to work harder, smarter and injecting diversity to be at that 20-10%.
You know what this means right?
Take as many classes as possible on the things you are lacking, on the things you are having trouble with.
If, it is possible take private/ privates instead.
If you are not sure what your flaws are and you need to prioritize, ask you teacher, what you should really be focusing on and based on their answer choose the best option of classes that are available to you.
Go to all milongas and no, this is not the time to practice, this is the time for friendships, for dancing, for chatting, for laughing etc.
Make sure you get the best out of it..!
Level #4: Absolute beginner–no level
So if you are thinking to a class during the festival the ONLY class you can go to, if they offer something like that, is the Absolute Beginner class.
No you can’t do the beginner class because you are not a beginner, you haven’t even began yet.
And no you can’t take the all-level class, simply because you don’t a level yet.
So look for the class for absolute beginners and have in mind it might suck now but from this state the ONLY way is UP!
How to choose your classes
As said above, if you have never done Tango before you choose, if it is available of course, the Intro to Tango or Absolute Beginner class. Don’t choose the beginner classes because you are not a beginner.
If now you are beginner but you have just started Tango, say you are doing Tango for like 2 months.
Personally, I wouldn’t do any class, or if really wanted to do something I would choose 1 class from the beginner level or 1 technique class.
I would spend more time in the milongas and practicas though. If I was there with a friend I would aim to go early and attempt a few tandas before the floor gets packed. Then I would spend more time meeting people, chatting and learning from their experiences and noticing how people dance and interact on and off the dance floor.
Now for beginners (6months and up), intermediates and advanced dancers see first what is on the menu.
Usually when we check a festival’s class schedule we see:
- The title
- The description of the class
- The name of the instructor
Don’t choose by title!
They are not nearly as descriptive as they would need to be for anyone to make an informed decision.
Now between 2 and 3…
Start researching on the instructor first!
Ask your teacher about him/her, watch them on YouTube, check their bio online, lastly check Facebook/ Twitter/ Instagram etc.
Get a police check…Hahaha…I am joking!
Your goal here is not to see whether they are good dancers or not but what their strengths are. What do they seem to focus one? Who have they learned from and who are they following/ looking up to?You see the profile of the teacher so you won’t get disappointed.
For example, different followers, at different times and through different festivals have complained to me about attending classes, and the teacher focusing too much on the hips, or the feet or this or that…
Most of the times a little bit of research and focused youtube watching will reveal to you the strengths of each teacher, you should expect that they are going to use their strengths and not their flaws in festivals..!
Choose therefore the teacher who seems to be closer to what you are interested in and
(PAY ATTENTION… THIS IS IMPORTANT)
to what you are ready to hear!
There are 2 MAJOR Dangers when you choose the top of the world performers:
- They are too good for your level, aka what they can offer you though it would have been unimaginably helpful if you were more advanced, NOW it is nearly useless…
They have internalized their craft at such a level that it is difficult for them to now externalize and simplify it… Second nature is very hard to teach…
You can’t value what they have to give you because you don’t know enough to grasp its value
- The fact that they are great dancers doesn’t mean that they are great teachers too. There is this 1% that they would have succeed no matter how they trained, so they might be terrible trainers without that making them less amazing dancers.
(By the way I would like to give credit here for this to Tim Ferriss and the 4hour Chef)
The greatest of examples I have come across, is Pablo Veron. The man is amazing!
I took a private class with him and it was that private class that put my work, my practice, my dance into perspective– but that we will cover on another article.
How many of you are now thinking: “What? Really? But I went to one of his classes, and it was nothing special… I mean he was good but… I don’t know… Maybe if I had taken a private class with him..!”
Maybe if you waited, quietly and calmly worked on being an advanced dancers not only in terms of footwork but also in terms of understanding and then you can take a class with Veron where you would actually be able to ask the right questions and get the right answers!
Dance is second nature to him. In order for you to be able to get all that he can give you, YOU have to be ready!
And lastly you go the description of the class…
Many people just make random choices, based on what sounds interesting/ cool/ fun or what they haven’t learned yet.
Right off the bat avoid the latter. If you don’t know something, you won’t learn it in one class, you will need multiple classes. Even if you are advanced in Tango, you will need multiple classes in milonga, for example.
So for multiple beginner’s classes it is better if you have ONE teacher the whole way through. They can set the path for other teacher to come in then and offer different directions to that path.
From what is left, and considering you are going to a class just for fun…
If you are going just for fun, simply choose the one that sounds more fun to you… only make sure you don’t skip my advice on levels, because then you will get frustrated and get many others frustrated too.
If not, you have to make an informed decision, because “material beats method. What you study is more important than how you study. (…) [dance, like] language is infinitely expansive, much like cooking and therefore horribly overwhelming if unfiltered” Tim Ferriss– 4hour Chef
If therefore you are going from festival to festival, randomly choosing things, no matter how much you practice them these random things can not become ONE!
You have to do exactly the reverse, you have to set the big picture, break it down in pieces, each class is a piece of that big picture.
Who can help you with that? Your home teacher…
Print out a schedule, take it to them, and say: “Here are the classes that I can take and here are the teachers that I think match my interests and level– your teacher might have some objections here…hear them out– which of these classes do you think I should take?”
Notice here, what I am asking the teacher to do. I didn’t just go to the teacher, who might not be a world champion but is still busy and say: “Hey I am going to the festival, which classes should I take?“
Instead, what I asked for is, the big picture and which of these classes could work as good pieces in that big picture.
Do your home work and then ask for help!
Don’t expect your teacher to do the research for you. You can find the craziest things on google and you know that very well! Going to someone and expecting them to do the work you should be doing, is not only rude– because you assume they have nothing better to do–but it also shows you are not serious enough!
So bottom line, to be able to make the best out of a festival, you need to:
- and leave your ego at the door
Objectively define your level, based on that, look at what options you have, then research on the teachers teaching those options and lastly with what is left go to your teacher and make the right selection of material to be parts of your bigger Tango picture.
Leave your comments below for extended chatting..!haha