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If there is one concern raised by the gentlemen in our classes time and time again, it is this:

“When I get on the dance floor, my mind goes blank. I can’t remember a single step I’ve learnt.”

They have come to us as their tango teachers for some words of advice. For a solution. And they do not expect our response:

“You know, forgetting all the steps you have ever learnt could in fact be a good thing!”

And they sometimes look at us exactly the way you might have just looked at your screen: like we've lost our minds! But hear me out on this. It actually does make sense.

Ask any experienced leader what it is they think about when they dance and most of them will answer this:

"Nothing".

Because tango is not about thinking. Tango is about feeling. They are sensing where their partner is, they are listening to the music, they are allowing their movements - and inspiration - to flow.

On the whole, they do not have a mental checklist of the steps they will be executing next.

I always remember the story of one our Beginners many years back. It was his first trip to the milonga and he was a little nervous. So he made a plan. He was simply going to churn out the two or three figures he had learnt in class.

When he stepped out onto the dance floor for the first time, he attempted to execute the basic step, which is pretty much taught in every Beginners tango class around the world.

But at every step he was thwarted. In every moment there was someone in his way.

Your movements in the milonga will to a great extent be dictated by the ever-changing, unpredictable nature of the dance floor with couples all around you improvising their way through the music. You may step onto the dance floor with some kind of plan but it is inevitable that you are going to have to adapt it to the dance floor.

So why do we learn steps at all?

It is a typical feature of the majority of tango classes to learn a “figure” - a series of steps that fit together in a beautiful, fluid and interesting way. Why re-invent the wheel when "milongueros" of the past and professional dancers have already come up with such wonderful series of movements?

However it is never the intention of the teacher that these figures be reproduced by the student in exactly the same way each time. The intention is simply to give the student ideas and inspiration. The teacher should always guide the student as to how to improvise with any combination - cut it down, add to it, merge it with another movement and play with it.

Most teachers do not intend for you to you memorise every step sequence they cover. Rather the figure is a teaching tool through which important underlying skills are taught: how to lead your partner gently but with clarity, and so on. The figures will fall away but the skills underpinning will remain.

So if - like me - remembering long sequences is not your thing, take heart. Tango could well be the perfect dance for you!

On Saturday 10th June, BBC Radio 3 broadcast an hour-long programme on Argentine tango.

The programme was part of a longer series "the Sound of Dance" by Katie Derham, presenter of the BBC Proms and Strictly Come Dancing finalist, exploring the relationship between music and different dance genres.

Bandoneon player Julian Rowlands was interviewed to give a tango musician's perspective and David and I were interviewed to speak about the music from a dancer's point of view.

It was really interesting to talk about how we feel when we dance tango, how we interpret the music and how we improvise. There are not many programmes in the mainstream media that delve into the world and workings of traditional "tango salon" (or social tango dancing). It made a refreshing change!

We tried as much as possible to talk about the dance form as an improvised dance form, explaining that this is tango's most authentic form. For us this is one of the features that make the music so exciting to interpret. And it is one of the features of tango that many people are unaware of.

It is always a challenge to talk about dance without being able to demonstrate the movements. But the interview was expertly edited, overlaying the music so as to illustrate to the audience what we were trying to describe.

Here you can listen to us talking to Katie. We hope you find it interesting too!

At the end of June, the Queens Tango Festival is coming to London!

The Queens Tango Festival will celebrate the role of the follower in tango, with Ladies Technique workshops over the course of four days, as well as workshops for leaders focusing on the follower’s needs.

The Festival is co-organised by London tango teacher, Raquel Greenberg and the Queen of Tango Queens, Alejandra Mantiñan, who will be visiting London that weekend.

I feel honoured to have been invited to take part as the third female contributor.

So since everyone knows that it takes two to tango, why the need for a Festival that focuses mainly on the woman?

In my first few years of studying tango, I often felt that the role of the follower was overlooked in many of the group classes I took. The emphasis of the class was very much what the leader should do, with perhaps the occasional nod towards the follower.

Old school tango teaching was very much of the philosophy that the woman simply needed to follow. Any difficulty she had was always the fault of the leader. This of course can be quite a convenient get-out clause for us followers, yet we know in our hearts that there is plenty we can be doing to improve our tango. Plus we’d actually appreciate some guidance on how to achieve this!

But times have changed and Ladies Technique has developed enormously in the last 15 years.

And in the forefront of this movement is Alejandra Mantiñan. Alejandra’s tango career spans more than three decades. She stands out in the male-dominated world of tango and has inspired a whole generation of tango dancers. She has proved that the woman in tango can make a huge contribution to the creative partnership, that her role is to follow her partner, yes, but not purely so.

I will be giving a Ladies Technique workshop on Saturday 24th June as part of the Festival. I believe that with a clear understanding of technique, and practice, beautiful dancers soon emerge. The class will focus on foundation technique as well as styling and decorations. Click here for more information on this Workshop.

On Sunday 25th June, David and I will be performing at the Closing Milonga of the Festival. David will also perform with Alejandra on the same night. This is our next official Tango Movement Night Out and we hope you’ll join us. The venue is La Divina Milonga in Marylebone. More details to follow closer to the time!

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