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Here is a story that many of you will know only too well:

For several months, Student X has been pulling out all the stops to improve his tango.

He’s been dancing just about everywhere: classes, milongas, practicas, his kitchen… (not to mention the lift, the bus stop and the supermarket).

His non-dancing friends complain that they hardly see him anymore.

He’s invested time, money but most of all a great deal of emotional energy in getting better.

For a while, he felt like he was holding on to blind faith but suddenly he senses that something is working.

There has been a noticeable shift. He no longer feels like he is dancing through thick fog. His brain is sending messages to his body and his body is at last responding.

And what’s more, he’s starting to receive compliments. His teacher has praised him on his progress. His regular dance partners have noticed the difference. His hard work is actually paying off and you know how that feels? Amazing!

Then he watches the video.


“THAT’S what I look like?”

The disappointment is overwhelming. A crisis of confidence ensues.

“That’s not how it FELT at all!”

Of course, this is not how everyone reacts when they see themselves on video. Some people are actually pleasantly surprised and relieved to see how far they have come.

And in my experience this does not necessarily mean they have progressed further or dance better than Student X.

You can try telling this to those who have a negative reaction and it may make them feel a tiny bit better, but it’s very hard to alter what (they think) they’ve seen with their own eyes.

So what’s the answer? Avoid watching video footage altogether?

This was certainly my response. Knowing how upset a video could make me, the natural reaction was quite simply avoidance. Over the past 15 years, there are probably about 3 videos that haven’t made me want to hide under my duvet.

In some ways, simple avoidance is a reasonable strategy.

How you view yourself on video is not necessarily a fair representation of how you actually dance. I compare it with looking at yourself through a distorted fairground mirror. Some people are hyper-critical of themselves and you could take the view that if this is the case, it is not fair on yourself to go through the upset of watching a video. Dancing requires some confidence and self-belief and if you have just a little bit of that, it’s not a bad thing to try to preserve it.

But watching a video - especially one that you have an adverse reaction to - is also a golden opportunity.

Tongue in cheek, I call it the electric shock treatment!

Let’s got back to Student X’s story.

His teacher has been telling him for several weeks - no, let’s say months - to lower his shoulders. It’s not that he doesn’t care. That’s one thing we’ve learnt about Student X: he cares enormously! It’s just his body doesn’t seem to respond. In every class, he nods vigorously:

“I know! My shoulders. Again! Damn!”

But the shoulders just don’t stay down.

Then Student X sees the video. Electric shock moment. It is a miracle cure!

Just the other night I complimented a student - a real student - on how much progress she made. Her response? Yes, you’ve guessed it!

“I saw a video of myself. It was awful. I realised how much I need to change!”

I told her it was a great thing that she didn’t watch the video and think “oh, how nice.” as it encouraged her to change.

And actually it was a sign of HOW WELL SHE DANCES, that she could identify those areas that needed improvement and act on them.

No one is born being able to dance - everyone has to start somewhere. And if you can yourself identify the areas for change through video footage then that will undoubtedly streamline your progress.

So the next time you view yourself in a video, remind yourself that it is a necessary part of the learning path to recognise your flaws and that the video is an excellent way to do so.

And before I sign off, one last tip for you:

In self-books, in order to silence our self-critical inner voice, they often advise us to imagine our best friend is talking to us and to replace that critical voice with a kinder one.

Next time you watch a video of yourself, imagine you were watching someone else. How would you feel about it then? You might find areas you want to correct but you’re sure to view it with a kinder and fairer eye.

Wishing you all a very happy viewing Tango Friends! Where’s the popcorn?

On beach holidays as a child I would stand at the edge of the sea and watch as the tide washed out around my feet. I loved the feeling of moving backwards when I was actually standing still.

Not such a great feeling though as an adult when you’ve reached a certain level in a skill and are not sure how to move forward.

Because by standing still, you feel like you are moving backwards. This is why it is so important to keep learning, reviewing and refreshing.

As we all know, tango is a discipline that we can investigate for the rest of your lives if we choose to do so. For me one of the great joys of tango - apart from the feeling of the dance itself - is the sense that the journey never ends.

Unfortunately, too many advanced dancers feel that there is nothing out there for them. And sadly for some, a little spark dies with this recognition.

David and I are passionate about making sure our Advanced students always have opportunities to grow.

We have worked hard over the years to maintain a “true” Advanced class. We work only with those who we feel are ready for the class. We understand that “Advanced” can mean more complex sequences and movements, but it can also mean investigating the subtleties of the movements, the breath, the embrace.

We also encourage our Advanced students to come to our Saturday Workshops with a practice partner. They can stay together during the partner rotations if they feel they would benefit more from this.

And if you’re not yet an Advanced dancer but are keen to come to our Advanced class to see what it’s like, our advice to you is: take your time! It sounds funny but you’ll make much faster progress if you take it slow! Tango success is based on a thorough understanding of the basics and sometimes it can take several years to realise that the basics are far from simple!

Our success as a school is partly down to making sure our classes “do what they say on the tin”. If you come to our Intermediate class, you expect Intermediate material and dancers of a similar level to you. And we work hard to make sure you get it!

Check out our LEVEL GUIDE and remember we’re always here to guide you on the very best class for you at your stage in your journey. Here’s to the road ahead!

We often talk about how tango changes the lives of those who dance it: creating joy, boosting confidence, giving purpose, forming friendships and communities ... even helping people to find their soul mate.

But what about tango helping to change the lives of the country who gave it to us: Argentina?

Our glittering Tango Winter Ball took place last Saturday night in the Old Finsbury Town Hall Islington to celebrate Tango Movement's 10th Anniversary here in London. Once again, the beautifully ornate hall was filled with the spine-tingling notes of live tango music and dancers locked in the close tango embrace.

We were brought together by our love of tango but also by our desire to help people living many miles away.

To produce the Winter Ball, Tango Movement works in partnership with APARU - the Association of Argentine Professionals in the UK. ALL the proceeds from our Balls go towards the charitable causes supported by APARU.

Since we started organising our Tango Balls with APARU in 2011, the Winter Ball has raised a total of £20,000.

This money has supported a number of projects in Argentina, including a hospital train providing medical care to remote villages, accommodation and primary medial care in a homeless centre, and a reading and literacy foundation for children living in extreme poverty. And the project endorsed by APARU this year: providing medical health care to visually impaired people.

By coming to the Winter Ball this year, we'd like to know what you have done:

Raul, a 62 year old electrician, has recovered his ability to see. You have paid for his surgery and he is now able to enjoy life through his eyes. He can now go back to work and pay for his kids' food, shelter and education. YOU have changed his life and his family’s lives.

Luciano, who’s 8 years old and suffered from acute cataracts in one eye, has undergone surgery. He not only has recovered his ability to see but can also now to go back to school. YOU have changed Luciano's life and have given him a much better future.

We could go on telling you how each of you have impacted someone’s life for the better. And trust me, as cliché as this may sound, you and your passion for tango have truly changed lives. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for sharing this crazy dream to change the world! Until next year!

For more information on APARU, please go to http://www.aparu.org.uk. Donations are always welcome!

#tangochanginglives #tangomovementAPARU

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