How to Learn Tango - Feedback

Post a question on our forum here.
Post a question on our forum here.

We have an entire video about feedback because we think it is extremely important to get feedback somewhere in order to improve your dancing. That's part of what classes are for: to make a teacher available to, hopefully, tell you what you're doing right and what you can improve.

You also get feedback in classes from your success or failure to perform particular moves with varied partners. Feedback is the purpose of a mirror or a video camera.

Remember: "Doing more things faster is no substitute for doing the right things." --Stephen R. Covey

In the midst of this discussion about how important feedback is, we wanted to talk a little about a certain kind of feedback that you shouldn't take too seriously. That's the kind given in order to make the talker feel better about him or herself rather than in order to genuinely help.

Sometimes it pretends to be genuine help but it can be recognized because it tears you down. It might be obviously or subtly insulting rather than respectful and friendly. We want you to understand that feedback that attacks you is virtually never really about you. It's almost always about some not so healthy emotional need of the person doing the criticizing.

Especially when you are a beginner, there will be lots - and lots - of people wanting to make you better. Our message is evaluate the source. Do not believe that you need to adopt every piece of feedback you get. You can trust what you see and what is said by people you have chosen to advise or teach you.

Artist Name:
Vladimir Horowitz
Song Title:
Bach, Chorale Prelude
Album Title:
Vladimir Horowitz: The Last Romantic
Artist Website:

(Nancy Speaking): David, are we allowed to say he may be our favorite of all musicians?

So this is the fun part for the teacher, right, they're talking about really profound things
And in a very, sort of middle level, what I think is most important, is that you think about learning the right way
And the first thing I want to call to mind is the importance of feedback, and so a lot of people, they'll do things, and they'll do them too fast, like this
Someone would say, let's say, for example, we're working on me standing on my leg in a beautiful way. And now I do this, they'll say
And I'll do this a hundred times, and not once do they get any feedback, because they're going to fast
They're not seeing themselves in a mirror, they're not asking their partner about how they're doing it, they're not feeling it inside their bodies
They're not videotaping it, there's lots of ways you can get feedback, they're not doing any of them,
so they are just repeating the same thing exactly the same, so it doesn't get better. The goal is not repetition.
The goal is that each time you do it, you get feedback, so the first time, I'll go at this speed
And the reason I go at this speed is so I can feel the muscules of my own body working. One more time:
And so I felt this lift up, I felt the leg pushing the floor, I felt the flexions through the top of the foot, the point of the leg, the shift sinking in a left thigh
So that's the right speed, that's the 100% feedback, the internal kinesthetic sense. If I'm going to work on just a... dance of hugging myself,
So if I hug myself like that - that's too fast, I'll go
And then you may go make it faster, once you've developed this kind of sense, of what do you want this shape to be
A different kind of feedback is the feedback that comes from videotapes, we have a chapter about that
And it's also valid. Another kind of feedback is the feedback you get when you look at yourself in the mirror. And I'm OK with that, you can look at yourself in a mirror,
just do it maybe not all the time, but, you know, 10% of the time - it won't do any harm, and you'll learn something, you'll say "Am I standing straight?"
It keeps you from looking at your partner, which may be bad, but, you know, that's why you don't do it all the time
You have another type of feedback, which you might get if your teacher gives you a correction
But the important concept is that the whole time you're not looking for repetition,
you're looking for learning, you're looking for "I dont't approve what you do", so you'll need to have some sort of an external source of input
So think to yourself, when you dance, and when you're trying to do it better, "How does this feel, in my own body?"
Or, when it fell apart, which happens, it's fine, when it fell apart - when did it fall apart?
So for example, sometimes we'll do a medium walk out, let's say... and let's say the lady stepped too far away there
And then right here, like "Oh", and you fall this way.
The right thing to ask yourself is "Why did it fall this way?"
And so maybe you do it again, and that's fine, you do it again and you say "It happened again, it falls that way"
And then you want to start trying things, so you have one type of feedback, it's cued up right there
And if you're lucky, and there's a teacher there to give you feedback, or you've videotaped yourself, or your partner is amazingly precautious
You'll tell yourself "Well, it felt that way because she stepped too far away"
And you'll say "Well, I should keep her closer right there, I should make sure that if she goes around with my embrace at this angle, I keep her close"
But you might not have that, and if you don't have that, then you develop a large body of repertoire,
understandings, and then you can look for alternatives. So, for example, if it falls, probably the foot position is wrong.
So someone stepped in a wrong place, let's experiment with different foot placements, 'till any of those lead to me not falling.
A different option, you can find someone who's better, doesn't even have to be a teacher, just some advanced student who you respect and who's nice, and you can ask them.
The real thing that makes it more profound is a dance, however, and not the things which have to do with macroscopic "where do I put my foot"
But instead, the things of this internal...
"Can I feel my abs and my shoulder and then go through my arm", this movement.
Instead of, you know, "I move and it has no meaning"
So I want you to think that it's physical dynamics is where you relate to the music and a partner that give meaning
And that you can't do something in a mindless way, or without focus on the activity
If you do it too fast, or if you do it when you're distracted, it doesn't work
So you clear your mind, you focus just on this, and you go at a speed that lets you feel that, and then it's beautiful.
How to Learn Tango