14th Jamnuary 2009


Home Simpson had a problem:

"Every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain. Remember when I took that home winemaking course, and I forgot how to drive?".

You're going to run into this repeatedly in tango.


Firstly there's all the technique involved in how to stand and how to walk. It's waaaaaaaaay too much to take in at once.

However the human mind is good at compacting things down into concepts. It's like learning to drive a manual car. At first it's a nightmare and the car just stalls a lot. But gradually it settles down until you reach a point where you're just driving (or singing along to the radio).

So, just work on the concept (for example, walking) and gradually add in technique as you practice. Effectively you're storing the information in your body rather than your head.

Also, don't be that worried about technique. A lot of what you learn is designed to get you going. You'll replace it with better stuff later on. The more ingrained you make it, the harder this will be. The one big tip is that if it hurts, you're doing it wrong. And there's many, many ways to do it wrong.


Secondly there's sequences. I've heard it suggested that most leaders have about 5 or 6 sequences at any one time. That's not an awful lot. I suspect the same can be said about followers and adornments. What you can do is gradually strip them down to their essence. Get to the point where you have sequences that are only one step. Then work on understanding how to integrate them together fluidly.

You'll still have room left in your head for one or two "tricks" you particularly like. It's the whole "teach a man to fish" concept.

Ask yourself "What's the point of this sequence? What does it give me? Why does it deserve to take up precious space in my head?"

External memory

You also don't have to keep it all in your head.

The Ghost Guide originally came about from my realising the easiest way to collate my notes on tango was in either a Word doc or HTML format.

Likewise, it's pretty cheap to buy a webcam and record brief notes to yourself at the end of an evening. One tip, bear in mind you'll end as a mirror image so either say "Step right" or learn to dance the steps mirrored. This also let's you focus on stripping down one or two sequences first.

Then when you've succeeded you can go back to your notes and choose two more to work on.

- Christopher O'Shea, 14th January 2009

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