We can do it!
"The only constant is change," "common sense is not so common," and "the new normal is not normal" are the catch phrases of 2020 because they convey our reality so perfectly.
Wow, has my life changed! In a normal week in 2019, I would interact with at least 100 people. I would teach 4-6 group classes, many private lessons and go to at least 2 milongas. That's a ton of hugging, greeting and chatting with a lot of wonderful people.
I can't imagine doing any of that anytime soon.
I wrote down all the people I have visited with since March. The grand total, including 5 children and one grandson, for 6 months is 19. All the visits except my grandson are outside and have no physical contact.
If you had told me in 2019 that I would be happy with interacting with 19 people in 6 months, I would not believe it, but surprisingly I am.
We are all adapting to much less social contact, and for many people no dancing, and we are flattening the curve. Now I want to help my students to stay safe and start to get back to a little dancing.
Everyone needs to follow their own path and timing, but I will share what I am doing to adapt my teaching and socializing to 2020.
My circumstances are unique. My husband and I were sick in late March with Covid 19 and now have antibodies (we were both tested), and we are still being very careful.I have sanitized everything in sight, installed a true HEPA air purifier, and tried to create a safe environment. I wear a mask when I go out and when I am teaching, and of course I wash my hands before and after all activities!
I am teaching a few private lessons in person to healthy couples. I am visiting with good friends about once or twice a week on our porch, or backyard. I am teaching my daily Tangosize class and I dance a few songs every night with my husband. That's it. It seems so small compared with my old schedule, but I feel fine. My life is happy. I have adapted, and if I can do it so can my students.
"The only constant is change," "common sense is not so common," and "the new normal is not normal." Adapt to the changes by adding dance to your life using common sense and start to enjoy the new normal.
Don't starve your dancing, feed it little tasty bits and it will thrive. 
It needs less that you think.
Food for dance

Tangosize - every day from 11:30-11:40. Try it!

Find a safe dance buddy. This can be tricky.

Try a private lesson on Zoom or in person (you will need a partner).

Listen to music. Especially while doing something fun like baking.

Reach out to a dance friend and just talk.

Adapt - get creative and make your own dance food.

We will adapt and dance will survive.

Dance Anyway!

Thanks to everyone who came to my zoom B-day celebration. It was lots of fun to see what people are up to. I am thankful to have so many wonderful, unique friends. Even if I don't get to hang out with them during these times, I know they are there.

My mom shared this poem with me for my birthday. She said it reminded her of me. Wow, I wish I was more like this, but the poem does remind me of my students. The one thing I have in common with this poem is that I am not a quitter, but I 
am learning to let go. I can let go of dancing in large

groups right now, but I will never let go of social dancing. To make sure it stays alive and well I will continue to teach my zoom class, and private lessons until we can all dance again.

The Paradoxical Commandments by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001

We all need to love, do good, succeed, be honest, think, fight, build, help each other and give our best to the world. My best right now is in teaching my zoom Tangosize Mini Mojo Booster. It keeps us connected to the music, movement and community of tango.??It
may not seam like much, but I am putting my heart into it because I believe dancing is imperative and I believe this little class will help keep it alive and well.??

No place to go dancing and no partner to dance with,
Dance Anyway in Tangosize!



Unpleasant Truth - I am getting older.

Come to my Zoom B-day party this Sat.
Invite is under "save the dates".

Last week many people liked Richard's writing and their responses inspired him to write another brilliant post that I am sharing today.

I feel like the isolation, uncertainty and constant stress of Coved-19 in our country is messing with some people's ability to think clearly. I know most of my students are kind, smart and open minded, but with the bombardment of inconsistent media and conspiracy theories, they are not acting
like themselves.

I hope another smart post from my wonderful husband will help everyone understand better what is happening.

July 31, 2020

Of cognitive dissidents, junk science, and the illusion of knowledge
By Dr. Richard Baxter

Why do people hold fast to beliefs that are very unlikely to be true or even demonstrably false? I think it's our discomfort with uncertainty, and this is especially true where science and public policy converge. Science sometimes yields definitive answers, but in biomedical research often the
best you can get is probabilities. Say for example you do a clinical trial comparing a Covid treatment against placebo. You do all the right things: double blind (neither the subject nor the treating physician knows who got what until after), objective measurements in a controlled setting, etc. When
you look at the results, the first thing you need to know what the probability is that they occurred by random chance. A commonly accepted standard is 1 in 20, depending on the situation.
That 5% (less if it is a large and well-designed study) is where the cognitive dissidents operate. These are the practitioners of cognitive dissonance, and every field has them; credible experts espousing contrarian ideas. They're the climate scientists who dispute global warming, the researchers
who perpetuate long-discredited notions about vaccines and autism, the engineers warning that 5G is killing us, the doctors who are absolutely convinced that Covid is a hoax or that hydroxychloroquine (plus zinc, maybe, or azithromycin) is a miracle cure but The Truth is being suppressed. They can
be persuasive, often touting high-falutin' credentials. They're adept at statistical legerdemain, spinning compelling alternative interpretations out of the same data that most scientists find unconvincing. The more important the issue, and the more it calls for personal sacrifice, the more the
appeal of the cognitive dissidents.

They've gotten very good at using the echo chamber of social media to amplify their message. They wedge into knowledge gaps and fill the void, displacing uncertainty with what feels like empowering wisdom. To be an effective cognitive dissident requires unwavering determination in the face of
controverting evidence, because u
ncertainty is the weakness being exploited. If you are going to be the champion of the alternative, you must be resolute. Never blink; always double down.

I am reminded of the silicone breast implant debacle of the mid-1990's. Lawsuits abounded over mounting case reports of strange autoimmune illnesses, and a cadre of "experts" made the rounds of courtrooms testifying about silicone toxicity. None of their findings could ever be
independently replicated, but juries ate it up anyway. It came to be called junk science, and it got so out of hand that courts had to impose standards on expert witnesses and mandate that they have actual expertise. The FDA was then seen as being too lax in their oversight, even as it is now
accused of complicity in suppressing inexpensive Covid cures in the interest of profits for Big Pharma.

Steven Hawking observed that "The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge." Cognitive dissidents are master illusionists, so good that they are capable of fooling themselves, hypnotized by the cadence of their circular arguments. Repeat something
often enough and it begins to ring true.

Haruki Murakami, one of my favorite writers, explains why it is so hard to change someone's mind: "Always remember that to argue, and win, is to break down the reality of the person you are arguing against. It is painful to lose your reality, so be kind, even if you are right." I am
trying to be kind, I really am, but it is becoming difficult as I read some of the dangerously foolish panchrestons being posted lately. Everyone has a right to be as wrong or misguided they want, up to the point where it affects the health and well-being of others. That's when it's time for a
reality check.

Masks work. Vaccines save lives. If there is a cheap, widely available treatment that cures Covid, give whoever figures that out a Nobel prize - but I guarantee it isn't hydroxychloroquine. If you think I am wrong about this (I'm not), kindly unfriend me. I am tired of seeing people I care about
getting swept up in all this nescient nonsense.

I hope that by sharing this, people will be more understanding and tolerant of the ones caught up in junk science and the ones caught up might take a look the information they??receive??and decide that some or all of it is not worth sharing.
We are all in this together and it's going to take a massive effort from all of us to get through it. It's time to come together, wash hands, physically distance and wear a mask!??

I want to get back to dancing!

Don't make me!

Please don’t make me unfriend you!

My friends should know I am married to a doctor and my father was a scientist, so please to not send me facebook stuff about how corrupt doctors and scientists are! I know too many too well, and it makes me mad.

A few of my friends have lost their minds, and now think they are just as qualified as the professionals. 
They are not!

This is how a professional, educated and thoughtful person, my husband talks about Covid-19.

Dr Baxter 7/28/20

New research explains why the response to SARS-CoV-2 is so varied

Though most of the life-threatening cases of Covid-19 occur in older people, some young healthy individuals become gravely ill. There has to be more to this than just some people naturally having more robust immune systems than others. I have been following the research on it and something I suspected early on looks like it might prove out: It’s in our genes, specifically a class of cell surface proteins called Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA). Ordinarily you wouldn’t care about your HLA profile unless you needed an organ transplant, because HLA markers determine compatibility with the donor to minimize risk of rejection. They are also important in how T-cells are activated to produce adaptive immunity, especially for viruses. T-cells recognize viral antigens through their presentation by HLA molecules on the surface of virally infected cells. Genetic variations in HLAs directly affect the binding affinity for viral antigens and therefore T-cell recognition. If you happen to have the HLA-B*46:01 allele, you don’t make binding peptides for SARS-CoV-2 so your body can’t mount much of a targeted immune response. You are going to get very ill regardless of how awesome your immune system is, because the backup plan is a cytokine storm. On the other hand, if you have HLA-B*15:03, you’re in luck. That binds especially well, and your body will quickly recognize the viral antigen without too much fuss.

One reason that the immune system declines with age is that T-cells lose their “repertoire” of responses to antigens, so that fits the general pattern. But HLA variants are inherited, just like eye color or blood type. If you are genetically fortunate and equipped to fend off this specific virus, then you may be tempted to assume that it is no big deal for all of us. The thing is you never know how many degrees of separation you are from someone who was dealt a different set of genes that makes them uniquely vulnerable. This also helps explain why we are unlikely to get herd immunity by wide exposure, at least not without a high cost in human lives. If you are against wearing a mask and social distancing until there is a vaccine, you’re playing Russian roulette - but instead of pointing the gun at your own head, you may be blindly firing the shot into a crowd.

July 22, 2020

“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning how to dance in the rain”

This is not just rain, it’s a crazy, brutal hurricane. The largest, most treacherous one to ever hit the dance community, and it’s going to be here for a while. It might be impossible to dance in a hurricane, but we should try to find a way to not be blown away.

I know we will dance again, and it will be glorious, but I also know this virus is real and going to be here until we get a vaccine and get people to take it.

I feel like every newsletter I say the same things about surviving the lockdown, hoping I can help one more dancer cope with not dancing.

I am tired of saying “cope” or “endure” or “survive” the crisis. I am now going to focus on how to thrive, yes right now in the middle of a pandemic, and maybe learn to dance safely in a hurricane.

YES, your dancing can thrive right now!

Richard calls it “Surthrival”

For your dancing to thrive you need to start by reminding your body how to connect to the music you love. My Tangosize class is a great way to do just that.

Many of my students had to be dragged to their first dance lesson. I have heard every excuse of why someone can’t dance, or doesn’t’ want to attend a dance class, and they are always happy when they finally slay that dragon. Now, I am hearing the same excuses about trying a zoom class.

Zoom doesn’t work for me
I don’t have enough space.
I don’t have the energy.
What’s the point, there’s no place to dance.

Yes, that’s all true, but just like when you started dancing, you have to forget about the excuses and just do it.

The first step is to make yourself try a zoom class. I know there are other good ways like finding a dance buddy, or watching youtube videos, but zoom type classes are the best way to connect to music, dancing and your community right now.

I know it’s awkward, but make yourself try. Your body and soul will be happy, at lease for a few minutes.

July 15, 2020
It's All My Fault

On Friday March 13 a broke a mirror (glass everywhere), then had to go under a ladder to clean it up, then when I took it out to the garbage a black cat ran in front me, and my lucky dance shoes no longer fit. That's it, I'm doomed; or am I?

Thankfully, I don't believe in superstition.  I know times are changing quickly and sometimes when people are faced with great changes or stressful situations, they rely on their belief system for comfort. We need to carefully examine our beliefs and decide what is true and what is a myth.

I believe all the things in this sign, but my writing is about dancing so here are some of my current dancing beliefs.

Many of my dancing friends believe that there is nothing to do right now but wait for the dance studios, and venues to open up. We need to change that belief to keep our dancing alive and well until the time comes that we can all dance safely.

I believe:
We will partner dance again!
We will support the dance pause right now.
We will all do our part to keep ourselves and others well.
We will recognize that partner dancing will be different.
We will cultivate ways to stay connected.
We will to stop waiting for things to get back to "normal" and learn ways to dance in this crisis like:

1. Attend zoom classes.
2. Develop a safe dance buddy.
3. Listen to dance music and practice a little by yourself. One song a day is a good start.

Now take the "we" away and substitute "I".
That's powerful!

July 7, 2020
Mask up, it’s a smart look!

I recently taught my first private lesson in quite a while, and wow did it feel good to be back! I sanitized everything in sight, installed a true HEPA air purifier, and put out a box of disposal gloves all to create a safe environment. That included masks, and not just because it is required, but because it is what professionals do.

Consider seat belts: At first, only race car drivers (professionals) wore seat-belts. It was a huge change in personal freedoms to insist that everyone wear them, but smart people knew they saved lives! How would you like to have a minor accident and someone dies because they did not wear a seat-belt? Yes, people can die in an accident while buckled up, but the odds of living goes way up.

Consider helmets: bike, motorcycle, skiing, horseback riding, baseball, football, and wrestling. Professionals in these sports starting wearing helmets decades before amateurs. Requirements to wear them had be put into laws, because armatures didn’t want to wear them even though they saved lives! Yes, you can still get hurt with a helmet on, but the odds of dying go way down.

My husband is a surgeon and started wearing a mask whenever he left the house back in March. He is the professional setting the example, and I for one am going to follow his lead. I wish we had all stated wearing them sooner. What’s different about helmets and seat-belts and wearing a mask is that a mask will not only protect you and also the people around you.

This moment is bigger than any one person and eventually we will get used to wearing masks, just like we got used to wearing seat-belts and helmets, because THEY SAVE LIVES!

It’s the smart fashion statement of 2020!

 7 / 8 / 2020

"You can't turn back the clock, but you can rewind it."

My mom said that during one of our daily chats, and it got me thinking.

These last 4 months have dramatically changed our lives and I for one am just now understanding things I can and cannot do.

Many of my friends and I feel like we could have done so much more with the last 4 months, but to honest, we were still in transition. Not dancing, working or seeing friends and family has been a shock, and most of us thought it would be temporary, but now we see that it will last longer. 

We need to adjust, and rewind our clocks.

You can't turn back time, so stop wishing that you used the last 4 months to learn a language, write a novel, join the protest, get in shape, or start a new career and just start over this month. 

Rewind by focusing on what you can do.

I can't go dancing, but I can practice a little everyday by myself.
I can't see friends in large gatherings, but I can call them or visit outside. 
I can't work, but I can do important things like supporting causes I believe in safely, and helping others.

You can make your own list, wind your own clock, but don't feel bad that it took several months to get the energy needed.

Dancing is not the same, and won't be for a long time, but it's still possible. We need to except it's new form, because Covid is also still here. 

Clearly I have finally moved into acceptance.

Finding opportunities in times of uncertainty.
These have been trying times for me professionally, but I have also experienced some surprising growth. Progress always happens when there is stress.  Plants give the most beautiful flowers when stressed and it can force us to be more creative. Here are 3 surprising dance benefits I experienced staying home:
1. I have some unexpected new dance friends and my old friends are all still there even if I have not seen or talked to them in months. Before, my students would come to me for lessons or parties, now I need to reach out to them. I am slowly going through a list of people to call and check up on. I have also found that people I did not know well before this are becoming friends through my daily class. It’s fun to see someone every day, even for just a few minutes.
2. For the first 2 months of isolation I struggled to find my dancing mojo. I didn’t feel like practicing or even teaching, but at some point, I got creative, started 2 classes and dancing every night with my husband (usually 2-3 songs). I am now in the best condition I have been in a while. Some is from my daily tangosize class, but some is from eating well and sleeping more. I am excited to get back to teaching and dancing more, but I am happy to continue some of these life changes.
3. Zoom and other computer related stuff that I hate, I can now do. I never would have tried to teach remotely without this crisis and then I would never have met some wonderful dancers from out of my region.  My mom (90 years old) also learned to Zoom and now we see each other every week and of course talk every day. Learning new stuff is hard, but rewarding.    
These are difficult times for all of us, but I like to think that the stress will motivate us to find creative ways to connect to dancing and to our dance community. I wonder what stressful situations in my life and my student’s lives have been the catalysts to learn partner dancing and other wonderful things? Learning is difficult and often needs a little push.
Think about all they ways this crisis has pushed you to grow. 
Stay Safe!


Science is for solving problems,   
Art is for coping with them. 

Patience is hard, but we can do it.  Right now there are so many important issues that need addressing to make this world a better place for everyone. To create change we need to be committed and we need to be patient. Today I am not going to write about the problems, but about keeping up our resolve and our strength. 

Everyone is saying the obvious things like eat well, get enough sleep, go for walks, spend some time away from media, and try to stay connected to friends and family.

YES, but what about dancing and all the other arts? They are there to help people through stress! Trying to connect to any of them will help, because art can transport you to another world. Dance is the art form most of you connect to best.  My little 15 minute class might be just the thing to give you the stamina you need in these difficult times. 

3 reasons to try my Tangosize Mini Mojo Booster.

1. We all need as much mojo as we can get 

2. We all need to keep our bodies and minds strong!
3. We all need to feel tango music and movements to prepare us for our reemergence into dance. and to take us into another world for a short reprieve from this one. 

Artistic expression is made for coping, give it a try. 

6/8/20 Bad Apples
There are always a few bad people messing it up for everyone, and there always will be. Every profession has the same problem. As a teacher, I'm known to go on long rants about the negative effects of bad teachers. One bad teacher can ruin a student's ability to learn, and the student's enthusiasm for the subject. It's a problem I can't fix, but I can be a good teacher and help students who have been traumatized to love dancing again.
Everyone has a bad apple story. Mine happened in 5th or 6th grade. Our class went on a field trip, and at some point, 2 boys decided to ditch the class for a little fun. Some of us saw it, but no one said anything. We figured they would be the only ones in trouble, but we all had to wait in the bus as the teachers tried to find the missing boys, we all missed our after-school activities, worried our parents, and had some future field trips canceled. After that, my friend and I made a pact to stop fellow students from playing hooky on trips or as a last resort tell a teacher.
So, what does that have to do with now? There will still be bad apples, but we have to stop pretending that they don't affect our lives. We are all in the world, country, state, city, and neighborhood together. We can't stop wrong, but we also don't have to look away.
Stressful situations create change. Most of my life I try to avoid them, but now I see that by feeling the stress of so many difficult situations, and acknowledging their existence, I learn to do better. Bad apples, watch out!

6/3/2020 Small Steps

I am so overwhelmed right now by what is happening in our country. It's time to make lasting changes, and it won't be easy, but we can do it. Change starts by each person acknowledging that there is a problem, and then taking what ever small steps they can to fix it.

Many of us thought race was a problem of the past, but anyone who is paying attention knows that is not so. I teach for a wonderful program called Upward Bound every summer, giving me the chance to share the joy of dance with high school kids from all different backgrounds. A few years ago, a boy in my class turned 16 and I asked him if he was going to get his driver's license. Every kid in the class was shocked by my question and believed that a black boy driving a car would end up dead by police. They asked why I didn't like the boy, who was bright, gentle, articulate, and wanted to be a doctor. These kids opened my eyes. There is a big problem when the youth of America are afraid to drive.

The problem is giant and overwhelming, but I believe if most people take small steps, there can be real, lasting change. This information was taken from a WCS post and has some good suggestions for large and small steps.
I especially like #8.

Because while all houses are important, that house is on fire. Time to put out the fire... So we can all breathe.
What to do: Act on Hope
1. Call your representatives to demand legislation that drives institutional racism out of our politics and our courts.
2. March, but be careful especially if you have health problems. Covid is still out there. 
3. Donate (like or
4. Vote with ballots
5. Vote with dollars
6. Read, get educated on the African American plight - history, law, real estate, banking, religious white washing, and keep learning.
7. Listen, knowing you will never comprehend... Listen and keep listening
8. Embrace that anything you do in support may be felt as not enough. Do what you can anyway. Don't be afraid not doing enough. We need every kind of talent and strength to stand as best as they truly can - not because you're good at it, but because our integrity, our humanity, is at stake.

We also need to keep up our spirits and strength, so I am going to keep teaching my daily tangosize class and the Tango Misto class on Wed. evenings.   I am going to do more to help our country heal, but I am in this for the long haul, so I also need to do healing things for myself and the  dance community. We need to dance to recharge, so we can keep taking those small steps. 

I hope my small dance and exercise classes will help others to recharge, revitalize, and reconnect. I will continue to take whatever small steps I can, and a few happy dance steps on the way.

5/26 2020

I'm in a new phase of covid 19 coping: vacillation. It's not as fun as it sounds. I want to get on with teaching, but keep my students safe. I want to go dancing, but I also want to set a good example for our community.  I want to invite people over and hug, but I am terrified of possibly causing anyone to contract covid. And I want to be kind and understanding of other people's choices.

I know that people who want to dance soon don't want to get my 90 year old mother sick, and I know people who want to stay home a while longer, don't love dancing less. Everyone is trying to figure out the next step, without loosing balance.  I have decided on what my informed, moderate approach to dance will be, and I give myself permission to modify it anytime.

I am going to do these fun dance things in June:

 Every day at 11:30 I will teach my Tangosize Mini Mojo Booster Class.

Every Wed. at 7:30 I will teach a ½ hour virtual class for Tango Misto.

Every Wed. evening I will attend the virtual Tango Misto dance.
When the stay home order is lifted I will start teaching private lessons for healthy couples in my home studio wearing a mask and gloves.
I will wear a mask in public, keep my distance and keep washing my hands.
I will try to dance a little (1 or 2 songs) with my husband every day.
That's it for now. I hope to add more as summer unfolds, but I am happy that I have found so many ways to share my passion for dance. I hope many of my friends and students give one of my classes a try and that I am able to give a little dance joy.

5/19 2020  
I'm doing it, teaching a 15-minute exercise class designed for tango dancers every day at 11:30. I hope people will tune in when they can. It helped me get my tango mojo back and I hope it will help all my friends and students do the same thing. No partner, no $ (it's free), or even tango experience is necessary, so give it a try.
I am also teaching a ½ hour class on Wed. for Tango Misto at 7:30. It's been a challenge to do an intermediate class that doesn't take much room, but I have been teaching some of great things and even added a few new moves. Tomorrow's class is inspired by Carlos Gavito's favorite step.
Well, that's my tango life and even though I am teaching less than 2 hours a week, I feel good about it.
I am also doing all sorts of projects and have yet to finish any, and I feel good about that too.
For the first 2 months I just wanted to hibernate and wait for this to be over. I am now starting to look forward to a little socializing, little teaching and being a little productive.
We all need to start small. I hope some of you will join me for my small (short) zoom classes, and that moving again to tango will give you joy.



Lost: tango mojo, if found please return, no rush
Everyone one asks if I miss dancing. Maybe, but I can't tell. I don't watch tango videos, invent new steps, practice my boleos, create choreography, promote events, envision shows or even teach wonderful students. 
My tango mojo is missing, and I'm not the only one.
So, how do we get it back? One way is to "just do it"
When I was a kid, I loved hiking. Then for many years I never went. Finally, some friends convinced me to go. With much dread, I got up early, put on the best hiking shoes I could find and went. It did not take long to remember all the things I loved about it. Even with blisters, it was amazing and for many years after, I tried to hike a little every year.
For much of the 1980s I stopped dancing to raise a family, sell real estate and flip houses. It was an exciting and challenging life and I never missed dancing until I discovered it totally by chance. I left a boring office Christmas party at a fancy hotel and wandered into a ballroom dance event. I danced all night, and felt more passion for partner dancing than I had ever felt in my life.

When you start to dance all those wonderful feelings will return. Don't worry if they are not there now. It might be healthier to stay in the moment. If you do want to give your dance mojo a little boost, try one of these 3 things. They are all free and require no commitment. 

April 28, 2020
So Close and Yet So Far Away
I was thinking about what to write about when I saw on my news feed that Seattle is opening up May 5. No way, that's way too soon, I'm not ready! 
I still have a billion projects to finish.
I am getting used to the slow pace, and have now started about 10 projects and finished none. I'm taking my time, slowly picking away, it's kind of nice to not be in a hurry. Painting the dance studio, cleaning windows, planting a garden, moving my closet, organizing my photos and videos, building new shelves, doing demo for a possible bathroom, sewing masks, catching up on my reading and throwing out lots of junk are just a few of my half-done tasks. I predict that the longest line at any place will be at the Goodwill donation site.
I would feel a lot of pressure to finish something, but I'm pretty sure teaching dance will still be on hold for a while. 

I love dancing, and teaching, but to keep everyone safe I am will going to go slow. Starting in May I would like to teach private lessons for healthy couples. I feel I can keep any germs to a minimum by washing hands, and wearing a face mask and help people reconnect with something wonderful.
We all need to go at our own pace. Many people will want to be cautious when it comes to partner dance, and I respect that.
Let's be patient, dance will still be there.
So Close and Yet So Far Away

April 20, 2020
Visit From the Future Me
February 14, 2020. I have just arrived in Sun Valley on a packed plane, and am sitting with my husband waiting for a table at the crowded restaurant.
My husband takes a call and leaves me staring out the window, when bam, I look up and someone has joined me.

"Hi" I say "Who are you?"

"Don't you recognize me? I'm you in the future" Future Me says.

"Wow, I see. Are you wearing pajamas? This is a fancy place."

"Yup, everyone in the future just wears pajamas or sweats. I don't even have a bra on."

 I look a little closer. "What's up with your hair and nails? Am I too busy in the future to get my nails done?"

"All hair dressers and nail salons are closed. I don't even shave my legs."

"What about when you go dancing? You need smooth legs to look good with tango shoes."

"I don't go dancing anymore. No one does." future me says

"That is impossible. I have a big concert with La Juan D'Arienzo in one month. Did I get a big turnout?"

"Nope, you got zero turnout. The concert was canceled."

"Bummer, say how far in the future are you?"

"Just 2 months. It's now April 15, 2020."

"Oh, tax day. Do I get mine in on time?"

"I wouldn't know. Since no one is working, they extended the deadline."

"No one is working?  But I still teach dance classes, right?"

"Nope, no dance classes or even private lessons."

"That's crazy. But at least I can always hang out with family and friends."

"Nope, you have to stay home and see no one. It's called social distancing and we're all doing it."

"There's a pandemic and it will be seriously bad before you know it. Thousands of people will get sick and die. The only way to keep people safe is to keep them apart so they don't get exposed to the virus."

"That virus sounds terrible, but why don't the sick people just stay home so everyone else can work?"

"Because a lot of people with mild or no symptoms have the virus and can pass it on."

"Wow, but I'm sure my husband who is a doctor will still be working."

"Oh no, he's a surgeon. Surgeons aren't working either; he had to close his practice, and he's going to go a little crazy trying to figure it all out."

"This is terrible! No work, no friends, no parties, no family. Did you come back to warn me?"

"Nope, it's too late for a warning, I'm just really bored and somehow wished myself here. I didn't really prepare a warning, cuz honestly I just don't feel like doing much. Maybe I'm a little depressed."

"That doesn't sound like me, but surely you have advice to share."

"Not really.  Most people stocked up on TP, which was stupid. You should get some flour and yeast.  You'll be OK. 
You're going to learn how to bake bread!"
And poof she was gone.

Stay home when you can, wear masks when you're out, and keep washing your hands!
What would you say to your past self on Valentine's Day?

April 8, 2020  More Stuff

I asked this March 18 when I was clearly still in denial. "Where are you on the COVID-19 coping cycle? 
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression then acceptance?"
Well it's now 3 weeks later and I am firmly in acceptance. It's not the happiest place, but it's better than the others. Staying home, washing hands and wearing masks is not so difficult, and it works. I look forward to cooking, going on walks, calling my mom every day and I checking in with people, but still I miss my friends and students, seeing my kids and grandson, dressing up and producing fun events, and of course dancing.
But I can dance and I am dancing several times a week with my husband. What's missing is the wonderful synergy that happens when we all dance in the same place with the same music, moving as individuals, then couples then as a whole. That's a lot of connection. That will happen again!
In the meantime, we are having fun just dancing in the living room. 
Many people are sharing videos on individual technique that are great! I will even be using some of the exercises in class, but I thought it would be fun to share a mental way to practice.

Here are 2 videos of me doing basic step using my painting sticks. You can use any sticks (brooms, swiffers) you have around.
Try it first with no music, then try to make it musical with slow steps and pauses. If you feel very good try to add quick steps.
Try the part (lead or follow) that you know best first, but definitely try both parts.
As you use the sticks, I hope you will come to understand many things about what you and your partner are doing, even in a simple step.
Don't worry if you don't feel like doing if for very long, or if you don't feel like doing the exercises. 
Partner dancing will be more fun than ever when this is over. It will be different, because people will be very conscientious about hygiene and illness. Maybe in the beginning people will stay more with their partners. We will all learn together how to dance safely.
We have many happy dancing in our future. 
Have fun with the stick project, stay home, wear masks, and keep washing your hands.

April 2, 2020 Stuff
Life without social dancing is weird, but doable for a few months.
I am lucky that I can dance with my husband and we are trying to dance a little every day. It's odd how I used to teach hours of dance and still go social dancing, and now 15 minutes is all I can muster.
I bet many of you might feel you have lost your dance mojo. Some of you might worry that you will forget how to dance. Many of you are wondering if social dance will make make a comeback.
I have taken 3+ months off due to blown knees and other stuff 4 times and I know it's possible to make a 100% recovery. During  recovery I don't even feel like dancing, or planning events or classes. People would say "now that you are recovering from your knee surgery are you planning your next show?" I would say "my goal is to take a bath, I can't think about dance until I'm better".  Even if we are not sick, we are all in shock and just doing what we can. My goal is to reach out to at least one person a day and have a real chat with them. It's not a big goal, but I am doing it. Eventually I will learn how to do a zoom class, and start making a business plan, but for now I do small things to try to make this time easier for my dance family.
For my students and friends: 
Don't worry about dancing, you will not forget how, but do reach out to your friends and people you met in class, stay safe and remember:
YES, partner dance will comeback!
YES, you will still love dancing and still remember how to do it and there will still be lots of people who also love dancing.
And YES, it will be different. We will be cleaner, and no one will dare go dancing if they have even the slightest cold and for a while events will be smaller. It will take time to get used to being in public. 
It will still be wonderful.

Great tanguara - Fernanda Ghi - "Love Me Again"
Tango - That Lovin’ Feeling?

We are picking out the movie for our Thanksgiving re-boot party and we came across one that really moved me.  I am excited to show it, and hear people’s thoughts on the subject.  It’s about a woman who loves tango, but after 15 years of dancing feels tango no longer loves her.  I think everyone can relate.  I don’t know how it happened, but after dancing for many years and loving it, I have experienced many periods when tango did not show me the love.  Here are 3 tips for keeping that sinking feeling away, and 3 tips for getting that lovin’ feeling back.

Bosting Your Immunity to Tango Blues.
1.       Do somethings the same. Try to go to the same classes or dances every week. You will become more comfortable if you are a regular dancer. People will ask you to dance more if they see you there often and you will make friends. If you go every week, you won’t let being tired or having a bad day make you stay home.  Go, do it, even when you don’t feel like it. I have rarely regretting going, and almost always regret staying home for no reason.
2.       Hang out with newer dancers, mentor and encourage them and they will remind you what you loved about tango in the beginning. My husband has kept my love of dancing alive and well with his joy for dancing and enthusiasm for learning.
3.       Lower your expectations. Don’t judge your success by how many good dances you get, but by the whole event. I feel I have conquered if I get off the couch, put on something that makes me feel nice and get there.  Then I conquer again by hugging my friends, meeting new people and sometimes even having deep conversations.  Then, if I can also have one or two nice dances and give someone a nice dance, I have had a terrific night.

Cures for the Tango Blues.
1.       Do something different. If what you are doing gets you down try something else. If you have a crappy time at festivals try an Encuentro. If group classes are no longer fun, treat yourself to a private lesson. Try to dance with one new person when you go out. Don’t be afraid to take a little break, but make it for a short period of time, and be sure to come back. Tango will be there with its arms open.
2.       Share your time in the community, get involved, take classes, volunteer or perform. Support community events. Join team tango.
3.       Time for a shameless plug:  Come to Re-Boot Camp or at least part of it to get your mojo back.  Hanging out with Eduardo, and the gang, dancing (of course) but just as important: chatting, laughing, analyzing, learning, socializing, eating, drinking, watching movies, discussing them and trying new things, will lift your spirits, and bring back that lovin’ feeling!

8/15/18  Guest Blog by Mikelann Valterra

Curious about taking your first tango class? 
Tips from a new student.

A year ago, I was excited and nervous about starting my first tango class. Needless to say, I do not come from an athletic or dance background. Beyond yoga, I can’t claim much. (And I hold the distinction of being the only kid to ever score basketball points at a middle school game, for the other team. When they finally let me have the ball during a game, I was so excited I ran in the wrong direction….) So what would Michelle Badion’s beginner tango class be like? Did I need a partner? Special shoes? And most important, would I feel awkward and look like an idiot?

Hopefully the following questions and answers will help you jump in and take a chance on what has turned out to be the most fun hobby—ever.

Here were my questions-

Do I need a partner? I happen to be single, and I was really worried about this one. But it turns out that this just doesn’t matter. In a tango class, most students “rotate”. This simply means that every five minutes or so, you change to a different partner. So even if you bring a partner, you’ll dance with many different students. It turns out that there are two advantages to this. If you rotate, you will learn a lot faster. And you will also easily meet lots of wonderful people. Tango is social, and it’s very fun to meet other students. So just come to class. You will make friends, whether you bring your partner or not.

Do I have to rotate if I bring my partner? The short answer is No. The golden rule is that you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. And while most couples rotate, some don’t. They only dance with each other. And this is totally wonderful and works great. They simply stay together when other students are rotating around the room. It’s all good. Michelle is really great about making couple’s feel good either way, and can also help you decide what is best for you. As I have heard Michelle say many times, “This is supposed to be fun!”

Do I need to be coordinated or have rhythm? I hear this one a lot when I mention that I take tango classes. “Oh- I wish I could do that but I have no rhythm.” Well, trust me, your dance teacher will take care of that, little by little. Many of us are adults who haven’t done a lot of “rhythmic” things before (and sucked at basketball), so stop worrying. Seriously. A beginning class is designed to just teach you a few steps and then practice them over and over until you get super comfortable using them to music. And learning about music and rhythm is one of the wonderful things about tango. I knew very little about musical structure, rhythm and timing before discovering tango. Actually, let’s be more honest- I knew zero.

A word about all the fancy tango videos you may have seen. While they are fun to watch, some of them are considered “performance tango”. And no, you don’t need to learn or do all of that to have fun in tango. Enjoy YouTube, but don’t freak yourself out.  Seriously.  And if you want to learn those moves, over time, you can.

Do I need special shoes? Great question. For a beginning class, you just want shoes that don’t have a rubber sole, and are secure on your feet. That rules out sandals and tennis shoes. You can start with a hard leather bottom sole- really any kind of shoe that feels a bit slippery. (You know the shoes you own that are horrible for walking on icy sidewalks? Perfect.)  If you decide you like tango, than you will want to buy dance shoes. These are shoes that have soft suede on the bottom-  that slide on the dance floor. And you’re probably picturing those gorgeous sexy high heel tango shoes, if you’re a woman. Yum. But I would wait on them. It’s a common mistake that women buy their first “tango shoes” with heels that are too high. If you don’t feel secure, it’s really hard to focus on dancing. My first pair of dance shoes where called “practice ballroom shoes”. They lace up and have about a one inch heel. One year later and they are still my preferred shoes for Michelle’s classes. But that’s me. I see lots of shoes in classes.

What should I wear to class? In Michelle’s classes, many of us are coming straight from work, so you kind of see everything. Class is class- meaning you can wear whatever you want. Honest. Just make sure that you can move in it and if you are woman, make sure your skirt has enough room to move your legs. If you are wearing a skirt and can place your feet on the ground about three feet apart, you’ll be fine. Just don’t forget to pack shoes for class. (Pencil skirts don’t work…) I’ve done class in everything from my work clothes to sweatpants. 

"The bottom line is that if you want to try something new and meet a lot of great people, take a chance on a beginning tango class with Michelle. If nothing else, you'll have a heck of a lot of fun. And who knows? You may have just discovered a new activity you can enjoy for years to come."

Why are we so afraid to fail that we don’t even try?
I ask this because I have recently moved my class to a new location and like all change it’s a little painful.  I am happy that my students are enjoying the challenge and are optimistic, but I am worried about the dance that follows.
I am not in charge of the dance, but I would like to see it grow and prosper.  I am not in charge of any dances, but I support many of them and I would like to see all of them do well. Dancing is important to our mental and physical health and we are lucky to have choices in Seattle.
So why have so many people said to me that a new dance will never work? Why are many people not even going to give it a try? Why are even the people who would benefit from a nice turnout afraid to support it in any way?  I am guessing that no one wants to be associated with failure.
Well I am not afraid to fail! I am afraid that someday I will stop trying.
When I started the Monday night Milonga every one said it would never work on a Monday and today it’s still a great dance.
When NWD wanted to do dances with live music everyone said it’s not possible because no one will pay to have a band.  Now we all enjoy dancing to live music!
When Hallie opened the Century Ballroom few people understood or supported her vision. I am so thankful that she stuck out the hard years and created one of the best places in the country to dance.
I don’t care if people come to one dance, class or event. I don’t care about the politics, or who is popular.  I just want people not to make choices based on fear of failing.  If you feel like trying something, do it, even if it might not work out.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes.
 “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” – Sir William Churchill
"There are two types of people who will tell you that you cannot make a difference in this world: those who are afraid to try and those who are afraid you will succeed." -- Ray Goforth
“The greatest teacher, failure is” -  Yoda
“Fail Early, Fail Often, Fail Forward” -Will Smith 

I am in good company! I know a dance is not a big deal, but I also know that this attitude of not trying because something might not work out is limiting. Anytime you see something that you think is cool, like dancing on Mondays, dancing to live music, dancing in a historic ballroom or dancing in a beautiful place you should support it with kind words and trying to go when you can.
I am thankful to all the people in Seattle who have tried to bring new dance venues. Too many wonderful dances are gone and will never come back.

                 Art by Willow Bader - Each person is enjoying the dance differently

The Five Love Languages of Tango
“The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate” is a 1995 book by Gary Chapman. It outlines five ways to express and experience love that Chapman calls “love languages”. They are receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service (devotion), and physical touch.
Just as we all experience love differently I believe we are all attracted to Tango differently.
Five “love languages” of  tango:

1.    Romantic connection. This person is looking for a mate or dances mostly with their mate when out or even in classes.
2.    Physical connection. This person is most likely to love performing. The harder the steps are the more fun it is.  Competition or performing is the final challenge.
3.    Intellectual stimulation. This person enjoys all the complex movements of tango and is always pushing boundaries.
4.    Social connection to a group. This person organizes groups for Milongas and parties and is often the social center of any event.
5.    Escape into the exotic world of Tango. This person appears to be an introvert and is not so concerned with fancy steps. They like to close their eyes and enjoy the moment.
We all have a preference, and we tend to be around people who share that preference. We might not like one of these ways, but it’s important that we respect everyone’s preference.
The Romantic person might not understand the hours put into performing with a non-romantic partner, but that is the best challenge for the physical dancer.  The physical dancer doesn’t get the social butterfly that never takes classes, but for the social dancer, just being there is enough. The intellectual dancer doesn’t understand the dancer that closes their eyes and moves to the music with no thought of steps.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. So I would like to you rate these 5 for yourself and start thinking about how that might affect your attitude to dancers who don’t share your preferences.
As a teacher, I need to be aware of all the ways and reasons someone might want to dance and design a class to meet their visions. It’s easy to create a private lesson for each “language”, but challenging to create group lessons that appeal to all types.

I am always thinking about what makes a really great class.  It needs a bit of every “tango language”, and a whole bunch of fun!  It’s fun to be romantic, fun to be physical, fun to be intellectual, fun to be social, fun to escape and dancing lets us do all of those things!

Guest Blog from Dr. Richard Baxter

Simplify: The one most important thing to improve your tango as a leader

If there is one thing that sets Argentine tango apart from other partner dances, it is complexity. That’s one of the things that make it so addictive; our brains reward us for success in complicated tasks. (Puzzles like Sudoku are so popular for the same reason.) Frustration at some point is also inevitable, compounded by conflicting opinions from various maestros as to the correct or currently favored techniques. For me, the secret to enjoying social tango has been less in trying to master a lot of fancy steps, and more in thinking about doing simple things well.
We all want the fancy stuff! The things is, it’s not an either/or proposition. Einstein once said “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.” I didn’t arrive at this enlightenment about simplicity by myself, or through any great epiphany; good teachers always emphasize basics, and I am fortunate to have good teachers. Thinking it and doing it are two different things though. Why take all those classes and practice just to do ocho cortado and walk to the cross over and over?
The thing is, simplicity isn’t so simple. It requires focused attention to your partner, the embrace, and the music. It requires effort, maybe more than riffing off your flashiest footwork. It requires actively ignoring that internal voice that urges you to show off what you know, to prove that you have arrived. It is especially true when dancing with a new partner or someone you dance with only occasionally. The real test however is with a more advanced dancer. It is so hard to convince yourself that keeping it simple will impress them more than a big vocabulary. Einstein also said “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” A big idea expressed in simple words, from the man whose name is the definition of genius.
I share this not because I consider myself any particular tango genius, but I have done some field work on the idea. Here’s why I think simplicity works:
·         The follower can relax and enjoy the dance. If they have to be constantly in a state of heightened alertness anticipating your next crazy move, they may enjoy the ride less, not more.
·         More experienced dancers recognize the value of simple things done well. There’s not much point in trying to dazzle with vocabulary you don’t really own, or deploying it on the dance floor just because you can.
·         And finally, you can relax and enjoy the dance more.   Even the greatest chefs don’t want everything sous vide or fricasseed; nothing beats a great cut of meat prepared simply with quality ingredients. My favorite parilla in Buenos Aires serves pretty much only grilled steak and potatoes, and the place is always packed.

In tango, clarity beats complexity every time.

Guest Blog from Dr. Richard Baxter

"Does dancing make my hippocampus  look big?" 

Dancing and brain health update.
There’s a robust body of research on the benefits of dancing on brain function with aging, and a fascinating new study revealed that it can actually help grow a part of the brain involved in memory processing. The hippocampus, named for the Greek word for seahorse because of its similar shape, consolidates short-term to long-term memory and is important for spatial orientation. Degeneration of hippocampal function is among the first signs of “age-related cognitive decline” and Alzheimer’s disease. According to the recent study from the University of Madelburg, Germany, dancing has a unique ability to enhance hippocampal function.
Regular exercise is known to benefit the aging brain, but this study took it a step further (so to speak) by comparing traditional aerobic training to once-weekly “dancing intervention” over a period of 18 months. Both groups were in their late 60’s on average, and underwent a battery of standardized tests of balance and cognition before and after the program. Additionally, MRI brain scans were done to measure hippocampal size.
The two interventions compared a specially designed dance program, during which subjects constantly had to learn new choreographies, and a traditional fitness program with mainly repetitive exercises, such as cycling or Nordic walking. The possibility that dancing might have a bigger impact was suggested by earlier studies demonstrating beneficial effects for dance-related parameters such as posture and reaction times, as well as cognition, coordination, and subjective well-being without concomitant changes in cardiovascular performance.

As you might expect, both groups showed increased hippocampal volume on MRI scans and better performance on tests of cognition. In the dance group however, a greater increase in volume was seen in a specific portion of the hippocampus called the dentate gyrus, believed to be involved in neurogenesis and brain plasticity. Moreover, only the dancers showed an increased balance composite score and they improved in all three involved sensory systems. The researchers concluded that “dancing drives all three senses and presumably also improves the integration of sensorimotor, visual and vestibular information.”

Blog November 11, 2017  Veterans Day

Why Vets should Dance

Partner dancing has an amazing way of making everything better. That’s why I was inspired many years ago to offer all of my classes for free to veterans.
It’s not a cure, or therapy, but it does create several important things necessary for recovery.
To be a cure you have to know what the problem is. Therapy is one way of discovering the problem and then creating a cure. Partner dance is none of this.
When my students come to a partner dance class, they might feel overwhelmed with problems, or stressed out about things out of their control. When a Vet comes he or she might be feeling the same, but might also be suffering from PTSD, depression and other war related problems. Dance class is not a cure, but dancing helps in 7 ways:
1.     Human contact in a gentle predictable form.
2.    Change of focus to learning to dance. You have to be in the moment to dance.
3.    Connection to others through smiles, chatting, and shared experience.
4.    Connection to music, which is uplifting in so many ways.
5.    Exercise – or re-connecting to your body.
6.    Accomplishment – learning and doing something difficult.
7.    Getting out and having fun.
No time during the class do you need to talk about your feelings, stressful things or any past trauma, but you still get to embrace someone for an hour, and you are learning a wonderful skill.
Many people share with me that they are always happy that they came to class, even when they didn’t feel like it. I hope Vets will make dance class a part of their lives.
I offer all my classes to Vets for free.  Just my way of saying “Thanks.” 

Blog  October 10, 2017

Dancing with Emotion

I do a lot of dancing and most of it is without strong emotions, but not always.  When I do feel emotional the dance becomes more intense. Argentine Tango is the perfect dance to invite your emotions to.
I am not talking about fake effects of the dance of seduction performers have perfected. I am talking about real feelings of sadness, longing, anger, gratefulness, and my favorite: happiness. 

Most of the time I feel happy, content, and grateful when I dance.  I often smile, or take a deep breath. All the time I say “Dancing makes me happy.” But sometimes I am not happy. 

I was super angry when Trump was elected.  I felt betrayed, mad and helpless. Class and dancing made me feel better, but I didn’t embrace the feelings, instead I tried to block them out. Even without trying, dancing was good therapy.

The other day a few things happened that made me and my husband mad and we tried dancing with our anger. The interesting effect was that we felt less angry after a few dances. 

A few years ago my uncle died and I was too busy to cry or grieve, and then in the middle of a tanda with a partner I barely knew I started to cry.  He danced the whole set. It was a good dance. 

The dance floor can be a safe place to show emotion and you might be surprised by the healing effects. We are sharing our feelings with another person during the dance even if we don’t talk about them. 

Argentine Tango's embrace with the right partner can create a wonderful, safe and nurturing place to expose emotion.  Try it sometime. I bet you will be surprised by the effect.

Blog,  June 2017

Why I am so picky about who I bring to Seattle to teach?

Teaching is about so much more than dancing.
I know tons of pretty good teachers and very good dancers that I could bring, but they don’t understand that learning is about so much more than just being shown some new steps. The teachers I choose to bring understand this and that’s why I am super excited to have Liz and Yannick here this week and Eduardo teach boot camp in November.

My classes and all the workshops have to be special, fun, creative, safe, clear and in a small way life changing.  I think dancing can be life changing, so why not learning to dance?  All my students are adults and look at dance as a wonderful activity that they would like to be good at.

Learning as an adult takes a special kind of courage. I still have nightmares about being in college and not prepared for an exam. I am so relieved to wake up and remember that I am not in school.  I admire older adults that go back for degrees, I also admire my students for showing up for class.  Just like having a degree can change your life, so can know how to dance well.

I love Liz and Yannick, because they bring laughter and fun to classes.  They make a safe place to try new things, and they respect my students. They take care of their feelings, and they like to socialize with my students.  Many visiting teachers like to just dance and socialize with each other. I have even heard some visiting teachers say disrespectful things about students.  Those teachers will never me on my first choice list. 

When I bring teachers I like to offer a variety of ways to get to know them.  Students are often surprised by things they might have in common with traveling teachers. This weekend Liz and Yannick will teach 4 workshops, 2 classes and many private lessons.  That’s their job and they do really well, but they will also go to 1 practica, 2 milongas and my Michelonga party.  That’s just being wonderful people who love to share their lives with others who also love tango.

I am 100% confident that the students who take their classes will learn tons, and will also have fun getting to know this special couple. Maybe this weekend will be a little life changing. ;-)

Blog  6/1/2017   Is dancing still a mating ritual? 

It’s not a mating ritual for several large groups of people.
1.      Family dancing found in most Latin homes.
2.      Physical dancing that is done without a partner like Hip Hop and Ballet
3.      For some, dancing is much more about social contact. Most of my friends and students dance most of the time with people they have no desire to date.

Even with those large exceptions it is a mating ritual for many!  Even if you are totally not interested in any mating there is a subtle feeling of desire that we all enjoy when we dance with some partners.
No matter what your age or your motivations dancing makes us all feel a little sexy.  Partner dancing brings out the gentleman in most guys and a feminine side in most ladies. 
I’m of an older generation, so for this blog I am going to only talk about partner dance between the traditional man and woman.  For the record I believe 100% in equal rights for everyone including the LBGTQ community.  In all my classes I welcome people to identify and dance the way they feel. It makes this blog too long to include every possible couple, so I will talk in generals for this blog. Another blog will be just about sexual identity and dance.
Back to sex.  Dance is not about sex!  It’s about people expressing a very deep sensual side in a safe place. What makes dancing safe is that both people have to stay in the limits of the dance. For instance,if a man or woman's hand roams during a dance, they have broken the rules of the dance, and their partner can choose to end the dance. Respect your partner or course and respect the dance. Then your partner is free to express themselves. 
I have a wonderful, married, 87 year old student who one time thanked his dance partner for letting him have a little crush. He said it’s wonderful that at his age he can still feel young and even sexy when he is dancing.
We have all seen dancers bloom. Someone starts classes one way and after a few months they are more relaxed, smiling and dressing up a bit. Are they consciously participating in a mating ritual? Probable not, but they might have the results of one.  Many people date and even marry people they meet dancing. 

So if you do something (learn to dance, go to a dance, wear sexy clothes, try to dance with your favorite partner and even flirt a little) and do it often (once a week, or even more) like a ritual and the result is mating (dating) could that something be called a “Mating Ritual?”  I rest my case.

Blog  5/1/2017  

My favorite Aspects of Dancing Tango.

tango definition A sensual ballroom dance that originated in South America in the early twentieth century.

Yes, dancing with a partner is partially about expressing sexuality, but this blog is about other aspects. It could also be about many more things like a spiritual connection, or a purely physical expression of beauty, or telling of a story. All 3 things are wonderful, but partner dancing is at its best with at least a hint of the possibility of seduction.
The spiritual aspect of dance is mostly found in dancing done in groups, not partners. It’s occurs in folkdances and religious dancing done in every part of the world. In partner dance we sometimes experience a spiritual connection when we dance as a community. I love to dance in my living room with my husband, but it does not have the amazing feeling of dancing with 50 other couples moving together with order and unison.
Dancing can be just a physical expression. I especially see it in all individual dancing like hip hop, modern and ballet. I just watched the Argentine Tango competition, and most of the dancers were gifted physically, but a sense of seduction was present in all the best couples. In ice dancing the US has a wonderful brother/sister team, and even though they technically bring it, they will never be able to capture the seductive quality of dancing. Dancing can be only physical, but the best tango dancers also have sensuality.
Most dance forms tell a story. Sometimes it’s overt like in many ballets, but when it’s a couple dancing it can be subtle. Most of my dances have a nice, non-sexual story of friendship. Even when I dance with a stranger there is some sort of story being played in our heads, but I like the story with my husband the best. The constant romantic tension between two people is a story we never get tired of and experiencing it is totally different than watching it. Partner dancing can be without any context or story or personality, but it’s so much better with one, and even better with one that has sexual tension.
Partner dancing has all 3 of these aspects. The best dances create a spiritual connection, and a physical challenge while creating our own story of who we are in that moment. That special, spiritual thing happens when I am dancing romantically with my husband in a room of 20 other couples all with their own stories unfolding to the most beautiful music.

Blog – 4/1/2017

Why I want to teach a class for teachers.

I want Seattle to have better teachers which will create better dancers which will create a better dance community. I know that is what every teacher wants, but I define better as not only more skillful dancers, but ones educated in good manners and kindness.

I have never worked in any field that did not educate instructors, including ballroom dancing. When I started teaching ballroom, I was first a teacher’s assistant, then I joined a class just for aspiring teachers that met M-F from 1-4 for 2+ months. Then I passed exams about teaching, not dancing. Years later I moved to another studio and became the teacher’s teacher there. I taught the other teacher every day from 4-5 and sometimes longer about how to structure a class, lesson plans, teaching techniques and answered question about teaching situations. I find it amazing that people think that being a good dancer is all it takes to be a good teacher, or that they don’t have to actually learn new skills to teach well.

A bad learning experience is the number one reason people stop coming to classes. Here are just the first 4 problems many teachers have that I will tackle in my class: 
1. With education teachers will be able to recognize and respect different learning styles. In a group class it’s possible to get all 3 learning styles into every communication you have with students, making the class appealing to all your students. 
2. With education teachers will be able to prioritize and keep each communication to one topic instead of overwhelming students with too much information.
3. With education teachers will be able to change every negative comment to a positive one. Students cannot improve if you only tell them what they are doing wrong. You as the teacher must be able at all times to say what is the correct technique or step. 
4. With education teachers will structure classes in a way that creates confidence in their students. Inconsistent classes make it difficult for students to relax and enjoy the process of learning. 

By understanding the learning process, teachers will understand and respect their students and allow them to relax and enjoy the classes. It’s important that teacher believe in their students’ abilities and that the students have confidence in their instructors.
Better teaching will not only keep students engaged longer in classes, but will also teach students how to respect the other students and see that with good instruction everyone has the ability to be a good dancer and fun to dance with. Those students will bring positive energy as they become part of our dance community.


The Perks and Perils of having a Dance Crush

Yes there really are perks to having a crush even if nothing ever comes of it, but there can also be some problems.

We all get dance crushes, especially when we are new to partner dancing.  It’s difficult to separate the wonderful feelings a dancer might give us on the dance floor from that dancer (who might not be so wonderful). Many of us feel a passion about dancing that we have not had in a long time and it’s hard not to attach it to the person that creates the best dance. As we dance better and with more partners we come to realize that dance euphoria can happen with many different partners and that sometimes even a partner that is not so good can become a wonderful partner.  After 30+ years of partner dancing I would rather invest in a nice partner with potential than an accomplished arrogant ass.

Partner dance can be described as just a physical activity like jogging, but it’s also one of our mating rituals. I will write a whole blog on that later, but it’s natural that we are attracted to the best dancers.

Perk #1 is the high we get from a great dance.  There is so much connection to the music, the partner and the atmosphere that it creates endorphins that can last for days.  Perk #2 is that having a crush makes you want to be a better dancer, so you take lessons and practice.  Perk #3 is that you get more excited and might even dress up more when you go out.  Other dancers will notice that glow and you’ll get even more wonderful dances. Perk #4 it gives us something special to look forward to or fantasize about.

Perils happen when you are not realistic about a crush.  It’s just a crush!  The person you like owes you nothing but respect.  It will most likely not lead to a relationship and you are not the only person to have a crush on that person. Many people have crushes on good dancers and even more on teachers.  As a teacher I am very clear with boundaries and try to help my students navigate their first crushes.  It’s helpful to talk about them.

Often a dance crush gone bad will make someone stop dancing, which makes me very sad. I know if they kept going that they would understand that everyone gets them and they are a natural part of becoming a dancer.

Someday people will have a dance crush on you and you will have to remember how that first dance crush feels. Be kind, create good boundaries, and remind them that “dance is just a 3 minute embrace”.  A dance crush plays a positive role when learning and can be wonderful if it’s embraced as just a crush.


Yogi Berra on Tango (and life)

"Yogi" Berra (May 12, 1925 – September 22, 2015) was an American professional baseball player, manager and coach who was also famous for his wonderful outlook on life.  Whether your passion is playing a sport, or being a spectator or dancing Argentine Tango his quotes will speak to you.  Here are some of our favorite ones relating to dance:
Starting to dance
“If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”
For learning navigation
“When you arrive at a fork in the road, take it.”
 Advanced navigation
“Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded.”
All partner dancing
“You don't have to swing hard to hit a home run. If you got the timing, it'll go.”
Feeling the music
 “How can you think and hit at the same time?”
Practice time
“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.”
 Keeping it simple
“It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.”
 Great attitude for your first Milonga.
“You can observe a lot by just watching.”
 YES, just substitute “Dance”
“Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical.”
Again, just substitute “Dancing” for “Baseball”
“Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too.”

As you can see by the picture he was also a pretty good dancer.  
Here are a few more about life, just for fun.

“It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
“If you ask me anything I don’t know, I’m not going to answer.”
“The future ain’t what it used to be.”
“If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”


Does tango mean never having to say you’re sorry?

It’s hard not to say “sorry” when you make a misstep in tango. It seems like the polite thing to do, an acknowledgment that you recognize your fumble. The problem is, it usually doesn’t help. Like the well-known (and well-ridiculed) line in the 1970 movie “Love Story,” maybe tango means never having to say you’re sorry, even if love doesn’t.

Not that there aren’t plenty of occasions for apologies in tango. We have all seen the unexpected collisions, even lacerations from high heels. If blood is drawn, certainly there should be an apology. But most routine faux pas and minor foibles are best resolved by instantaneous forgiving and forgetting. In sports psychology there’s an idea of having a short memory about mistakes. It’s not that you don’t learn from them, but dwelling on them undermines confidence.

Recently, in class, I have been encouraging my students to say “thank you” instead of “sorry.”  It says something positive about the other person and not the negative implication of “I’m sorry.”  I like saying “thank you for letting me work out this step, or thank you for your patience.” We all know that learning tango involves positive reinforcement and that saying “sorry” is negative.

At a dance it’s best to keep chatting to a minimum, but there is a time for “sorry” and a time to be quiet and a time for “thanks for helping me be a better dancer.”

In the movie “Scent of a Woman,” there’s an iconic tango scene where the blind retired Col. Frank Slade (Al Pacino) takes the reluctant Donna (Gabrielle Anwar) onto the tango floor. Not knowing how to tango, she’s terrified. Slade encourages her by saying “No mistakes in the tango, darlin’, not like life. Simple. That’s what makes the tango so great. If you make a mistake and get all tangled up, just tango on.”


Why is Argentine Tango so hard? 

Look in the mirror (neurons).

The answer is found is asking more questions: 
Why is single time swing so much easier than country 2-step or foxtrot?
Why is bachata much easier than salsa?
Why is triple time swing easier than west coast swing?
All of these dances have the same rhythm count for their basic step, but all the easy ones are done in mirror image (follow steps side right when the leads step side left). The more difficult dances to learn are danced in natural opposite (follow moves the right leg back when the lead moves the left leg forward). They should be about the same difficulty to learn, but they are totally not. 

Guess what? We like mirror image. We actually have cells in our brain that can remember and mimic things we see.  Our brains have been learning through mirror image since we were born. We need to be taught how to remember movements in natural opposite.

The mind's mirror
A new type of neuron--called a mirror neuron--could help explain how we learn through mimicry and why we empathize with others.
A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another. Thus, the neuron "mirrors" the behavior of the other, as though the observer were itself acting. Such neurons have been directly observed in primate species. In humans, brain activity consistent with that of mirror neurons has been found in the premotor cortex, the supplementary motor area, the primary somatosensory cortex and the inferior parietal cortex.
Ok, that gets to part of the problem, but Tango is harder to master than any of the other traditional partner dances. That’s because Argentine Tango has the added difficulty of cross system (lead moved the Rt. foot to the follows Rt. foot) instead of parallel system (lead moving Lf foot to follows Rt. foot). It is the only partner dance done in both systems.

But wait, it gets worse. Argentine Tango is the most complicated dance because it is done in both mirror image and natural opposite; parallel feet and cross feet; staying in place and traveling; feet staying on the floor and flying off the floor; and a ton of just random stuff. Much of the time the leads' feet do not relate to the follows' feet, but the bodies are always connected.  It’s 100% lead and follow, so the only way to master the dance is to master the skills.  

We all start with "fake it till we make it" in tango.  Mimicking our favorite dancers is the first phase, but it takes a long time (usually over 10 years of constant dancing) before you feel a deep confidence. I am amazed by how many people mistake being able to imitate a move as the same as mastering the move and being able to copy a good dancers make them qualified to teach this dance.

Most experienced Argentine Tango dancers can instantly recognize when a couple is faking it.  When I see this, I don’t  mind, because I know it’s part of the journey. Hopefully someday they will have respect for the few dancers who have put the years and effort into mastering this beautiful, complex dance.


Put down your phone, get up and dance!

When did “staying connected” become recording experience rather than living it? When did emoji replace actual hugs? When did everyone stop dancing? What on earth happened to us?
I am traveling with my husband and going to so many fun events.  Too bad most of the people around us don’t seem to be having as much fun.  Cell phones are everywhere.

We go to an Andy Grammer concert. He was a finalist in Dancing with the Stars.  We hope to dance and are excited there is a large, wood dance floor in front of the stage.  His music is great, very uplifting, and fun for dancing, but we are denied. As soon as he starts everyone crowds onto the dancefloor and holds up their phones. The people who can’t record just sit around chatting or taking selfies.  What an odd way to enjoy a great concert.

We go to a fund raiser and there is a great live band. Everyone watches for a short time and then go back to talking or back to their phones. Finally children get on the dance floor and then all the phones come out again to video.  Much later a few adults jump around, while their friend records. We are the only partner dancers, but hopefully we will inspire others to try.

Last night we attended a Las Vegas show of impersonators.  We had front row seats! The ladies next to us never stopped chatting, at least 5 people in the front row were texting and a few were holding up phones to video. They tried to get people to come up on stage and dance or sing, but all anyone wanted was video or selfies. Finally after Frank, Dino and Sammy I asked the ladies chatting who they liked best. One said her husband was videoing the show on his phone. WTF?

Everywhere we go we see people on their phones.  My friends are too busy to have coffee or dinner, but they are happy so send me little happy face pictures.  We hear great music and we dance. So many people make nice comments like “I used to love dancing with my husband”  “We love the way you dance”, “I wish I could dance like that”. They see it and know they are missing something beautiful, but they don’t even know the best part.

NO PNONES, just the warm and real embrace of a real person connecting in real time.
We need to bring back partner dance!!!!  I like the convenience of having a cell phone, I like keeping in touch, but not at the expense of living.

People, put down your phones and start dancing, you will never regret it and someday you can get a video of you dancing with someone you care about.

"How to Become a Good Dancer" by Arthur Murray 1938

The return of the one armed bandit and other bad behaviors on the dance floor.

Or why teaching when you should be just dancing is just rude.

What do West Coast Swing superstar Buddy Schwimmer and tango maestros Carlos Gavito and Juan Bruno have in common? They all rescued me from goons stroking their egos by trying to teach me on the dance floor.  Now, years later I am witnessing people trying to teach MY STUDENTS on the dance floor at a formal milonga.   They haven’t learned that lecturing, punishing, demonstrating or complaining are not allowed on the dance floor and especially right in front of the teacher. I am giving you all warning right now that I will not stand for it any longer!

 I have seen a man dancing with one arm with a student of mine.  YES, she sometimes pushes with her arm. That does not give you permission to humiliate her in front of everyone. And make her even less stable by taking away your frame.  If you really want to give her a nice dance you need to give all the tools to dance well, including a whole frame.  I would never do that to another dancer at a formal dance.

Two weeks ago someone lectured one of my students through a whole song and dragged her off to the corner to teach her how to do a proper ocho.  She did this right in front of me and my student pointed me out many times.  She ran off when I bolted toward the corner, but later approached my student again. I would never drag someone off to the shameful corner.  A truly gifted dancer would make her ochos work and make her feel positive about dancing.

Another person, not my student, wanted me to show their partner how to do something at a formal milonga.  NO teaching at milongas!  That’s what practicas are for. If you want a lesson you can always schedule one.

All these times I kept my cool, but they made me mad! They triggered negative memories I have of learning to dance and I am so grateful to the professionals who intervened on my behalf and showed me how to act now.

1.    Back in the early 1990’s I was so excited about West Coast Swing.  I went to every class and workshop. I was teaching Ballroom at Washington Dance Club, but I realized I had tons to learn to be able to compete in WCS. After a day of workshops I went to the fancy dance and was asked to dance by one of the better dancers. Yipee! But after the first song he dragged me over to Buddy Schwimmer, the visiting instructor and told him how bad my arm was and tried to get Buddy to fix me. It was really embarrassing, but Buddy knew just what to do. He took me out to the dance floor and gave me the best dance of my life. After the dance he said to the snotty guy “I don’t know what you were talking about, she’s great.” 

2.    One of my first workshops in Milongero style was in 1995 with Jaun Bruno.  That night there was a fancy dress up milonga. A visiting tango teacher from New York was there to take the classes, and asked me to dance. Yipee! Then he pushed on my arm, I pushed back, then he said he would have to teach me a lesson and took his arm away, so I have to dance one of my first dances in close embrace with only one arm. Jaun Bruno saw what was happening and came over right in the middle of the tanda and asked what the problem was. The other teacher explained how I deserved such treatment.  Jaun Bruno told him he didn’t deserve to dance with me and danced the rest of the tanda with me himself.

3.    In 1996 I was teaching Tango and so excited to bring the late great Carlos Gavito to Seattle. He was my favorite and I brought him many times. He always used me to teach during the classes. It was a great honor.  There was a visiting teacher from San Francisco who came for the classes and asked me to dance during the evening milonga. Yipee! Then he took frame as a follow and said quite loudly if I was a real teacher I could lead him. I tried to explain that he was 6 feet tall and that I had on very high heels and that I didn’t usually lead during milongas. Then he said louder to a group of dancers that I couldn’t lead.  Now I was mad, so I led him, but I was miserable. He refused to follow and I felt like crying.  Gavito saved me, again by coming right out on the floor. He made the other teacher apologize, and of course gave me a wonderful dance. Cool. 

These masters showed me how to behave, so, guess what?
No more Miss Nice Teacher. 
If you are rude to my students get ready to deal with me!


When less is more in Tango

La Viruta, Buenos Aires

Learning partner dancing, especially tango, is often compared to learning a new language. The analogy holds up well: You learn a few words (steps), string them together into memorized phrases (patterns) and with some effort eventually you are able to hold a basic conversation.

Learning the rules of grammar enables clarity, just as the moves in partner dance require technique. But that’s still not enough. Becoming fluent in a new language is much more complicated than just expanding vocabulary. Without knowing the idioms, jargon, and cultural context of the language communication will always be limited. Visiting France helps to learn French; visiting Buenos Aires helps make tango authentic.

One of the first impressions of a milonga in BA will be that the dancers are not doing much.  No long fancy sequences, just simple walking and pausing. And it’s so good. Yes, they have technique, musicality and connection, but they also have an intimate, deep understanding of the language of dance.  The Milongaros of BA create so much with simple movements, just like you can have a deep conversation your friends with little or no words.

The “Joys of Yiddish dictionary” book has amusing examples where to place the emphasis determines the meaning, for instance whether to attend a concert given by a friend or relative:
1.       I should buy two tickets for her concert? (I’m not sure I should even buy one)
2.       I should buy two tickets for her concert? (You mean she isn’t giving away free passes?)
3.       I should buy two tickets for her concert? (Did she buy tickets for my show?)
4.       I should buy two tickets for her concert? (Oh so you call it a concert now)
5.       I should buy two tickets for her concert? (I wouldn’t go even if they were free!)
The same sentence conveys different meaning depending only on where the emphasis is placed, just as a great dancer can create a beautiful dance using the same moves with different timing and technique.

Devoted students of tango are eager to expand their repertoire of moves, soaking up every cool new step and adornment, but the best and most experienced dancers progressively pare down their vocabulary in social dance. They achieve better communication by choosing just the right steps, executed with nuance.

I am NOT saying to stop learning.  We all need to keep learning new moves, improving our technique, listening to the music, moving with better floor craft, and pushing ourselves to dance better. All these experienced, beautiful dancers at the milongas in BA did that to get where they are now. There is still a thrill in having performance vocabulary and lots of good show off moves, as long as you respect the dancers who now connect deeply with less.

Juan Carlos Copes in the Middle Front.
I danced will all these great leaders in Chicago .

Taking a step back: History of the 8 count basic in Argentine Tango 

There are no set patterns in Argentine Tango.  Every step, movement and timing should be led.
All Tango dancers know that, so what’s with the 8 count basic?
The first person to introduce the 8 count basic was Juan Carlos Copes (born May 31, 1931) He is an Argentine tango dancer, choreographer, and performer. He and his partner Marie Nieves contributed to worldwide revival of tango as a dance form after 1970. I am honored to have studied and danced with him and he is still alive and dancing in Buenos Aires. The 8 count basic was a wonderful tool used for his choreography and teaching.
He was the first dancer to stage shows starting in the late 1960’s. Putting Tango on the stage is what brought it back to the world.  He used his 8 count because the stages were often small for several couples and 8 counts phrased nicely with 4/4 counts of most Tango music.
When the Social Tango took off Juan Carlos and many of his professional stage dancers were the big instructors.  The first time I met him was in Chicago at a large tango festival. Every class worked off the 8 count basic that we all knew and loved. Today many teachers still use it as their basic step, but I have decided to use a modified basic that does not include a back or box step.
Now days there are thousands of Argentine Tango teachers all over the world and they all agree that there are no basic steps, but that some sort of pattern is a good tool for students to start with. Each teacher uses moves they feel will help their students connect with the music, their partner and with the other dancers on the floor.  Juan Carlos started his basic with a back step with the leads right foot. This does not work for my students because it’s difficult to navigate and many of my students have a dance background giving them a different box step and starting step.
Good navigation is crucial to have a positive experience on the dance floor and moving backwards every 8 counts without looking is usually a hazard.  I like to do the 8 count basic starting back once in a while when the lead is facing against line of dance. I will save that step until I am sure the student won’t make a habit of doing it over and over going against line of dance.
Why do most partner dance start with the leads Left foot going side or forward?  Because it’s safer, and easier.  The left side is more open and has more room to step even if the follow delays, and the lead can see where he is taking the couple.  Starting with the lead going forward also creates a better forward connection necessary in Tango. Because most of my students have danced other dances that have a box step in it I don’t like to use Juan Copes 8 count. It includes ½ the box, but not the other half, often confusing students who are used to a whole box.  I want all my students to have the highest rate of success, so I keep the basic simple and useful with no tricky parts. Teaching new students something as  tricky as a back step against line of dance or ½ the box without the other half seams a bad idea.

No single person as contributed more to Argentine Tango that Juan Carlos Copes.  He never intended his 8 count basic to dominate the dance.  He likes the idea of each teacher using the tools that will create good dancers.  We all want to dance the most beautiful, authentic and still creative Argentine Tango. The dance is made for individual spirits not copycat dancers.  Basic steps are temporary and will be modified as soon as the dancers are ready.


Can You Dance Traditional and Still Be Progressive?

Of course you can, but it’s tricky.
I have been affected 3 ways by this very dilemma: social dancing, teaching and performing, but this blog is just about social dancing.
I enjoy going to traditional tango dances where I get to dress up, the men dress nice and I only dance with the dancers I choose through cabeceo. I also enjoy going to casual events where I wear jeans and often lead. I respect and love both places, but I don’t try to make one into the other.  I like Canlis and Dick’s, but I dress and act differently at each place. 
So far this all sounds like common sense, but I also want both places to respect my values.  I would not be comfortable going any place that did not respect the right of all people regardless of race, gender or disabilities to dance.
Recently, there was a disruption at a dance I like to attend. Two straight men decided to dance and one of the hosts asked them to stop. WOW, that’s not right. Then it got worse, he said he asked them to stop because it didn’t look right. WOW, I can’t support a place that does not support LGBTQ rights. So I asked if he’s against LGBTQ’s.  He looked confused, explaining “no, that had nothing to do with it. They were messing up the flow of the dance, and there were 10 ladies all waiting to dance. I don’t mind if a woman wants to lead or a man follow, but I want them to respect the other dancers, follow line of dance and notice all the ladies that are not dancing. It would be different if this was a practica”
Unfortunately some people made the wrong assumption and now have decided to boycott the dance. I would too if I had not asked more questions and was now sure that they do believe in the rights of LGTBQ dancers.  It’s much better to talk things through and with knowledge and understanding will come acceptance.  Everyone is welcome at the dance as long as they respect the traditional codes like following line of dance, no big or fast moves, dressing nicely, using cabeceo and above all respecting all the dancers there.
 I know with Love and Respect it’s possible to have both tradition and growth. Like Jimmy Fallon said the other night: “Keep loving each other, keep respecting each other, and keep on dancing.”

Top 10 Argentine Tango Myths Exposed

Argentine Tango Myths Exposed

For the next several weeks I will be blogging about prevalent myths in Argentine tango. You may find some of these opinions provocative, but they are things that need to be said.

AT Myth #1.  Cross training is the best way to improve your tango dancing.  Taking ballet, jogging, yoga, push-ups and eating steak is what you need to do to bring your dancing to the next level.

WRONG - Dancing will make your dancing better. I think group classes and private lessons are the best way to improve because both will challenge you to do some things that are difficult for you, like using good technique, remembering navigation and steps, and dancing with different skilled dancers.  Going to milongas is the next step, but in the beginning the most important thing is to just show up every week for your group and/or private lessons. 

Physical fitness is also important and everyone who seriously wants to dance well should try to stay in good shape.  I offer an aerobics class twice a week designed to not only keep a dancer in top condition, but to practice without a partner.  

Good partner dancing is about connection!  You need to connect to the music, your partner, the other dancers in the room (navigation) and to the floor.  The connection to the floor and to your partner are both affected by your physical abilities. So I totally believe that some cross training is important, but it should not come before dance classes in the dance you are trying to master. 

Last month I ran into a student who informed me that she was now taking yoga to improve her Argentine Tango and that with yoga she would no longer need to take tango lessons.  I have heard this so many times, and it still amazes me.  Women especially seem to think ballet and yoga are a good substitute for actual lessons, men seem to go with weights and long distance bike riding or jogging.
There is no substitute for time spent dancing with a partner to the music.  Being fit will help you dance better, but when given a choice of yoga class or Argentine Tango class the Tango class will make you a better Tango dancer.  This seems obvious to me, but for some reason yoga, ballet, or eating steak is more accessible.  These are good things to know, but all they miss the mark if partner dance is your goal.

Salsa Swing and Ballroom Aerobics was designed to supplement your dance classes not replace them

AT Myth #2.    I teach International ballroom tango; therefore I am qualified to teach Argentine Tango.  It's all the same dance.  I am also qualified to teach Argentine Tango if I know Kizombe, blues, any partner dance, or am from any Latin country and scene people dance Argentine Tango. 

WRONG You Must know what you are teaching and if you have never studied Argentine Tango you are not ready to teach it!  It’s not like any other dance.  Most partner dance teachers don't even understand the most basic principles of Argentine Tango like cross and parallel systems.  Argentine Tango is not like any of the other dances and it will mess people up if you try to teach AT like another dance. 
  International Tango is certainly a valid dance form, but Argentine tango by definition is the way tango is danced in Argentina. You will have a hard time finding the ballroom version of Argentine tango in Buenos Aires.
  Why is this important? Suppose a prospective AT student sees a flyer for lessons, given by an unqualified teacher. They might enjoy what they learn, and feel like they want to take it to the next level. They show up at a milonga thinking that they are ready, but don’t know the first things about how to get a dance, the navigation, the embrace, tandas, vals, milonga, you name it; it’s all different and the experience could result in frustration to disillusionment. Another potential Argentine Tango dancer ends up taking an early exit and missing out on what could have been an enriching lifelong experience.
  Every professional teacher in every dance has a similar problem.  Many Swing and Salsa teachers are upset by the way some ballroom teachers teach their dance.  Many ballroom dancers are upset by how a swing dancer teaches waltz or foxtrot (not even a heel lead).  Each dance has an amateur way to sort of get it done badly and a professional, fine, precise way to get it done right on the dance floor. It makes us all upset when someone claiming to be a professional does not understand what quality is in the dance form they are teaching. 
  If you want to teach take lessons from the best dancers and teachers in that dance!  Dance the dance you want to teach.  Go to gathering where all the best dancers are. Immerse yourself in the dance. Right now, I know of at least 6 people who claim that they teach Argentine Tango, but have never actually danced it.  That really makes me upset.  I love Argentine Tango.  I want others to discovery its joy and love it too.  Why can’t teachers teach what they know and leave the other dancers to the people who know and love them?

AT Myth#3. Argentine Tango is the same for the lead and follow.

WRONG - The experience is totally different and the technique needed is totally different.   I go over this the first day of class and revisit it often.  The other day I gave a private lesson to a man that used all the techniques needed to follow and none for the lead.  I asked if his teacher was a woman and he said of course.  His dancing improved a ton when he started moving like a lead and not a follow. There are many differences, but here are 3 big ones. Of course there are always exceptions, but this gives the idea.
1.    The lead must be grounded and follow needs to be moveable.

2.    The lead should move with his body first, the follow should move her leg first.

3.    When moving forward the lead should step using his heel, like a regular step, the follow can step toe or heel first. When moving backwards the lead can move many different ways but the follow should keep her foot close to the floor and extend from the hip.
When dancing, the lead is in charge of safety, navigation, steps and moves. The follow needs to pay attention to the lead and the music and keep her good technique. The dance is compromised when the follow tries to do the lead’s role or when the lead tries to be like a follow. I my opinion, a good lead is stable, clear, musical, creative, safe, and offers a nice variety of movement. The lead should not be super pretty and fancy. He should give nice opportunities for the follow to do pretty movements. There is some benefit however to understanding what the other person is going through.  Most teachers, including myself will do some exercises to help students empathize with the other role.  This is especially beneficial for the leads as they really need to understand what they are asking the follow to do.  Follows also benefit from understanding how some of their initial reactions in dance like leaning back or moving without being led make it impossible for the lead to lead well.  Understanding is different from trying to learn and dance both roles at the same time. Of course it’s important to know both roles if you plan to teach or if you want to dance both roles socially.  Otherwise I think a person’s time is much better spent concentrating on the role they prefer to dance.  I have danced with ladies who lead too much and they become grounded and start anticipating the steps which is not good following.  I have also danced with leads who have done a lot of following and they feel light and moveable and this is not good for a lead.  Both roles have strong techniques that get ingrained into every movement.  Especially in the first few years of dancing our bodies are looking for the best way to connect and it’s totally different for the lead and follow.  For these reasons, I recommend that you first master the role you wish to dance first and only learn the other role if you want to teach or dance that role.

AT Myth#4. Dancing with beginners is a waste of my time.  I need to dance only with people better that myself to get better.

WRONG - learning how to make a beginner comfortable and dance well is a fantastic and valuable skill that only the most experienced dancers have. I like that I can give almost anyone a really wonderful experience on the dance floor.  Dancing is not just about what you get from your partner, but what you can give.  We should all have the goal of being able to give and not just receive on the dance floor. 

I dance tons with beginners when I am teaching.  It’s why I am a clear, stable and confident partner.  I can usually get the best movement out of leads and follows because I have experience with new dancers.  I know how to wait and let them find their way.  I also know that if I am a kind and good teacher they will someday give me a wonderful dance.  It’s an investment I don’t mind making. 

Of course I believe if you are a good dancer you have earned the right and privilege to dance mostly with other good dancers. And I totally believe that ALL dancers of all levels have a right to choose who they dance with.  Most of the time if you work hard to become a good Tango dancer, and am friendly the others will ask you to dance regardless of age and beauty. Sometimes I hear beginner ladies complain that the hot dancers won’t dance with them because they are older. RUBBISH – they dance with me, and Julia and many other older dancers because we are good and fun to dance with.  Ladies if you want to dance more become a better dancer and try just chatting and smiling instead of asking for dances that you have not earned.

As a lead or follow there is still a lot to be gained from dancing with a beginner.  Leads will learn to be slower and clearer, follows will learn how to create a calm safe place for the lead.  All dancers will become more musical when they are doing easier vocabulary.  Most of my intermediate and advanced students take the beginning classes. I can see them really connecting to the music and using better technique and poster when they are not trying to do difficult moves. I love the way my more advanced dancers welcome and help the new dancers in class! Both beginners and advanced improve by working together. 

The really good dancers tithe to beginners to build the community.  They give at least one dance a night to a lesser dancer, sometimes a lot more.  Think about the best dancer in the world. Every dance, that person is giving to a lesser skilled person and I am sure that dancer has learned to take pleasure in it. I have and I hope my students will.

AT Myth#5.    I should prepare to go dancing the same way I might prepare to have coffee or diner with a friend.

WRONG - Dancing involves close physical contact and you need to be clean, healthy and properly groomed.  Here are 3 things that make me crazy:

1.    Chewing gum while dancing.  It’s almost OK if we are dancing swing or salsa in a dark club, but it’s never OK for close embrace tango.  I hate chomping in my ear. It’s also not OK if you are dancing in a show!

2.    Dancing when you are sick. Please stay home if you don’t feel well.  If you sneeze into your hands go wash them before dancing. Please don’t wipe your runny nose on your hand and then ask someone to dance. A very nice man did this last week to one of my students.  She danced, but did not enjoy it and almost quit. I assured her that if a man has snot all over his hand she does not have to touch it!  Also, if you are so congested that breathing is loud, and you need to constantly clear your throught, maybe you need to rest one night. We all hate to miss a night of dancing, but your body and everyone else’s will be healthier.

3.    Bad smells.  For me onion breath is the worst, but for others B. O. or too much cologne / perfume might make the dance experience unpleasant.  I like perfume for a date, but I try not to wear any when I am teaching. I always avoid stinky food before dancing, but breath mints do help if you need them.  In many dance situations, perspiration is unavoidable and not necessarily offensive but I really like it when a man brings fresh shirts and changes when one is too wet.  
Any of these offenses are a reason to turn down a dance. You don’t even have to tell them why you don’t wish to dance, but if you are a close friend it’s OK to let someone know.  We all want everyone to have a nice experience at the dance. Many times someone might not know that their perfume is too much or that gum smacking or dancing sick are not socially acceptable.  Dancing is not like other social events where you usually sit near others, not touching and moving.  
If you feel uncomfortable you can ask me if there is a person like this in class. I try to be kind and helpful; it’s my job. Usually I would just make a general comet to the whole class, like I have mints if anyone wants one, and let the person figure it out. Rarely have I had to actually talk to a student. Both times they were keeping other students from enjoying class. At a milonga, I won’t say anything unless the person is a good friend, or a student.  As the teacher I need to not only teach how to dance, but also how to give a wonderful dance experience to all their partners.  As a dancer you will learn that dancing is about a lot more than steps, it’s about giving and receiving 3 minutes of bliss. 

AT Myth #6: “I don't need to take lessons to dance well.”   “I grew up dancing,”  “I am a natural dancer,”  “I am good enough,” “I dance great with advanced dancers.” "I am an elephant" All are phrases  followed by: “So I don't need lessons.”

WRONG we all need lessons.  That’s how we challenge ourselves to try new things and improve.  I take lessons! Even very advanced dancers learn from each other. 

Ladies – Following badly is easy, following well is hard.  I hate to hear ladies say “if the lead is great I dance really well”.  Yes, a good lead will make you feel like you are dancing well, but that does not make you a good follow.  Wouldn’t it be nice to give a lead a wonderful experience? There is a difference between “taking” and “following”. The follows need to contribute in the dance while still following.  It’s one of the most complicated parts of dancing to get right and of course lessons will help. 

Men - Tango is complicated.  There are always new and fun ways to do it better and each new skill you learn enriches yours and your follows experience. All good leads have worked hard to become good.  Most leads say that it takes 2 years of “hell” before the dance starts to really feel right. I am so happy so many of you have stuck in there! If you start to feel down take a lesson or go to a class and talk to some of the experienced dancers. You are not alone. 

Some students say to me that they can’t remember what they learn in lessons, especially long weekends with many hours of class. Try to relax and trust the teacher to guide you. There are many ways your mind and body learn and remember.  Your dance is expanding and perfecting all the time, and the good technique and fun steps you are learning will start to appear. 

Tango is not intuitive. If it was I would not have a job.  Trying to learn on your own is difficult because you often need to do movements that are not the way we usually move. Learning off of video is extremely difficult and time consuming. 

PLEASE do not teach your significant other! Leads and Follows, men and women learn differently.  I teach private lessons for leads differently than I do for follows. They need different information and more time to process different parts of the dance. You will both enjoy the learning experience if you let your partners learn in their own way!

We all need better technique. I know several excellent dancers who went a long time without any lessons and I saw them fall into some pretty strange habits.  For advanced dancers one private lesson once in a while will help keep your style clean and clear. 

It has been said that it takes over 10,000 hours to master anything, and if you really want to master something you must practice the skills that are the most difficult for you.  Everyone needs coaching when it comes to this.  Every great musician, artist, athlete and dancer has people who coach, teach and inspire them. Learning is good for your mind and your dancing.  Both are worth the investment of lessons.


AT Myth # 7 So you think you can’t dance Argentine tango?

Wrong – anyone can dance tango.  All you need to do is find a good teacher and show up!  Keep showing up for class and soon you will be dancing.  If you want to learn faster add some private lessons and go out to dances.
I have NEVER met a person who could not dance. My friend Vivian is teaching a man in a wheel chair to dance tango.  He is doing really well and we are all enjoying the experience of partnering with him. I have taught students with MS, Cerebral Palsy, Parkinson’s and other major physical disabilities to dance, so please don’t tell me you have 2 left feet and therefore can’t dance.  I don’t’ believe you!
Unfortunately if you believe you can’t learn you are setting yourself up to not succeed.  I realize that people who say they can’t dance really think they can’t.  It’s hard to change our beliefs, and it’s hard to try something that seems impossible.  My students, friends and I are always working to get people to just try one class.
This crazy belief that dancing is too hard is another reason a good teacher is so important. The very first class needs to give the person hope that they really can dance. It’s hard and does take work, but everyone really can dance. Of course it’s cool for us dancers that so many people think it’s some super power we are born with.
We all learn differently, and sometimes if you learn slower than your partner you feel like you can’t dance.  I am a visual learner, so I can copy movement, but as soon as I am on my own I mess it up and then the real work begins.  People assume I am a fast learner, because I usually do something well right away. I did not learn it, I was only able to mimic the move. It will take me a long time to actually master a new movement. Other people are auditory learners and need a lot of explanation and time to think about a movement before trying it.  They appear to be slower learners, but when they finally do a move right they have already done much of the work and already own it.  I find in the long run we all take about the same amount of hours.
I have one super-fast student who wants to learn a whole bunch of things every lesson, but needs to re-learn them again the following week.  I have another student who wants to concentrate on just one thing before moving on. At the end of several months they will have both learned about the same.  We all need to approach the learning experience in our own way and know that if we just keep showing up for lessons we will learn to dance!
Dancers all know that anyone can dance and that dancing is fun.  We know that if fulfills a need that no other activity can.  We know it takes many hours to be a great dancer, but that we all can, and that learning is part of the fun.
Many people actually believe they could dance, but are afraid of looking silly. That’s another true belief that will go away at the first group class when they see that everyone looks a lot less silly that they think.  Adults look silly trying to do a summersault or cartwheel, not walking.  Dancing is fancy walking with a partner. If you can move you can dance!

AT Myth #8  An instructor was rude to refuse my invitation to dance.

My wonderful students come first. 
WRONG – I or any other person do not owe anyone a dance.  We can all refuse any invite for any reason. 
In myth # 5 I laid out 3 obvious reasons based on hygiene, but there are many more starting with “I just didn’t feel like it.”  In order to give a nice experience I need to feel the music, the floor, the room; my mind and my body need to be ready and sometime I just don’t feel ready. The beauty of the cabaceo system is that no one need take offense at being turned down.
People have high expectations, especially for the better dancers,. If I have just taught 7 hours and my feet are killing me and I haven’t had anything to eat or drink that evening, or even had a chance to catch up with my boyfriend I am not ready to start dancing, much less dancing well. I want to feel and look good on the floor. 
For me I only have so much time each evening to social dance, so I have clear priorities:
1. My significant other, always! Dancing is hard on relationships; if you are in one, honor your partner with first and last dances. At the very least talk about expectations at a milonga.
2. My dance partners. In order to maintain a top notch connection in performances, we need the social dance experience. Performing is a vital part of my life and my partners need this time.
3. Students who take private or group lessons, past or present. I enjoy dancing with all my students, they have priority over any newer dancers who have not taken classes from me.
4. Visiting professionals, and dancers from out of town,
5. Anyone who has performed or been on the Tech. side in any of my 28 shows,
6. People who come to my milongas, cabarets, or events.
If you have never taken a class from me, never been to one of my milongas or shows, are not from out of town, there might be other people ahead of you I wish to dance with.
I have actually had men say these things to me: 
“I have never met you, and never danced close embrace, would you like to dance with me?  You can show me how to dance close.”
“I’m taking lessons from _______ and need a good follow to practice with, will you dance with me?”
“I waited until your boyfriend went to the bathroom because you were cuddled up in the corner like on a date. Want to dance?”
NO, I don’t want to teach on the dance floor, practice with someone who is not my student, or dance with a stalker. All 3 men were very surprised when I politely declined to dance.
All dancers have a right to dance with whoever they want, especially teachers.

AT Tango Myth #9 SWANGO is a hybrid dance that is cooler than just Argentine Tango and of course if I can dance swango, salango, or fusango I am dancing a “high-bred” or higher form of Argentine Tango.

Wrong – Swango (a mix of swing and tango) Salango (a mix of salsa and tango) and Fusango (a mix of all dances and Tango) are not Argentine tango! They may be fun, creative, and feel modern, but Argentine Tango is pretty darn perfect just the way it is. I am not convinced that fusing it makes it better.  I prefer to dance each dance the way it connects best with the music and my partner. I know very few people who dance Argentine Tango and another dance form well enough to create a good dance truly mixing them. 

Last year while at a West Coast Swing dance I had 2 crazy experiences that illustrate my point: The first guy asked me to dance WCS and then in the middle of the dance pulled me in super close, did a little hip/pelvic grind and said “blues me baby”.  NO, I did not agree to dance blues with you. Later a different guy led a bad tango sacada and almost knocked me over. He said “I thought you knew Tango!” My response was “Do that again and I will walk off the floor.” It was extremely dangerous especially just a few months after my ACL repair. 

If I am going to cook fusion cuisine well I need to have a solid understanding of the flavors I am using and to use the best ingredients possible. If you want to fuse dances well you need to truly understand the technique and style that make each dance unique. Just as cooking great fusion food requires quality ingredients, to make a great fusion dance you need to be a master of both dance forms. 

People assume that I must love all these new hybrid dances because I know the roots. What happens though is that I will be dancing swing and the lead – who has never danced AT – leads ochos in the most horrible way and they expect me to be happy. I am NOT happy to dance AT badly. If you ask me to dance swing I expect swing; If you want to try some ochos then you need to learn AT or lead them in a swing way. Dancers trying to mix AT with every dance often do not know the first thing about technique, style and connection in traditional Argentine Tango. 

I want to be clear that I do enjoy dancing Argentine tango to non-tango music. I love to dance good tango with a good dancer to non-tango music, but we are clearly dancing Argentine tango. Sometimes it’s fun to put a little tango flair into my salsa or swing, but I am clearly following that dance, connection, music and technique, not doing both dances at once.  I think it would drive a swing dancer nuts if I wanted to connect with only compression and make him lead every movement like Tango. 

I love Salsa, WC Swing, Blues and many other forms of partner dancing.  I love how they feel when they are danced right!  And if you want to dance fusion, dance fusion! But if you want it to be half tango, don’t make it half-assed tango. If you ask me to dance, dance that dance the best you can in its purist form.  I will be happy! 

AT Myth # 10:  Argentine Tango dancers are snobs.

FALSE.  People who dance Argentine tango are kind, friendly and fun. 
Like many myths there is a little truth, but it’s important to see the difference between how people actually behave and etiquette used at the dances.
It’s not always a happy dance like swing or salsa, and it’s not easy to be good at it, but the people dancing it are not snobs.  In my classes the students are always kind and helpful to everyone.  At the milongas I meet so many interesting people.  Everyone says “Hi” and most greet with a kiss on the cheek (the Argentine way.) The “snobby” problem comes from having unrealistic expectations about what a AT dance is supposed to be.
If I go to a swing dance I might dance almost every song.  Most all the people are on the dance floor and very few are sitting and chatting.  In Argentina that is not the way.  At any time there might be about half the dancers on the floor and the others are chatting.  Some people may only dance one or two sets, others might dance more. The dance is a place to meet, drink, chat and socialize, not just a place to dance.
In Argentina they have practicas for newer dancers who want to mostly dance and the Milongas (formal dances) are for more experienced dancers who socialize and dance.
Another reason the AT is often thought of as snobby is that anyone can refuse a dance for any reason.  In Argentina they get around that by using the Cabeceo (way of inviting a dance with eye contact) and having a Codigo (code of conduct) for Milongas.
It’s easy to see that a swing dancer used to everyone dancing and accepting every invitation could have an experience that seems snobby, but the people are not snobs.  Tango dancers love their dance and want to respect the whole dance including the social customs.  The etiquette is designed to create less stress and give more freedom.
AT attracts a wide range of unique and complex people, because the dance is unique and complex.  There are many ways to engage at a Milonga and by having a “code” we can all enjoy it our own way.  Some are there just for the music, others for the dancing and some just to socialize.  Most like a balance of all three.
So, if you come to a Milonga have a glass of wine, sit and relax, make new friends. You will find AT dancers easy and interesting to talk with.  Then dance a little.  We love to share our dance, but we need to do it our way.

  Michelle Badion Bio

I hate to brag about my qualifications teaching partner dancing, but sometimes it’s necessary.  Lately I keep running into people learning Argentine tango, salsa, or west coast swing from other partner dance teachers, which is OK, but they seem to think that I don’t teach.  Sometimes I let them know that their teacher is excellent, because I was their first teacher.  I am happy that so many good teachers started their dancing with me!  I am starting a blog and thought this might be a good time to tell you a little bit about myself.

1.       I am one of Seattle’s most experienced teachers.  I was Seattle’s first Salsa teacher and third Argentine Tango Teacher. I was also part of Seattle’s second wave of good WC Swing teachers.
2.      I have been teaching full time for over 20 years.
3.      I have continued to social dance every week for all 20 years. This is how you keep up on local trends and keep your dancing skills sharp.
4.      I have taught at and participated in many Argentine Tango Festivals, Salsa Congresses and WC Swing conventions.  I still go to several of each dance every year. These are where you keep up on worldwide trends in the dances.
5.      I continue to take private lessons from the great masters of partner dance.
6.      I have analyzed the different technique needed in different dances and can dance each dance with my own style, but not with an accent.  No one at a Tango festival would ever say I dance like a salsa or swing dancer, or vice-versa, unless I tell them and do so on purpose.
7.      I perform as much as possible.  This keeps me creating new ways to engage people in dance.
8.      I love to dance and totally believe that social dancing will enhance every person’s life.
9.      I currently teach beginners, intermediate, and advanced classes for both teachers and advanced performers and social dancers. For group classes listing visit  or my website.
10.  I consistently dance will all my students during classes, as both a lead and a follow.  This helps me to be aware and connected to the needs of my students.

I have been honored to perform with many of the best Argentine Tango Dancers.  Sometimes we were on stage, but many were demos at milongas.  I continue to get asked to partner out of town maestros. Carlos Gavito, Fabian Salas, Omar Vega, Eduardo Saucedo, Patricio Touceda, Daniel Lapadula , Manuel Ortis,  Pedro 'Tete' Rusconi, Norberto "El Pulpo" Esbrés, “El Indio” Pedro Benavente, Metin Yazir, Cacho Dante, Jaun Bruno, Pampa Cortes, Marcos Questas, Ruban Terbalca, and Jorge Nel are some of the wonderful dancers I have performed with. Most of these I also taught with and I have social danced with all of them. Watch for videos of these on my website in the coming months.

I have also had incredible social dances with these dancers: Pepito Avellaneda, , Osvaldo Zotto, Miguel Angel Zotto, Gustavo Naveira, Esteban Moreno, Chicho Frumboli, Pablo Verón, Pablo Puglise, Daniel Trenner, Deigo Di Falco, Armondo Orzuza, Guillermo Merlo, Oscar Mandagaran, Nito Garcia, Mario Consiglieri. Migel Zotto, Carlos Barioneuvo, Leonardo Barrionuevo, Sandor, Jorge Torres, Fabritzio Forti, Guillermo Salvat, Gustavo Benzecry Sabe, “El Flaco” Dani Garcia, Jaun Carlos Copes, Julia Balmaceda, Oscar Casas, Oliver Kolker, Robert Duvall, Ney Melo, Carlos Arias, Alex Krebs,  and many others.

I have been enchanted by Argentine Tango since the first time that Forever Tango came to Seattle in the early 1990’s. I was hooked, but it took a long time to learn because there were no experienced teachers locally. Now there are several good teachers, for both Argentine tango and other partner dances, but a flood of inexperienced ones. This blog will help students of partner dance get off to a good start and guide them along their journey.