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Nervousness in Tango Dancing

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Date:    Mon, 16 Feb 1998 16:31:24 -0600
From:    Frank Williams
Subject: nervousness

Greetings friends,

I'm sure we have each had the experience of being nervous on the
dance floor. The reasons are probably unique to each situation and
individual, but particularly afflict beginners.  In my experience,
nervousness interferes with every pleasureable element of the dance.
My question for the group is how do you manage nervousness?
During a dance, what's the best way to communicate sympathy,
generosity and encouragement to beginning partners?

Frank in Minneapolis
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Date:    Tue, 17 Feb 1998 09:53:41 +0000
From:    Keith Elshaw
Subject: Nervousness

Most people are nervous as they progress through the stages of becoming
accomplished. So first of all, remind yourself that everyone else has
felt this too - it's OK to be nervous in the first instance.

Of course the two things you want to get control of are your body and
your mind.

Your body problem can be helped when you breathe properly. Before you
start, conciously take a couple of relaxing deep breaths. If you are
tight, and you don't breathe, your nervousness will grow. Keep breathing
as you dance. Make sure your neck and shoulders (while your arms are
strong in the frame) are relaxed. Proper breathing is with your
diaphragm. Breathing into your lungs will leave you wanting air and
tense. (If you had a chronic breathing problem, I would recommend you
take a few singing lessons. A vocal coach can show you how to breathe

Your mind is under your control via your meta-mind. So remind yourself
that you love to dance; that this is going to be FUN; that by dancing
this song in-tune with the music you will make a break-through to being
the dancer you want to be.

One other reason for being nervous is because of how you think your
partner is going to react to you. Most of us leaders worry that she
expects more or better (perhaps we feel intimidated because there is a
better male dancer on the floor).

In fact your partner only wants to enjoy the music and the experience of
dancing with another partner. She doesn't expect you to be anyone other
than yourself.

My wife Cristina once told me something that was very helpful when I
worried about variety, etc. She said,"I would rather you only do 3
'steps' all night as long as you do them well." So just relax, sink into
the music, and dance for the pure joy of of what Argentine Tango has to

Remember that not all of the excitement you feel is necessarily because
you are nervous. Some of that tingling feeling is part of your reward
for learning how to do this!


Keith Elshaw
Toronto Tango

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Date:    Tue, 17 Feb 1998 12:24:33 +0100
From:    "Ralph J. Hangleiter"
Subject: Re: nervousness

If I dance with a beginner who - already when I ask her (sometimes him) to
dance - starts with "But I haven't been doing Tango very long" or "I don't
know most of the steps", I usually tell them not to worry, because that is
my problem, not theirs (leading IMO has to take into account the abilities
of your partner - although trying to stretch them must be allowed ;).
  Then I usually start dancing more slowly than regular, so I can
determine to which leads she responds. This also helps to calm her down a
 Another thing I try - if she does things I do not lead (more ochos than
wanted for example), I just pause sometimes. Sometimes I nearly get run
over first, but it is a nice method to get more attention to the lead.
While dancing, I sometimes say something like "Well done" or just smile if
I notice she is a bit confused wether it was right or not.

After the first dance, I usually ask her if the lead is o.k. or if
there is something I could do better.  And of course she will be less
nervous if you dance with her again (i.e. another set) and not only once.

So much from me.

Happy dancing

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Date:    Tue, 17 Feb 1998 11:05:51 -0500
From:    Jacques Gauthier
Subject: Re: nervousness

> every pleasureable element of the dance.  My question for the
> group is how do you manage nervousness?
> During a dance, what's the best way to communicate
> sympathy, generosity and encouragement to beginning partners?

Well, as someone who has experienced nervousness
on many occasions I'd thought I'd share my input.

The Tango is danced very closely, far closer than the
other partner dances I do.  I will feel very nervous if
I am dancing with a stranger I know is more experienced
than I or if I find lady incredibly attractive.

I try to put that out of my mind and match my breathing
to the music.  (I am curious how many people match
their breathing to the music when they dance ?  I do it
without thinking and I wonder if I am alone in doing that).
Anyhow it helps me relax more.

If I dance with a beginner, I will dance several dances,
with her so that I do not feel so much like a stranger
to her.  It dosen't really matter to me wether or not
we can do "fancy steps".  Tango feels to me like a
meditation it's a great stress releiver. I like to do
forward and back rock steps that turn in place as
it feels like cradling a child.  I find that this simple
step helps my partner relax.

Most of my favorite dances are the the ones that
I need to slow down my breathing to.  (Most of
the romantic ones).  I like to Rumba to the songs
of 440 (usually a merengue group but they sing
some great Rumbas).  Bolero to Luis Miguel and
I like blue foxtrot (ie "I'm just a baby in this business
of love").  The slow waltz is also a favorite of mine.
I prefer a medium tempo Salsa over a fast one as well.

The only exception to this rule for me is for Lindy Hop
and Milongua which are fairly fast.  For me getting into
the mood of the music is what helps me the most.

Jacques G.
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Date:    Tue, 17 Feb 1998 11:55:26 -0500
From:    Sharon Pedersen
Subject: Re: nervousness

Frank Williams wrote:
> In my experience, nervousness interferes with
> every pleasureable element of the dance.  My question for the
> group is how do you manage nervousness?
> During a dance, what's the best way to communicate
> sympathy, generosity and encouragement to beginning partners?

For new dancers I meet at a dance -- I tell new dancers that the dance
is walking.  And I smile at them, find something to compliment, thank
them for the dance, tell them it was fun.  And as someone else said,
dance with them again -- both another dance right away, and more
dances later in the evening or another night.

With followers, telling them that the dance is walking is pretty easy,
because I can just lead walking, and progress to simple changes of
direction, and then to the conventions about the cross.  I tell them
that it's *my* responsibility as leader to pay attention to where they
are.  E.g. if they miss a cross, it's because *I* went too fast and
ran over them.  If we get to a cross & I have to remind them verbally
to cross, I tell them "that's right" when they do it.  And so on.  And
I don't force them to do advanced steps!

With leaders, part of how I tell them the dance is walking is by my
actions, by walking where they go, and being generous in my
interpretation of their lead.  (I danced with someone recently who
leads a front ocho from the cross by standing stock still & looking
over his right shoulder.  Several dances from now, I'll think of a
polite way to ask if he'd like to learn some other ways to lead
that!)  When they get nervous about remembering such&such pattern they
may have learned, I assure them that I'll follow where they go,
whether or not they're doing the pattern exactly as taught last week:
that that's the whole point, to be able to dance together, not to
repeat exact patterns.

  Brunswick, Maine, USA

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Garrit Fleischmann Feb.97
Email: kontakt(at)