Wolfgang´s tango lessons: The trick with the left arm

Many Argentine Tango dancers specially among those who consider themselves traditional dancers, seem to think it to be important to keep their left arm held in a very strong, even rigid way, to “give a stable hold to the ladys arm”.

Well, this may look okay and I don´t claim that it´s entirely wrong. At least if the man adapts his hand to the shoulder height of the lady and doesn´t drag up her arm uncomfortably.

A lady who has learned to stand in her own axis however doesn´t need that “support”.

Anyway, every Tango dancer should definitely strive to stand in his/her own axis (apart while performing figures which require to give up the own axis intentionally).

That means the „rigid hand” is not really necessary. Yet it has a real disadvantage. Actually it is blocking the movement of the dancers.

This starts already when doing simple things, like walking in front of each other in parallel system.

You ask me why? Well, I´ll explain it.

When we walk naturally our right arm always swings forward together with our left leg, while our left arm swings forward together with our right leg.


That´s not different when we are dancing Tango. But now we are walking together with our partner. And here is the problem. If the left hand of the man is very rigid it happens quite often that the natural swinging of arms and legs is blocked.


Thus dancing together is less comfortable, many moves become unneccesarily complicated or even impossible.


So, and here is the trick:


  • Relax your left arm. To relax doesn´t mean though to get wobbly rubber arms all at a sudden. You still need to maintain a minimum of tension.
  • Keep your hand not higher than the height of the lady´s shoulder (Consider to hold it even a little lower, to make it more comfortable for her).
  • Everytime you step forward with your left leg,           swing your left arm slightly backwards. Remember I said slightly, okay? If you drag the lady out of her axis, making her falling towards you, you´ve done something wrong. By this slight backwards swing your body will be turned a little around your vertical axis and you get into the desired natural move together.


  • Everytime you step forward with your right leg, swing your left arm slightly forward. This movement however normally should be even smaller than the backward swing.


  • The good thing about this move is that you have to concentrate only on your left arm. The rest of your body will be turned almost automatically.


  • Of course you can and should apply this also, when you go backwards (Please go backwards only after making sure that there is free space and possibly not against the line of the dance.).


  • That means:                                                                        Left leg steps back   >> Left arm swings forward            Right leg steps back >> Left arm swings backwards


  • Important: I am only talking about the left arm. Your right arm provides a safe and comfortable embrace for the lady and doesn´t need to be moved intentionally.


That´s it. Try it and ask your partner what is most agreeable for her and how she understands best your signals, or better your invitations.



You see him at every milonga, every Tango ball, every practica.

Sometimes he twists completely the wrist of his dance partner, sometimes he´s “only” pulling her arm AND the lady up to the ceiling of the dance hall

Mostly the lady accepts this, smiling and suffering quietly, being glad to have found some dancer at least.

„Of course“ he doesn´t notice his dance partner hanging there in a highly uncomfortable position, to put it mildly.

The arm stretched up completely unnatural, the body bent out of axis, and without freedom to move, unless she had a rubber spine…

What does the “notorious hand lifter“ do when he´s not dancing Tango?

Sometimes I have the fantasy, he´s a travel guide, all day long walking in front of a Japanese (or where ever they may come from) travel group holding the umbrella high in the air “Follow me pleeease!“…

Okay, that movement IS difficult to fix

(One tip: Get used to hold the umbrella in your right hand. That one will stay down automatically under the ladys shoulder.)

Some, who seem to celebrate the “hand lifting” with sadistic joy make me think of a seal trainer.

Raw fish in the hand, hand lifted up high “and now jump and get your fish!”

Hello “notorious hand lifters“! Don´t you see that your strange habit is uncomfortable for the ladies and strongly impairs her joy of dancing?

And about the question whether it looks elegant there are certainly different opinions.


So adapt to your partner. Your hand needs to be not higher than the shoulder of the lady.

She should feel well and be able to dance relaxed and with ease.

Maybe you don´t believe me now, but also you will dance more relaxed if your hand isn´t staying permanently on light bulb height. As loong as you block your partner you block also yourself.

So just try it! Keep your left arm down and try how it works.

For all inconvertible “notorious hand lifters“ however I suggest the following penalty.

Condemned to dance two month the part of the lady together with another “notorious hand lifter“ who´s at least one head higher than yourself.

Four month for those, who are also “notorious wrist twisters”.

P.S. There are a few exceptions where it´s okay to lift your arm.

When you dance with a lady taller than yourself, you may hold your arm up (Not higher than the lady´s shoulder though!)

And when you are performing a dramatical final pose freezing on the spot with the last notes of the music.

Tangokurs mit Fabian Salas und Lola Diaz in La Rogaia, 30. 10. -6. 11. 2011

How you will improve your understanding of Argentine Tango and bring your dancing and teaching  to a superior level within one week.

For a long time Fabián Salas didn´t  make any teaching tours  outside of Argentina and has been missed badly by his fans and students in Europe

Finally he´s back again, together with his new dance partner Lola Diaz.

La Rogaia is one of the few places in Europe, where he will give a workshop in 2010.

About Fabián Salas:

Sometimes when you speak about one of the great masters of Argentine Tango, you take it for granted, that everybody already knows everything about them.

Maybe though it does make sense to tell alittle about Fabian Salas.

During the Golden Age of Tango, Tango had been danced everywhere in Buenos Aires und you learned to dance Tango watching your parents or other dancers from your town quarter.

This happened completely naturally. Everybody watched and imitated the good dancers …and practiced. Oppurtunities to do so you found everywhere. Nobody had to think about teaching methods or didactics.

Fast forward to the 80ies. After the end of military dictatorship in Argentina the Tango scene has changed completely. Only a few dancers remain who have lived in the Golden Age and can pass on their knowledge. Most of them are excellent dancers, but have never wasted a thought on how to teach Tango efficiently.

A group of young dancers around Fabian Salas and Gustavo Naveira now tries to figure out, how the old milongueros danced.  They try to get a profound understanding how the movements and dynamics of the dance work and develop for the first time a didactically based teaching method. This method until today has a big impact on all Tango dancers, no matter whether they dance traditional Tango or Tango Nuevo.

But they do not stop at that point. With their profound knowledge of the dynamics of Tango they break with old, sometimes rigid conventions and develop a new way of dancing Tango, more open, more fluent. And they start to dance to music, which hasn´t been considered dancable until then, for example the music of Astor Piazzola.

Fabián Salas becomes world famous as one of the main characters of Sally Potter´s world famous Tango movie “The Tango Lesson”  , together with Gustavo Naveira and Pablo Veron.

To learn from Fabián Salas and Lola Diaz in a small, intimate group with a maximum of eight couples is more than simply taking Tango lessons. It is a unique privilege you are not offered very often.

Do you want to take your Tango dancing to a superior level ?

Do you want to improve your teaching methods to to give your students the best teaching  and hence become a more thought after Tango teacher?

Do you want to receive tuition almost like in a private class, instead of merely seeing the big name teachers from afar in one of the big festivals

Than this advanced  workshop with Fabián and Lola is a must for you…

This is a unique opportunity to learn Tango Nuevo from one of its founders.  Places are limited to only eight couples. Do not hesitate with your reservation.

If you don´t know anything about Argentine Tango apart of the tons of clichés which many people have in their minds, you really might ask yourself “What the heck is that guy talking about?”

Just give me a minute and I will explain.

Maybe you know Tango only from movies where obscure figures on dim lighted dance floors do strange movements, chewing wagon loads of roses. Maybe you made up your judgement about Tango having seen ballroom dance competitions, frozen smiles, rigid moves, heads twisting unnaturally with every movement…

Could be you went to a Tango Show, spectacular, technically brillant sensual and maybe most impressive.

Yet, what has all this to do with social competence?

To answer this questions we have to go back to the origins of Tango.

Tango started in Buenos Aires and Montevideo at the end of the 19th century. Immigrants from all over the world came to the Rio della Plata hoping for a better live. At the same time native Argentineans from the countryside came to Buenos Aires and Montevideo as well. They had lost their jobs on the big haciendas, the kingdom size cattle farms, and were trying to find work in the big city. As both groups competed for jobs, housing and often mere survival tensions were inevitable. On the other hand the clash of the cultures was the cradle of one of the most successful music styles and dances, the Tango.

Tango in its beginning was (and still is) a social dance, at that time danced mainly by the ordinary people, craftsmen, workers, small merchants…

Tango was danced a little differently in the different quarters but in order to dance together all the dancers had to agree upon one common code.

One crucial part of this code, which is still valid among real good Tango dancers, was the respect for each other.

Though of course there have been always more and less talented dancers, the most important thing among milongueros (the Argentine name for Tango dancers) was by no means showing off, demonstrating what a hell of a dancer somebody was.

More important by far was to dance in harmony in the “ronda” the round of all the dancers. No one would intentionally dare to disturb the dance of the others, let alone kicking or pushing them. If you wanted to be a great dancer you had to find strategies to dance better while remaining in the harmony of the “ronda”.

Tango dancers had to develop the mindset to move on with the flow of the music, in harmony with everybody else, instead of fighting each other for every little patch of the dance floor.  Given the fact that dancing Tango was not simply a pastime but a complete lifestyle this meant in consequence that they developed strong social competence. One aspect we certainly can learn from.

In this article I can not go more into detail. Yet I have to say that I myself experienced that the mindset I have developed dancing Tango helps me a lot, be it in business or everyday life. I strongly recommend everybody to give it a try.

If you think of Argentine Tango as a dance where latino guys with greased hair drag sexy woman in tight dresses over the dance floor, performing all kinds of weird rigid steps (things you never would consider to do in your life) you´re  probably asking yourself “How can this improve my ability to make decisions?”

You´ll see in a moment. First however I need to give you some background information about the real Argentine Tango.

Unlike what you might have seen in Tango Shows or on TV, where dancers do spectacular things on stage (And I have to admit I like it if it has got true emotion in addition to technical brillance), Argentine Tango is a social dance, where a lot of people are dancing together and the dancefloors often are fairly crowded.

For real Tango dancers this means they have to go along respecting each other. For them it is unthinkable to disturb the dance of the others, let alone kicking or pushing them.

If you want to be a great dancer you have to find strategies to dance better while remaining in the harmony of the “ronda”, the round of all dancers.

This is a permanent challenge as you will understand in a moment.

In contrast to the so called latin dances like Rumba, Cha Cha, Jive or Salsa (to mention just a few) where you dancing on the place claiming and defending your little patch of the dance floor, when dancing Tango you move around the room (counter clockwise to be exact).

This means you are changing your position every moment, and so do all the other dancers. Therefore you have to adapt permanently to new situations and you have to focus on solutions to go on dancing nicely with your partner and the other couples. You certainly can not successfully do this if you are relying on prefabricated sequences of steps. Yet you have to dance planning some steps ahead (that means if you have the leading or let´s better say the inviting part). You have to control over your moves and to know what you want to do next. You have to know where to invite your partner to go, how to move in the line of dance following the music. You have to know when to walk, when to pause, accellerate, slow down, and, and, and…

On the other hand you have to be prepared to drop every plan if it doesn´t fit into the everchanging reality on the dancefloor (Just like in real life, isn´t it?)

To make it short you have to make a lot of decisions, a new decision with every new step, and you get feedback for errors immediately.

Well, now you might say, what has the dance floor to do with my business?

The answer is simple. While you are dancing you are involved with your whole personality. Everything, your brain and your body are trained to make right decisions, interacting with other people and you are trained to make these decisions quickly.

What do you think, is this an ability that will help you doing business? You can bet it is.

And even better, you train this in a playful way, more relaxed, so learning is easier and faster.

I certainly became better at making decisions since I´ve been dancing Argentine Tango. I can focus better on solutions and do not get trapped mentally, being unable to make up my mind. It might be a possibility for you as well. And last not least, it´s real fun.

Last night the Perugian Tango community experienced one of the highlights of the year.

The tango association El Bandoneon had succeeded in bringing the Esteban Morgado Cuarteto to Perugia (and I know how much work and passion they met to achieve this).

To an orchestra of this calibre, they have been nominated for the Latin Grammy Award for the best Tango CD, of course everybody came  who is interested in Tango in Perugia…

It ´s understood that there were all the Perugian dancers no matter from which of the numerous Tango schools but also a lot of new faces, music lovers sponsors and their guests and of course the local prominence.

And we were not disappointed. The four musicians  declared Tango Nuevo specialists (though of course they have all kinds of Tangos in their musical repertoire) played own compositions, some classical Tangos like for instance El Choclo but mainly Piazzola.

The special thing about this was that they didn´t only play Piazzola pieces, a challenge in its own right, but gave them their very own  stamp.

I think this is due to the fact that Esteban Morgado is a guitar player and therefore not tempted to simply imitate Piazzolas masterly bandoneon playing.

Sometimes  I rather felt like being in an Al di Meola Concert when Esteban stressed his guitar to its very limits.

Interesting but not really my taste were the Tango Adaptions of Sting and Queen songs (there I prefer the original versions and the voice of Freddy Mercury simply can´t be imitated) absolutely fantastic however all the Piazzolas.

Great that the cuarteto´s interpretation made it possible to dance to most of the pieces (some required to listen only) though for Tango purists dancing to Piazzola of course is way out of the limits:-)

We all enjoyed a great evening due also to the very special setting in the ballroom of the castle.

So, when the Esteban Morgado Cuarteto plays somewhere near your place don´t miss it.

P.S. Actually this very evening was presented the new cd of the group. Unfortunately they were all sold out before I could buy one. Yet somehow I will get it and report…

P.P.S.  Mille grazie to EL Bandoneon, Lorenzo, Lorenza and Marzia. You did a great job.

I am sure you remember my last post about Céline and Damián at La Rogaia.

Yesterday Céline and Damián wrote me that they will also give a Workshop in Paris during their show.  So if you happen to be in Paris make sure you don´t miss it.

Saturday 24 of October
2 Classes of different subjects

Class number 1:  From 13h until 14h30

Different dinamics in the embrace(close, open and off balance moves).

Class number 2:  From 14h30 until 16h

Complexe combinations in close and open embrace.

Where? Le Vent Se Leve
181 Avenue Jean Jaures
Metro Ourcq
75019 Paris

Céline and Damián, dancing so beautifully it makes you cry

Céline and Damián, dancing so beautifully it makes you cry

Normally it doesn´t happen to me that I am touched so profoundly by something that I have to tell it to the whole world immediately.

But last night here we saw something that I really have to share with you…

Last week we had here at La Rogaia a master class with Céline Ruiz and Damián Rosenthal. A great, really demanding workshop.

As always we had a farewell party. Anything the way we have it always at  La Rogaia so far…

But then it happened!

It was already fairly late when Céline and Damián got to the dancefloor asked for our attention smiling slyly and started to dance.

Well, you have to know that they had already presented a magnificient show at our big gala evening at Perugia

But what we where allowed to see last night in the intimate atmosphere of our comparatively small dance studio left us speechless.

It really took some time before somebody was able to speak  again, but finally one of our participants brought it to the point.

“It´s so beautiful it makes you cry”

Yeah, it was exactly like this. Something very, very special. And the icing on the cake was that our small group was among the privileged who had seen for the first time in a kind of unofficial anteprima parts of the first tango theatre play of Céline and Damián.

If the whole play is as fantastic as the small part of it we were allowed to see, and I do not have the least doubt that it will be, I strongly recommend to everybody to go and see it.

The small problem yet is that you have to go to Paris to see it (Not so bad actually…)

More information and reservations you can get here.

réservation@leventseleve.com or at www.leventseleve.com

Our best wishes to Céline and Damián and we hope that their play will have the success it deserves.

P.S. almost forgot,.  The name of their play is

„Tango Pulsacion n°1“ and it´s not the usual tango show but a  real theatre play  (with and about Tango of course).

Don´t Lead, Seduce

July 9, 2009

Celine Ruiz and Damian Rosenthal, pure seduction

Celine Ruiz and Damian Rosenthal, pure seduction

In Argentine Tango as in many other dances people talk a lot about leading and following. The common approach is that there are “leaders” and “followers”.

However, I am not so lucky with these terms.

I prefer to speak of inviting the lady (or what ever dance partner you have) to do something, to take a step, to do a spin or simply to wait for some moments in my embrace listening to the music.

Thinking in terms of inviting someone, making a proposal (which may be accepted or not) makes dancing more open, less hierarchic and more playful.

Thinking this way also helps to be more attent to the signals and proposals the lady sends. Those signals are easily missed when the man concentrates to much on “leading”.

That´s why I strongly encourage gentlemen to forget about “leading” but rather to think of inviting their ladies, to make gentle but clearly understandable proposals which the ladies can´t  (and most probably do not want to) refuse, and why not, try to seduce them to go where you like them to go.

The Tango Talker

April 27, 2009

The Tango Talker, priceless advice for all YOU Tango addicts

The Tango Talker, priceless advice for all YOU Tango addicts

How to become a tangodancer who really attracts attention:

Seven dead sure tips


Ignore the music. You don´t really want to bother about such unimportant things as rhythm and melody, do you?


Don´t care for your dance partner. Okay, you need her as nice accessory, but caring for harmony while dancing is completely unneccessary. Remember it´s YOU who shows her the ropes.


Use every dance to explain to your dance partner what she still needs to improve. It´s YOU who knows exactly how to dance right and she should be happy and grateful to profit from your indefinite store of knowledge.


Make use of your arms excessively to lead your partner. A little dragging and pushing does no harm. If she has got a really good balance she will cope with it without problems


Dance ad libitum against the direction of the dance and across the dance floor. The other couples will make way happily once they have realized that it is healthier to get out of your way.


Start your sequences of steps always with a large backstep. The other dancers shall understand as quickly as possible that a top dancer like YOU needs space all around himself.


Learn sequences of steps and figure combinations strictly by heart and do not deviate from them, come hell or high water. Improvisation is for people who don´t know what they want.