Posted by: victanguera | April 22, 2009

How Writing is Like Tango

A great lead knows all the basics: steps, floorcraft and connection. How they use the knowledge separates the beginner from the the advanced. And the advanced from the exceptional.

In my dance community, an emphasis is placed on learning steps. We learn amazing footwork to dazzle viewers. Ochos worked backwards and forwards, molenetas, and ganchos and are brushed on, rushing on to the next complicated maneuver. Leads and follows often aren’t given enough time to assimilate the information, transmuting it from knowlege to craft, from craft to art. Few develop beyond skilled technical dancers or understand the heart of the dance. They don’t connect with another individual enough to loose themselves in the power behind tango or know enough to transmit that intense feeling to their partner.

In Buenos Aires, an emphasis is placed on connection. Steps are also taught, but not at the sacrifice of the embrace, of the emotion inherant in the dance. Tangueros know that corazon (heart) connectivity is everything. And they don’t have to think about it to acheive it. It exists in their psyche.

Writers, like leads, fall into categories of absolute beginners, skilled technical writers, and blow your sock off amazing.

Absolute beginners know nothing. They show up to classes or dances in various states of beginnerhood. Some think they know more than they really do. They may have a proficient background in some related form. A person in this situation often believes they know more than they actually do. As a result, they send off first drafts to agents or even worse publishing houses. Other beginners acknowlege their complete lack of ability or understanding, cramming in classes and hours of practice in an attempt to learn.

Skilled writers know all the right steps. Somewhere along the line, they recognized they don’t know everything–or anything–at all. They don’t step on your toes very often. The story they tell is tight and easily read. But it lacks any emotional connection to the reader. Maybe those are the ones agents reject with the innocuous comment: This isn’t right for me.

Blow your socks off amazing artists have learned the basics, but they have transended beyond a set of steps. Now, they are just dancing (or writing). Wondering whether they performed the ocho correctly or put the modifier in the right location is no longer necessary. Long hours of hard work place these skills firmly in the psyche allowing them easy access for artistic expression. It allows the skilled writer to go beyond words on a page. Worlds exist clearly, characters become people.

And the reader looses themselves completely in the embrace of one amazing dancer.



  1. Interesting analogy. Cooincidentally, I was thinking about adding another tag (my current one is Tango) for writing when I came across your blog.

    I am sorry that in your dance community the emphasis is on learning steps. We have the smae problem here in London. Although, there are some teachers that focus on connection, posture, musicality, etc., there aren’t really enough of them and it causes problems for followers as myself in getting good dances in these days.

    I am going to read more here as I too am on my writing path. All the best to you.

    • Thanks for the comment. It takes greater skill to teach musicality and connection. Students often think in order to dance, they must learn moves not the heart of the dance (a much more nebulous concept). Steps are something concrete.

      Good luck with your writing and your quest for a great tango connection. Once you’ve experienced the embrace, it is hard to dance without it.

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