Tim Ferriss Blog - Revisited


I am often asked how I went from my first Argentine tango class to the semi-finals of the world championships in Buenos Aires in about 6 months.  It wasn't because I had a special skill or predisposition.  Quite the opposite: I was poorly built for the dance (think wrestler -- a la dancing bear -- physique).

I progressed quickly because I was methodical.  Here are three crux keys to learning the tango, addressed here to a man, or any other dance involving a male lead:

1) Find one primary male teacher and one primary female teacher.  Too many cooks spoil the broth, and they'll never agree.  I don't have my main instructor's contact info (Gabriel Misse's above), but my dance partner is outstanding: Alicia Monti.  She now performs at La Ventana.  Results will be faster if you also learn the basic female role and the cues she will need to respond to.  Dance with a few men -- this is not that unusual, especially if too few women attend a class -- and identify the subtle differences between a weak and strong lead.  For the latter, ask the main instructor to demonstrate moves/sequences on you so you so you can "understand the lead" ("para entender mejor la marca").

2) Videotape anything you want to practice, and videotape yourself as early as possible.  You'll be much worse than you expect, and you want to see what you're having trouble self-monitoring.  I took almost all short clips and named the files after the techniques (whether I made up the name or not).  Each evening I would review 5-20 and look at my own footage, practicing a few key moves or postures prior to bed.  My TED video has a few such video samples in it.

3) Once you have a basic strong upper body "abrazo", dance with as many women as possible to identify where you are weak.  Chances are it will be in rotational moves where you are the axis around which the woman rotates.  Have someone like Gabi do this in slow motion and record their head position and arm movement.  Looking too far down at your feet often breaks the vertical spinal position you to need to maintain to effectively push a woman around you 360 degrees.  Don't bend at the hip.

Good luck!

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Big Daddy
5/27/2009 03:43:44 pm

Big Daddy is an awesome dancer but it's worth noting that there are really TWO tracks in the Ballroom Dance World.

The track you took, which is what I call the DWTS GamePlan, where you are looking to compete, to be judged and to LOOK good.

I don't want to take ANYTHING away from your amazing accomplishments, but you know some of those people on DWTS did far more in far less time. Remember, you were able to focus on JUST the Argentine Tango, complex though it may be.

But, there's an ENTIRELY different track. The one Big Daddy is on & the one he teaches the ladies.

That's where you're NOT always dancing with the JUDGE inside your head & you could CARE LESS how it LOOKS to others watching.

It's about using the structure of certain Ballroom Dances to make your partner FEEL your masculinity & then to teach her (or better STIMULATE in her) the same in kind.

It's about making super fast connetions (a point you DID make in your previous dance blogs) and enjoying a moment that some people say is BETTER than sex.

NOTE: Big Daddy does NOT say that. haha

So yeah, I've never videotaped myself.
Never had private lessons from male or female and SURE AS HELL never danced w/a dude! lol

I just drew on what makes me (and all other masculine men) different from women and brought out her differences in the process.

I have to tell you, I get a lot of compliments...and have made a lot of women happy...

Big Daddy
NOT DWTS Material by Any Stretch

5/27/2009 04:15:46 pm

Thanks for the methodology you used in learning Argentine Tango. For any dance the 2nd suggestion is exceptionally important, knowing what you look like is often times a key factor in understanding how to improve to match more developed dancers.

Also the dancers in the clip are quite gorgeous. Thanks for sharing it.

Have you studied other dances? Particularly dances without rigid judging systems from the ballroom world. As a dancer myself I'm intrigued as to how you would go about establishing yourself in such a short period of time in a less structured dance form.

5/27/2009 04:28:46 pm

W. T. F.?


so, Tim... You have two blogs now? Can you tell us your plans about'em?

5/27/2009 05:33:46 pm

The bit at the end was the best

5/27/2009 06:42:45 pm

Thanks for the comments, guys! Fernando, I'm just doing some testing and playing. Basically, the main blog is for the bigger stuff, Twitter (www.twitter.com/tferriss) is for the really little findings and links, and this blog is for the random medium bits that some people might like.

Thanks for participating and adding to the convo all!


5/27/2009 07:43:49 pm

Great! :)

5/27/2009 09:04:10 pm

Hi Tim,

Thanks for sharing that incredible video! WOW!

I couldn't agree more with points 2 and 3. But in the swing dance world (where I live), the teaching bit is a non-issue. Mainly because "street swing" has never been codified the way ballroom was. Swing dances like Lindy Hop and Charleston were born on the dance floor, and have been growing and evolving since the 1920s. Yes, people do compete, but swing has always been primarily a social dance. Every generation adds its own flavor.

Speaking of social dancing, what makes you a great social dancer is strong basic lead and follow technique and lots of practice with lots of different partners. In the swing world, it's abnormal to show up at an event and dance with the same partner all night, but that seems to be standard at the ballroom events I've attended. So I've found, generally speaking, that street swingers are much better leads and follows than ballroom dancers tend to be (especially the ones from franchise ballroom studios, who seem only to know patterns.)

But the thing that really took my dancing over the top was learning to lead. My favorite dance is Balboa, a fabulous swing-era dance that started in Newport Beach, CA in the 1930s. It's very much a lead-showcase dance. After three years of following, I got bored and learned how to lead (the basic footwork is the same for leads & follows in Bal, so that was relatively easy.)

Once you start leading, you become painfully aware of all the annoying things you do as a follow! I was a good follower, but I became a great follower when I learned to lead. And I'm sure the same is true for leaders who learn to follow. In a perfect world, everyone would know both parts.

Big Daddy, your mileage may vary, but in the swing world, it's totally acceptable for dudes to dance with dudes and chicks to dance with chicks. We really don't give a rip what equipment you have, as long as you can dance. :)

In case you've never heard of it before, here's a clip of two kick*ss Balboa dancers from a competition last year. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sF2ZdKdpXtQ

Thanks for the tips, Tim!


5/27/2009 09:04:38 pm

Hi Tim,

you couldn't have timed this post better, this weekend I'm attending a weekend workshop for beginners Argentinian Tango. Just watching that video is inspiring. As someone with two left feet and who's, at heart, an old raver this is going to be a totally different experience from any other dancing I've ever done.



Felipe (Manabu)
5/27/2009 09:34:45 pm

Hi Tim. I'm from Salvador, Bahia - Brasil. This vals ("desde el alma") is amazing. Very beaultiful.

You forgot another tip:
Watch youtube to learn new moves (i did this from this video you post, learning the moves in 1:15 to 1:20) ;-)

When you come back to Brazil, let me know. In Salvador, i have a tango group, and also i'm a Judo/jiujitsu/kung fu student. :-)


5/27/2009 10:42:28 pm

I have never really tried dancing before. I think I could be good at it though. Tango also seems to be the one to start with since it is a "hot" and "sexy" dance while at the same time one that requires a great deal of skill.

I was always afraid to try because I'm 6'5 230 pounds (not fat!). I hope I can work past my bulkiness and learn how though. Your numerous posts on the subject are a real inspiration.



P.S.- You should do more live webcasts like the one you did with Ramit. That was a lot of fun.

5/28/2009 03:24:34 am

I'm confused on point one. You have two teachers, a male one and a female one? I have a male dance instructor who generally doesn't dance with the students and I dance with one of the other students who is much more advanced than I am, she's my dance partner but not my dance instructor. Do you actually go find two different teachers from two different schools?

5/28/2009 09:56:09 pm

Oh, and the big fat WTF was for the Big Daddy dude, not for the post =)

5/29/2009 04:29:54 am


This is really beautiful.

Tim, I love your book!
I am at my computer almost all the time but I'd love to dance!
I did capoeira and brazilian samba before.

Have a nice weekend,

Eva from Hungary

Now I follow you on twitter. :-)

Betty Camacho
5/31/2009 01:10:00 pm

Hi Tim, just spent the day walking around San Telmo. We are in BsAs for 3 months and loving every minute.

7/17/2009 05:57:44 pm

Ah! Thank you so much for posting this Tim and I hope you post more on Tango (especially for newbies). I've got this page bookmarked for future reference and will look back on it when I get back into learning tango (was introduced 3 years ago by a very...aggressive dancer, and then tried again with a couple friends but their schedules didn't work out-so I will make my 3rd attempt by myself if I have to!).

Always Intrigued!

7/17/2009 06:35:20 pm

Oh, and on a related note I am very curious to know your interest or experience with Neo Tango. As a girl who's been dancing (on her own) for years at clubs the concept of social dancing to trip hop, via Neo Tango really excites me! Don't get me wrong-the traditional music is fine but my passion for electronica and modern music is far more intense :)

Have you tried it? What do you think?

8/10/2009 06:31:58 pm

Hi, Tim! I'll take your word and videotape myself daily. It's about time to view my dancing from a more objective perspective. It's very easy to get caught up in feelings and other internal factors when you're dancing. A valuable lesson I learned is that what feels good doesn't always look good.

I have to get up to "world class" in 6 months. I started dancing late, so it's been a challenge getting over that mental block. I'll be dancing in the Latin-ballroom competition circuit after 2 years of inactivity. My partner is turning pro, so I've got my work cut out for me competing professionally. It's especially difficult if people expect you to be good and you don't live up to the expectation. We've got a comp in 3 weeks and I'm terrified!

Thanks for this piece! Rare to find motivational dance pieces :-)

10/1/2009 06:20:54 am

So...when are you coming to Berlin next time? Would like to ask you for a dance....

10/4/2009 03:00:30 am


I'm pretty impressed by your achievements in tango, but what about tips on your first love?

B-boying is a sport I've watched and attempted for years. Sadly, the minute I go from uprock to six-step I look like a two-year-old trying to find spilled jelly-beans.

I don't know what to do. Can you offer any tips on learning how to storm floors?

PS: Nice freeze on the Jones Soda. I don't know much about tango, but I do know how hard b-boying is. I'm from Seattle and I'm damn proud. Thanks for your book.

3/11/2010 11:22:58 am

Tim, thanks for the tips. I am taking tango lessons and I love it. I know it will take me some time to get better at it, but it is OK. It is just a lot of fun; very sexy too.

This is just another thing I gave it I try after reading your book. I am also moving to Brazil for 3 months this August; it is not a mini retirement yet but I was able to convinced my company to let me work from our branch there. On one hand I get some international work exposure, and on the other other hand, I will be practicing my portuguese too; classes are not enough. Win-win situation ;)

You are such a great mentor; very inspirational! Thanks again

9/3/2010 12:08:28 pm

How do you determine if someone is a good teacher? Any tips?

6/22/2011 06:40:05 am

I am so inspired reading your books, 4HB and 4HWW. Thank you so much! I have been a professional ballet dancer, and Pilates instructor/Studio owner and have also been struggling with A. Tango for the past 7 years. I would say "struggling" because it took a while for my partner and I to find our teachers. Do you think that there would be much interest in a Book written to help the student know the proper training exercises for Argentine Tango technique? (eg: Pilates for Argentine Tango)
Thanks in advance for your thoughts,

4/26/2013 06:02:18 am

Can anyone explain how I could go about learning dance intensely and "free" ?! Also how I'd get a partner as Id love to learn intense for months and go for competitions.

One thing I wanted to know was how you found a dance partner when you had little experience and how you "afforded" the 2 teachers.. I'm assuming you paid for it but at the moment I wouldn't have the money...
Ps does anyone recommend any other great partner sexy dancing? Is salsa better?


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