Tango and I’m NOT OK, You’re NOT OK, Really!

Dave Donatiu

As I set my sights on residing in MAGIC on Sunday, I sat in shadow and succumbed to a suppression of my spirit.  The Tango Matrix revealed one of its rules, illuminating how I have approached women for the first time in Tango, as well as potential intimate relationships, both with seemingly awesome women.

I am not ok, you are not ok

What if the opposite is the deeper truth — “I am NOT OK, and you are NOT OK, but that is OK?”

I got that I have held layers of beliefs that has had me thinking that “I am NOT OK, and that it is NOT OK that I am NOT OK.”  Many in the Psychology field refer to this as negative self-talk, self-esteem issues, or a negative view of ourselves.  However NOT OK is languaged, what remains is an issue that many struggle with in Tango and life – self-confidence.

Self Confidence as defined by Wikipedia:

Self-confidence does not necessarily imply ‘self-belief’ or a belief in one’s ability to succeed. For instance, one may be inept at a particular sport or activity, but remain confident‘ in ones demeanor, simply because one does not place a great deal of emphasis on the outcome of the activity. The key element to self-confidence is, therefore, an acceptance of the myriad consequences of a particular situation, be they good or bad. When one does not dwell on negative consequences one can be moreself-confident‘ because one is worrying far less about failure or (more accurately) the disapproval of others following potential failure. One is then more likely to focus on the actual situation which means that enjoyment and success in that situation is also more probable.  If there is any ‘self-belief’ component it is simply a belief in one’s ability to tolerate whatever outcome may arise; a certainty that one will cope irrespective of what happens.

Could it be true that pretty much we all believe on some level that we are NOT OK – even the high level dancers that can get a dance with most anyone.  Furthermore, most likely many believe, “I am NOT OK, but you ARE OK” or an 80’s pop-psych affirmation, “I am OK, and you are OK.”  However, a deeper truth hidden within the Tango Matrix is, “I am NOT OK, and you are NOT OK – but that is OK.”

Well, I say, so let’s get on with having fun living. If this deeper truth exists, then it is quite ironic that we suppress our life and spirit by not taking risks because we falsely believe others are OK, but really they are NOT OK.  Therefore, if we know that everybody is in the same boat (NOT OK), and that everybody has similar insecurities, limiting beliefs and cares about being accepted, then it seems easy to make all this NOT OK stuff, OK.  In believing that everybody is NOT OK, can’t we risk a lot more and be freer with our actions?

How this belief of “I am NOT OK” has personally played out at milongas is when I have not asked a particular woman to dance, for I believe I can not give her a good dance.  I realize I care a lot whether she has a mediocre dance or even a bad dance.  Let’s say I don’t give her a good dance.  What is the worst that can happen?  She could say thank you in the middle of the first song, with an obvious non-verbal display of disgust.  Well, that hurts.  Why does it hurt?  Honestly, I seem to care if I gave her a bad dance and judge myself as NOT OK if she had a bad dance.  That seems horrible.  I cringe at this.  Why?

In amusement, I realize I am taking responsibility for her experience.  I remember how so many times I told clients that they can never make someone feel anything.  What a person feels is generated within their own head, nervous system and body.  None of us give someone anger or sadness or fear or happiness.  We might be a stimulus, but their response is of their own generation.

I am hallucinating that I create “a bad dance experience” within a woman.  I know from my own experiences that if I dance with a beginner or an intermediate dancer, I care little of their technique (unless they are hanging on me, which is painful to some degree).  I just want to connect with a tanguera and express what I sense in the music as I move with them.  I rarely have bad dances – the bad dances (what I perceive as a bad dance) is when a woman uses me to balance herself or she does not attempt to connect with me.

I have observed people that almost always have good dances are not as concerned about the outcome, but are present to themselves and their partner.  And these present dancers tend to be good people, kind to many and heartfelt.  I have also noticed another type of dancer that attempts to dance with only the best dancers, displays snobbish behavior and is rude to many.  They tend to have a hard time connecting, have quite a few insecurities, posture to gain status and care so much in how they appear to others.

So what happens when I don’t take responsibility of someone else’s experience such as a mediocre or bad dance?  What if I let each woman just choose and create her experience and do my best to connect?  What if we all believed that “I am not OK, and you are not OK – but that is OK” and got on with dancing and living?

What if?

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The Author

Dave Donatiu



  1. Angelica

    Thanks for these thoughts Dave! Some of this is ideas I have explored in various ways in life… but very do I bring them to the tango floor and my experience there. If acted on, I suspect this could be very healing for my (all of our?) dance experiences! With regard to “snobbishness” and such: Thinking about my own behavior, I would posit another idea: assuming we’re responsible for our own experiences, choosing to dance only with certain people is a reflection of our self-doubt… I suspect we avoid dancing with certain people because deep down, we doubt our own ability (or willingness) to create an environment that we will enjoy.

  2. Maria

    Hi, Dave,
    I have just discovered your blog and I love it. It brings up those things that I considered silly at myslef in relation to Tango. You put it so straight forward though it’s so complicated. I’m over the ocean but the things seem the same. Now I’m going back to reading your posts. Hope you’ll keep writing. Best, Maria

  3. Maria

    And: I have just discovered Horacio Godoy & Cecilia. You might or not like the style but for me it’s about the fun they have. It makes me smile, it’s pleasure and joy what they do there.


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