A school, and other insights from 2017

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This post is for people interested in the micro-process of our 2017 Business Development Strategy.

On 17.January 2017 TangoForge abruptly opened a School in Berlin.

I already knew how the school would work, because I had drafted it in my mind over the years:

  • A mix of bodywork and improvisation classes.
  • Consistent pedagogy in every class.
  • Private lessons for every student.
  • A tracking system so that all the teachers know what each student needs to work on.

The school now has to pay the rent and pay the crew, which means that I need to be financially sustained by  the Research and Development currently stored in the KnowledgeBase project.

Since creating the KnowledgeBase in 2013 I’ve tried a a few different marketing tactics, and especially changing the copy (the words I use to describe it), but with only a few patrons.

Skip to my personal life in Berlin. Lonely. In the worst moments of that I started watching movies online, which I viewed as a sign of serious distress as it was something I had never resorted to before in my life. Emerging from the most painful part of that, I continued to watch Hollywood action movies while doing Yoga, bemusedly joking that since Yoga was my only break from work, it was important to maintain the sensation that Action was still happening…

I especially liked the X-Men series, which resonated with the discovery I made a few years ago that it’s hard being Avant-Garde.

But in November, I ran out of action movies to watch and had yet to find a pilates studio in my new Kiez (hood), and was getting fat. So, committed to finding a creative solution to *everything*, I decided that my expensive new flat came with a free gym called the stairway and started doing 1000 stairs per day. This is great for my gluts, but boring so I decided to explore the world of podcasts. I started from RadioLab and then found Invisibilia, and from there ReplyAll, which is a very informative and hilarious podcast about Internet Culture,  grazing US politics just intermittently enough for my taste (here are my two favorite episodes: The Deadpan Teenagers and How to Understand Twitter and Elections). I listened to the whole inventory of ReplyAll and then Gimlet Media’s absolutely fascinating investigative series on American Apparel (more about talented people being *complicated*). Then I couldn’t find anything I liked. I felt all the NPR voices were eerily the same, and the shows were eloquent, but scripted.

What else could I listen to? Standing in the stairway, I typed “entrepreneurship” into the podcaster…

Meanwhile, I did two other experiments: [1] I called for “Tango Dreamers” who had never met me in person to see if it was possible for me to train people remotely. I got five in less than a week. Three months into our remote Personal Training experiment, I received this:

Dear Vio, This last Saturday one of the best dancers [in my country] said I had improved a lot since last time we danced (2 months ago) which can only be to your credit.

[2] A few years ago my dear friend Andrea and I had done a “self-study” in entrepreneurship, reading everything free we’d found on the internet and making “case-studies” of every business that made is glow or cringe. We learned about messaging and ran a successful crowdfunding experiment. This left me on just one entrepreneurship-coach’s mailing list, Danielle LaPorte. It’s encouraging, but not very operational. Her buddy Marie Forleo makes my skin crawl. In March I analyzed 120 of Danielle’s inspirational emails and translated them to tango dreams, made them look pretty and posted one on facebook.



A fail. Tango is not Self-Help, tango is Other-Help (getting help from others)… Aha…

At this point I want to stop being ineffective and that means I really need to question what I’m doing.

I start a serious analysis of What Tango People Want and What they Don’t Want.  Most tango people don’t want anatomical technique or biomechanics, or encyclopedias, or goals or power or strength, or even creativity. These are things I’ve been advertising. My wierd and talented crew wants all of this, but unfortunately they do not represent the market.

I start ripping out the pages of my notebook, chopping them up into single ideas and pasting them to the huge white walls of the studio.  I start going to milongas and watching what is making people so goddamn happy and satisfied (especially at Berlin’s notoriously low level of dancing).

  • It’s about being alive and present and Valued.
  • Feeling dignified
  • A moment of freedom from your problems
  • Flying in trust
  • Like being inside a poem

Importantly, people are ALREADY getting this. They don’t perceive a deficiency in themselves. The deficiency always seems to be with an INADEQUATE PARTNER, because they’ve been able to achieve all this with a GOOD partner. Tango people (including Crew TangoForge) want More of the Best Partners We’ve Ever Danced With. We want to lfeel good about ourselves, and we want to be desired. And we have some dreams of looking really good, being beautiful, and being seen.

Ok, well this is something I know about. I wrote a pdf Action Plan called “Stop Waiting For Partners and Start Building Them”.  (Fill the box below to get it by email.)

I remembered this book that was popular a couple of decades ago, called FLOW, about optimal experience, in which you are totally consumed in concentration on what you are doing. Tango enables FLOW with a PARTNER – mutual concentration. This is why it’s so great. So maybe if I analyze FLOW I can help people get there more often and with more people. I wrote a blog post

Meanwhile I’m listening to entrepreneurship podcasts. It’s mostly overenthusiastic “believe in yourself” stuff … and then I find: Neil Patel and Eric Siu’s “Marketing School”  and now I’ve got a pen and paper in my hand while I’m doing the stairs because I’m taking notes constantly. They do a 10 minute podcast every day explaining the details of online marketing technologies and strategies…

  • Google Analytics, webmaster tools, Search Console (I use Piwik for all this, rather than Google tools)
  • search engine optimization, keyword tools, how to get into Google Rank 0, authority
  • skycraper, flagship, cornerstone content
  • update, recycle, recombine, redirect
  • hub-and-spoke, channels, traction
  • call to action, capture, funnel, stack, nurture sequences
  • organic traffic & native commerce
  • retargetting pixels
  • content upgrades
  • webinars
But business isn’t only about tactics, it’s about engagement, alignment, value. The most important point – which I have failed on with every product I’ve ever made (starting way before my tango life) is: Don’t tell people what you think they need, show them that you can help with their needs and desires. Eric Siu’s other podcast, “Growth Everywhere”, is longer-form interviews with founders. They are saying stuff like:
  • “Now all I do is pay attention to aligning operations with our vision, and taking care of our culture.” Josh Reich, the CEO of Simple Bank
  • “Lavish the first 10 customers with love, attention, and gratitude.” Jason Lemkin, Founder of Echosign
  • “Run experiments!  Lots of things won’t work. Double down on the things that do.” Gabriel Weinberg, Founder of Duck-Duck-Go, author of Traction
  • “Give and give and give, and then ask.”  Can’t remember who this was.
  • “Retention is about creating positive emotional experiences.”  Can’t remember.

After one month of 14-18 hour work days frantically implementing landing sequences, content upgrades, pop-ups, and a YouTube presence, TangoForge.com was “capturing” more email addresses and “converting” visitors into customers. I was feeling empowered by finally knowing how to take action on something I’d felt helpless about for so long – marketing.

And I was getting uncomfortable with the idea of having a TangoForge Store Page. It was just all getting too commercial.

Meanwhile people were complaining about the membership policies of the Berlin Studio. They want to drop-in. I don’t like drop-in because I invest in the people who come but for them it’s just a commodity. I want to be in development with them. And then I realized: It’s not just ME who invests. Because we ARE a community, everyone invests in those who come to see us, and everyone is a bit dejected when that person doesn’t continue to participate. Because we feel like a community, and drop-ins treat us like a commodity. And I was trying to figure out how to “monetize” (commodify) my knowledge and love for tango, feeling that I was finally “getting real” about business.

Wrong Path.

On Friday 21 April, I announced at our Practica the immanent launch of our YouTube channel. I heard myself say “this is not just a way to promote TangoForge, this is a way for our students and all the Compañeros to share Real Improvisation with their friends.”  I heard myself saying it… Rapper Supernatural says that the voice is not just a derivative of the brain, it is an “organ of intelligence”.  I spoke the “aligned business model” to life.

It was already on the wall:

We are a community of dancers committed to sublime connection and maximum artistry.

This community thing is real. It’s my training (I did a Masters degree in it long ago) and even when I’m not trying, it’s part of everything I do. It’s the culture I create. And is the culture of the global movement to embrace Argentina’s Sublime Artform. People have worked for decades without pay to build this movement in cities and little towns across the world. That ethic needs to continue to inform what and how we work.


The people who pay us are not purchasing a commodity (“class” or “course, 90 minutes…). 

They are investing in the development of a global community of creative, kind, and serious dancers.

Our biomechanics and Impro-Lexicon classes need to be available to students globally, so we must video the weekly classes.

We need to make and freely share tools to develop our community of Compañeros: tools for building partners (instead of waiting for them), tools for effective practice, tools for improvising, and tools for achieving FLOW (sublime connection)…

The people who invest in us need to feel ownership over our products and free to share them with their friends.

These changes will take a few days for implementation.  Here’s the page where you can join the Compañeros and Invest in growing tools and community for sublime connection and Real Improvisation.


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