“Absolute Destruction of the Ego” — An Interview with Brian Nguyen

Want to be an excellent dancer? Brian Nguyen, who in just a few years became USA Tango champion and third place worldwide with his partner Yuliana, tells it like it is ! How to do it ? Well, start with “absolute destruction of the ego.” It’s inspiring to have someone with such a passion to excel as part of Oxygen Tango. Read the interview with Holly Darling, and find out how you can study with Brian and Yuliana here.


What does it mean to be an excellent tango dancer/leader/follower ?

To know how to SUGGEST movement, LISTEN to the response, and ACCOMPANY the answer. A good tango dancer understands that this is the job of both leader and follower.

What motivates people to excel in Tango ? What motivated you ?

I can’t speak for other people because we’re all different. However, at the same time we are all the same.  So I’m sure some common reasons could be: fulfillment of a childhood dream, opportunity to meet others, extra time and unlimited cash flow, or peer pressure.

I always felt like I was made to dance and entertain.  I started out with solo dances that required isolation and self-control, but I found that adding another person to the equation is more fun and challenging. I like a challenge.. and besides, it’s nice to have a scapegoat for my faults in technique.  Just kidding.

What specific habits foster the achievement of excellence in tango ?

You need to be one of those people who can’t sleep at night until you finish a puzzle, answer a question, or fix a problem… yes, even a math problem.  Tango is no different than another “problem” in your life.  You need to be restless when you can’t walk straight, when your posture and embrace fails to put a woman at ease, or when you can’t articulate your feet because your mom didn’t put you in ballet school when you were 4 years old.  I’m not asking you to be born perfect,  I’m asking you to make it look as though you were born perfect.  You need to be a Problem-solving Perfectionist – go pro or go home.  Yes…success ONLY comes with a sense of urgency. It’s now or never.   You can argue that overplayed strengths are weaknesses but it’s still a strength nonetheless and it’s better you have it than not.

Why is this quality important? Because it guarantees that you think about tango all day long, and it almost guarantees that you’ll succeed. 60% of my improvement in tango is done on a toilet seat, in my car at an IN-n-Out Drive thru, and waiting in the express line at a grocery store to buy that rotisserie chicken that’s on sale every Thursday.

In my experience, it’s more so the hours that you spend thinking about tango than it is the hours you spend dancing it that makes you excel.

What do you think are the main obstacles people face when they want to excel ?

Themselves. It’s often a mental obstacle before it is physical.  I suggest they have faith and confidence.

Are there ever moments when you don’t feel motivated to do all the work that you know is needed to get really good ? What do you then ?

All the time.  I thank the greater powers of the universe that my mind allows me to learn tango even when I don’t feel like getting out of bed.  When I was 14, my girlfriend always said to me, “I don’t care what you do, it’s the thought that counts”.. Now I know what she means. Remember, it’s the thought that counts. As long as you’re thinking about tango, you’re doing the work.

What kind of advice would you give to those who are dancing tango and striving for excellence?

1) Absolute destruction of the Ego. At least until you reach perfection.

2) There is such thing as Perfection, and that you CAN get there. Believe it and work for it.

3) It will take you at least a lifetime and a half, so you better get started now.

What does it mean to excel as a TEACHER of tango ?

A teacher is really just a paid stranger or friend who shares knowledge. This paid person, only needs to be at least one lesson ahead of his or her students, so that he can teach his discoveries. The best teacher is the ultimate student.  To excel as a teacher and to become the best, a teacher needs to continue discovering new information and better ways to structure the information.  The words, “teacher” or “master”, are thrown around basically to indicate, roughly, how many lessons they are ahead by.  The flaw with many teachers today is that they forget this bit of truth and stop learning.

What are the things that contribute to make an excellent learning environment that motivates dancers to excel and be the best they can ?

The best contribution to motivation and learning would be to surround yourself with other tango dancers who also want to excel, or those who ARE excelling.