"Yes, and... " A tango improv game.

“Yes, and,” is a fascinating improvisational* theatre game that has relevance to life and tango.(*created on the spot).

The only rule of this game is:

Every dialogue transfer has to be received with a “yes, and.”

The game "yes, and" forces actors to avoid rejecting other cast members' ideas, and, instead, to find a way to go with the flow. Receiving every story line presented by the previous actor with a “yes and” implies unconditional acceptance of what was passed to them and an energetic commitment to pick up the story line and continue on enthusiastically.

The alternative response is “No, but,” meaning:

“I cannot accept or work with the story line that you have set up for me.”

This kills the energy instantly and irrevocably. End of game.


Tango Improv

We play the same game in tango, although we don't use these phrases.

Tango is an improvisational dance. Like theatre this means:

1 ) Every step can be sequenced in a variety of ways.

2) There are several suitable responses to  each step sequence.

3) No response of your partner can be entirely predetermined or predicted.

4) Every dancer brings their own individualized nuances and expressions to every step.

5) A positive, accepting response to your partner’s movement feeds the generative, creative energy. A negative, judgemental response/ attitude kills it.

6) The most engaging and generative moves and music are the unpredictable ones.


The improvisational genius of tango is:

A skilled dancer never has to be stuck for a response to his/her partner’s moves.

Every move is an invitation to do something creative and novel. And every step can be met with the response, “yes, and.”  

If we respond with a “no, but,” i.e.,

“That is not the move I was expecting/ wanting.”

“I can’t work with that.”

“I need to fix and change your response before we can continue.”

the creative dance-energy dies instantly.


An invitation:

Let’s play the tango improve game next milonga by responding to whatever dance step our partner makes with a “yes, and.”

If it is not what we were expecting or desiring, we can chose to welcome it as an invitation to be creative. 

Last rule: There are no mistakes, only invitations to be more creative.

Nothing kills the spirit of creativity faster than the the fear of making a mistake. Apologies be damned!

P.S. Thanks to Julia for reminding me of the “yes, and” game of life.