My tango double life — TED Talk

This blog post falls in the category of “Crossover Conversations,” whose premise is that all your hobbies and areas of interest and passion — even if seemingly very different from your chosen career — benefit your professional life, as the learnings from all experiences translate into your work.

Here, you can watch my TED Talk, read the transcript, and get the backstory.

The backstory

I attended a TED Global conference themed “Radical Openness.” There, I had the opportunity to share with fellow participants my passion for Argentine tango in a short TED Talk. I was known as the “tango lady” for the remainder of the event and discovered that talking about personal passions is the fastest way to befriend strangers.

“Aren’t you the tango lady?” someone would ask.

“Yes, I am the one who shared her tango passion. What is your double life?” I’d ask back — and discover the most amazing things about people.

My next question then was, “How does your hobby or passion make you better at your work?” — and hear how people find the parallels across their different experiences.

Before you get to the video or transcript, take a moment to reflect: What is your passion? And what learnings from it can you apply at work?

Aneta Key — TED Talk video

Transcript — My tango double life

I lead a double life. By day I’m an executive advisor in the boardroom and a mom on the playground, but by night I’m an addicted Argentine tango dancer. 

I’m a member of a global eclectic community, just like this [TED] one, where scientists, researchers, musicians, artists, TED fans lead a tango double life. 

Now to the outsiders, the tango life is quite mysterious. You go to obscure dance halls in the dodgy part of town to listen to old music and follow strange rituals. You are obsessed with the tango shoe. It signals you’re ready to dance.

When you invite others, you can do this through long-distance eye contact. When the music starts, strangers embrace and then, magically, the entire dance floor starts moving in the same direction, with each couple improvising their own unique dance. 

Now imagine we did this here: You look around, you catch a stranger’s eye, and then you get so close together you can feel each other’s heartbeat. You take a breath, and then for the next 12 minutes, you focus entirely on each other and the music. 

Now, this close you have to trust your partner even if you just met them. They can sense your every move and emotion. You can close your eyes if you want to, but your arms and your heart are open. 

This is radical openness that earns you nothing less but endorphins.

Tango offers creative self-expression in an intimate interaction with another human being. The music itself is mind-blowingly beautiful, and it absorbs you as you move spontaneously through space in an almost telepathic connection with your partner. 

Time slows, and that is flow. Tango offers flow because it is fun and it’s challenging to master. It has just a handful of rules and an immediate feedback. 

Thus, tango is quite addictive. Those with tango double lives dance five, maybe six times a week, and they travel for festivals, tango marathons, and trips to Buenos Aires. 

Now, my husband does not dance, but our family vacations revolve around tango. I schedule business trips around my favorite dancers. With time, my tango buddies have become my best friends through late-night TED-like conversations. 

Ah, tango! Tango offers a feast for the senses, a workout for the body and a bliss for the psyche. Not bad for a double life. 

Thank you.


Special thanks to Gary Draluck for providing most of the photography.

Extra photo credits: Alex Key, Ivo Donchev, Jani Keinänen, Mihaela Komitova.

Music by Trio Garufa, “El Viejito,” composed by Sascha Jacobsen.

Written by Aneta Key. Original TED talk presented in June 2012. This blog post last edited April 2019.