5 Signs of Growth

Some days are good, and some moments are a struggle. Our tango is progressing, but like the minute hand moving on a clock, the improvement isn’t immediately noticeable. We don’t realize how much we’ve improved until someone points it out, or until we’ve been struggling for long time. While we’re striving towards those moments of dancing bliss, it’s easy to overlook signs that we are indeed getting better.

Here are 5 to look out for, which might help cut down on the frustration:

WE DON’T DANCE AS “HARD”
When we started tango, we powered through every step with maximum effort. In the process of enjoying ourselves, we’d also feel exhausted after each lesson or tanda.

But after gaining more experience, the power level becomes more measured. We don’t dance harder, but better. We should take notice when we’re more thoughtful and strategic about our steps. It’s a good sign when we’re more judicious with the amount of energy expended for each step, instead of unleashing high intensity power into every single movement.


MORE AWARENESS

It’s a good sign when we have an increased sense of body-awareness. This, too, isn’t something to stuff in the back of our minds when we start feeling it.

Specifically, look out for an increased awareness of muscle movements in our core and legs. In an effort to improve our leading/following connection, we may find ourselves flexing and working muscles that we didn’t otherwise use prior to starting tango. If we feel this happening, we’re on the right track.


WE REMEMBER

Things that our instructors told us months, or maybe even years ago, suddenly make more sense. Even though we understood what we were told back then, the knowledge strangely feels brand new. The concepts we grasped conceptually has finally made its way into our bodies.


THE DANCE SLOWS DOWN

Before, everything seemed to happen so fast! Whether we were leading or following, it felt like we were barely keeping up. The music was a blur, too.

But one day, we notice we have an easier time processing everything that’s going on. We’re able to tune out the distractions around us, and we actually start enjoying the music. We’re putting more thought into our steps, and we’re breathing more instead of holding our breath.


WE WORRY MORE “CONSTRUCTIVELY”

We were once preoccupied with just making it through the tanda. But as we get better, our evolving worries can be signs of positive change. Whereas before, we might have been afraid of looking as clumsy as we felt. But now, we’re concerned about specific aspects of our form. We must logically conclude that, in order to get to a level where we’re worried about nuances instead of something general, we had to be on the road to improvement all along.

flower-concrete

#tango #signsofgrowth

ON “FITTING IN”

At a milonga, it’s understandable that one of our first instincts is to fit in. We want to look and dance like the others around us, to blend in with the atmosphere. Somewhere in the back (or maybe front) of our minds, we’re afraid of drawing negative attention to ourselves. There’s a fear that others might look at us, then silently judge us as “not belonging.” In a previous entry, I mentioned that this is a waste of time and energy because everyone else at the milonga is probably preoccupied with the same irrational idea.

But there’s more. Succumbing to that fear is one of the worst things we can do. Struggling to adopt the look and dancing style of those around us will look awkward, and just create more anxiety.

The best thing to do is to take what we know, whether it’s a lot or a little, and allow our individual personalities to shape the dance. We’re all listening to the same same song, and moving around in the same general space. And even if we’re at different experience levels, we were taught the basics of tango in more or less similar ways.

Paradoxically, in order to “fit in” with tango, it’s best to embrace the freedom to be ourselves.

ducks

#argentinetango #fittingin

TOMORROW IS TODAY

Envision a specific time in the future where some aspect your tango dancing has greatly improved. Or imagine that you’ve realized some goal, whether it’s to do with learning a new step or planning an event with friends.

That time in the future might be weeks, months, or even years away. But it’ll be here sooner than you think. Tomorrow always becomes today before we know it.

Whatever it is you want, start working on it now.

today

#tango #tomorrowistoday

WHAT DO WE WANT OUT OF TANGO?

Whatever answer we come up with doesn’t have to be deep, profound, or long. It just has to be concrete, and make sense to us.

Answering this question gives us a specific starting point, and a goal to work towards. Keep in mind that the goal(s) can, and probably will, evolve and change as we progress. In time, what we actually get out of tango may differ greatly from what we originally wanted. We don’t know what we’ll end up with, but speaking from experience, I’m sure it’ll be meaningful.

But let’s save that thought for later.

For now, answer the question. Anything except “I don’t know” will do.

discus-funny

#tango #whatdoyouwant

THE PROBLEM WITH MOTIVATION

While working to improve our tango, it makes sense to seek motivation. We listen to our favorite songs, watch dancers we admire, check out youtube videos, have conversations with our friends, etc. Motivation is good because it gives us something to aspire to, whether it’s a particular step or some aspect of technique.

For a time, I had a habit of watching online videos of my favorite dancers. Then, youtube would provide links to new ones, which I had to click on. After that, I’d find links to yet more mesmerizing dancers! I’d play those videos over and over again, sometimes studying them, but mostly just staring in awe. Did I feel motivated? Yes! But before I knew it, over an hour and a half had gone by. That was 90 minutes I could have spent honing my own ocho technique or actually dancing!

So, not surprisingly, seeking motivation can also work against us. If we’re not careful, that feel-good rush of inspiration can quickly become procrastination, preventing us from actually doing the work of improving our skills.

There’s nothing wrong with looking for motivation, but at some point we have to take action. And all the motivation in the world won’t make that part any easier.

motivated-squirrel

#argentinetango #motivation #stillhavetodothework

3 WAYS TO APPLY BALANCED PASSION

It’s easy to see that tango is passionate. But the image that tango creates doesn’t originate from the physical movements or choreography. It starts from the mind of the dancer.

Passion is to tango what aggression is to football or boxing. Too much or too little causes problems. It must be unleashed judiciously.  

Here are 3 helpful ways to do that:

Keep the love in perspective: Yes, we love tango! That’s no surprise. We take it seriously, and want to be great at it. We put forth our best effort every time we’re on the dance floor. But let’s not conflate the love of tango with our overall sense of self-worth. If we do, our emotional state will be at the mercy of every step (or misstep). Who needs that kind of pressure?

We’ve all been embarrassed, or even crushed, by a bad tanda. But after a little while, we have to figure out how to let bad feelings go. One way to maintain perspective is to reconnect with the spark that motivated us in the first place.

Another is reminding ourselves of the mere fact that dancing tango, regardless of our current level, means we’re actively participating in something. Even if we’re not having a great night, we’re engaged in something far more meaningful than sitting on the sidelines of life, watching characters on TV enjoy an existence we wish we had.


Dive right in…regardless of whether or not we feel “ready.” This is for those of us who need to let loose a little, to let that spark take hold. If we’re starting tango, or stepping up our dancing, chances are we won’t feel ready. But if we wait for some magical moment of readiness (which doesn’t come very often, if at all), we’re just guaranteed to miss out. Maybe we started tango because we’re passionate to begin with. Or maybe tango is the gateway to the passion we’re seeking. We won’t know for sure unless we show up to dance.

It’s all about you…and them: It feels good to be caught up in the energy of the dance. Any tango fan will tell you about how much they love the music, or how being at a milonga makes them feel. But as we’re getting swept up in the heat of the moment, remember that we’re not supposed to keep the passion all to ourselves. We need to share it with our partners. Some will respond to a lot, others may be ready for only a little.


To dance tango well, we need to allow ourselves to be swept up in the passion. Swept up, but not lost.

rambo-photographer

#argentinetango #passion #dance

ALWAYS BE BUILDING

Improving our tango is a constant challenge. It’s a never-ending journey that involves stumbling, understanding, refining, and practice.

Generally, there are two ways to address our progress.

One way (the easy way) is to judge other dancers, either silently or out loud. We don’t do this maliciously, because our criticism of others is a reflection of how tough we are on ourselves. We’re serious about advancing, so we blame less experienced dancers, or our partners’ flaws, for holding us back from our learning. Now it’s true that inconsiderate, clueless partners do exist and they definitely create miserable tango experiences. And every now and then, it’s okay to point that out.

But if not kept in check, the act of noticing other people’s faults can become a nasty habit. Maybe it helps us feel better about ourselves, but tearing other people down – even when justified – adds nothing to our own dancing.

The other way to improve, although less juicy, is to simply continue building our skills in spite of elements that stand in our way. It isn’t always easy. And some days we’ll feel as though we’re not learning fast enough. But in time, the more constructive path is more rewarding.

Focus more time on building up, and less on tearing down.

building-wireframe