Whether we’re taking a class to reinforce basics or challenging ourselves with something new, group classes or workshops are an obvious choice for moving our tango forward. But once the class starts, it’s easy to become flustered and frustrated. Sometimes our brains feel overloaded, and we find ourselves struggling to keep up mentally.
What to do? Here are seven strategies to organize our thoughts and alleviate much of the anxiety. It’ll help make the most of our tango, and get our money’s worth.
1. FOCUS ON UNDERSTANDING – NOT MASTERING – THE SUBJECT MATTER
If the instructors are introducing a new exciting step or technique concept, it’s not going sink in right away. And that’s fine. Our teachers make it all look so easy because they’ve been doing this forever. Rather than try to waste all our energy trying to perfect the step within the workshop’s 60 – 90 minute timeframe, let’s focus more on understanding the subject matter. Once we grasp the concept, the bulk of perfecting the material will happen during our own practice time.
2. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BODY
Teachers will often introduce a new step by giving us a sequence to work with. Instead of just going through the motions of the sequence and treating it as a to-do list, it’s much more important to pay attention to what our bodies are doing while we’re working through it.
How much are we pivoting? How close or far away do we have to be from our partner? Are we on balance? Are we pushing or pulling too much with our arms? What are we doing right? What do we need to improve?
3. TAKE THINGS LIGHTLY
Even though we’re serious about our tango, remember that even the most challenging tango class/workshop is meant to be fun (as opposed to torture). Let’s put in our best effort, but keep the perfectionist tendencies in check. If we start to put ourselves down, then we’re doing it wrong. Taking things too seriously is counterproductive.
4. TAKE VIDEO
Most teachers will do a video review or demo at the end of their classes, which summarize the topics they introduced. Have your phone or camcorder handy, and take the video! Or at least get a copy from a fellow student. Never rely on your memory, as you’ll be surprised at how much you forget after the workshop ends.
5. TAKE NOTES
Yes, old fashioned note-taking is a great way to retain new tango knowledge. Jotting down your own description of the workshop’s main points (along with the video summary) will go a long way in committing the information to memory.
6. COMMIT TO PRACTICING, AND THINK LONG TERM
When the class or workshop ends, out tango teachers will remind us to practice. This isn’t just a final pleasantry before saying good-bye. They’re serious, and the class or workshop is only the beginning when it comes to the next stage of tango growth. After the motivational, feel-good rush of a fun workshop wears off, it’s on us to work the new ideas into our bodies. Sometimes it takes weeks, or months for the material to fully sink in. But if we had a great time at the workshop, why wouldn’t we want to keep working at it?
7. SHARE THE KNOWLEDGE
Did some of our tango friends miss the class or workshop? Let’s show them what we learned, and spread the fun! Sharing new knowledge is not only good for our communities, but it’s a great way to solidify our own understanding. Everyone wins.
I hope this list is helpful, and thanks for reading!