The last entry was about the ocho, where I focused more on technique. Today I’ll write about the non-technical aspect of learning that step.
The ocho is conceptually simple, but does that mean it’s easy?
It’s comprised of many detailed components (e.g. disassociation, balancing on one foot, being careful not to step too early, etc), so the challenge comes not just from executing each element correctly, but remembering them all as well.
At some point, we’re likely to encounter a “frustration phase,” where we realize this simple step is harder than it appears. Then, that stupid voice in the back of our heads starts creeping in, telling us that “maybe we can’t do it.” We may start comparing ourselves to more experienced dancers (or dancers who at least appear to be so), which perpetuates the spiral of negativity.
One way of getting through the frustration is sheer willpower, by ignoring the negative voice(s) in our heads and just putting in time and effort to improve. This method is respectable, and it works.
But mentally, is it the best way?
As we know, there are numerous components of the ocho. If we act on our first instinct, we’ll try perfecting them all at once. This leads directly to that frustration phase.
Individually, however, the ocho components are pretty manageable. Tackling a few parts at a time is much less daunting. And once we start mastering one or a few elements at a time, the rest of the figure tends to fall in place.
A difficult figure, whether it’s an ocho or anything else, can be looked upon as a series of easy elements or a combination of familiar steps. This approach isn’t a shortcut to learning, as there’s no way to circumvent time, patience, discipline, and regular practice. But adjusting our mental perspective can have a huge effect. Seeing tango as mainly a struggle versus mainly fun will have a serious impact on our long term enjoyment of the dance.
Basically, what it comes down to is this: If we approach a new step believing that it’s difficult, it will be. But if we go in thinking that it’s not as difficult as it looks, then it won’t be.