What? Just four?
Well, I suppose I could have come up with a few more, but I hate being long-winded and your time is precious. Besides, who wants to keep a laundry list of details in their head while tango dancing?
So here are four, easy-to-remember strategies to help your future milongas go more smoothly.
Keep things simple: Never underestimate the value of a good, solid walk. It’s so simple, and all its individual elements are pretty clear. It’s arguably the most important figure in tango, and feels great when it’s done right. Although it takes effort and time to master, it’s easy to practice. If you prefer to just walk for most of the tanda, don’t be shy about letting your partner know (at least here in the US). Doing so could be a way to weed out bad partners, too.
Use the corners: This one’s more for leaders, but worth mentioning. Consciously using the corners of the dance floor makes the most efficient use of the space. The more we avoid cutting off or passing other couples, the more fun we’ll all have. It isn’t hard; it just takes a little bit of extra awareness.
Breathe: We’re nervous. And we’re either holding our breath for long periods of time, or taking short, fast ones. This only creates more tension, and pretty soon our physiological state matches that of someone sitting in a dentist’s chair. And even though most of us would prefer dancing at a milonga to having our teeth drilled, we can’t control how jumpy we feel. But we can control our breathing! So unlike Bill Clinton, we should inhale. Slowly and deeply. Then, exhale just as slowly. Just because a particular song is fast doesn’t mean our breathing has to be fast, too.
Have some bad dances first: I hate to say it, but we only get to the good dances after having several bad ones. When things go sideways, it’s not entirely our fault, of course. But we need to own the parts that are. What should we have done more (or less) of? What do we need to practice? What would we really like to improve?
So, hopefully we’ll have an easy enough time remembering this short list of concrete strategies, and that it’ll make a difference during the next milonga. As long as we keep progressing without taking setbacks too personally, good dances will be inevitable.