We’ve been working hard at tango, and notice that beginners are starting to come to us for help. Others have helped us along the way, and now we have an opportunity to do the same for a fresh batch of newcomers.
At a práctica, it’s great that we want to help beginners. We want them to be as excited about tango as we are, plus our efforts can go a long way in growing our tango communities. But our enthusiasm and desire to be helpful can also create situations which unintentionally scare beginners away.
Here are 3 things we want to avoid doing:
TOO MUCH INFORMATION: When we start dancing with beginners, we’ll notice dozens of things, both small and large, that we’ll want to correct (posture, too much tension in the shoulders, steps that are too big or small, looking down at the floor, etc). We might be right, factually speaking, in pointing out all these rookie mistakes.
But for the newbie, this is mentally overwhelming because it makes tango seem way more complicated than it really is. And when that happens they’ll often make a beeline for the door, never to return. Better to correct one or two things at a time. We’re often told to be patient with our own learning, but the same applies while we’re guiding others.
INTRODUCING TOO MUCH NEW MATERIAL: It’s great that we want to share all the fun steps we know, especially if we’re able to explain them. But like giving too much information, throwing a bunch of new steps at a beginner in a short amount of time is also overwhelming. As experienced dancers, we’ll always be ready to move forward before the beginners. Stick to just a few figures. Even something simple, such as getting comfortable walking in time to music, is satisfying and productive for the novice.
BEING A DRILL SERGEANT: It’s smart not to coddle or spoon-feed beginners. They don’t need their egos stroked. Although some constructive criticism is necessary to help beginners grow, constant criticism is not.
That little perfectionist inside your brain? Tango novices have similar little perfectionists living in theirs, too. This eliminates the need for us to psychologically project our own inner critics onto them, because their inner critics are already hard at work. Someone who has the motivation to start tango lessons in the first place won’t need a lot of extra pushing.
At the end of the day (or night), tango is supposed to be fun rather than stressful. So let’s remember to smile every once in awhile, and maybe even say an encouraging word or two.