Most of us get hooked on tango not long after we begin lessons. And as we make progress and experience the excitement of improving, we get hungry for more. We push ourselves, and before long, we start feeling better about our dancing.
But for many dancers, there comes a moment when the pushing stops and coasting begins. We reach a certain level where we’re competent with the basics. And because tango is “just for fun,” we might not feel a reason to improve anymore.
And why should we? If we’re good enough to do the basics with most dancers, then why not just stay at this comfortable tango level?
Because it’s a mental trap.
Here are 3 common ones, and how to avoid them:
TRAP #1: I KNOW THE BASICS AND I’M COMFORTABLE
We’re not trying to be professionals or experts; we just want to dance competently. We’re able to do simple steps with just about anyone, so why shouldn’t that be enough?
WHY IT’S A TRAP, AND HOW TO AVOID IT: As far as tango is concerned, there is no such thing as just “knowing the basics.” Understanding basics in our heads and dancing them are two different things. The latter is an ongoing process that deepens and solidifies as long as we constantly work to improve. Allowing our skills to stagnate means we’ll understand only part of the basics.
TRAP #2: I DON’T HAVE THE TIME TO CONTINUE LEARNING
Everyone is busy. On the surface, this reason seems to make sense.
WHY IT’S A TRAP, AND HOW TO AVOID IT: We don’t have the time to improve our dancing, yet we care enough to go to a milonga…just to be “good enough” on the dance floor? Showing up at milongas just to experience the eventual decline of our skills will just be a huge waste of time in the end. Although taking more lessons and workshops is a great way to advance our dancing, there are other ways to do so as well. Learning from peers during a práctica, for instance, or trying to figure out new steps in your living room with a friend can be beneficial, too.
TRAP #3: I DON’T WANT TANGO TO BECOME A CHORE
We may be tempted to stay at our current level because learning more advanced figures just seems too hard. We want to associate tango with fun and relaxation, not work and stress. We worked diligently as tango beginners and felt good about ourselves when the dance started feeling more natural. So why subject ourselves to more difficulties?
WHY IT’S A TRAP, AND HOW TO AVOID IT:
Most things in life start off fun, then become less enjoyable as time goes on. Think back to our schooling, for instance. Remember how fun college was? And remember how, generally speaking, graduate school was less fun, more work, and more pressure? A lot of things in life work that way.
But Tango is not one of them.
Being an advanced tango dancer doesn’t mean we suddenly have to be serious, or behave a certain way in order to “earn our place.” There’s no added pressure to achieve, or stakes that get higher. Tango is designed to be just as fun as it was when we first started.
When we stop pushing ourselves and start coasting, the problem is that we eventually stop. We’re more aware of pushing ourselves as beginners, but it becomes more important as our skills advance. To improve our dancing more efficiently, we need to push ourselves while we have momentum. The only things that can really stop us are mental traps that, upon closer examination, aren’t grounded in reality.