Whether we’re beginners at our first few milongas, visiting a new venue, or both, chances are we’ll be nervous. Even if we’re feeling positive about the experience overall, being scared is normal. There’s not much we can do to prevent an elevated heart rate or adrenaline increase.
While out on the dance floor, we become highly sensitive of our dancing abilities. We want to look good out there, and we’re constantly evaluating every step we take. But if we surrender to nervousness and the fear of dancing badly, our brains have a tendency to play a nasty trick on us.
That trick involves making it seem as though the dozens, if not hundreds, of strangers at the milonga are somehow singling us out. We feel they must be judging us as harshly as we’re judging ourselves. Rationally, we know this isn’t true. But we crack under the pressure, and end up dancing as badly as we feared. And the sad thing is, that pressure only ever existed in our heads.
There are lots of strategies out there designed to help us cope with such situations. But for tango, here are three that are easy to remember. I call them the Three B’s: Breathing, Basics, and Boldness.
Breathing: This doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, but it is. While being nervous at a milonga, we default to taking short, quick breaths. Either that, or we hold our breaths for long periods of time. Doing either makes things worse. But if we pay attention to our breathing, and make a deliberate effort to inhale and exhale slowly, we’ll feel more in control. Although it won’t erase all the fear, it will ease a significant amount of tension.
Basics: For leaders, it always helps to move the center first before taking a step. Keep the movements simple and decisive. For Followers, it’s important not to rush. During a back walk, for instance, fully project the free leg before transferring weight. When we’re nervous, we tend to take fast, jerky steps. These are almost always too small, and makes for awkward, sloppy, and uncomfortable dancing. This is the result of the brain freezing up, when we’re in a panicked, reactive mindset. Recalling basics and simple movements will shift us to a more proactive state of thinking.
Boldness: We can only move one step at a time. No matter how simple the step is, make it confident and clear. Trying to avoid mistakes by being too tentative likely results in more mistakes.
So the next time we get nervous at a milonga, let’s remember these three items. Amidst all the excitement and stimuli on the dance floor, three B’s shouldn’t be too hard to recall. They’re meant to minimize the anxiety while helping us move more confidently on the dance floor. And in tango, confident movements pave the way for a more confident mindset.