We all have anecdotes about rude, clueless, or creepy people, right? Whether it’s teaching during a milonga, yanking one’s partner around, or being deliberately uncooperative, there are many good articles out there chronicling examples of bad behavior. And it’s good that most of us try not to be the inconsiderate, annoying partner that others complain about.
But trying too hard to be nice has the same result as being cluelessly obnoxious. This is true for both leaders and followers, and here are 3 specific instances when being “too nice” will hurt our dancing…
1. Constantly accommodating our partner’s space: Don’t be in such a hurry to get out of your partner’s way, especially during a figure like a sacada. Let the step play out and give priority to your own axis and balance. If you’re always leaning away in an attempt to give your partners more room, you’ll sacrifice your own form and posture. In the end, that doesn’t help anyone.
2. Trying to “help” our partners dance: If we’re following, we’ll start getting a sense of what our partners will do next as the tanda progresses. It’s tempting to step, do an ocho, or complete a turn on our own because we want to demonstrate how good we are at figuring out what our partners want even before they do. Isn’t that nice?
Unfortunately, this really hurts the connection. We never know when a leader will suddenly change his/her patterns, and constantly getting ahead of leaders creates a frustrating experience for them.
For leaders, it’s important to trust the followers to finish every step that’s led, as opposed to pulling them along or micromanaging every movement. We need to trust that followers understood what we’ve communicated, and let them execute with their own style and personality. Otherwise, we’re just stifling them.
3. Trying too hard to avoid mistakes: We want to dance well and give our partners an enjoyable experience. In doing so, we want to avoid mistakes. There’s nothing wrong with that in general.
But by working too hard to avoid errors, we become excessively tentative.
For leaders, it’s good that we want to avoid being one of those dancers known for yanking the follower around. But going too far in the opposite direction is just as bad. We need to fight the urge to overanalyze, and just make a decision on where to go…then trust that we’ve communicated clearly enough.
For followers, commit to every step and complete every pivot. If we make an occasional mistake, we’ve at least made a clear movement that the leader can work with. And from there, the dance can continue. Constantly second-guessing ourselves makes us feel constrained and uncomfortable to dance with, and that will only cause anxiety.
In tango, we encounter problems when we conflate being respectful with being nice. Respect is trusting our partners to do their part, but it also means trusting ourselves to do our own. Being nice can do some good at putting our partners at ease, but it’s not much of an effective dancing strategy. Whereas being respectful is a requirement for good dancing, being nice is not.