When we absorb information during tango classes, it’s not enough to just pay close attention. We must also understand the way our brains process the new knowledge. Generally speaking, we have to “learn everything twice” before getting it right.
The first “stage” of learning occurs when the instructor verbally explains a figure or technique concept. We understand the ideas intellectually, picture everything in our heads, and it all makes logical sense.
The second “stage” of learning happens when we’re able to physically implement those intellectual concepts (actually dancing).
On the face of it, this is not a new or mind-blowing idea. So what’s the problem?
The problem, especially if we’re no longer beginners, is that we often underestimate the period of time separating stage one and two.
It seems as though stage two should happen right after stage one. We understand exactly what the tango instructor told us, so it’s just a matter of doing it, right?
Unfortunately, no. And we tend to get upset with ourselves when things don’t work out that way.
But consider this: Would we react in shock upon realizing we can’t fly a passenger jet even though we just read a really good book about airplanes?
This isn’t to say that tango is as complicated or dangerous as flying, but it’s not something we can do right after receiving a couple of verbal instructions. Our bodies and brains need more than a few lessons, or tandas, before they start cooperating with each other.
The most likely scenario is that we won’t get to the second stage for weeks, or maybe even months, after stage one. For tango, this is normal. So keep practicing, and resist the temptation to surrender to frustration. The end result, whether it takes days, weeks, months, or years, is always worth it.