JUST OUT OF REACH

If we think we’ve reached a point in our tango where we feel we can’t – or don’t need to – improve, then we’re in trouble.

The alternative is feeling as though we’re always 1 – 2 steps away from our full potential, and that complete satisfaction is just out of reach. But isn’t that a recipe for constant dissatisfaction? Isn’t chasing some unattainable vision of perfection bound to make us feel bad about ourselves?

On the contrary, this perspective can be great for our dancing if we keep the right mindset.

Acknowledging that our best dancing keeps is just out reach keeps us hungry and wanting more. As we continue exploring the challenges of tango, we’ll find that it’s always giving us something new and exciting to aspire to.

By constantly chasing our imagined ideal – setting the bar a little higher and higher – we actually become better dancers than what we originally set out to be.

out-of-reach

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BECOMING ADVANCED

There’s no moment when we wake up and just feel “advanced.” Moving up in tango skill level isn’t like transitioning from one school grade to the next. And there’s no diploma or piece of paper that officially gives us the title of advanced dancer.

Since the process of improving seems so gradual, in time we may be considered high level even if we don’t realize it. Sometimes, it’s better not to be 100% sure.

When the desire to discover what we don’t yet know becomes more important than the desire to be labeled as an advanced dancer, we’re on the right track.

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#tango #advanceddancer

THE ODD THING ABOUT IMPROVING

Spending time on the dance floor is crucial to improving our tango. But in addition to working on technique and the right mindset, we need to consider the likelihood that getting better at tango will also involve changing aspects of our lifestyle.

For example, making time for tango might require us to shuffle our daily or weekly routines a bit. And when we make the effort, we might be surprised that we do have time for tango after all.

Now let’s go a little deeper. Perhaps we’re having trouble with a particular figure or aspect of technique because of a bad habit taking place off the dance floor. One obvious example of this, which I’ve written about earlier, is tensing our shoulders while dancing. However, relaxing our shoulders only during our tango time won’t solve the issue. We also have to think about relaxing them while driving, working, taking exams, sitting through meetings, when visiting family, etc. If we stop to think about it, how much tension do we hold in our bodies without realizing it? Relaxing more in those other situations can’t be bad for us, right?

If we’re leading, perhaps we have a nasty habit of pulling our partners around. Or if we’re following, maybe we’re anticipating or back-leading too much. Like tension in the shoulders, these controlling tendencies don’t suddenly show up when we dance. Where else in our lives are they having a negative effect?

Dedicating more time to improving tango does not mean we sacrifice everything for the sake of dancing. When we take the initiative to employ positive habit changes on the dance floor, the same effort must extend to other aspects of our lives as well. It’s a pretty major commitment, but you won’t hear anyone complaining about the long term benefits.

improving

#tango #improving

 

 

5 Signs of Growth

Some days are good, and some moments are a struggle. Our tango is progressing, but like the minute hand moving on a clock, the improvement isn’t immediately noticeable. We don’t realize how much we’ve improved until someone points it out, or until we’ve been struggling for long time. While we’re striving towards those moments of dancing bliss, it’s easy to overlook signs that we are indeed getting better.

Here are 5 to look out for, which might help cut down on the frustration:

WE DON’T DANCE AS “HARD”
When we started tango, we powered through every step with maximum effort. In the process of enjoying ourselves, we’d also feel exhausted after each lesson or tanda.

But after gaining more experience, the power level becomes more measured. We don’t dance harder, but better. We should take notice when we’re more thoughtful and strategic about our steps. It’s a good sign when we’re more judicious with the amount of energy expended for each step, instead of unleashing high intensity power into every single movement.


MORE AWARENESS

It’s a good sign when we have an increased sense of body-awareness. This, too, isn’t something to stuff in the back of our minds when we start feeling it.

Specifically, look out for an increased awareness of muscle movements in our core and legs. In an effort to improve our leading/following connection, we may find ourselves flexing and working muscles that we didn’t otherwise use prior to starting tango. If we feel this happening, we’re on the right track.


WE REMEMBER

Things that our instructors told us months, or maybe even years ago, suddenly make more sense. Even though we understood what we were told back then, the knowledge strangely feels brand new. The concepts we grasped conceptually has finally made its way into our bodies.


THE DANCE SLOWS DOWN

Before, everything seemed to happen so fast! Whether we were leading or following, it felt like we were barely keeping up. The music was a blur, too.

But one day, we notice we have an easier time processing everything that’s going on. We’re able to tune out the distractions around us, and we actually start enjoying the music. We’re putting more thought into our steps, and we’re breathing more instead of holding our breath.


WE WORRY MORE “CONSTRUCTIVELY”

We were once preoccupied with just making it through the tanda. But as we get better, our evolving worries can be signs of positive change. Whereas before, we might have been afraid of looking as clumsy as we felt. But now, we’re concerned about specific aspects of our form. We must logically conclude that, in order to get to a level where we’re worried about nuances instead of something general, we had to be on the road to improvement all along.

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#tango #signsofgrowth

ALWAYS BE BUILDING

Improving our tango is a constant challenge. It’s a never-ending journey that involves stumbling, understanding, refining, and practice.

Generally, there are two ways to address our progress.

One way (the easy way) is to judge other dancers, either silently or out loud. We don’t do this maliciously, because our criticism of others is a reflection of how tough we are on ourselves. We’re serious about advancing, so we blame less experienced dancers, or our partners’ flaws, for holding us back from our learning. Now it’s true that inconsiderate, clueless partners do exist and they definitely create miserable tango experiences. And every now and then, it’s okay to point that out.

But if not kept in check, the act of noticing other people’s faults can become a nasty habit. Maybe it helps us feel better about ourselves, but tearing other people down – even when justified – adds nothing to our own dancing.

The other way to improve, although less juicy, is to simply continue building our skills in spite of elements that stand in our way. It isn’t always easy. And some days we’ll feel as though we’re not learning fast enough. But in time, the more constructive path is more rewarding.

Focus more time on building up, and less on tearing down.

building-wireframe

THREE LESSONS THE DREADED TANGO SNOB CAN TEACH US

3 LESSONS THE DREADED TANGO SNOB CAN TEACH US
Regardless of where we are in our tango learning, we’re bound to dance with someone who’s more experienced. And unfortunately, it won’t always be fun.

We’re having a nice time at a milonga, when suddenly we find ourselves receiving disdainful looks, rude body language, or a snooty remark. Say hello to the tango snob! They’ll waste no time making you feel inferior.

Tango snobs are interesting creatures. They insist on, or feel entitled to, dancing mainly with the best tangueros/as. Maybe they believe that doing so automatically qualifies them as good dancers, too. Who knows?

Although they’re usually competent on the dance floor (but not always), tango snobs consistently overrate their abilities. Their humblebragging is hilariously transparent to anyone but themselves.

They are also creatures of contradiction. Tango snobs frequently complain about a lack of good leaders and/or followers, yet sneer upon the sincere efforts that many beginners make to improve.

Although I admit a measure of ironic satisfaction by judging all those other judgmental people, I’ll try to steer this article towards something more useful. Let’s point out how tango snobs can unintentionally make things better for the rest of us “common folk.”

THEY CAN MAKE US MENTALLY TOUGHER: We’ve been taking tango classes only for a short time, and we’ve mustered the courage to go to a milonga after repeated pleas from our instructors. It’s scary enough being there even when we’re dealing with nice people. At this stage, an unfortunate encounter with a tango snob is downright brutal.

It’s no fun to suffer embarrassment and a huge blow to the ego at the hands of this stranger. In the mind of the tango snob, we’ve been pigeon-holed forever. Ouch. So, do we quit and go home with our tail between our legs? Or do we forge ahead on our tango journey?

For a beginner, the decision to move forward despite a tango snob’s cutting remarks will help build mental fortitude. That mental toughness will serve us well. Not just on the dance for floor, but in all aspects of life.

THEY CAN MAKE US BETTER PEOPLE (just not in the way that they think): When we improve our tango, and when we share a tanda with a less experienced dancer, let’s remember the way the tango snob treated us…and do better.

Where the tango snob is negative, we can be positive. Where the tango snob is exclusive and arrogant, we can be accepting, open, and humble. Sometimes, the tango snob’s example of what not to do clarifies the importance of being supportive and constructive of our fellow dancers.

THEY CAN HELP US UNDERSTAND (OR CONFRONT) OUR OWN MOTIVATIONS FOR IMPROVING: Many well-intentioned articles tell us “not to care about what other people think.” The message is fine, but the truth is that we do care.

It’s in our nature, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But how much we care, and why, are the bigger issues.

So the tango snob offended us and hurt our feelings…but didn’t scare us away. We’re going to stick with this dance. Why? Are we exclusively motivated by our damaged egos? Is it because we want to change the snob’s opinion of us? To get them to admit that they were wrong about us? (Hint: It probably won’t happen, no matter how much we improve)

Are we trying to get into the perceived “in-crowd” ourselves? (Warning: we might become snobs, too)

Or do we just love the dance for what it is, and move on while making a mental note to avoid the tango snob next time?

In general, tango snobs are unpleasant, annoying, and toxic. Although I’d like to think that an ideal dancing environment would be free of them, that’s probably not likely. They exist almost everywhere.

But punching them in the face is out of the question, and letting them get under our skin is just as counterproductive. So the only thing left to do, is to make the best of it.

We don’t do this by merely tolerating them, but by seeing every undesirable encounter with them as opportunities for improvement. Improving not just our dancing, but our attitudes, too. This helps create a more positive community, and a happier community…all of which ultimately disempowers the snob.

judging people funny

FIVE BAD HABITS THAT LEAD TO TANGO MISERY

Tango is physically challenging, but the greatest obstacles are mental. Here are five common ones that can really trip us up…

Failing to accurately gauge our progress: Our perception of how improvement should feel is almost never congruent with how it actually happens. If we’ve been dancing regularly, then chances are we’re improving. But the process is gradual, and we don’t notice it right away. Don’t succumb to frustration, or the belief that we must be doing something wrong if we’re not getting better in the exact way we imagined. Every now and then, we need to step back and think about how far we’ve come since our first lesson.

Comparing ourselves as a way of determining how “good” we are: This is also a common issue in many non-tango activities, and it’s natural to feel insecure every once in awhile. But comparing ourselves is the wrong way to address it. For every dancer we envy, there are probably many who wish they could be like us. And the dancers we envy probably wish they could be like someone else. This rabbit-hole leads to nothing but negativity, and a distorted perspective of ourselves. Let’s avoid it.

Putting too much pressure on ourselves to attempt, or remember, new figures right after learning them: Practicas are better places for trying new stuff. At a milonga, it’s best to stick to the figures we know (especially for leaders), even if they’re basic. For both leaders and followers, it’s ok if all we can remember are a few basic technique points. It’s better to do a few things well, than to be sloppily mediocre at a bunch of them. By repeating the few things we are good at, we’re solidifying a foundation for progress.

Equating lack of experience with bad dancing: Of course we’re not going to glide across the floor like a professional if we’ve only had a few lessons. But hanging our heads in shame and calling ourselves bad dancers shortly after starting classes is like criticizing a 9-month old kid for being bad at walking. Let’s have some patience with ourselves!

Thinking that you don’t belong: This state of mind is extremely unpleasant, and certainly feels real. But it’s not. There’s no exclusive “cool crowd” in tango. It’s worth noticing the variety of people who participate in this dance. Everyone belongs, yet no one needs to “fit in.”

dontstopbelivin