DON’T UNDERESTIMATE EXPERIENCE

It doesn’t matter if you’ve only started tango a year, a month, a week, or even a day ago. Go to practicas and milongas as soon as you can, and start putting whatever skills you have to the test.

Focus on gaining experience, and if you’re a novice, don’t worry if you know only a few steps.

Building experience feels scary at first. And after those first few shaky tandas, you’ll feel as though you need to take more lessons before you’re “ready” to hop onto the dance floor again. Don’t give in to that thinking; don’t wait until after your next class.

Yes, lessons are important (I have to say that because I’m a teacher), but nothing moves your dancing forward like experience, practice, and the act of doing.

knowledge-experience

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DON’T FORGET HARD LESSONS

If we’ve been dancing for a while, we no doubt remember embarrassing moments. Maybe we committed a social tango faux pas and earned ourselves a few shocked stares. Or perhaps it was something that happened on the dance floor, such as colliding with the teacher, stepping on someone’s foot, falling down, or accidentally elbowing a shorter dancer in the face (or back of the head).

But things are better now, and we’ve improved. As difficult as those embarrassing moments were, they did not put an end to our tango.

And as we continue striving to advance, it’s worth taking a moment to remember those harder times every now and then, even if they happened a long time ago. If we think about it, we probably wouldn’t be the dancers we are today without learning – or recovering – from those experiences.

Hard lessons are sometimes the best ones; they mentally prepare us for future challenges, they keep us humble, and they help keep our sense of self-doubt (which will never completely go away) in a healthier perspective.

As unpleasant as negative experiences are, without them we’ll never become the dancers we aspire to be.

raccoon

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#tango #hardlessons

MAKE A TANGO LIST

If we have a few moments, we should write down every single figure we know how to do. This lends a pretty useful perspective on our tango abilities because, in a way, it’s all spelled out right in front of us.

If we’ve been dancing for a while, we might surprise ourselves with how much we know. It’ll also bring to light some steps we haven’t tried in a long time. We can also make note of figures we’re especially good at, and others we need to work on. And as we learn more at lessons and workshops, the list naturally gets longer.

It all seems pretty straightforward, right?

And it’s worth mentioning, because we experience tango largely on an emotional level. This can be good because it leaves us with nice memories, as well as affirmation that we’re actively embracing life. But experiencing tango purely through an emotional lens can distort the perception of our abilities, causing us to underrate or overrate ourselves. Doing either never leads to a happy outcome.

Even with tango, emotion needs to be balanced with reason. And a simple, black-and-white list can do a lot to give us a clear, tangible sense of how we’re progressing.

list

3 MENTAL TRAPS THAT STOP OUR LEARNING

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.

tango-trap

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

“WORK” THAT DOESN’T STRESS YOU OUT

We like tango. The lessons and social events are great, but we keep reminding ourselves that it’s all “just for fun.”

Although understandable, this kind of thinking can be problematic. Why? Because it implies that working hard to improve our tango might somehow make it less enjoyable. And the last thing we want to do is make this feel like a job.

But having fun doesn’t mean we need to hold back effort or deliberately slack off. It may seem counterintuitive at first, but putting a lot of work and energy into something we actually enjoy won’t make it less fun.

Tango can be as challenging as any job, chore, or other mandatory activity we endure. But amazingly enough, working harder at tango will help counteract the stress from the things in life that really threaten to wear us down.

fun cubicle