It’s amazing that, year round, there are so many Tango festivals to choose from. Workshops are a great way to improve our dancing. But if we’re not prepared, they can end up being counterproductive. Here are a few ideas to help us get the most out of the next tango workshop.
Be kind to your fellow students: Even though organizers do their best to clearly label workshops as “Beginner,” “All levels,” “Intermediate,” or “Advanced,” participant skill level will almost never be consistent across the board. If you’re paired up with a less experienced person, don’t lose your cool, especially if they’re making a sincere effort. Sometimes it’ll be hard to not let the frustration show, but we’re all learning, and everyone has something to work on…even if it’s patience.
Mistakes will happen: If we could do the figure perfectly, we wouldn’t be at the workshop. Mistakes are not a sign that we’re bad students, and messing up in front of others should not be a source of shame. Mistakes are part of the natural learning process. In addition to being patient with our fellow students, we also need to be patient with ourselves. The only reason the instructors make it all look so easy is because they’ve messed up the steps more times than we did before finally getting it right.
Do it their way: The instructors may teach a figure that’s very familiar to us, only they might go about it differently. Let’s do it their way, even if it’s not the way we learned it. We might find that their method works better after all, or maybe we’ll hate it (for now). In either case, it’s useful to know that there’s more than one right way to tango. Keep that mind open.
Don’t try to impress anyone: Maybe you’re a hotshot dancer, or a even a teacher yourself. Maybe everyone in your hometown is tripping over themselves to dance with you. But trying to flaunt your status at a workshop just makes you look like a dreaded tango snob, and the instructors probably won’t care. Every year they see hundreds, or maybe thousands, of dancers who are just as skilled as you. So focus more on what’s being taught, instead of constantly reminding all us little people about how good you are.
Don’t take things personally: Any criticism or validation we receive is a reflection of our tango, not our character. Let’s use it to move our dancing forward.
Take a video: When the lesson is over, the instructors will do a demo of what they covered, and most will let us videotape it for our own review. Having that video summary is a very helpful resource, so make sure your camera battery or phone is fully charged. Even if you were able to keep up with all the lesson material, take the video! Don’t rely on your memory.
Make it your own: It’s nice to be able to do a figure exactly the way it was taught. But most are designed to be modified, explored, and played with in different ways. It’s a good sign if you find yourself putting your own twist on a step.
Know that it takes time: It’s unrealistic to expect ourselves to master all the workshop material in one class. Even after a long period of regular practice, we might not be getting it 100%. The dumbest thing to do is to give up. Understand that it’s normal to grasp a figure several weeks, or even months, after the workshop took place.
Have a plan when it’s over: Tango festivals, and the workshops that come with them, feel like holidays or big events. But when they end, it doesn’t mean the learning is over too. This seems pretty obvious, but regular practice is crucial. The thrill of the festival will eventually subside, and it’s up to us to make sure it was worth the time and financial sacrifice. So let’s grab a trustworthy partner at the next práctica, and keep the fun times going!