Here’s a quick look at one of my favorite tango steps of all time: the leader back sacada 🙂
There are a lot of small details to keep track of, but this will get you started on the right track…
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We often think that in order to tango well, we have to know everything our partner is up to. It’s true that we need some awareness of our partner’s movements, and to respect his/her axis. But while we’re doing our steps, are we trusting our partners to properly execute theirs?
Intellectually, we know we’re not 100% responsible for the outcome of any particular tanda. But on more than a few occasions, we act as though we are. And as we know, tango wasn’t designed to work that way.
Dancing well together requires less worry about what the other person is doing, and more control over what we’re doing.
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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.
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If we look closely at a beautiful image on a computer screen, we’ll find that it’s made up of a bunch of tiny dots, or pixels. Each one of those dots is displaying its assigned color. The nice picture is the result of each individual dot doing its one simple job perfectly.
What about tango? Instead of pixels and a still image, we have a dance that moves. Breaking it down to its fundamental elements, we have a dance that contains two main ingredients: linear steps and pivots.
If we think of “advanced tango dancing” only in terms of tackling complex figures or sequences, then we’ll get too overwhelmed and intimidated. The whole thing will feel impossible. Let’s focus on each linear step (side, back, or forward) or pivot as it comes to us.
Each one of those elements that we execute correctly is a brief moment when we are on balance, not rushing, and not being tense. Why not think of them as moments of perfection?
And when we accumulate enough of them, accomplished one at a time, we’ll have a better idea of how advanced tango is actually supposed to feel.
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Learning a pattern that incorporates a new step is really useful. But mastering the pattern is only part of it all. Patterns are comfortable, and it’s understandable to want to stick with them. But getting comfortable ultimately hurts our dancing, and prevents growth.
The moment we get comfortable is when we should start asking questions.
Why does the step work the way it does? What exactly are our bodies doing to make the step work? What happens if we change one element or another? What else can we create? Can we combine this step with other figures we know?
Patterns and sequences should be seen as gateways to learning, and guides to understanding the heart of technique. But relying on patterns alone aren’t enough to make us good tango dancers.
Ever take a tango class or workshop, and feel that you’re keeping up just fine? Of course.
And have you ever taken a class where it feels as though everyone else knows what they’re doing… except you? Most likely (definitely a “yes” for me).
The latter situation is often embarrassing, and results in a lot of self-criticism that gets overblown pretty quickly. It can even feel so bad that we may even consider quitting. Before we’re tempted to go on a bender to console ourselves, here are two items to consider.
: Certain steps will be easier for us than others. What comes easily for us might be more difficult for another student, or vice versa.
Second: In tango, there’s no universal, objective mechanism that determines the “correct” pace of learning for everyone. Just because we don’t get something right away – or even over the duration of the class – doesn’t mean we’re problematic students or bad dancers.
Let’s focus on getting the step right instead of getting it quickly. By the time we’re proficient with a new step, it won’t feel all that new anymore. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
One bad habit among intermediate/advanced dancers, after getting comfortable with the basics, is a tendency to mostly go through the motions. We dance well enough to be little more than competent.
We need to finish every weight shift, projection, and rotation. Don’t just think of steps as things to get through before a fancier figure comes up. Everything matters. The complex, advanced steps we enjoy won’t look good unless we continuously pay attention to the basic ones.
Making an all-out mistake is preferable to doing a step only 90% correctly. Pushing a little more to work out that last 10% is the difference between a so-so tanda, and a memorable one.
#tango #the lasttenpercent