20 July 2009

Things that get in the way of a good tanda

My early years at tango was fraught with issues and erroneous assumptions on my part. Knowing them and their negative effects helped me be aware which aided my improvement.

The following are my visceral observations on why some tandas (in the past) didn't happen...

Distractions to a good tanda

  • The blow-by-blow sportscaster in my head
There are times when I just could not shut up the voice in my head. The sportscaster that gives every detail at every second. It gets in the way of good delivery because I could only think and concentrate on one thing at a time. Listening to the blow-by-blow account of my tango (good or bad) gets in the way of dancing tango.

Rectifying this was a matter of confidence building, brought about by (correct) practice. When I developed an acceptable level of self-confidence, then self trust happened, quieting that annoying voice. It took me about a year to get over this.

  • The over-analyzer in me
This happens when I put too much thought into the dance, seeking perfection in every step. In the desire to achieve perfection, the brain ponders and formulates
what, how, and where to place this foot, where to time this weight change, etc, etc, etc... ad nauseam. One is talking to one's self and giving instructions to the body, causing and brain to be confused. One side of the brain is thinking of what to do, and the other side is telling the body what to do—simultaneously. Doesn't work very well.

I overcame this by developing muscle memory. Simply put, you train yourself as proficiently as possible. This includes proper technique, execution, and (eventually) improvisation. Keep doing this until it becomes second nature. Then forget it. When you need it, the brain will remember and it just happens.

  • The pseudo show dancer
In the very beginning, I thought that being good at tango meant having the killer moves. It was that way in the ballroom world, and I had assumed (mistakenly) it was the same in tango. The result, at the very least, makes the recipient of the "moves" annoyed. At worst it makes the recipient feel (possibly) humiliated. It was a mistake born of ignorance.

I was (at one time) one of the people who can be hazards on a crowded milonga floor. In order to do show moves, you need space. Valuable space which is not always available in a crowded milonga.

Learning of appropriate protocols in a milonga opened my eyes to this and quit it. To my amazement, dancing simpler was much better.

  • Mirror watching and being self-conscious
While learning tango it was always a struggle to answer the question, "How do I look?" When you ask people, they won't tell you that you were bad. Chances are, they'll patronize you for fear of hurting your feelings.

To answer that nagging question, I would take advantage of looking at myself in the mirror whenever I had the chance and asses my form. It did nothing positive, as it causes me to concentrate on myself and not on my partner. I wasn't paying attention to her, causing my lead to be tentative, causing her to misread my lead. A flub resulted.

Correcting this was easy. I made a conscious effort to concentrate on my partner. After all, it is all about her.

  • The talker
If tango were not such a complicated dance, talking would be fine. However, tango being as intricate and as instinctually intense as it is, lends itself to being ruined by simple distractions—such as prattling away incessantly. I perpetrated this for a simple reason. I was trying to hide my lack of skill.

I realized this as a mistake when I danced with someone who did just as I. I found it distracting. It made my leading harder... much harder. If it made it difficult for me, then it must have made it difficult for my follow—Shut up I did.

A really good tanda
My objective for having a really good tanda would be one that was soulful–where my partner and I achieve that level of fervor that makes you WANT to dance with that person at that time. It's almost a trance-like state where each one is so in-tune with each other's nuances that the exchange of leading and following is as natural and purposeful as water rushing into a majestic waterfall. It is a magical experience where neither can explain why nor how the tandas was beautiful. It just was.

None of the beauty that is tango would be possible if the aforementioned distractions permeated. It takes a conscious effort to improve. Its hard to break old habits. But, in the case of tango, the return on investment via progressive improvement is well worth the effort.


Anonymous said...

So very insightful, as always, Ampster. Less is, especially in Tango, more.

Anonymous said...

I really like how you reflect on the past and that you learned from it.
It is really difficult to be a leader in dance, too many things to think about.
I am with Johanna on the less is more in Tango.

AmpsterTango said...

There is an old saying that goes,

"Those who don't know their past, are destined to repeat it."

By learning from one's past mistakes, one (hopefully) can do something to either improve and/or avoid past follies.

I sucked once, worked hard to un-suck, and working harder not suck ever again.

Henry (@knowtango.com) said...

Great suggestions

Elizabeth said...

More and more it seems as though I can really tell when my distractions take away from the dance quality...and (darn) I can tell when my partner notices that I am not all "there".
You are so right that an investment has to be made, and that it is well worth the effort. Thanks again!