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January 1, 2009

10000-hour rule

Happy 2009 to all who has been following this blog!

As I have mentioned in my main blog, I am currently reading Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers: The story of success”. The central thesis of this book is that, while the impact of some form of innate talent is undeniable, it is still essential for these talented people to put in many hours of hard practic in order to make the next rank of “being someone”. Conversely, an “average” someone who puts in much more time into practicing than another person with more talent but less hard-working. This applies even for the well-recognised prodigy Mozart – for the reasons, go and read the book yourself! 😉

The magic number? Roughly 10,000 hours.

I was reminded of this idea again as I watched Demian Garcia and Milena Pleb’s performance last night. There were no fancy combinations but just good techniques executed nicely and musically. For the musical part, we can improve our appreciation by talking to and learning from knowledgeable teachers with deep understanding of music, but there is also no substitute for listening to many many hours of music.

However, we are at least in control of how far we can progress as far as the technical aspects tango are concerned. This may mean spending many, many hours of walking during practicas – with or without a partner – practising your pivots – which can include ochos, giros, etc. I think even with imperfect instructions, if you can somehow push through the boredom from repetitive exercises and a certain physical threshold, your body will discover a natural relaxed state through familiarity in the basic tango movements. This may be equivalent to what some call “muscle memory” although I don’t really like the term myself.

Naturally, no doubt you can “feel” your way through your dance career without much serious practice and still have a good time, but in order to nail those simple things and look elegant, I now firmly believe it is necessary to put in the hours to practice basic techniques. By the way, as I have also written before, there are certain habits for effective practice which will optimise the time spent. Nevertheless there is really no free lunch in my opinion.

So, during this period when many people are planning their new year’s resolution, have you ear-marked some time for practicas… 🙂

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