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February 24, 2009

Feeling stressed?

This may be coincidental, but in the space of a month, ‘stress’ has been mentioned as a factor (by followers) which is keeping them away from Tango at some stage.

Although a little surprised, I can fully sympathise with the sense of anxiety faced by beginners. It just so happens that I do still vividly remember, as beginning leader, the insecurity and perhaps the often-unfulfilled desire to “perform” on the dance floor all those years ago. However, perhaps at that time,

  • only practicas were regularly held (milongas were were few and far between),
  • people were pretty much of similar standards,
  • small groups meant everyone got to know each other well after a while,
  • goals were similar,

these feelings eventually went away. However, I must say that at no point was ‘stress’ something that would drive me away from the dance floor.

After all, Tango is a social dance, as we have so often heard mentioned, no?

At a milonga, people gather socially to share a common hobby – dancing, as well as enjoying music that is appropriate to Tango. No more and no less. In reality, it’s not even necessary to know the history of the music, the cultural contexts, the prevalent fashion, etc., in order to enjoy the dance in the company of your friends. It’s not such a serious business that should lead to the proverbial sleepless nights. On the social dance floor, everyone is equal. If someone has better dance skills, either that person has been dancing for a longer period, or that he/she has simply praticed more diligently. Life goes on.

There are no complicated rules we need to follow. The only REAL etiquettes one needs to observe are the usual ones that we all follow in any social situations: having fun but not at the expense of other people around you. In Tango terms, this means observing the line of dance and looking after your partner, e.g. leaders not throwing or lecturing to the followers, followers not collapsing on the leaders but able to maintain their own balance.

Having said that, we also need to recognise that in order to be good at something we need to practice, as I have already mentioned in, e.g., the 10,000 hour rule. As far as I know, there are no short-cuts, although having proper instructions, and the right advice can accelerate this process, as shown by the results of the regular practicas at IXI Danza since 2006. I don’t really subscribe to the thinking that one can continue to improve by only dancing in the milongas. I feel it’s important, especially for people up to the intermediate level to attend practicas and possibly classes, if they intend to be good at Tango.

These days, as the community matures somewhat, there can be a vast gap in “experience” – in terms of time people have been in the Tango community, not necessarily equating to real dancing abilities, that is – between the new-comers and regulars in the local scene. I believe, this coupled with the culture for excellence built up in the last couple of years, has a tendency to make people feel superior/inferior depending on which side of the fence you are on.

So, my advice is that it’s time to revisit the basics. Think of the things which attracted you to Tango in the first place? Hang on to those thoughts and enjoy the living moment, stress-free.

Read more from Musings, Social Dancing

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