Tango Topics | Exploring Your Dance

Today’s #Tango Thought 081: Practica

The word is Spanish and when translated to English, is its English cognate “Practice”.

Meaning “to perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency, or to carry out or perform (a particular activity, method, or custom) habitually or regularly.” That is the definition of what ‘Practice’ means. Note that there are some rather important words in there like “repeatedly”, “in order to improve”, “proficiency”, “habit”, “regularly”, and last but not least “skill”.

The point of Practice is to improve one’s skills, and to so on a regular basis. This is usually done through any number of methods. Like honest verbal feedback from either a teacher of your specific form, or another person watching you. Or visual feedback from either watching yourself in the mirror or via video. In either case feedback is an absolute requirement. Still another property is the regularity of the skill building you’re supposed to be doing, meaning that you set up some kind of consistent schedule to repeat the skill building exercise over and over and over again. And one more property, is that the point of Practice is to build one’s skills so that one increases one’s proficiency with the desired skills.

All of this should be second nature to the idea of a ‘Practica’. However, that’s not what actually happens. A Practica should be all of those things, skill building, feedback, some level of repetition in attendance, and skill building, and working towards proficiency. However, what actually happens is that most people treat the Tango Practica as if it were an actual Milonga, and very little, next to no Practice actually happens. Why ? Because for a good number of people, they don’t want to hear the necessary feedback that is required, so that goes right out the window, almost immediately. Next is that practice is work, and the Milonga part seems like more fun, so why bother with that whole work business because you go to have fun, not to do work. Still another is that this is really supposed to be fun, and you can’t possibly have any fun if you’re constantly picking something apart. What’s the point ?

To be fair there are some parts of the world (read that as Europe in general), where a Tango Practica is actually a Guided Class. Where you go with a specific partner, you do not rotate or swap partners, and you work on a specific piece of vocabulary, or a step, a pattern, or a figure over and over and over again. While the teacher watches you and corrects what’s going on for you. Think of it as a ‘refinement’ process.

In most of Buenos Aires (with one or two exceptions), the idea of a Tango Practica is an entirely different manifestation. It resembles the operational attitude of the ‘Open’ Practica. Meaning that you go, you ask a series of partners to dance, and you seemingly practice dancing. There are tandas of music, there are loads of people to dance with. They all dress up for the occasion. There is no verbal or visual feedback, no stopping to ask how things feel, or a teacher guiding you to do a series of steps, patterns, or figures, and you’re left to own devices to figure out, if any figuring happens at all, exactly what if anything is desirable or less than desirable.

Ideally a Practica should be a place for you build your skills, to practice your extensions, your walk, to work on your stability issues (as a Lead or as a Follower). It should be an open discussion about technique, music, and codigos for both roles. It should be a place where the rules of the Milonga don’t apply meaning that a Follower can invite a Lead for a song or a series of songs. It should be a space to invite and really encourage suggestions about how you feel as a Lead, or as a Follower. It should be a space to ponder, to reflect, to compare, to share, and more important, to think about what and how you’re doing what you’re doing. This is an  opportunity for you to explore vocabulary options and opportunities so that you can refine things and how they work with different partners, and to invite feedback so that you can get an honest opinion of how you are doing. All so that you can focus on your walk, your embrace, your posture, hands, head. All in effort to increase your skills and really your bodily sensitivity and hyper kinesthetic awareness of what your body is doing in space and time, to create greater and greater levels of bodily control, refining that control to the point where it becomes effortless and easeful. Without force. Without pressure. Without tension. Without compression. Without resistance. Without locking your ‘frame’. So that in the end you dance with ease and the ‘fun’ part…happens because you have built your skills to the point where there is no need to push and pull yourself or someone else around the floor. The ‘fun’ part just happens all by its lonesome.

The role of the Practica is to give you a place to expand, to try, to fail, to try some more, and to fail some more….to ‘play’ with ideas, concepts, to put them into the real world and see how they can fit into your dancing ideas. The role of the Practica is to forgo the rules of the Milonga which would prevent you from engaging in a conversation about Technique. This is done so that you can work on yourself and create some kind of mirror feedback as a check on reality instead of the echo chamber that so frequently happens for people. The confirmation bias that is makes you believe that what you’re doing is ‘ok’ when in fact it’s more than likely marred by any number of issues. The role of the Practica is to create a space where you can watch, learn, try, fail, explore, fail again, fail some more, succeed a bit, watch some more, rest, relax, and then get up and do it all over again. The role of the Practica is to PRACTICE, not a Milonga. #SocialDance #ArgentineTango #TangoDancing

080: Berlin | 082: Couple 

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