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Today’s #Tango Thought 109: The Negative of Tango.

There is distinct negative side to Tango. It’s not all flowers and love as some would have you believe. It is a very challenging, and difficult dance to master physically, emotionally, intellectually, musically, psychologically, kinesthetically, and sociologically. Ask anyone that has done any deeper level of work to improve their dance, and they’ll tell you that it is at once eye opening, blistering, noxious and wholly demoralizing. Demoralizing to the point where they want to quit dancing altogether. Take for instance Gustavo Naveira’s weeklong seminars for instance, anyone that’s done them will tell you that after the first hour (and they’re generally 3 to 6 hrs each day), that their heads are spinning and they feel like children afterwards. So this isn’t supposition, it’s demonstrable, repeatable, concrete fact of happenstance. It happens.

Depending on the teacher that they’ve chosen to help them with their dance can change the quality of that experience for the student. If that particular teacher bases their entire teaching apparatus on honesty and truth in what the student is doing, then it’s going to be one helluva ride, emotionally (and that’s putting it mildly) for a variety of reasons. Most notably self incrimination, hyper self awareness, and feelings of isolation. If said chosen teacher does not base their teaching on truth but rather catering to the ‘feelings’ of the student, and very little substance of technique, then well…the teaching/student/learning experience itself will be a very joyful one. However there won’t be a whole lot of change in the student’s dance and/or technique, and the student will never know the difference either, except when later on they realize that they’re dancing with the same people, doing the same things, and they’re still not ‘improving’. Put simply the student must be challenged on every level, otherwise the teacher isn’t doing their job.

In both cases, the student will be out money. It’s just that one of those cases the student will start the long process to improve, and the other, not so much with that. Honesty, or truth in this case, is absolutely crucial to their improvement and their continued development. Without that honesty of how the student is walking, how stable they are, whether or not they’re using their arms or hands, whether or not the student is pushing or pulling or hanging, for example then there is no honest assessment of skills, and abilities. And without that honest assessment, change in the student can not happen.

Just as a side note — Change comes from 2 factors: 1.) An clear, unvarnished, appraisal of a given situation. 2.) A desire for said situation to be better (not different) than before. Put this another way. If you go into your mechanic to have your car examined because it’s making a noise that it didn’t make before, and s/he tells you that it’s nothing and to ignore it. You generally listen, right ? However, when your car starts billowing smoke a few weeks later, you realize that you shouldn’t have ignored it, and in fact you’re going to fire that mechanic and find one that can get things fixed quickly, easily, and albeit cheaply. The same thing is true in Tango. You’re going to find a teacher that will be honest with you and not blow smoke up your ass. What is not true is that while there is billowing smoke from the heaping wreckage of your Tango life, or so you believe, is that it is fixable. It’s changeable. It’s just going to take time, patience, and lots of due diligence. And in case you’re not clear, that’s the ‘blistering’ part noted above. 😉 

This is the negative of Tango. Unfortunately the honesty that you need, that you require, also has a major detracting factor: It’s wholly disheartening! The more honest you are, the more that you begin to nitpick everything that you thought was safe, and that makes you feel as if you can’t do anything right. While at the same time feeling as if you shouldn’t bother to improve at all if you can’t do anything right. Which is why most Tango teachers take it easy on their students because they fear that they’ll never, ever, come back if they spoke the unvarnished truth. While this is easier on the younger student, it’s even more challenging with the older one. The older that you are, the longer the process takes for change to occur. And that means more time spent on one’s foundation doing drills and exercises to improve the clarity of your movements so that you respond as though it’s instinctual. The problem is that it’s depressing. It’s awful. It’s painful. And everyone that you dance with feels wrong. Everything you do is just one long screw up. There’s an error here, error there, error, error, error.

Before we go any further you’re going to ask “Jesus! When does it get better ?”. Answer ? Poco a poco. Little by little. Change does not come in one heaping basket, it comes in little tiny bits and fits. Change doesn’t happen over night. It happens over a period of time. That period of time, depends on many factors. Not the least of which is the effort that you put into that change.

How do you deal with the Negative ? The answer to this question is wide and varied. And it really depends on the personality of the person involved. However, here are some helpful things that can help you to cope with the depression that is going to come from that needed honesty and change.

1.) Breathe. No. Seriously breathe. This isn’t personal. You’re only making it personal. This is about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. It will change with time, patience, and understanding.

2.) “It’s Not The End of the World”. The fact is that it’s just a dance, and it’s just Tango and the world is not going to suddenly stop spinning if you can’t do an Ocho properly (proper is sometimes ‘subjective). This statement is one way to at once distance yourself from what you’re doing but at the same time make it not so life threatening. To be fair there does need to be a personal investment in how and what you’re doing otherwise the whole process of change isn’t going to happen. However this tiny little statement will keep things real for you.

3.) Talk a little. Get it out of your system. You’re spending waaaaay too much time in your own head. So get it out of your head, and that means talk to your Tango friends, they won’t understand it all that much because the process is different for each of us. But talking about what you’re going through will help. However that’s not enough. Be careful with this one, because a good portion of them, especially the men will try to show you ‘X’ trying to problem solve, when this isn’t about ‘X’, but rather about how you’re feeling about ‘X’.

4.) Write a little and then Burn it. Yup. You read that rightly. Burn it. Trash what you’ve written. This is really just a way to get what’s in your head, out of your head, and then to discard those thoughts. That’s all. You don’t need to send this to anyone, it’s just for you. If you need to publish this stuff, then go ahead, but it’s not necessary. Write it down, write out how you’re feeling and then here’s the hard part, dump it. And then start again until you don’t need to write it down any more.

and lastly…

5.) Talk To Your Teacher. Tell them how you’re feeling. They’ve been where you are more than likely. They may actually have something can help you to change your perspective slightly, and really that slightness is probably all you really need to hear. Don’t mishear this as you want them to change what they’re doing (assuming they’re the honest type of teacher), because it’s actually changing you, and you want the change, no….you’re just expressing the fact that you’re feeling depressed and feel like you can’t do anything right. That’s all.

The fact is… The reality is that if you’re doing your job right, you’re going to feel absolutely awful about your ‘progress’. Things are going to suck for a while. That is a fact. However, how you deal with that ‘suckage’ is entirely up to you. Put this another way “Pain is inevitable, Suffering is optional”. Which is to say that pain in life is going to happen. It’s part of the human experience. Suffering on the other hand, is entirely within your grasp to change. #SocialDance #ArgentineTango #TangoDancing

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