Tango Topics | Exploring Your Dance

Today’s Tango Thought 111: Tango Frustration.

Contrary to what you may have heard, the reality of Tango for some people is, as a Lead as well as a Follow, is not all happy and lovely. The fact is that some of those dancers go to the Milonga knowing that they are going to sit, a lot. And that sitting leads a winding path through a host of emotions that ultimately lands them on the door step of Tango Frustration.

One reason why someone gets to the door step of Tango Frustration is the obvious part, there’s no one to dance with. To be clear, there are plenty of people to dance with. It’s just that for these folks, for a variety of reasons, there aren’t any. Either the available possible partners are too compressive in their embrace, they’ll wander all over the floor, they can’t find a beat to save their lives, they hang, they pull, they push, they chat at them while dancing, they correct their dance while dancing with them, they ask for feedback at a milonga, they have bad breath, they reek of body odor or too much perfume. They’d love to dance if these things weren’t happening…but they are.

One more reason why someone gets to Tango Frustration is because there aren’t any partners that want to dance with them, so as a direct result of this, said dancer ends up sitting or standing around a lot and not dancing. This is never more prominent than in the Row of Women That Sit or the Row or Men That Stand.

Another reason why Tango Frustration occurs is that there are too few ‘good’ dancers that accept their Cabeceo or Mirada. While this topic is not going to discuss the very probable reasons why this happens, as has already been mentioned in Mirada: Asking A Man To Dance, or Cabeceo: Asking A Woman To Dance, or Lead Bashing, or Follower Bashing. No, today’s Tango Thought is about managing the frustration that occurs for a lot of dancers.

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More than likely the frustration comes from one’s own expectation. The expectation that you’re going to get dances. It’s not a crazy idea that you’re at a Milonga to … dare it be said, to … eeek…. dance! So therefore it’s not out of the realm of possibility that you dance. Crazy right ? However, the expectation is that you’re going to dance often. This is the beginning of the expectation and the pathway that leads to frustration.

The fact is that the better we become, the more choosey we become, while at the same time, we also dance less, not more. At the same time, the better we think we are (operative word in the sentence ‘think’, which is actually part of the problem with the expectation), we tend towards believing that we ‘deserve’ better and more frequent dances than the flavor of the month or with the flavor of the month for that matter. Again these are expectations, and really comparisons that others are doing more while we sit tapping our feet to the beat of a really good tanda! 🙁

At the same time we really do need to learn to manage our expectations that we’re not going to dance a lot, and instead focus on other things: The music, conversation with others, engaging in the social aspects of the dance really. There’s a reason why it’s called a “Social Dance”, and this is it. While you’re there to dance, you’re also there to be friendly with other people, chat, hang out, getting to know others. More than likely they’re experiencing the same thing you are. They’re not dancing right now, and are wondering if they suck, of why ‘X’ isn’t dancing with them today and they danced with them before, why not now ? You’re probably going through the same series of questions in your minds. Misery loves company. So here’s a good idea, talk about it with others, you may find that you’re having the same issues.

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One way that we can change our expectations, and actually have a bit more fun, is to swap shoes, and swap roles, and dance that way. At least you’re dancing, and besides you might learn something about your own role in the process. Swapping roles may seem like heresy or you can’t do that or whatever story you’ve told yourself, but the reality is that swapping roles is more accepted today than anything else. It allows for a more well rounded dancing experience, and at the same time can and does teach you a lot about why things work they way that they do, which can factually change your dance.

Still another way that we can change our expectations is to take a little break from the Milonga environment, go outside, step away from the Milonga for a bit. It’s not going to kill you if you miss a tanda or two or even three. The funny thing is that there is always another milonga, and another tanda somewhere down the line. Don’t get wrapped up in having to have this tanda with that partner. Instead take a little break and get some air.

One more method that is quite popular, drowning your sorrows in a glass of wine. NOT. It does work. However, it does not solve the ultimate problem. The reason why you’re not dancing and how to solve for ‘X’.

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Let’s assume for the moment that the following is true: You’re currently taking private lessons to clean up your issues. And have been for a while. Either through a private Tango Intensive, or with a series of local teachers. And you ‘feel’ that you’ve improved. The problem is still with you to a limited degree, you have Tango Baggage. Meaning that there are people out there that have a perception of you and how you dance, and that perception is not going to change any time soon. That is > unless you have a teacher that is actively working on changing your Tango Baggage. Meaing that they’re out there dancing with you and showing you off on a regular basis. People do witness this. They do see that you’re dancing with X who doesn’t dance with just anyone. Honestly this one is going to take a while to fix. Baggage ,once loaded up, is hard to dispel and takes a few months to a year or so of ‘change’ to fix the social side of the problem. The social side ? That’s where your technique may have improved, but you still carry around people’s perceptions of what you dance like. 

Let’s assume again the same parameters as above, only in this instance, the issue isn’t necessarily your baggage, but really the community you dance in. You’ve reached your limit of what’s acceptable. In this case, the only real solution to this problem is to get out of town, immediately. You need to travel. Honestly, doing so will open your Tango horizons on multiple levels. And to be clear, this is Traveling for Tango. This is not necessarily going to Buenos Aires, but rather getting outside your local scene, and often. Like for instance, if you’re a Boston dancer, go to New York, or Montreal. If you’re New York dancer, go to Buffalo, Ithaca, DC, or Montreal. If you’re a San Francisco dancer, you want to head to LA or Portland, or Seattle. And the same with those dancers from those cities. Swap it up. IF you’re Berlin dancer, head Hamburg, Frankfurt, Cologne, or Stuttgart. Or if you wanted to go international (still assuming you’re from Berlin), then Amsterdam, Paris, Prague, Florence, Budapest, or Vienna awaits just to name a few. Or if you want to jump on the marathon circuit, start signing up for the marathons, about 6 to 9 months in advance of the actual date of the event. There are loads of options here without having to leave the relative confines of your native continent. The whole idea is to travel, go experience other tango communities. The downside to this is that no one knows you. The upside to this is that no one knows you. There are trade offs in either direction. However, you’ll no longer be faced with the same 50 people at your local milongas.

These are just some ideas as to how to manage your Tango Frustration, more to follow later. There are other ‘more radical’ ideas.

  110: Practice (Part 8) | 112: Toe vs. Heel 

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