My, what a forthright, boldly honest appraisal in My Tango Diaries. And one that must resonate universally. It felt like it could have been me making exactly the same confessions and expressions of hope and expectations for the future. I’ve been actively wrestling with the same concerns and feelings recently, and think I may have some useful ideas. I’ve been thinking of doing a blog post myself, and perhaps you’ll let me sketch them out here as a first draft.
Approach to taking lessons
Lessons: recognize – before, during, and after – that a lesson is an artificial construct and may not fairly or completely represent how we actually dance socially. You have someone “grading” or “testing” you (we at least hope compañeros are not doing that quite so actively at a milonga), or at the very least have “expectations” for you. In the stop and start of making corrections and giving demonstrations, there is an interruption to the natural flow of a dance, a tanda, a milonga. In a lesson we are thinking and feeling about so much more than just dancing. So I give myself a break on self-evaluation, instead focusing on what I need to know to be able to self-correct when practicing or dancing.
Excuses: none, ever. Try to not even give mental voice to them. Sure, we’ve seen enough different teachers at lessons and workshops to know that they are (at least seemingly) not always consistent even with themselves or in their dancing, much less with each other. Sure, we know that we have good and valid (as well as poor and false) reasons for not performing up to the standard we hold for ourselves. None of it makes a difference. Giving voice to an excuse shuts down the other — whether it’s our own better selves or a teacher or friend.
Certainly “no excuses” is not to say that we don’t honor our own capabilities and knowledge, opinions and desires, and stand up for ourselves or others when called for. No, it says that our first duty is to seek to understand what we are experiencing. Did we hear that correctly? Did we understand them? Did they clearly say what they meant? Do we both need more information or discussion? Is there additional information outside the two of us that can be brought to bear? Does it matter?
In a vague sense it is like martial arts, where if we merely shield ourselves or block a blow we must absorb the force with a jolt. whereas if we redirect the force, examining and understanding it, then we are able to turn it into something useful, directing it to our own purposes.
To be continued . . .
(As ever, your comments and observations are most welcome. If there are not yet any comments, click the “No comments” links under this blog post to start them.)Thanks! –David