Just Dancing

My shoe enabler is threatening to make me break my promise to wait until next year for a new pair of shoes. But … a shoe sale! And I already have colors picked out that I like …

Of course, it isn’t all about the shoes …

I have been thinking a lot about the balance between training and just dancing. There are a lot of strong opinions out there: From people who insist that you need technical expertise to be a good dancer, and continual classes or other training are necessary to maintain and improve your technique; to people who think that classes make people overthink, while just getting out and dancing in the milongas with your heart and soul will take you to the next level. I probably lie in the middle somewhere.

I love classes and believe that training is essential. We have all seen the people who take a couple classes and then, with great excitement, take to the milonga floor (and often wreak havoc in various ways). We have also seen the people who took classes enough to become competent and decided that was enough, and have since stagnated and become repetitive dancers. (Although that isn’t to say that everyone who jumps in quickly or stops training is like this.) The thing is, everyone needs a minimal amount of training to get started in any dance. There is a foundation of technique and rules that are necessary to know how to do it. And, like other dances, people who stop thinking about technique tend to stop improving. I know that without classes or instruction or practicas I tend to slide into bad habits or at least plateau.

But it can’t be all about classes, either. I have experienced, as I think most followers have, the leaders who have all the moves down to a T, who can lead me into most anything, but who lack that spark when they dance. The ones where you find your mind wandering even as you gancho, boleo, volcada, cross. You can’t fully experience tango without that musical, emotional, connection-seeking drive. And if you go into each dance consciously monitoring and judging your technique, or analyzing each little movement, it is incredibly hard to lose yourself in the dancing itself.

I heard my boss talk about this balance once, after a young dancer was injured. The dancer had exhausted himself through a weekend of workshops and then tried to perform. He was tired. And my boss said that the problem with being so tired is that this dancer did not have the years of technique driven into him, that when he got tired and tried to truly perform he fell into bad habits and did not protect himself. He got sloppy, and then he got injured. As tango dancers, we need that foundation of technique driven into us like second nature. Only then can we rely on that technique to support us as we connect and let go, as we just dance.


2 thoughts on “Just Dancing

  1. Beautifully articulated. I think that I arrive about where you do. Sometimes I even go in waves — lots of classes and lessons, less social dancing, then a break and only milongas. I’m approaching the “I want to take a bunch of lessons” point again. One thing I really appreciate about my current practice partner is we get together to practice *outside* of milongas, and dance (not practicing at all) during milongas. I think it’s important to make the distinction to myself, or I loose the “danceness” of the dance.~Ruthreadingthetea.com

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