I don’t just value patience and respect of the relationship between two partners in the milongas. I also value that same patience and respect in practicas. I was thinking about it again last weekend, and then I came home to read posts by both Debbi and Danzarin on exactly this topic.
In most situations, I consider myself a fairly accommodating, pleasant, sensitive person. I pay close attention to anyone I am interacting with and try to be kind and positive. But then … then there is practicing.
I swear, while practicing anything I can turn into a monster. As a child I would bang on the piano keys in frustration. I would let out a shrill, high note to express exasperation while practicing flute. I would toss my kanji flash cards around the room while studying Japanese. And I would fall on the floor in the middle of the empty dance studio when my choreography didn’t work with me. The difference is that, with all of these solitary pursuits, I could give into that moment of frustration and then take a breath and collect myself again. No problem. With tango, I have a partner to consider.
The hardest thing about practicing anything with a partner is knowing how to manage my own frustration. I am hard on myself. I demand excellence from myself. And if I am not careful, I can take it out on my partner – or begin imposing my standards for myself on him. Even worse, the closer I am to my partner, the more open communication we have off the dance floor, the easier it is to express that frustration without filters. It is the same reason why my mom has experienced my most vile moods and hurtful words. But it is with these people that we should offer the most kindness, the most care in how we speak and act with them.
Just as I want my leader to step onto the dance floor and care for me, I should be stepping on the practica floor and taking care of my leader. I need to show patience when he is working out a step that is new. And if I begin to get impatient, maybe I should just try to do it myself and remember how difficult leading can be. I need to remember that each partner is new, and something that I practiced to perfection with one partner may need adjustments and time to work with someone new. I need to remember that in these situations I have to work just as hard to make it work, because I constantly need to refine and adjust my following. And I should be patient when asking him to try something for my own benefit and practice.
I also need to remember to ask for breaks. Time for deep, centering breaths, to remember that I enjoy improving in practice so that I can more deeply enjoy dancing. I do all of this for the pleasure of dancing. There is no reason to reach those levels of frustration, especially when walking away, recentering, and returning to practice later is sometimes all I need to make it work. Sometimes, I just have to remember to relax and have fun.