The Social Drive of Tango

Johanna has told me that she doesn’t understand my constant drive to get better, and right away. I have to admit that I don’t understand it, either. I mean, I have been a dancer all my life. I have always wanted to be good, but that did not always translate into hard, consistent effort. I would attend dance classes faithfully and sometimes practice outside of class, but it rarely took on an aggressive plan to excel.

So why do I have this attitude now? I know how to relax, how to enjoy my dancing when I am in a milonga. But then I leave and, once the high has worn off, immediately start thinking about how to get to the next level. What I could work on to get better. Why do I do this? I have no real desire to perform or teach, which were driving forces behind my dancing when I was younger.

My theory is that the social aspect of tango is what drives me. Not only can I see the bar set by dancers who are better than I am, I can also see the quality of leaders they attract. It isn’t about getting to a certain level to be able to someday pass through an audition and perform; it is getting to a certain level to be invited by leaders I respect and enjoy each night I go out dancing. Immediate feedback, immediate gratification. (Well, of course it takes a while for all the practice to make its way onto the dance floor, but once it does …) Add to that my naturally competitive nature and I can see why I am so driven to improve.

This is probably most evident in my blog, though. On a day to day basis, when I go out to dance, I rarely worry about these things. I am happy with how well I dance after such a short time, and I enjoy where I am – I don’t need to improve to have a good time, I just want to. I believe that some level of this attitude is beneficial, so that our communities stay fresh and growing while simultaneously being happy with themselves just as they are.

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5 thoughts on “The Social Drive of Tango

  1. Thank you for sharing. It is a pleasure to read your blog.My answer to the initial question would be: because in tango, working toward improvement is extremely gratifying (instantly as well as in the long run).The more skills I acquire, the better tango feels for me and my partners. Dancing just becomes more and more enjoyable. That magical connection on the floor happens more often, and with any kind of partners, not only the “advanced” ones.At least, that has been the case for me, right from the start and all along my 2 years (and some change) in tango.

  2. Thank you for the comment! I completely agree, I have had the same experience with the short and long-term gratification. What’s interesting to me is how this is true for all of the dances I do, and yet only in tango am I so driven to constantly get better at this rate.

  3. I wish more followers would have the drive you do. Too often one see dancers stop improving and transforming into permanent “intermediate” dancers.

  4. I agree with Sorin: we should always strive to improve, no matter what we are doing or for how long we have been doing it. In fact, just the other night I discovered a detail which affected my giros to the left. I asked my partner – a good friend – if he noticed any difference between the “before” and “after”, and he did. Thus, after more than 12 years of dancing, I am still “improving”. The comment that inspired this post, however, was more about how some things just take time. No matter how much we practice and take classes, or how driven we are 🙂

  5. Maybe it is because the better you get, the better the experience you have. I could have stayed at my current level and have no worries of getting dances from the best followers on the floor. But I am still taking privates from the best instructors and thinking of ways to improve. I guess that the drive separates good dancers and mediocre ones.

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