"I haven't had a decent tanda in months," said a fellow dancer who is thinking of quitting tango. "I wasn't having fun," said another who is taking a break from dancing at the moment. "There aren't any good dancers out there to dance with me," another person complained to me at a milonga.
I have felt all of these things about every dance form I've done over the past 30 years of dancing. In fact, if I still approached my dancing the way I used to, I would no longer be dancing or teaching dance, because I would have quit every dance form I do.
I rarely go through periods of burn-out about teaching dance, so why is going dancing so much more difficult to sustain?
For me, teaching dance is always different. Even the same person needs different things from me on different days. There are always new combinations to teach and new people to teach. I work on improving my teaching, so I constantly try new exercises and approaches to technique. As I continue learning, I have more information to share; my teaching is continually improving.
I didn't always feel this way about dancing. I would go to the milonga, grump about the quality of partners available, and come home disgruntled. My partner asked me why I even bothered to go out dancing, because I was always in a bad mood when I got home. The three complaints at the top of this post were my mantra.
I realized that I either had to quit dancing (and quit teaching), or find a way to enjoy dancing again. Here is what I changed:
- I go to the milonga to dance with nice people and their energy. When I dance with someone nice, I feel their positive energy move through me for the entire tanda. I feel happier and better after the tanda.
- I dance with my friends and with my students: I focus on creating more community.
- I dance with my sweetie. He is an intermediate tango dancer, but a very advanced human :-) I look for other advanced humans who are not yet advanced dancers, and dance with them.
- I dance with my girlfriends. If I only dance with the guys, I never have enough time to catch up with the women. I enjoy leading, but mainly it is an excuse to have fun with my friends.
- I dance with at least one beginner a night: after all, if no one dances with the beginners because they might look bad (OMG), then the beginners never get better.
- I allow myself to make mistakes. I goof off and have fun. I don't take tango as seriously as I did before. I smile. I talk during tandas sometimes.
- I seek out people who respect their partner's dance and other people's space: if they are sweeping the floor with my body, I am not having fun. If they are leading double boleos in milonga, I won't dance milonga with them. If they want aerial boleos on a crowded floor, I dance with feet on the floor, protecting the dancers around me.
- I go dancing when a good DJ is playing good music. The music really matters to me. I avoid alternative music for tango because it doesn't really speak to me (To the alternative folks: I have no problem with YOU liking it; it's just not my thing).
I accept that I only have a memorable, top 10 tanda about once a year or every few years. Those tandas are magical, and I remember them in detail. What I've noticed, however, is that most of them happen with really nice people with good energy who happen to also be very musical and tuned into me as a dancer. Great technique without great feeling just doesn't do it for me anymore.
I almost always have a good time now when I go out for tango. If I go out solo, when I get home, my husband asks me how the night went, and I can say, "I had fun!" almost all the time.
Your approach may not be my approach, but try out STARTING the night with a different goal, and see if you have more fun.