DRAW your Argentine tango future!

My favorite idea of the week

I like to surf TED Talks while I knit or spin fiber (my main hobby right now). This gives me all sorts of ideas about tango. Here is the one I watched yesterday: Draw Your Future. Patti Dobrowolski gives a vibrant, short talk about designing positive change in your life. You draw what you want to see happen, and then work on making the drawing reality.

What if we apply this to our tango?

Recently, many of my students have asked me, "Why am I doing this?" They have spent a lot of time, money and effort to learn tango. They go out dancing--and sit. They ask people to dance, and get rejected. They feel ignored, not welcome, and invisible. This includes my most advanced student, men with years of tango experience, and beautiful, young women with intermediate tango skills. Instead of quitting, what if we all applied Patti Dobrowolski's ideas to improving our tango life?

An example

I tried this with one student already. She took almost no time to draw it: she already knew what she wanted to be different. I asked her to list three things to change into her dream, and she had two in under a minute. All three goals were spot-on in my opinion, and all three were practical, reasonable, and could be achieved! Now, we have a plan to work on!

Translation (not word-for-word): "I have my axis, but anything like criticism, or a dancer who is not dancing well with me, or a bad day, blows me off my axis." The green is wind, energy, things pushing the dancer off-balance. Instead, she wants to add glide to her dance, more flexibility/bounce to her alignment, and warm, positive energy coming off of her that makes her feel confident about her own dance. She wants people to see her dance by, and ask, "What was that [masked] woman?"

Plan so far: part of each private lesson will be spent on strengthening her body so that she can better maintain balance and alignment without tightening her body. Part will be spent on how to use her feet, knees and hips better so that her movement smoothes out to a glide. Part of her "homework" is to go out dancing more, to practice. And part is working on her self-confidence, partially by me pretending to dance badly while she manages to still dance with grace and balance: no matter who takes her out on the dance floor, she will know she can look good and dance well. Part will be personal work on her own.

Your turn!

So, I am asking you to consider watching that short video, and then trying out this idea: draw your current tango experience, and draw the future that you envision. What is it that bothers you about your tango/tango experience now? What would you like to have happen by a year from now?

Would you draw YOUR tango future and send it to me? I would love to hear your transformation goals and how you plan to get there!




The duende of tango

I think of "duende" as the "passion" or "soul" of something.  Merriam-Webster defines it as "the power to attract through personal magnetism and charm."

What is it that attracts people to tango, and then holds them in tango's embrace?

I don't think it's the steps of tango, or the music, although I am hooked on both myself. I think it is tango's demand that both the leader and the follower must interact with another person's energy and spirit, in order to dance well. To dance tango, you need to take an emotional risk and open yourself to another soul.

Beginner's mind

What made me think of this was a joyous, laughing beginner who tore up the floor last night at my lesson.   When I fired up my Naughty Toddler exercise, he flew around the dance floor with a more experienced follower, and led her in moves that I KNOW he does not know. He put his entire heart and soul into that dance, and it was breathtaking. 

Now, tango is not a solo dance, so you need a partner willing to risk all as well. Last night, a quiet, sweet follower turned up the volume, met this beginner's energy, and did the best dance I've ever seen her do in a year of dancing. She looked phenomenal; she took risks I've never seen her take, and it paid off.

It looked FUN! It had passion, it had groove, it had soul; for a moment, the duende of tango peeped out.

Maintaining beginner's mind

All of the tango beginners who showed up quickly got the idea that the shared energy counted more than perfection of steps. As we explored, the more shy dancers started to play, smile, risk more, and began to dance with energy, with spirit, with soul.

More experienced tango dancers were less sure. I saw the skeptical looks exchanged by the "experienced" dancers (something along the lines of "I think she must be nuts" as far as I can read facial expressions). A teacher is telling us that it doesn't matter how well we do the steps?!?!

Some of those dancers did not walk on the dance floor with an open mind. When I left, they were practicing dance moves--without any spark of connection. Well, you can't change anyone's mind except your own :-)

One more experienced dancer took the challenge. Over the course of a few dances, I watched tentatively try out "misbehaving" as a follower. She started to smile. Her dance improved, but it was not easy for her. I honor her for daring to step out of her comfort zone.

My job as a teacher

I used to think that teaching perfection in each step was my primary job as a teacher. After twenty-four years of teaching dance, I no longer believe that. In the past two or three years, I have come to realize that I needed to relearn how to teach, in order to serve my students better.

My job is to release joy, confidence and pleasure into the world; to facilitate personal fulfillment.  For some people, that does mean reaching perfection in a dance style, and I am happy to share my expertise (and my anal retentive nature!).

However, for most of my students, I find that their goal is NOT perfection. They have different goals: find a boy/girlfriend; spend time in our unconnected lives to touch other humans; to express themselves to music; to build balance and flexibility in order to dance into old age; etc. For all of them, they seek those magical moments during a song where two energies meet and two souls touch. Perfect dancing should be perfect connection. Tango entices because it offers an opportunity to reach that perfect connection every dance.

That is what I try to teach. Ask me about the Tiger Growling exercise sometime! Or, come to the Eclectic Dance at Norse Hall on Saturday night (lesson 7:30) and experience it for yourself!