Confidence, and the paradox of private lessons


I was thinking about something Maeve said in my last lesson with her. She remarked on the confidence of my walk, and wanted me to bring that to my ochos.

I realised then something that has been holding me back in my private lessons …

In milongas, I’ve very much taken to heart the ‘actitude‘ approach. I have some of my focus on technique, of course, but I’m aiming to have more of it on my partner and the music (more on that in a moment).

I know that both elements are more important than the finer points of technique at that moment. I’ve experienced that from the other side: give me a choice between a follower with perfect posture and balance, and one who is messy but really present with me in the dance, and I’ll choose the latter every time. So I do aim to give it my all!

But my approach in privates is very different. There, I’m very conscious of my technique being under the microscope. I don’t want to make mistakes, and I especially don’t want to be repeating mistakes I’ve been told about multiple times before.

All of which makes my dance in privates much more tentative than in real life. Paradoxically, something which should make me more confident – teachers fully focused on helping me improve my dance – actually makes me feel less confident while it’s happening.

I wrote recently about a need for a different approach to my privates. I think I also need to try an experiment: dance as I would in a milonga, at least for the opening dance.

It might be horrible! My teachers may be shocked at my technique, or lack of same, when I’m not fully concentrating on it. But it at least seems worth trying to see whether it addresses the confidence feedback, and whether it helps make my lessons more grounded in my actual dance.

Partner then music

I’ve read that at one level in the dance, people focus on the steps first. At the next level, it’s music first. Beyond that is a level where it’s partner first, music second.

That final one had never really made sense to me. How could you focus less on the music than your partner?

But it is now starting to make sense. If my partner is doing a slower pivot than I intended, for example, it’s more important to stay connected to her than to try to rush to catch up with the music.

There are two possibilities in such cases. One, she’s just slow, in which case I can figure out a way to match the music at that slower pace. Two, she’s drawing my attention to another way to interpret the music, in which case I can both adapt and experience the music in a new way.

I do now have experience of each of these. All at a fledgling level, of course, but it still feels like an important step in the right direction.

Image: Shutterstock

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