Lessons without dance are too painful right now

Lessons without dance

There’s never been a time like this before in anyone’s living memory, and we’re all feeling our way through the darkness here.

The challenges we each face also depend on our circumstances and our personalities. In general, I’m incredibly fortunate when it comes to the circumstances part …

Personality-wise, I’m an optimist and a make-it-happen kind of guy, so again have an easier time with it than many. But that make-it-happen part does have a bit of a downside: what do you do when you can’t?

Tango is where this has been the greatest challenge. There’s nothing I can do to make milongas happen. There’s nothing I can do to make in-person lessons happen.

So far, I’ve been focusing on the two elements I can control: video lessons, and technique practice. I felt if I kept working on those, then at least I’d remember how when we finally get to dance again.

But, where I am right now, lessons without dance are just too painful.

Before the lockdown, I was taking privates once a fortnight, and dancing three times a week. That meant I’d have six milongas to put each lesson into practice. Sure, there would be the usual ‘two steps forward, one step back’ phenomenon, but the overall trajectory was clearly an upward one.

But without the milongas, there’s no progress. That’s frustrating. And no opportunity to put it into practice in dance, which is even more frustrating.

In theory, I can dance with Steph. We even had a video lesson specifically geared to finding a way to make this work with our very different levels and tastes in music and pace. Diego and Emma had some really great ideas there. But the reality is that this isn’t happening, and that’s because the fundamental differences in our dance are, well, fundamental:

  • I can only do a fraction of what Steph can do
  • I love dancing slowly to lyrical music; Steph loves dancing quickly to rhythmical music
  • Steph is learning to lead, and I’m a truly incompetent follower

My attitude so far has been that lessons and technique practice are what will keep the tango fires burning. But, right now, I think there’s the danger of the opposite happening. First, that all the work with none of the reward means that tango is starting to feel like exactly that: work. Second, that lessons where I’m constantly struggling with the basics could become soul-destroying. Far from stoking the fire, it could extinguish it.

So, for now, I’m going to forgo the lessons. I’m also going to limit my technique practice to things I enjoy, when I’m in the mood. I’ll walk to the music, because that has always felt like dance. I’ll do lapices to the music from time to time, and even do some dissociation exercises to the music, because there’s enough challenge to each to be satisfying. But all of those things, I’ll do them when I feel the desire, not daily because I think I ought to.

There’s a risk to this, of course – but there’s perhaps an even bigger risk to struggling on.

Finally, I’m not saying this is a done deal, that this will remain my decision for however long it is until we can finally dance again. As I said at the beginning, we’re all feeling our way through the darkness here. Maybe in a few weeks I’ll feel differently. But, for now, this feels like the right decision for me. We have an enforced break, and I’m giving myself permission to take one.

Image: Shutterstock

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