Monday, 1 August 2011

Rectifying ten-year 180° errors

It struck me this weekend what a difficult position people are in when, based on new information, they suddenly decide that what they have been "dancing" exactly the same way for years on end is not actually tango at all (I guess this might apply to other dances too, but let's stick to what I know) but something else entirely, and that, actually, they think that actual tango is much more interesting and generally better and they would really, really like to be dancing that instead.

For example, they decide to stop running around like a deaf psychotic spider, blaming their partners for everything that otherwise-inexplicably doesn't work well, and start dancing like a rational being who can walk on two legs and detect emotional content in music. This is suprisingly not-that-unusual. Ampster describes many only slightly smaller epiphanies very vividly.

But, in practical terms, it really must be a very tricky situation if you don't have somebody sharing the road with you like Ampster does. Changing established physical habits takes time and work. It means a lot of temporary failures. If you want to maintain a radical change of posture and embrace and movement for more than a few minutes, you're going to need constant practice and well-informed feedback. And that means that you're going to need new partners.

The people who danced with you before are at least willing to dance your old dance. Under the circumstances, that probably means that they aren't, at the moment, even able to dance your new dance (if you're right that the new one is better, then if they were, they would have been doing it already, and not dancing with you. Logic). The people who can dance your new dance, on the other hand, probably know what dance you've always danced. They already know to avoid dancing with you, because the chances are it's a bad experience for them and a pointless exercise; and it's going to take quite an effort to convince them to go anywhere near you.

This is not an easy problem, but it certainly is solvable, because lots of people have solved it over the years. I suppose there are two obvious options, and you could even try both at once:

  1. Change your regular milonga. Most of your regular partners will stay at the old one (you can always go back there to see friends) and at least some of the people at the new one won't remember you.
  2. Change your style of dress. This is the strongest possible signal that you have made a decision to change your dance.  It also goes very well with a change of posture. The sudden appearance or disappearance of a jacket and tie is powerful magic. For women, changing style is more complicated.
Obviously you could also talk about your experience and thoughts, which might make sympathisers come out of the woodwork who are willing to take a bit of a risk to bring somebody in their direction; and it might also persuade them that you won't blame them for your difficulties. [Edit: some better ideas in the comments].

I should think it takes a lot of patience and a lot of work. But if you're making that kind of decision, then you're deciding it's worth it.


ghost said...

Other options

Private lessons
Rather than trying to convince the people who can dance the way you want to, to actually dance with you, ask them the occassional question to indicate your new interest
Talk to your existing pool of dancers - there may be the odd one who is willing to give it a try (or even wants to!) Give it some time for other people to see you dancing differently.

random tango bloke said...

Actually can work the other way too. I started as a pretty good nuevo tanguero and then went milonguero. Every now and again i come across a follower who assumes that I cant do all the fancy stuff not that I choose not too.

msHedgehog said...

@Random tango bloke - I don't think I would call good (in the sense of musical and technically proficient) nuevo dancing spiderlike - it's just not my taste. As it happened, I was really thinking more about people who are really bad, like having a terrible posture and poor balance and a nonfunctioning embrace and no real idea of dancing at all, rather than people just deciding to change styles. But I didn't make that clear in the post. And the same sort of problem would apply, I suppose.

I suppose it's not really a problem if people think you can't do a thing that you don't want to do anyway. But it might show inexperience in them to think that. Myself, I wouldn't make that assumption.

Anonymous said...

I think you've hit on a difficult issue here. It's hard -- and therefore -- unusual for people to be able to rectify deep-seated and long-standing errors in their tango. Because it doesn't happen often, people are sceptical and may take a while to realise your dancing has changed for the better. Good luck!

@Random Tango Bloke I've known a few people who converted from nuevo to milonguero and vice versa (salon dancers tend to be more faithful to their style). But if you're dancing in London there are so few good leaders and so many women longing to dance I don't think your choice of style will be an issue. And I never assume someone doesn't lead a move because they *can't*. Every leader makes choices about what they do and don't want to lead.