(Disclosure: This is in some part based on my personal experience, but also on conversations with many others who have made similar journeys. As always, I may be wrong, but I’m not just guessing.)
There’s been a movement over the past 15 years, for some Modern Jivers to take up Tango. So what do you need to make this journey?
Here’s a few general principles :
Principle 1: Clear Your Mind
Remember that this is a new dance: most of what you know is “wrong” to a point:
80%: Totally Wrong
80% of the stuff that you know as a MJ dancer Will Not Work in Tango:
- Flamboyant energetic moves? No.
- Hand leads using Tension / compression? Irrelevant.
- Posture: Very different.
10% is mostly wrong
For example, patterns: there are a few common patterns in tango, like the giro. But much less than MJ – if MJ is 50% patterns / 50% technique, Tango is 5% patterns / 95% technique. So if your learning habits are pattern-based, you’re likely to learn much less, and much slower.
10% is Right!
The good news is, that 10% by volume is actually the really important stuff: Musicality, connection, style, body movement. So you can keep those 🙂
Everything else, throw away.
Principle 2: Don’t panic
OK, so you’re a tango novice. You feel like a lump, but everyone around you is graceful, confident, smiling. You’ll never get it. You’ll be a fake if you try.
Guess what? Most of the time, everyone else is faking it too, at least occasionally. Everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – has regular “tango crises”, moments when we think it’s never going to work, or when we suffer loss of confidence, or we think we’re actually getting worse. We all suffer regularly from imposter syndrome.
But as the MJ environment does not really produce that sense, so if you come from MJ, that’s an additional shock. Tango doesn’t aim to be easy, and you do need to be stubbornly persistent to make progress.
And it helps to know that everyone goes through the same process.
Principle 3: Embrace the differences
There’ a whole wealth of differences which are really subtle – some of which you may not even notice until years down the line. For example, eye contact in MJ is quite common, but almost unknown in Tango. And there’s the whole cultural thing about asking for, accepting and rejecting dance invitations – a separate article again.
You can beat yourself up about these, or you can accept that you’re not learning a new dialect, you’re learning an entirely new language, with different words, grammar, syntax and of course different cultural aspects built-in.
Future Planned Articles
- JiveTango dancing 3: TangoJive fusions
- JiveTango dancing 4: Social codes – similarities and differences