Tango Argentino > Not touchy feely

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Tango Distance, Mar 5, 2015.

  1. TomTango

    TomTango Active Member

    How do you enjoy the learning aspect of tango? Your well-written and well-ordered initial post and subsequent responses have me pegging you as a logical and process oriented person. If you are, the more analytic aspects of tango can be highly rewarding and addicting. The cause-effect relationship of lead and follow, the biomechanics of forces, breaking down the steps to learning a new sequence, then breaking it apart and improvising with it...those are things people can find just as enjoyable as the social dancing aspect, if not more so. It's one of the reasons so many engineers get into tango, and something I believe tango does especially well compared to other dances.

    I could be off the mark. But if I'm not, my advice would be to try to focus on these aspects of tango versus the touchy-feely side - at least at first.
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  2. Shoot, wish it would happen already for me. I'm an engineer and got into tango, more or less, about 9 years ago since my spouse was interested. Still can't get the hang of it, for various reasons, and it always feels like a huge grind to try and remember what I'm supposed to be doing while at the same time being aware of where my follower is at. Admittedly, tango is one one of the dances I do so am not totally concentrating on it alone, but would love to be able to cross over the threshold to where I can relax and just enjoy myself.

    In some ways I can sense that tango just isn't my dance, but I keep at it mostly for my spouse (she's OK with going by herself when I'm busy or just not up for going)

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  3. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    Don't try. Tango isn't about having a good memory, but about a good connection. Work on that, and the rest will fall into place. Just walking and pausing, rhythmically, in tune with the music and in tune with your partner is better tango than many people manage. Add an element, here and there, but no faster than you can assimilate it within your own dance.
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  4. Tango Distance

    Tango Distance Active Member

    RiseNFall, reading your post was a profound moment for me and boiled it down to a single sentence. You are right, my typical modus operandi was working perfectly professionally, and minimized those seconds of awkwardness at otherwise wonderful family gatherings where they would love me no matter what. Your post makes it obvious that my avoid/tolerate mindset is now interfering to a degee with this activity. That's great food for thought in how I move forward.

    If it's not too personal I would be interested in hearing about those mind bending things.
  5. RiseNFall

    RiseNFall Well-Known Member

    All of it is too long, but here is one story:

    Unlike you, I'm single. When I started dancing, my son was still home and I really couldn't go to the dance studio as often as I wanted to or needed to during the week. I really wanted dance classes to be offered at 10:00 AM Saturday morning, but they weren't. The only way to get more floor time was to...go to the open-to-the-public dances on Saturday night, where I knew almost nobody. This was not easy, particularly since the guys were not likely to ask me to dance--initially I had to ask them. I remember once I walked in, saw that there wasn't anybody I knew and I had a sinking feeling. There was a collection of women not dancing in a corner and a row of guys not dancing, but watching the dancing on the floor. I thought, "right, I am NOT in middle school" and walked up to a guy and asked him if he would like to finish the dance with me. He was delighted. That scenario has been played out many, many times: that's what I had to do at the time if I wanted to practice. It took a lot of courage on my part, but people watching me had absolutely no idea I was uncomfortable. I was reported to look completely at ease when inside I was thinking, "WHY did I think this was a good idea???"

    What is taking the most redefining of myself is competing. I am beginning to have moments where I do not think of myself as the competitor who might really prefer hiding in the corner. Really, I used to try to convince myself that I was anonymous on the dance floor--not a very effective approach!

    You get the idea: I want to do X; I do NOT want to do Y, but not doing Y is standing in the way of my doing X. Better figure out how to do Y.
  6. MintyMe

    MintyMe Member

    I am not touchy feely at all and neither is my (engineer) spouse.

    We took twice-weekly group lessons for about five years, always rotating and switching partners, and also making a point to do the same at social dances. Neither one of us were fond of it, but we endured.

    We eventually took private lessons and when the awkwardness of switching partners was removed, we really fell in love with dancing. The physical and emotional connection, to each other and to the music, sense of freedom and feeling of togetherness is awesome!

    This made us realize how much we preferred and enjoyed dancing together, rather than with strangers. We've carried that to the social dance floor too-- we almost never dance with other people. This is what has made us love dancing!

    I know all the reasons why we "should" be dancing with other people, etc. and I certainly admire the ease with which other people do that.

    But at some point I think it's ok not to have to get used to it.
    I mean, isn't it?
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  7. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    I would agree, there is nothing wrong in being that way. Not everyone enjoys the same thing.
    In the case of the topic starter, however, his wife wants to mingle, and she and her family are stirring him toward
    the change. And perhaps, he also wishes to try for that change.
    I believe taking a private lesson would be a useful suggestion in his case, too. A total stranger he has to dance with will be at the same time a professional who is ready to deal with and help him to get through his challenges, who will be patient, gentle, and who won't judge. That may be a lot easier.
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  8. MaggieMoves

    MaggieMoves Well-Known Member

    If you aren't OK with it with strangers, then I'd be perfectly fine with it. I've been dancing now for quite awhile, and while I prefer to practice with body contact I'll rarely do it in any kind of dance social... unless I know the guy previously... or I like him. :)

    The body contact seems to need trust for it to work though.
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  9. Tango Distance

    Tango Distance Active Member

    TomTango you got it right, engineer is my job title. That's a really good idea to think in terms of dynamics. Larry, greetings to another engineer. I know I complained about switching partners, but I have to admit it gave rise to a huge breakthrough for me, hopefully it is helpful to you.

    In the ballroom class and beginning of Tango class, dancing with my wife took forces comparable to shoveling snow -- it was a vertical wrestling match. (BTW the instructor told her to quit trying to lead.) I thought dancing was like playing solitaire -- if you had a really good memory and could remember and execute the steps then you were a good dancer. Mistakes were prevented or corrected through brute muscle force.

    Then one of the partners in the class moved like she was reading my mind whilst chit chatting at the same time about education. Instead of pounds of force it was just ounces. It was a big "aha!" moment for me. I suddenly realized dancing was more about communication by touch rather than physically pushing your partner around. My wife and I started working on that. She would push hard to one side, I would say something. BTW she said other guys she rotated through told her the same thing. If she started trying to lead, I would say "Let me lead" or "Follow my lead." Wow, it was magic! I call it "power steering." Moving around with just hints of pressure and body posture is great fun.

    Another partner in class closed her eyes, and to my surprise could follow along even when I didn't do the step sequence in the right order. That showed me that it must be tactile communication. I suggested it to my wife, and she actually dances better with her eyes closed. Being a visual learner (as many engineers are) this was very eye opening for me.

    Something else I'm finding fun is error recovery. I do amateur car racing, too. No matter how well you have memorized the course, the braking points, the line, etc. you make the occasional mistake. It is great fun to recognize the mistake early and correct it by doing something a little off-plan. I don't know that this is being a good dancer, but I'm finding it fun to recognize a mistake early (or another dancer suddenly forces you off your plan) and have to suddenly do something different. I'm not claiming to be good, but once in a while the feedback loop is fast enough it looks like I intended it all along -- great fun when it works out.
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  10. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I have a suggestion for you that might help both your discomfort and your wife's tendency to back lead.

    First some basic technique stuff:

    I'm going to assume that your teacher has talked about how the lead comes more from the chest than the arms. Even if you are dancing in an open embrace, you should be signaling your intention with your body and not just relying on moving the follower with your arms. Even in open embrace, tango is not danced with a rigid ballroom type "frame".

    It is the follower's job to move herself based on your lead (the follower that felt "light" to you was most likely doing this) It is not your job to move her. It is her responsibility to move however she needs to in order to maintain whatever initial relationship the 2 of you established for your bodies, unless you actively prevent her (some advanced moves require that... you wouldn't be doing those yet). So for example, if you are dancing 10" apart, totally parallel, with her directly in front of you (toe to toe) then that's the physical orientation that she needs to be trying to maintain.

    So here's an exercise you and your wife can do outside of class: Have her put her right hand on your chest with her elbow bent and pointing straight down to the floor. You do not touch each other in any other way. You can clasp your hands behind your back low (at butt height so your elbows aren't sticking out). That will also help you keep your shoulders down and project your chest forward where just letting them dangle at your side won't. If this is too hard at first, she can place both hands on your chest or on your biceps. Work your way towards using just her right hand on your chest. Regardless of where she places her hands, you do not touch her. If she pulls away from you or breaks the connection, it's her mistake. (unless of course you give an unclear lead)

    Now practice what you've been taught, without relying on the patterns (so she can't anticipate). She can't backlead you and she has to stay with you on her own.

    Work on this with her so you get the idea of how to lead with your body, dancing with someone you are comfortable with. Then try to find a practica to attend and tell the followers you dance with that you would like to practice that way so that you can learn to lead without overusing your arms. It will minimize contact with the woman while also improving your leading skills!

    As you get more accustomed to the dance itself, you can gradually increase the contact you have with other partners. You may even find that you are ready emotionally to do so. I'd also suggest making friends with some other people in the class and practicing with them outside of class. Then you can use this technique with that person to expand your comfort zone. You can even tell them the "real" reason you are doing it.

    You might also see if your teacher is receptive to you using this method in class (ask outside of class time) Tell the teacher flat out that you are doing it because of your discomfort with touch so s/he doesn't think you are critical of the teacher's instruction.
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  11. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Your instructor hasn't repeated the AT mantra of "There are no mistakes in tango?"
    For many of us the improvisational nature of the dance (as taught and danced by many) is one of the most attractive characteristics.
    The only thing better, (to this way of thinking) is to have no plan; rather being immersed in the moment, always reacting to the music, your partner, and the other couples on the floor.
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  12. Tango Distance

    Tango Distance Active Member

    RiseNFall: Thanks for your story. It's good to hear you were able to hide your discomfort and ultimately succeed.

    MintyMe: Thanks for your post, it's good to know there's kindred spirits out there.

    LotV: I have decided I do need to work on my hug thing. I'll write more on that in the next post. Private lessons are a good thought and we'll consider that. No firm plans yet but we are planning on more lessons.

    Zoop*: Great suggestions, thanks. I like your incremental approach thinking, too.

    SP: No, haven't heard that yet! I'm even more impressed by good dancers doing it in real time.
  13. Tango Distance

    Tango Distance Active Member

    I went to the Milonga!

    Short story is I had a great time. I had feared it would be a big pressure to dance with a bunch of different women kind of thing (the instructor strongly encourages switching in the class and iterates this every class), but it was quite the opposite and quite laid back. Everyone here at df was right. There were a good number of couples that never switched partners. It was also nice to see all the women were asked to dance multiple times, I don't think there were any female planchadoras. I found it interesting there were a handful of men that were there for a while, didn't approach any females that I saw, never danced, and then left, despite an excess of females.

    I felt like we noticeably improved in just one night. It was also fun to watch the other dancers. Our instructors are incredibly good and were obviously the best dancers there. My wife danced a song or two with our instructor. While it also showed I definitely have much to learn, I felt we were able to hang in there and we are looking forward to the next Milonga. Our class is large, but very few people from the class were there, I thought having our instructor there and his encouraging attendance in the class would have more of them come.

    I want to give a big thanks to the folks here for their words of encouragement.

    If you want to just read about dance, skip ahead to the next message. Now onto the touchy-feely stuff:

    When we arrived, the female instructor hugged my wife. I'm surprised she even recognized her as big as our class is. I thought, "Oh great, I hope I am not next!" There were a handful of moments like that.

    A couple of good comments here had me thinking about my thing about hugs. I had thought it was just I didn't particularly like them, analogous to not liking black licorice. I realized if it was just a preference kind of thing, why is it such a big deal then to me? Why did I feel compelled to do a long post on how to avoid others? Why did I feel sudden discomfort when I might be next in line for a hug? I might weigh twice as much as the female instructor, was I afraid she might beat me up? I started realizing maybe I wasn't being a dispassionate scientist on this issue.

    I finally admitted to myself it might be some kind of fear reaction -- a surprise to me as I'm am successful at many things and do things that others find scary. It was also a good insight for me that my discomfort is pretty narrowly defined. Guys bump into me during basketball, I shake hands, doctors touch me, and more without a problem. It seemed to be pretty narrowly confined to hugs with adults.

    I bought a book on fear, already the first chapter has been very eye opening for me. My dear spouse and I talked about all this. She offered to stick with me at practice and Milongas and that she wanted it to be fun for me. Anyway, after a bunch of reading I decided to force myself to step out of my comfort zone and to stick with switching partners at the classes for the rest of the term, and the reevaluate, and to work on myself concurrently. Wish me luck!

    Anyway, I never would have guessed dance lessons would take me down this path, but I can see it could be for my ultimate good and maybe I can be a better person towards others. Thanks all for the keen insights and encouragement. My plan is to now keep things dance focused for my future posts!
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  14. Mr 4 styles

    Mr 4 styles Well-Known Member

    Dance lessons take us all down different paths. Many of them are self illuminating. Learning to adapt and improvise to the occasional mistake is a great skill in dance and in life. Congrats on your growth and continued success
  15. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    Good dancers really follow their partners. I mean leaders and followers.
    And they are aware of the other side, so they know what they are doing.

    I received comments like I know I had made mistake but you kept dancing,
    or I take down others dancer but not you.

    I wrote you the first trick about always be aware of your lead,
    but also be aware what she might follow and how she follows.

    In addition to that I try to be always in front of my follower, so it's easier to "follow" them.
    If she makes a move I didn't lead, I go to the place how she interpreted my lead.
    Maybe I lead something unconsciously but then I am ready to lead something else.

    And sometimes it's quite difficult to estimate someone's skill until you dance with them. ;)
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  16. Tango Distance

    Tango Distance Active Member

    Here is an update.

    I did a 2nd Milonga. It was great fun, and I was happy to see I was much improved from the one a month earlier. I had found a list here called something like “10 mistakes Tango beginners make” or something like that. I did about 8 of the 10 mistakes the first time! The 2nd time was much better.

    Now onto a touchy feely update (long post alert! There is some dark humor, though!):

    I'm switching partners in class and planning to do that again in the next class. Some of the ladies asked me if I liked switching, I replied that my wife wanted me to do it. Hmmm, seeing that in print I realize that wasn't the smoothest thing to say as it implies I'd rather not practice with them, I'll have to start saying something like it makes me better. Anyway, it is short, not close embrace, and directed, so I'm coping OK with switching partners in class. The politeness thing doesn't always come naturally, so I have tried to diligently smile, ask or say the lady's name, and thank her afterwards. It has been nice to see some big smiles during and afterwards, it is good to spread some joy around and good to realize there are some silver linings to my discomforts.

    The 1st Milonga I decided to not switch partners. That went pretty well, so I decided to do that again at the 2nd Milonga. Then I started reading old archived posts here on the DF Tango forum. There were posts on the agony of being rejected when asked to dance... Posts on women asking men... Posts on etiquette that dances should rarely be refused and only for good reasons... Even posts lamenting that someone didn't ask any women to dance one night. I thought, OK, OK, I give. I'll plan to not ask anyone to dance, but I won't refuse if asked.

    ... to be continued ...
  17. Tango Distance

    Tango Distance Active Member

    ... continued touchy-feely update ...

    I had only danced with my dear wife (dw) and it was fairly late in the evening. I think I was doing reasonable well for someone with a couple of months of lessons. Then my instructor asked me to dance. It was surreal in that I only remember snapshots about every 15 seconds or so. I guess that shows my poor brain was on overload and I have more work to do than I realized! Here is how it went. While this is actually pretty accurate, I also intend it to be funny in a dark humor sort of way. In retrospect I'm laughing at myself now.

    <snapshot> Instructor suddenly appears in front of me from out of nowhere. I don't remember being asked or if she grabbed my hand or what. </snapshot>

    <snapshot> Upon entering the floor, I make some needless comment about not being very good. She is my instructor, clearly she has some clue about how good or how bad I am. </snapshot>

    <snapshot> Somehow we are 5 meters down the line of dance, and in an open embrace. I think I must have just been standing there motionless because she says “Just walk.” She is smiling, I am not! I start shuffling forward. </snapshot>

    <snapshot> 5 meters later, she says something about the song being a vals. </snapshot>

    <snapshot> Somehow we are another 5 meters down the line of dance, and I vaguely perceive forward motion doesn't seem to be working. My instructor says “Ochos!” I then realize she is doing ochos, I have no recollection if I led them or what. Somehow forward motion ensues again. </snapshot>

    <snapshot> 5 meters later, I finally try to lead some stuff besides walking. It goes terribly. I can't seem to lead her to do intended steps, and she is doing things I didn't intend to lead. This is going much worse than class. </snapshot>

    <snapshot> The song ends. My distress must be palpable, as the instructor apologizes to me for how she asked me to dance and offers a high five. I weakly high five back without saying anything and walk off. I think it was the 1st song of a Tanda. At the time I thought she was indicating we were done, but in retrospect maybe I'm the one that ended it by walking away at that point. It doesn't matter, it was not going well! </snapshot>

    <snapshot> I make it back to dw, who is at the spot I left her. Time returns to normal speed and I'm perceiving things at 30 fps again. She introduces me to someone. I had thought they were just talking, so my dw and I danced the last couple of songs of that Tanda. It was later I found out she had danced the first song with him and I think I interrupted the Tanda! Oh well, I'll cut myself some slack on this one! </snapshot>

    In retrospect, I realize I had said I would accept a dance but apparently wasn't mentally ready for it. Another thought I had was had it been another student from the class maybe I would have known better what to expect. I had only done literally a single 8CB with the instructor.

    ... to be continued ...
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  18. Tango Distance

    Tango Distance Active Member

    ... continued with some psychobabble stuff: ...

    I had thought 90% of the population were dancers or latent dancers and took naturally to all this stuff. After reading posts here on DF and talking to some of my engineer coworkers I realize I'm more common than I thought.

    I had thought it was only fear, and there could be a fear component. I bought and started reading a book on fear. While it was interesting, it didn't quite fit. Then, somehow, I looked up stuff on introverts vs. extroverts. I didn't think I was an introvert, as I am not shy or a hermit. It turns out shyness and introversion are two different things and not necessarily coupled. What I didn't realize is an extrovert gets charged up from interacting with others, an introvert gets drained and needs recharge time. I think this is part of my time limited thing (avoid or short as possible hugs and rotate partners often in class), that's less draining that a long time thing. I match many introvert characteristics. I know, I know, the readers are all saying, “Duh!” but it was a big revelation for me. So now I'm reading a book “Quiet The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking.” I took a Briggs Myers test and scored 78% introvert. I “took” the test for my dw (I'll ask her to do it later, it'll be interesting to see how close we come), and her score was 100% extrovert. That definitely fits. I was amazed how accurate the descriptions of me were. I don't know yet if this enables change, as extrovert and introvert brains are physiologically different and apparently are hard-wired traits to some degree. I'll keep studying that for now. BTW my dw has been wonderful. While I don't understand this extrovert thing of wanting to dance with many people, and she doesn't understand this introvert thing of wanting to only dance with one person, she keeps saying she wants to do what makes it most fun for me. FWIW I have encouraged her to mingle, but she says she doesn't like seeing me just sitting there not dancing, but I tell her really I'm just fine...

    There are some web sites that talk about dancing for introverts. They say it actually can work, in that they can have a limited and more structured number of interactions. That's an interesting thought that dance could actually be a less stressful way to interact with others, I'll have to try thinking about it from that angle.

    So my near future? I'm planning to do another dance class, and I'll plan to keep rotating partners (for me that's a lot of progress). BTW the suggestion to think of the mechanics of dance was excellent – give me a good science problem to optimize any day over a human one! Given the magnitude of the failure of my first non-dw dance at a Milonga I'll have to think about how to approach that. One thought is to not dance with anyone else besides dw (I know all you extrovert dancers cringe, particularly given the general leader shortage), maybe taking an “extended smoking break” to let her mingle more (I don't smoke, but you get the idea!). One thought is to ask my instructor for the last dance of a Tanda late into a Milonga – if I have time to psyche myself up for it and it's more on my terms maybe it'll go smoother. It's also a more bite-sized 3 minute goal. It also has the benefit it would have to go much better than the time before, no way to go but up from here!

    The fun of Tango itself and the huge smile on my dw's face have made the effort worthwhile!
  19. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I enjoyed reading your update! And I did find your snapshots humorous. I think it's great that you are able to see humor in all this, because I know it is stressful for you to immerse yourself in the tango "scene".

    I am also an introvert. Quite a few of the tango people I know are. Most of us would rather dance than sit around talking. I have trouble filtering what people are saying from all the background noise at a milonga, so it's only 1 step above a noisy bar filled with drunken brawlers for my least favorite way to socialize! Unfortunately as a follower, I have to expect that I will spend time sitting at a milonga talking to other followers. And you are correct, introversion and shyness are not the same thing!

    Also, keep in mind that when we complain about someone not asking anyone to dance all night, we are usually referring to dancers who are reasonably experienced (although often not as good as they THINK they are) who refuse to ask anyone deemed "inferior" (and almost everyone falls into that category in their view). Followers with a few miles under their belt are not going to criticize beginners who are not comfortable at a milonga yet.

    In other words, rightly or wrongly, when followers criticize someone for not dancing, it's because we are annoyed by what we think they think it says about US. That isn't the situation you are in. No one is likely to be under the impression that you think you are too good for them.

    As for what to say when asked about switching. I suggest just being up front about it. Say "It's taking me time to get used to it and feel comfortable, but it has nothing to do with the wonderful people I'm meeting and dancing with, so I appreciate your patience"

    Followers really love humility. ;)

    Or maybe it's just me...
    Tango Distance likes this.
  20. FancyFeet

    FancyFeet Well-Known Member

    This certainly holds true for me. I much prefer structured interaction - random, impromptu social gatherings with no purpose are not my idea of fun.

    I am a ballroom dancer (Argentine is not my thing at all), but for what it's worth, I:
    - seriously enjoy private lessons, even more so when there is no one else in the studio
    - genuinely like solo practice, and love the once or so a week where I go in early and have the place to myself
    - heavily prefer standard as a dance, because of the structure inherent in the form (and the fact that the hold lets me get in my own little world more easily than other forms, like latin or salsa)
    - make a point to say hi or wave at people when I'm at the studio, but have spread the word that when I am there, I am there to work on my dancing, so no one is offended (or at least not too badly) when I don't have long conversations
    - have learned to like competitions over time, but am generally the one off by myself on the side or in the hallway, staying focussed and being antisocial
    - do not particularly enjoy social dancing, and rarely go just for the fun of it (think once a year or so). I am much more comfortable having a role at the social dance - running music, being the door police, etc. - than just being there for fun. That way, I work for a bit, dance for a bit and have an easy way and reason to structure the evening
    - decide when I have enough social energy to devote to a social event, and make sure to plan in quiet, alone "recovery time" afterward

    Hopefully some of these strategies will help you out. I'm sure that I employ more, but these are the ones that immediately come to mind.

    The dance world is full of all kinds... trust me, the introverts are out there. Some of us may have just developed stronger coping skills having been around dance longer and having discovered our strong introversion early.

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