The Fox and the Cat

15th March 2009

(More Next Steps articles.)

A fox was boasting to a cat of his clever devices for escaping its enemies.
"I have a whole bag of tricks," he said, "which contains a hundred ways of escaping my enemies."
"I have only one," said the cat. "But I can generally manage with that."
Just at that moment they heard the cry of a pack of hounds coming towards them, and the cat immediately scampered up a tree and hid herself in the boughs.
"This is my plan," said the cat. "What are you going to do?"
The fox thought first of one way, then of another, and while he was debating, the hounds came nearer and nearer, and at last the fox in his confusion was caught up by the hounds and soon killed by the huntsmen.
Miss Puss, who had been looking on, said, "Better one safe way than a hundred on which you cannot reckon." ~
Aesop

Introduction

Learning tango can often reminds me of the fox. Tango is huge and in large part the way it's taught is based on collecting enough information that you can do something useful with it. The look of bewilderment on a beginner tango dancer's face as they try and remember the 100 things they're supposed to be doing is a fairly common one.

Then you reach intermediate and a whole array of possibilities are put before you. Boleos, sacadas, ganchos and various other exotic sounding things. The look of confused concentration of the intermediate dancer trying to either remember the movements or how they're supposed to follow the movements (and why they're not working at the moment) is also a common one.

And beyond that volcadas, sentadas, soltadas etc await (I think "adas" is Spanish for "advanced tango move")

"I'll be happy when..."

I think each dancer has their own version of "I'll be happy when...". For example, "I'll be happy when I can walk without falling over", or "I'll be happy when people line up to dance with me".

The problem is that there's stuff you don't know yet which can make you change your definition. So you think you'll be happy when you can lead all the really complicated moves. And just when you reach the top of the mountain someone tells you that women actually really like "just walking".

So you climb down your mountain and learn to walk. And just when you get the hang of that, you find out that actually what women really want is musicality. And then after that they want to be lead smoothly without disrupting their flow with connection and spontaneity. And then playfulness.

(I'm not sure what comes after that - probably something to do with shoes...)

Sigh, maybe ignorance really is bliss.

All that she wants

It's probably fair to say that there are so many differences between what different people want from tango, that no one thing is every going to please everyone. Even if you don't even turn up, there will probably be complaints about there not being enough men there!

Likewise tango is so huge that trying to learn everything at once will probably just involve you being fairly rubbish at everything for quite a long time. So actually taking some time and deciding "Yes, there are umpteen things I want to learn and sort out, but for now I'm going to work on XYZ" at least means you'll be good at something. Or at least less rubbish at something.

This also has the benefit of letting you consider the best way forward to do this.

Is it something best filmed or practiced in front of a mirror? Do you need to go and sit at a milonga and watch? Do you need someone to explain it to you? Verbally, written, physically?

It also has the benefit that, over time, you'll actually be able to see some kind of results. You'll fall over less when you walk, or your cabeceo will finally begin to work. And you'll hopefully be able to enjoy what you're doing.

Because, let's face it, there are many easier ways to be frustrated and miserable.

 - Christopher O'Shea, 15th March 2009

Related articles