Let's have an honest and open chat about your tango, your dreams and wishes in tango, maybe your problems and dramas in tango. I had an honest chat like this when I had danced 3,5 years with a teacher, and I still remember it. It changed so much for me, and opened my eyes on a lot of things. I am eternally thankful for it. And yet, I regret I didn't catch everything, and didn't understand many things in it. Now I do, but I wish I had understood earlier.
While you never stop learning, and each period of your tango life is unique, wonderful and complicated in itself, I believe the time between +/- 2 and 5 years in tango is a truly special one. It's the time when from tango-beginner you slowly and gradually grow into a real tango-dancer, you experience you wow-moments, and you get obsessed, from time to time you feel down and really get to know the pain of not dancing, and you feel tango in your body, in your heart, in your bones even, sometimes!
I remember that time. I started travelling a lot for tango, mostly to marathons. I gradually stopped taking regular group classes in my school and took privates now and then with either travelling maestros or teachers outside of my community. I had an obsession with Italian and slightly later with Turkish dancers and didn't miss a single marathon or festival in Italy (and there were maaaany!). I got to know most of the travelling crowd in Europe. I danced as many tandas as there were in each international event, but not when I was in my home town. There, I was very selective. I generally thought myself soon-to-be-equal to the highest-level dancers in Europe (after all, I was accepted in all marathons!) and definitely among the very top dancers in my home milongas. I was welcomed everywhere and I gained the majority of my tango friends on Facebook.
Does any of this sound familiar?
If you say YES about even one sentence above, read on. Even if your obsession is not with Italians or Turkish dancers but with Russian ladies, read on. :)
You are not alone. Almost everyone who is dancing 2-5 years long, some people less, some longer, and especially people with talent, experience some of those things. It's normal. And I am absolutely thrilled for you. You have caught the tango-bug, and you love it with your whole soul. It's so wonderful! I believe you are a good dancer, and I'm so-so happy for you that you enjoy it! Keep enjoying!
And now is the point when there comes the expected “but”. You didn't really think there wouldn't be a “but”, did you? :)
I love the fact that you love and enjoy tango! I really do. BUT. I really really really wish you not to get lost. Because now it is very easy, and most of you will be lost. Especially the most talented of you. I have been lost and I didn't know it. Maybe I'm still a bit lost, but at least now I know it :)
Try not to get lost.
Stay alert to the fact that you are still in the beginning of your tango journey. You are still learning. The excitement that you feel is a sign that you're getting the taste of being a good dancer, but you are not there yet. Please don't take these words as discouragement, but take them as a promise of something really good coming! Yes, something beautiful is coming and you'll love it! It is the realisation that your journey is just starting, and that you will never, ever, ever be bored or run out of things to learn! Can you only imagine how great it is, to always have something beautiful ahead of you?!
Do you sometimes feel like you have nobody to dance with?
You come to your regular milonga where you normally have fun, but dancers around you are kinda okay, but not really inspiring you. You eventually dance with someone, but more like a “charity” dance. You feel bored and at the same time you feel proud that you danced with this or that person, because you know you made their day. But mainly, you long for someone really exciting, someone who can “really dance”.
If you've been dancing for 2-5 years, then I have more intensive dancing experience than you. But I never feel bored and never feel I do a charity dance. Not any more. Three or four years ago, I still did, this feeling dies slowly. Now I don't. I don't dance too much, but whenever I accept a dance, I want to make it deep. It's not a charity dance, ever. My partner, whoever it is, is sacred and I enjoy it. Even if he/she can't make a giro, I dance a tanda of walking and some ochos. I PREFER this. No, you won't often see me do it, because I'm still selective. I would never accept a dance from a dancer who can't walk but wants to do all the boleos and sacads in the world. Sadly, too many people want to dance ganchos, boleos, colgadas and crazy sacadas, while all I want is beautiful walking to music.
Do not do Charity Dances. Do REAL DANCES. Even if slow. Even if (especially if) simple. Learn to enjoy simplicity, and enjoy the feeling of you bodies moving together, not the level of your partner!
Nobody's judgement matters.
Sorry to say this, but if it matters to you who other people see you dancing with, because you're worried about your status, then you are still quite far away from being an advanced dancer. This is one of the things I was told by that teacher awhile ago. And it hit me, you know. I realised he was SO RIGHT!
There is a tanguero, a fantastic dancer who I really admire, one of my top 5 dancers ever. He can chose anyone, and all ladies will be exceptionally happy. He is one of those who makes his partners truly happy. And you know what? I often see him dancing with older ladies, less popular ladies, less half-naked ladies, less experienced ladies. And while other tangueros go for status (let's admit it, we ALL dance with status people sometimes), because they want to be seen dancing with “that lady”, one of the best dancers I know invites really good dancers as well as less popular dancers. And EVERY LADY I know, myself included, love him very-very much. You know why? Because he makes us all HAPPY. And who bloody cares what others think? It's about you two!
Same goes for ladies, obviously! Don't dance for status, dance for you two!
We all need one. Some people need a serious reality check because they are so ahead of themselves, while others need it because they believe they are terrible. Both not good, but both fixable.
Ask your peers and friends and teachers. Get that HONEST feedback! You need to ask! When someone tells you “you improved a lot” or “you dance nice” is not a real feedback, it's a remark because people in tango are nice and we want to encourage each other. You get real feedback only when you ask for an honest one and accept it! Accept it, even if it hurts. Remember, I mentioned earlier that in our tango youth we feel things a lot more intensively? Well, in this age critique can hurt, but it's GREAT to get critique! Please, please ask for feedback from your friends and partners and teachers! This is the BEST way to move from tango-teenage times to tango-adulthood. And there is so much more fun in adulthood :)
And finally, keep moving.
Tango is wonderful, and with each step you will discover new things. Keep your eyes and ears and bodies and heart open. This is a difficult advice to follow when all you think of is how much you want to get “out of here” and go dance somewhere else, but still. Stay open! Enjoy the moment! Enjoy this process of growing into a real dancer, from an over-excited tango-teenager. Keep learning and by no means stop taking classes! If there is ANYTHING at all I can advise you NOT to do, is not to stop taking regular classes. Keep studying, intensively, hungrily! And then your tango-teenage years might be more meaningful and beautiful and filled not just with entertainment like marathons and endless dancing, but also with purpose and higher education. Like university. While you can absolutely live with just high school diploma, university opens so many new doors and exciting new worlds. Same with continuing to study. :)
And enjoy. Love your love for tango! We are all happy to have you with us!
P.S. Cover photo by Panni & Peter