Updated: Oct 5, 2020
No one told you when you started dancing tango how much patience you would need to have to maintain this little hobby. If you are a seasoned tango dancer you've probably had your fair share of frustrations along the lines of "will I ever be able to dance?" or "will s/he ever want to dance with me?"
I'll never forget what one of my students sarcastically (but with a hint of truth) asked me once,
"Do you ever feel guilty for luring all these people into the depths of tango despair?"
I joked back, "Nope. If I'm going to suffer, you're all coming down with me!"
Another student, at some point in our lesson stopped dancing, looked at his foot, and directing his anger at the foot, shouted, "would you just fucking move?!"
All of us feel some sort of frustration like this in our tango journey, and our impatience to get some where that is any where but where we are right now can cause us a lot of mental anguish.... and definitely affects our physical body and dance!
In my own personal tango journey the biggest source of frustration where I had the least patience was in finding a tango partner. I was completely, blindingly, consumed by the NEED to have a partner. I was convinced that I could not move forward without a partner, that I couldn't express myself fully, and that I would never be fulfilled creatively. My happiness and success DEPENDED on finding a partner.
My impatience to find a tango partner lead to many rushed decisions, the worst of which was the classic 'trying to create a tango partnership with a romantic partner' and going through an emotional hell that took several years to heal from.
I don't regret it. Some of us have to learn the hard way. But I also learned that there is another way to cultivate patience.
It was through my yoga practice that I began to accept that where I am right now is exactly where I need to be. Every time you come to your mat you meet yourself where you are at, right now in this present moment. You don't try to be some where else. You neither wallow in the past nor grasp for the future. These authentic, "getting-real-with-yourself" moments on the mat have become sacred to me. It is one of the things that keeps me coming back over and over again and it is what I try to incorporate into my dance and overall life experience.
One of my yoga teachers used to say often, "try easy." What does that mean? Try easy. It means that there is a very real sweet spot to be found where your effort meets with letting go and trusting in the universe to do its job. Let's take the body as our teacher in this. You want to be more flexible so you start stretching. If you try to force yourself to reach your toes before you are ready, you will for sure injure yourself and it will take even longer for you to recover and come back to your stretching routine in order to achieve your goal. Why should the mind be any different? If you try to force some thing you are not ready for you will be in pain and your happiness will slip further and further away.
The moment I let go of my need to find a tango partner I began to feel more ease in every aspect of my life. I also found gratitude for all of the beautiful moments that my tango experience had brought into my life, including that destructive romance that did not result in a tango partner as I had hoped. I started to see that I had in fact made a lot of progress in my dance and that my self-expression and creativity were not stifled because I lacked a partner. My newfound lightness and openness to receiving what the universe had in store for me brought me not only peace of mind but several partners with whom I have begun to work with on very fulfilling projects.
It was this patience that was missing from all of the effort I had put into developing my dance.
As dancers we need to cultivate patience and try to enjoy the small rewards along the way. There are many moments throughout this journey that will put our patience to the test. Every thing from desiring to dance better and feeling trapped in a body that doesn't want to cooperate, to waiting for our desired tango partner to notice us and invite us to dance, or even just some thing as seemingly simple as pausing in the middle of a dance and instead of rushing to the next step, taking in all of the subtle sensations there are to feel in this present moment.
Patience, in my opinion, is just as important a skill to cultivate as technique for our ochos or giros. It is like the oil for our engine. Without it we get stuck and the ride becomes bumpier and the engine begins to break down, making our destination even further away.
I am not saying that cultivating patience is in any way easy. For me, letting go of that "every thing would be better if only I had a tango partner" thought took a long, long, loooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnggggggggggg time, and a heck of a lot of internal work... and so many tears that I'd probably be able to fill a lake with by now.
SO HOW DO WE CULTIVATE PATIENCE?
In order to cultivate patience, we first need to bring awareness to our impatience. Being still and observing how our mind and body want to react when we feel impatient. What habits have you formed? Where does your mind go? what action does the body want to take? If we can learn to sit with the discomfort of being some where we don't want to be some thing will start to shift. If we practice coming back to that discomfort over and over again, like we practice coming back to our mat, eventually the discomfort resides, making room for patience and all of the contentment and gratitude that comes with it. This is why a yoga practice is called a practice and why it is more than just a means to reach your toes.
As with yoga, tango is not just about the figures you dance. There is a mental and emotional process happening ALL THE TIME as we explore the physical one. Most of the time we are not taught about this aspect of dancing in a tango class. We are taught a figure, some technique and perhaps some musicality and the rest is up to you to explore on your own.
So ask yourself: In which area of your dance experience could you use a little more patience? What exactly is the rush? Why is it so bad to be where you are?
The key is allowing yourself to get real with yourself. Are you putting the necessary effort in to get to where you want to be and simultaneously accepting that where you are right now is where you need to be?
I hope this gives you some insight into the importance of cultivating patience in your tango journey. Would you like to practice yoga together? Get started with this 3-class freebie pack. Each class is just 20 minutes and will get you well on your way towards improving your dance: