Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Can We Please Stop Talking About "Advanced" Dancers?

We have all had this familiar experience: We go to a workshop or a festival, and there are classes listed "For Advanced Dancers Only".

Then there is usually a codicil - often in parentheses (for dancers with 3 - or 4 - or 5 - years experience).

And the class usually consists of a complex choreography, with fancy footwork, that no one would ever use anywhere except on the stage.

The problem with talking about "advanced" dancers is that there is no one standard for the definition of "advanced" , so the phrase is really meaningless. Someone who has danced more than 5 years? I don't know about you, but I know a LOT of longtime dancers who dance 
Iike crap. Someone who can execute the perfect planeo or colgada? I know a lot of superb dancers who do not use either figure. 

I personally do not care if a dancer is "advanced", if the experience of dancing with him is one of unadulterated bliss. I have had that experience with dancers who have been dancing less than one year, as well as with dancers who have been dancing over 40 years. I have also had dances with local "tango gods" that were nothing short of disastrous - all over the floor, running into other couples, insisting on leading inappropriate steps. Yet they considered themselves "advanced".

The problem with talking about "advanced" dancers is that we start to put benchmarks around Tango. To get past "Beginner" you need to know these figures. As an  "Intermediate" dancer you should know these figures. And an "Advanced" dancer should know these. Rather than focusing on cherishing our partner, and dancing to the music, we focus on what our feet are doing. Now, I admit that a knowledge of where the feet can go is part of learning to Tango. But when we start labeling dancers based upon how many "steps" they know, we are putting Tango into a very limiting box.

I would prefer to see such labels as "For dancers who are comfortable with most partners", or "For dancers who can relax and enjoy themselves at a milonga". Or at the other extreme "For Dancers who need practice at navigation", or "For Dancers who want to improve their connection". That is assuming we need labels at all. Most of my classes are a mix of dancers, with different skill sets and areas of competence,  the classes focus more on "how" we dance,  and "why" we do things in a certain way than on "what" we are doing. The "what" is only one of the tools we use to explore the "how" and "why".

By dropping the labels we can focus on what is really important - "Why do people enjoy dancing with certain partners?" And "How can I become a more enjoyable person to dance with?"

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