Saturday, July 10, 2010

Apologizing, admiring, aspiring

I've been trying to break myself of the habit of apologizing as I dance. (And I'm not the only one...) No one wants a tango overriden by an ostenato of "Whoops! Oops! Sorry..." I reckon it becomes more disruptive than polite, eventually--maybe immediately.

(Besides, I need to save that refrain for my non-tango waltzes, at the local country dances. That reminds me, I need to ask a fellow student whether she can teach me how to waltz; I still want to do that.)

Even if a mistake is well and truly solely my own fault, I figure it's better not to call my partner's attention to it, if he might not have noticed, and better still just to stay in the moment rather than dwelling on something that, by the time I can even say "Sorry," is already past. Just move on, trying to do better for the rest of the dance. Such is the Zen of tango.

So! Anyway! This is something I've been working on for a long time, and I'm much better about it than I used to be. But sometimes, especially if I'm nervous, it's easy to slip back into that old habit of perpetual apology.

This spring, a guest teacher whom I like very much visited a couple of nearby cities. Although I couldn't attend his classes the first time around, I went over for their milonga that Saturday night. It was great to see so many wonderful partners that I don't get to dance with nearly often enough--and to meet some new wonderful partners, from even further afield! But certainly the highlight was getting to dance with the teacher again. He is so good that just walking in the embrace with him literally makes me dizzy.

But I always feel nervous with him as well, as with almost any guest teacher I might dance with, precisely because he is so good. Oh, God, please don't let me trip up with him of all people!

And so, in our second tanda, almost at closing time, when we were both getting tired, I misstepped a bit and anxiously apologized.

With no perceptible effort, he adjusted to my unexpected foot position and danced on as though this was exactly what he'd intended all the time. He squeezed my shoulders and remarked, with a smile in his voice, "Nice improvisation!"

And this is part of what I love in the best leaders I've danced with, in the States or in Argentina: Their attentiveness, sensitivity, and adaptability in the face of challenging and changing floor conditions--even the ones I help create! Their kindness and humor just as much as their skillful dancing.

They make for some pretty great role models, this way, in my life both on and off the dance floor.

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