Tag Archives: communicate

Lost in Translation: Decoding Tango Class Clichés and Confusing Phrases

Have you ever heard people give cues/ advice in a tango class that made you go, “Huh?”.
Like when they say, “If you know how to walk, you know how to Tango.” Or maybe someone told you to “walk backwards like you want to walk forwards.” That sounds a bit tricky!

Can you think of any other confusing or cliche things people say in tango class? Share them in the comments! Later, we’ll figure out how to understand and dance to these tricky cues, starting with the cliches!

Tango Class Clichés and how to respond to them

Some phrases are cliches, which means lots of people use them, but they can be a bit confusing. Like when someone says, “Lead with emotion” or “Dance like nobody is watching” or “Don’t think, just dance.” These are like puzzles because they don’t always give a clear message.

Even though these phrases are cliches, they’ve been around for a long time because they can be important. But, to really understand them, it’s like being a detective and asking questions. For example, if your instructor says “Lead with emotion!”, ask for clarification as “what do mean when you say “lead with emotion”? Do you mean with more clarity in direction, with more conviction or with more intention?”

Asking questions is like having a superpower, especially when you’re learning something new. And interestingly enough very few students ask. So at the first couple of classes I usually ask for them, like “Do you know what I mean when I say X?” or “Does this make sense?”

One last example before we leave the cliche section, is one of my personal favourites “Don’t think, just dance”. Which if you ask me, sometimes there’s a little secret frustration behind it, like the teacher might be thinking, “I don’t have more instructions for you, just figure it out!” (haha)

And there is some level of truth to that, meaning that if you need to explore movement on your too in order to get it. As a teacher though, it’s important to explain what you mean by “just dance.” For example, I might say, “Now, let’s try this in a dance. Forget about the exercise and see how it shows up in your dance. If you feel something different, great! If not, that’s okay too. Keep exploring and playing with it!”.

Phrases that make you go, “Huh?”

Now there are some cues that simply are a bad choice of words. For example “bring your energy higher” or “don’t try to make it better, you’ll make it worse” or “dance your own dance”…. What??? haha

From a teacher’s point of view I avoid such phrases, because they are not really that helpful. But as a student I see them as an invitation for a short-term exploration.

Think about it. Say you are in a practica, working on a couple of things and the cue is “dance your own dance”. This advice comes with no restrictions really..! There is no goal or expectations and there is no clear cue for you to follow. Which can be frustrating unless
Which can be frustrating unless you see it as a green light to trying different variations, exploring different options until you find what works for you.

The same goes for something that sounds more technical like “bring your energy higher”. What does that mean really? It can mean anything; that the level of the energy you perform the movement with is low, your intention is unclear, or maybe your upper body is a bit passive, or something entirely different.

Reading though through this paragraph you already have 3 different options to work with and collaborate on with your partner and your teacher; you can make it more dynamic, more crisp or more powerful or even a combination of all 3.

Translating movement to words

Now, why did we treat cliches and confusing advice differently?

Cliches have hidden but valuable messages; unpacking them helps you learn a lot.
After all, they are cliches for a reason..!
On the other hand, confusing phrases are often language misuse. Imagine movement as one language and speech as another. Your teacher during a class tries to translate their actions into words. Sometimes the translation is successful and sometimes not. Responding to them with movement therefore can be a more successful strategy than talking it out.

This was our first attempt at blending words and movement to improve your classes; aiming to share strategies for better understanding and responding to confusing cues. Stay tuned for more detailed posts on successful “translation” and if dance-related confusing phrases come to mind, share them in a note or comment.

Chrisa

P.S: If you are looking for guidance through your practice, take a look at our training guide “It Takes You to Tango” available on Amazon.

I was almost right..! Is this the best way to communicate?

Communication some times can be tricky! Especially when it is in a dance where we mainly communicate in body language and not verbally.

So here is how this post came to be. It is actually a funny story though it involves a doctor, and it goes like this.
I met with a friend after her doctor had called to say that it wasn’t an emergency she needed to face after all. Only he didn’t say “I was wrong”. He actually said “I was almost right!” only he wasn’t right at all… haha
Good news for my friend and a very interesting situation for anyone working on communication skills.

Mis-communication in a dance

I am sure you have been in a similar situation, where the other person sort of admits they were wrong. Either by saying “I wasn’t entirely right” or even worse “I was wrong but you …. (fill-in the gap with something equally wrong you did)”

In dance the same verbal communication can take place sometimes but physical cues are more common. There can be a power battle between the partners. In such cases nobody enjoys the tanda even if they managed to get things to go their way.

The issue though is not to explore who is right and who is wrong in a given situation. The issue here is to see how we can communicate better.

So think of the last time, that you had this mis-communication with your dance-partner. Maybe it was a different perspective on the music, or they led something and you did something else or vice versa.
How was that expressed? And what happened next?

Where you pushing and pulling on each other for the rest of the song? Did you use some leading or back-leading trick to correct the situation? How did your partner respond? And did any of you accept responsibility? Did you let go of the tension and admitted in body language that the other was right?

It is not a very easy thing to do actually, especially as you are improvising. But maybe now, after the fact, you can explore the situation. There is actually a simple exercise you can do.
List 10 circumstances where you felt that you were wrong but instead you acted as if you were almost right. And then 10 circumstances where your partner was wrong and again they acted as if they were almost right.

It might subtle. And it could only have been for a moment and then you changed back to your ordinary sweet self..! 😉
But think back to uncomfortable or even painful dances you have had. Bring back to your memory nasty milonga nights, or frustrating practices and/ or classes. See if somewhere in there you reacted or you were faced with the attitude above.

How to communicate instead

Now as you know, I really like to share some practical advice to a problem. At least, share thoughts on options that one can explore in order to make their Tangos more enjoyable.

This is not an easy one, but I will do my best to share some thoughts. I hope you will find them helpful!

If you have the “It takes You to Tango” guide, you can find in there some tips on how to handle situations in the social environment of a milonga. This specific situation was not clearly included therein. There is though a note on leaving in the middle of the tanda. Let’s start from this “extreme” option.

As you will see in the book, from my perspective, leaving someone on the dance floor is to be reserved for extreme situations. Situations where you are in pain, or you are in extreme discomfort and you feel this is harmful to you.

Though it is not the option to use all the time, have it at your back pocket for emergency situations. Still though, there is a way to do it. No need for drama!
Simply saying “thank you” will do the trick most of the times. In the rare, you might need to add a “I need to take a break”.

Now lets look at other options, that may come a bit more handy

Here are a couple, from my personal experiences on the dance floor:

  • Firstly, especially if I am dancing with friend, I simply say “sorry”. Quite obvious but an easy way to communicate that I was wrong.
  • Once I realize a mistake, I try to get where my leader wants me to be in an embellished way. Adding a gentle giggle, if you are that kind of a person, can also work.
  • In cases where the other person has messed up, I usually follow the previous pointer. Making a little moment out of the mistake always releases the tension. Plus you might actually come up with a new move after some refinement.
  • Further to the above, when a leader actually whispers “sorry”. Respond with an embellishment or make something out of the “mistake”; it shows kindness.
  • Where we are not talking about a mistake but a necessary adjustment, for example speed or orientation etc. we need to keep the dialog open through the embrace. Leaders will need to listen to followers. Followers will need to be able to communicate a message to their leaders. For example, if you are about to bump into someone behind you. Followers use the embrace to stop your leader from taking a back step. Or if the leader is going too fast for you; use the embrace and maybe even an embellishment to show that a change in speed is necessary. Leaders listen to your followers!
  • For cases where I can feel tension building, because of lack of communication, personally I choose to let it pass. I prefer not to continue the power struggle so I adjust to make it work no matter who is right. Then when the tanda ends I can decide whether or not to dance with that person again.

So those are my ways to communicate with my partners. I am sure that you have probably discovered many others that have worked for you. The main element here though is when you are wrong admit it and work with your partner to fix it. When you are right don’t hold a grudge and work with your partner to fix it. Painful or uncomfortable situations excluded of course.

Chrisa