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More Lessons? Really?

I recently read a blog by a well known dancer and teacher, who had responded to a question from a reader about connection. The reader questioned 'why it works with some people but not with others?'. The teacher's response could be summarised that “one could only really change oneself, so dancers needed to focus on improving their own dance and technique, and to take more lessons”.

This is great for those who make a living as teachers, but where is the evidence of progress for all that investment?

There are thousands of dancers in Buenos Aires who enjoy dancing socially and who look like they've taken very few lessons. I'm not saying that they are great dancers, but they certainly dance better than many of those in other cities who have years of lessons under their belts.

I've danced with a lot of women, and a few men, in a lot of countries. Their dance abilities ranged from absolute beginners through to professional dancers and a  consistent thread running through that experience was that many of them lacked an axis, lacked connection, or both.

If they had an axis, they often didn't understand connection and so disconnected with every step. The dance was more about what they thought the next step was going to be, rather than about us as a couple.

If they had connection then they often didn't have an axis, but at least we could create the 'one body with four legs'.  We couldn't dance to the subtleties in the music very much because they were too heavy on their feet, but it still felt nice because the dance was absolutely about us as a couple.

Then there was 'no man's land' axis and no connection. These poor people were doing their best, but had no tools with which to dance. They struggled for balance and were often not popular dancers despite, and this is important, being perfectly lovely people who were dancing their best.

In each of these cases the people had been dancing for years and taken many lessons from many professional teachers. Some appeared to have given up and decided that they simply weren't dancer material, (almost everyone is dancer material!). All of them were very nice people who were trying to dance the best that they knew how, but they were stuck.

I was teaching a big strong guy recently who suggested that my approach to tango sounds too simplistic and “it can't be that easy”.  A fair question, so I asked him to follow and started leading him to a milonga. He has almost zero following experience, yet we both had a good time because I obeyed a few simple rules of body mechanics.
My point is less about me being a good leader and more that if following is not so difficult, then why aren't more people better at it?

Similarly with learning to lead, a few simple rules based on body mechanics make it easy to understand, so why do so many teachers make such a meal of it?

Ricardo Vidort once commented that he taught everything that he knew in about 8 lessons (see )That sounds about right in that, after those initial lessons, the teacher becomes a coach whose role is to remind the student about the basics whenever a question arises.

Are people really all that crap at learning to dance or are we simply lifting the wrong rocks in our search?
Perhaps 'more lessons' is not the answer? God knows that there are so many people going to lessons in so many countries with such minimal improvement that it does beg the question.

Perhaps developing more empathy toward one's partners may help one move one's dance forward?

Are you a leader with years of experience who still has to tell your partners where to step? Are you a follower with years of experience who spends a lot of time facing anywhere but towards your partner? Perhaps it's time to 'take a step back' and think about how you would like to be treated if you were on the other side of the dance relationship.

You may not wish to learn the other role, but at least consider what it's like to wear their shoes.


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