I recently just wrapped up my very last class in an 8-week series of Tango classes. For many years, I have always wanted to learn how to ballroom dance. I saw the movie Shall We Dance? and was in awe by how fun dancing looked. I am in no way graceful or coordinated, so I knew taking any kind of dance class would be challenging. I did some research, found an 8-week Tango class, and decided to go for it.
I ended up loving every minute of it, and even though I was correct in that it would be a challenge, I loved putting myself out there to learn a new skill. I can now Tango, and even though I am still at a beginner’s level, I am better than I was eight weeks ago. In addition to learning the steps and how to position my arms, I learned a lot about myself in this class series. There are aspects to dancing that are similar to life, and I made the connections as I was (awkwardly) gliding across the dance floor.
These are the 9 things I learned from Tango class:
1. The power of repetition.
At the beginning of every class, we would do exercises back and forth across the dance floor. Even though it got repetitive, the point was to take the next step better than the previous step. Dancing is all about getting the steps down, and through practice and repetition, the steps become part of your muscle memory. Through this repetition, my feet and body started to understand the way the dance was performed. After just two classes, I held my arms up in a different way than the very first class without thinking twice. As you do things over and over with intention, you get better at them.
2. Get in the zone and focus.
When you are dancing with your partner, it is important to be in the moment. The second your mind starts to wander, toes are stepped on and the entire rhythm is thrown off. When you are dancing, or working on a project or task, give it your 100% attention so you can do it well.
3. Embarrass yourself, and then laugh about it.
Staring at yourself dancing in front of a mirror that covers an entire wall is not easy, especially when you don’t actually know how to dance. When you’re just starting out, you are going to look silly sometimes, and you are going to make mistakes. When you feel embarrassed or bad about it, just look around you. Everyone else there is learning how to dance, as well. You are all in the same boat. Laugh it off, and move on. This applies to most things in life, not just dancing. Whether it’s public speaking, a sports game, or something you are learning by yourself, just know that when you can laugh at yourself if you make a mistake, you have already succeeded.
4. Learn from your mistakes.
Okay, so you embarrassed yourself and messed up on a step. Say sorry to your dance partner for stepping on his or her toe, and learn from the mistake. Focus, figure out what you could have done better, and then don’t make the mistake again. It feels so great when you get a complicated step right.
There are a couple of steps in tango that require a quick-quick-slow rhythm. This means that you step quickly twice, and then take the third step slowly. Then repeat. As I was learning how to do the “media luna,” where you move around your dance partner in a quick-quick-slow circle, stepping forwards and backwards, I couldn’t help but think about how much it resembled my life at the time. A lot of things happened all at once, and then all of a sudden everything slowed down. Sure enough, the next week my life was back to being quick-quick, and then slow. Things will get hectic, busy, and overwhelming, but if you stick with it and keep moving forward, your life will calm down and you can breathe again.
6. Use feedback to your advantage.
When I was making mistakes with my footwork or body positioning, my teachers would identify what I was doing wrong and help me fix it. They are there to help me become a better dancer and to learn the proper way of dancing the Tango, so why would I get annoyed with their feedback? Use feedback to your advantage and excel.
7. Stay on your toes.
Not physically, but metaphorically speaking. There are routine steps that you will learn in dance, but every now and then, your dance partner will switch up a move just to keep you on your toes. It’s when you get too comfortable and your mind starts drifting that you will mess up the last-minute switch. Just as in life, get into a rhythm and routine that works for you, but every now and then, switch things up to keep life fresh. Stay on your toes and improvise.
8. Learn how to follow.
As someone who works hard to be a leader, it isn’t always easy to be a follower. When I Tango, I am the follower. I take directions from my dance partner, who is the Lead. At first this was difficult, and I would be pushing and pulling to try and move in the direction I wanted to go. However, when it comes to Tango, I had to learn how to trust my leader and follow his steps and direction. While the two dance partners are a team, one person takes more control of the situation. When I finally learned how to follow my Lead, we would be gliding across the dance floor. It was a pretty cool feeling.
9. Step outside the comfort zone.
None of these lessons would have been learned if I hadn’t stepped outside of my comfort zone in the first place. I signed up for these Tango classes without a friend or dance partner. I embarrassed myself in front of strangers, had no one to laugh about it with except myself, and I can honestly say it was awesome. These Tango classes were something that I did for myself, to follow through on my interest, and to learn a new skill that I’ve wanted to experience for the longest time. If you want to learn how to do something or if there’s a class you want to take but you can’t find anyone to go or do it with you, just do it by yourself! When you don’t have the distraction of a friend, you really can focus on personal growth and learning more about yourself.