Reality Check . . . again. . .

(I am not using the name of the teacher in this post, even though my follow-up posts will identify him, because it doesn't really matter who the teacher is for this subject - and I don't want to get distracted in defending or attacking his style of dancing/teaching etc.)

The continuing adventures of a slow learner . . .
It is deeply disheartening to have my yearly private lesson with a teacher I've studied with the last 3 years, and be corrected for the same mistakes I've been making for the same . three . years.

The first year, he was very understanding. I was still pretty new - only dancing a year. The next year he pushed a little harder and I made excuses. I said I would practice - I would work on it. This year was intensely frustrating. These were things I should have resolved by now - fundamental issues with my embrace, control of my axis, how I change weight. The foundation of tango.

Instead of becoming defensive in the lesson (and wasting my partner's time as well as our teacher's), I detached a little bit. I looked at my dance from his perspective. I tried to imagine how frustrating it must be for him. He comes every year, tells his students, usually many of the same students, the same advice year after year after year. Very little seems to change. Our embraces, generally speaking, are weak. Our control of our axes, even weaker. Our walks are rocky, uneven, falling from one step into the next. That's not true for everyone of course - but for far too many to be ignored.

In my (shared) lesson, I tried, probably out of habit, to make an excuse again - this isn't the way I usually dance. I'm not used to it. I usually dance "buttons-to-buttons", milonguero, full on close embrace. This teacher dances in close embrace but using slightly more of the "v" than I am used to. Even as I made my familiar excuse - I knew it was feeble. It's my job as a follower to adapt - to give what I get in the embrace if I agree to dance. Being able to do that is what makes certain followers so very popular - their ability to adapt easily, seamlessly to any partner they choose to dance with.

After the words came out of my mouth, I immediately regretted saying them. I let the excuse just fall to the floor. He didn't answer it, he just moved on. In fact the feedback/correction he gave me through out most of the lesson was wordless. We both knew instantly when I was slipping up, so there was no need to point out much of anything verbally. He would make corrections to my posture with his embrace and we just kept working. I knew what I needed to do - I just needed to replace the old habits with the new ones. When I needed explanation, he gave it and he gave it very clearly.

Still, my monkey brain was wild at work over-thinking and coming up with more and more excuses. Yes, I've had surgery. Yes, I've had health challenges to my muscles, my posture and my balance - but fundamentally, I just didn't give those issues in my dance attention. They aren't things that are focused on by teachers, or even many of the leaders here in Austin, so I got lazy. With few exceptions (and there are exceptions if you look for them) this is a figures-centric town. I worked on the things that were easier. Now it's clear that I cannot progress my dance until these issues are addressed. Other visiting teachers, and teachers I have sought out in other cities, have had consistently the same criticisms for me.

I've had this mentality of, well I do this, this and this pretty well, I shouldn't have to worry too much about these other things - especially if no one else is giving me negative feedback about it. The problem really is that if I know something is broken and needs work, I shouldn't need someone else to remind me that I need to fix it. It's not going away on it's own. Worse, it is impacting my ability to progress my dance. My lack of technique is impairing my ability to express the music and connect to my partners.

A visiting teacher can't fix your bad habits or mine - there isn't time and that's really not his job. It is his or her job to point out what needs work and get you going in the right direction to overcoming the obstacles. Ultimately it's my job to seek out local teachers, partners and any resources I can find to address the what needs work on my own.  I usually have every intention of doing that. But then the weeks go by and I get busy doing other things, as we all do, and I don't make it a priority. Is it any surprise then that a year later, standing in front of my teacher, I am getting the same feedback I did the year before?

Now it's finally sinking in. Having my own group practica, as well as booking my solo time in the studio, has removed any excuses I might have had left. No one is going to do this work for me and it's long overdue.

For my next post, more for my own recollection than anything else, this year's work list. Maybe by next year I can at least garner some new and interesting criticism.


Jane Prusakova said...

3 years is not a long time - especially if the teacher comes once a year.

It is a long enough time to re-access why what you are doing is not working. But not long enough to beat yourself over it.

Marika said...

@Jane - It's actually been over four years, but only 3 years studying with this teacher. It wouldn't be so bad if they were truly advanced technique topics, but they're not. They are fundamental to the dance (and have also been covered by other visiting teachers, and teachers I've visited in other cities.) It's just so easy to come back and go back to doing what I was doing before. :-/ I know it sounds like it, but I'm not actually beating myself up about what I'm not good at - just at knowing I wasn't good at it, and doing nothing much about it.

Edmund said...

I always think the fundamentals are the hardest to master. Keep at it!