Periodic reviews with a wonderful teacher who knows you and has taught you since the very beginning are so powerful. Weekly classes help with so many things as slowly we improve – but there is something quite different about working again with your teacher after a gap of 3 or 4 months.
I have benefited so much from this process. By coincidence when I first started I was booked on a holiday to Seville, and so I asked to find a teacher and started working with Joao Alves. And I have come back here every 3 or 4 months for the two and a half years that have now gone by.
This visit – which started yesterday – already feels new and fresh. Unusually I was asked to dance for half an hour – with the incredibly talented, good humoured and ever patient Rebecca – while he sat and made notes. Based on this he will set a plan for the lessons for the week. What he thinks is weak – what to work on.
This process in itself showed me so much progress. It was 6 months before I could get through a single song with anything that I felt even remotely resembled a dance, probably a year before I could manage a tanda and about 18 months until I felt it was really appropriate for me to go to a milonga and invite women to dance who did not know me. Now here we were – and I am dancing in front of him for over half an hour.
I stopped just once – and this in itself was a moment he did not like – so already a lesson is set – I must dance with him while he fakes moments where he gets my lead wrong – and I must adapt to his ‘mistake’ without for a moment breaking the dance.
But it was a conversation in the local bar after the lesson that made such an impression on me. He felt that there was a frontier now – that up till now I have been always at the service of the technique – trying to learn the technical structure of Tango – axis, balance, weight – the embrace, and of course the figures. Now he feels that for the first time the technique I have learned is starting to be at my service – leaving me to enjoy the music and feel such pleasure in the dance.
This is not to say that the journey to learn technique is over – far from it – I have of course only just started. But certainly he is right that there are so many whole tandas now where all I am thinking of is the dance itself, the music and the follower. Decisions of navigation, of what figure to dance next are pushed into the subconscious.
These kinds of changes take these intermittent, periodic reviews to understand. We cross levels as we learn, and sometimes those step changes in ability are best seen from a distance, not in the details of daily and weekly lessons.
It also takes wisdom and authenticity from the teacher to say these things at appropriate times.
I have also noticed – and so has he – that there is a difference in energy, and that I am smiling a lot more. How fantastic is that – to enjoy such a beautiful dance for exactly what it is – a chance to express emotions and feelings in the music using a structure that you are confident in and excited by.
It is – absolutely – a dance.