In one of the last times at the tango lessons I was talking about the so called „bad habits”, about how fast and subtle they form and how difficult it is to get rid of them. So I decided to develop a little the subject.
First of all, what is a „bad habit”?
It can be the forward leaning of the head towards the computer screen, which led to the incipient kyphosis that tensions my shoulders and my neck and gives me an almost daily pain.
Or always wearing my backpack to school and back (and later on my shoulder bag) only on the left side, which resulted into a scoliosis that’s been bugging me for years now.
Or the stubborn silence in front of the things that I wanted to do/ have or the things I just wanted to say no to, which led to a pretty thick shell carefully crafted around me for years, too.
It can be taking for granted the entire information from all the people I respect and whose words I’ve never even began to doubt. And that led to copying concepts and movements without even considering running them through my own filter, or adapting them to my personality and my body.
Examples we can find many and we are all entitled to have some : ) And that is not a tragedy at all if we manage to acknowledge them. So the next question is: how do we set the apart from the possible “good habits”? And one of the answers is: by always being aware of ourselves in relation to us and also to the others and the situations in which we are. See? This is why I say that tango is a self discovery process! And I mean that beyond any momentarily perceptions of the concept of self discovery, beyond all the great self development techniques flourished in the last years (which are really good in essence, but I find they barely address facets of the subject). I find tango to be one of the most pure and of essence “techniques” of self discovery. Why? Well, because in order to dance it with the respect it deserves and we deserve, we are “obligated” to analyze and understand ourselves, from the physical to the emotional and mental level and maybe beyond. Again and again! This is our work with us and with the others and it’s a beautiful and rewarding work!
Each teacher/ „maestro” from whom we learn teaches us his/ her personal tango, the one that has been processed through his/ her being and personality, the one adapted to his/ her character and cultural background. It’s the most natural thins possible! You can’t really teach someone something that you haven’t yet understood yourself. But then again there is the other side of the process: the learning and the student/ the receiver of the teachings. And hi/she also has a different personality and particularities. Moreover, all these aspects are relative and they can change within seconds. So, the ideal thing to do is to pass every bit of information through our own filter so that we can assimilate them according to our personal structure.
The most „productive” period for bad habits is that in which we strive to remember – primarily with our bodies – what “natural” feels like. This process depends on the person experimenting it. It can last months, it can go on for years… it can be influenced by so many things. This is a period which a student (4 months in tango) compared to a “he loves me – he loves me not” kind of a relationship or a roller-coaster : ) In this period we are so overwhelmed by our discoveries and our attempts cu understand with our minds what we cannot comprehend yet with our bodies, that we quickly develop bad habit to compensate the many things we’d like to do at once.
It’s very important that in this period we don’t take on ad litteram everything our teachers say or do. It’s important that we test as much as possible on our bodies and personalities all the things we hear or see – that’s what the Practica is for! Actually it’s important that we always do this, because we always learn and evolve in tango, we absorb and grow through everything we receive from our teachers, our students and all the other tangueros, too. The best thing to do is to test and ask questions, to discover by doing and observing how our bodies respond to movements, challenges and interactions.
If we just take for granted what others tell us we’ll only manage to become imperfect and dull copies of them, because – as I was saying – each tango dancer communicates his/ her personal tango, his/ her perspective on movements and feelings… Instead, if we adapt everything to our way of being, we’ll develop our own tango, we’ll discover it in us and we’ll discover ourselves in it. And we’ll have less bad habits! : )
These bad habits stick very easily to us, because we tend to see them as shortcuts on our way to the „fun” tango. And the easier we let them form, the harder it’ll be to get rid of them. Why? Because they get into our body memory, which is more lasting and more stable than the brain memory. And if you think about the amount of work you put or you’ve put in the beginning in order to remember the natural movement of your body, you’ll know what I mean. Allowing these bad habits – most often out of the laziness of making the “effort” to adapt the information/ movement – you’ll only feed your body unnatural memories. The result is that at one point you’ll realize that your tango is not comfortable and the solution will be one of the two: you’ll either go back to the hard work from the beginning to eliminate the bad habits, or you’ll quit. And I honestly don’t wish for any of these 2 options.
I wish that, if you love yourselves and you love tango, you do the “work” that this hobby requires as serious as children when they’re playing! Discover by plying, by asking questions, by being! Pure and simple!