The benefits of limitations


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Previously on Goodnight Tango

A couple of posts ago I wrote about my limitations in vocabulary and how I don’t see them as actual limitations since I invested in expanding the other parameters of communication. The main point is that vocabulary is only a small part of our communication both in normal spoken languages as well as in dancing. So apart from investing time in developing your vocabulary you can always improve your dance by improving the rest of the communication elements. Here I will continue with a couple of benefits I see that I gained from forcing this limitation on myself.

This doesn’t mean that limiting yourself is the best option and you should follow it. The purpose of the text here is to share that having a limitation is not necessarily a restriction that keeps you back. On the contrary, there are cases wheret those limitations can take you forward instead of keeping you stagnant.

Forced creativity

A few months ago I bumped into a video about phone photography. It was actually addressed to professional photographers and was giving tips on how to use their phones in order to get nice pictures even without their professional cameras. One of the main points of the video is that when you limit yourself with resources you get creative usually into how you use them. So if you want to take a photo with your camera which has limited capabilities compared to a normal digital camera you need to think creatively and find ways to cover for the limitations that the phone introduces. Moreover sometimes you can use these limitations to get some advantage in order to get the result you want.

Our dancing is also a creative process and as such, applying limitations can also lead to increased creativity. Think about it. Let’s say that you want to dance a whole Tanda without turning yourself to the left. When you reach the corner of the Rhonda you will be forced to find another way to turn or you will continue dancing outside the dancefloor. It may give you ideas on how to use your turn to the right to turn left… or how stepping backwards can be used to turn… etc. When you limit yourself to specific vocabulary it is much more possible to start breaking the usual patterns you learned and start creating your own based on your needs. If you constantly learn new steps and techniques you will never find yourself in this position of needing to create something new out of what you already know (as much as it may already be discovered by someone else).

Pleasurable adaptability

During my PhD research and afterwards, I had the opportunity to work a lot with people with disabilities. If there’s any group in the world with face limitations then certainly people with disabilities is it. One of the most important lessons I got from my interaction with them is to be able to adapt to the current situation and make the most of the resources you have available. They would use tools and software that we usually use in our everyday lives in ways that you could never imagine just because it was making their lives easier. They would use, in strange ways, even tools designed for them. For example when they were reading web pages using a screen reader, which is designed to read aloud texts on screen, they would often go to the end of the page and start reading backwards paragraph by paragraph in order to get to the main content much easier because of the many advertisments and other irrelevant content they encountered in the beginning of the page.

So limiting yourself is not only forcing you to get creative. It also channels this creativity so that you can adapt yourself to your current environment and achieve your goal. You learn to come out of difficult situations by adapting yourself, your thought process, your expectations, your mindset in general. At the end of the day this creativity that comes from limitations is actually improving your adaptability too. You learn to find your way around limiting situations and you train yourself to do it naturally… like the difficulty never existed in the first place. This means that you can adapt easier to the numerous possible partners, dancefloors, music selections etc. making it always look natural and easy. This way you increase the possibilities of dancing with different people, music and in various places. If you are looking to get more enjoyable dances, this skill is a precious one. I guess that if you are a true social dancer… then increasing your possibilities is probably one of your goals… right?

Tonight’s Goodnight Tango

Juan D’Arienzo was actually a violin player but in most cases you will not see him play violin in the orchestra. The reason is that he was not a good player and there were even terms in the contracts of his orchestra so that he wouldn’t play. He manages however to create one of the most successful orchestras in Tango despite his limitations. Tonight’s Goodnight Tango comes from his orchestra and is called “El Tarta”. I chose to include it from a video where Echague performs live on TV years after it was first recorded only to highlight his brilliant performance! It’s also a story of limitations. A man who stutters and because of his problem he has difficulty finding a girl. He also doesn’t give up and manages to reach his goal despite his limitations.

So how about you? Do you see your limitations as restrictions or as opportunities to get creative, adjust, adapt and grow? Do you fight or embrace them? Do you use them to your advantage or let them hold you down? Let me know with a comment below, an email, or a PM on Facebook… oh… and if you liked it… don’t forget to share it with your friends.

4 responses to “The benefits of limitations”

  1. Niki Xeno Avatar
    Niki Xeno

    At the beginning, after my first few Tango lessons, I attended my first milonga – as a spectator. My teacher recognised me against my expectation and welcomed me very warmly. He asked me why I was not dancing. I replied that I didn’t have the necessary repertoire yet. He countered, “You already have a repertoire.” At my second milonga I finally danced, but I felt very insecure. Today, after many milongas, I know my teacher was right. But it took time for me to realise that.

    We live in a performance society. You only get recognition when you are excellent at something (or suggerate). So we put ourselves under pressure.
    I did so. I started in Tango with a self-critical and insecure attitude. Furthermore I had a very stony path into Tango – like a walk on Mani. But since I began to ignore level-thinkers and wannabe-teachers, I see my limitations not as a restriction anymore, bur definitely as an opportunity to work on myself and improve. The difference is, today I no longer put myself under pressure. I enjoy the journey. The encounters have priority for me now. I don’t judge the quality of a communication by “levels” or “special effects”. I try to avoid people that think in those categories.

    Milonga is just milonga, a social event and not a show or a contest. I’m looking there for nice people to “talk”. I love fruitful conversation in general. If an exchange is fruitful depends on the participants and their personalities. With one dancer, for example, it is a pleasure to dance a planeo. With another I can find it satisfying simply by going with him. A third one might just stand with me in abrazo for a while as a highlight The way of dancing or interpreting music has to be authentic. To be authentic, the repertoire should fit or bring out the personality of the dancer, I think.

    1. chris.kourou Avatar

      I saw a video the other day from Jordan Peterson and he was explaining how you can understand if you are authentic or not. He said… If you observe what you say in a conversation and how you feel at that moment you can understand that when you say something that is not you (because you want to show off, or to conform to a group, or etc.), you immediately feel something funny in your guts… Something uneasy inside you. Then you know you are not authentic at that moment.
      I believe the same stands in our dance. If I make a pause just because I like it when I see it in someone else and I try to mimic it… I will not feel good inside me. I have to really believe in it. I have to do it because it feels good inside me when I do it. Not because of any other reason.
      Then you realize that as I wrote in previous posts…. It is not the vocabulary that matters most… But the way you use it.
      Thanks a lot for the comment. I am planning to write a post on authenticity soon. Stay tuned.

  2. […] Just some examples of a few tools and their minds to figure out their usages. Of course, there were also limitations that played a significant role. You could learn from other milongueros but you could not copy their moves! So you were forced to […]

  3. […] How dancing is like speaking a foreign language. What are my vocabulary limitations and how I kind of worked around them. Even the learning methodology is similar to language learning. You first focus on learning small […]

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