When dreams come true


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In my previous post about trophy Tandas, I received a number of very interesting comments that led me to continue the subject with one more post on the topic. I have to apologize in advance here because I will probably present mostly the leader’s perspective of dancing a trophy Tanda but maybe similar ideas apply to followers who get a trophy tanda with a leader.

Stressful trophy tandas

In a comment I received on my last post, a friend of mine described that he likes to dance with better dancers because he feels it is a challenge for him. As he writes…

I see them as a challenge because we are talking about dancing with someone that is supposedly a great dancer or at least much better than me. And in this case the challenge is: will I be able to dance well enough to allow her to express all their potential? Will therefore enjoy the tanda or we will be left with a bitter feeling we did once more a charity tanda?

He continues by saying that this stresses him and in the end, he doesn’t enjoy the dance. If at the end of a trophy tanda, he senses that his partner did not enjoy it too then this leaves him with a feeling of inadequacy.

It’s not the first time I’ve listened to this. I have to admit that even the first time I had a trophy tanda I was stressed. Even to this day… after already having some experiences like… sometimes I do feel stressed… I feel my heart beating fast… my mind goes crazy… and this is when problems start. When you leave your mind to take over. No matter your level and experience, the dance with someone you look up to is always going to feel exciting and stressful at the same time. Whoever tells you the opposite is lying.

But wait a second… It takes two to Tango. What happens on the other side of the embrace?

The trophy’s view

One of the participants in the discussion group of the blog is Melina Sedo. Melina with her partner Detlef Engel are a couple of teachers who have been teaching for decades now in Germany and they travel the world to give workshops. After reading the previous post Melina commented on it and here is her comment.

Because of my profession, I am somewhat known in a few parts of the world and – of course – at events where I teach. This is why I have unfortunately often BEEN the trophy. Even leaders who seem to dance super nicely with others, suddenly start doing all their moves in high speed to demonstrate that they are better than my partner with his boring walk. This is so annoying! On the other hand, quite a few people don’t dare to accept my invitation (or don’t want to be seen as trophy hunters?), which is equally frustrating. All of this has become much better after the implementation of encuentros and even better since I started leading at milongas. But both phenomena still occur, now sometimes with followers. ARGH!!!

Melina’s comment also reminded me of a story our teacher once told us about a tanda at a festival he attended. One of the famous leaders asked for a dance another famous follower in one of the milongas. After the tanda, the follower came back to her place (close to my teacher) really frustrated and pissed off. When they asked her what happened she told them that the guy danced with her all possible complex moves in the tango encyclopedia (if there is such a thing). She didn’t enjoy a bit of the tanda because she couldn’t relax. Although we are talking about dancers of pretty much the same level… The “I will impress you with my skills” behaviour still applies as you see. So as you can see… It can happen to everyone.

Seeing the trophy tanda from the other side (of the advanced/famous dancers) is really illuminating and helps us shatter so many preconceptions. Having heard such stories and advice from my teacher and friends early enough helped me when I had to dance with someone I looked up to but it wasn’t always a straightforward experience.

My experience

As I already wrote in my previous post after each such tanda I come out humbler. Moreover, these kinds of tandas nowadays usually fill me up so that it feels like I could just stop dancing right after them (forever)! Why? Because they always feel overwhelming. Not stressful. Overwhelming. They feel like I have just eaten a perfect dinner… or like I just had an amazing trip… etc. Amazing experiences are meant to be overwhelming and over-satisfying to a degree that they can be an immense amount of energy to continue.

It wasn’t always like that, however. As with all other leaders, I also sometimes fell into the trap of trying to impress my better partners using the latest I learned in the class thinking they would appreciate it. However, when I reflected back on those tandas those moments of “glory” were the least I could remember. Actually, they were mostly the moments where I felt the strangest because in order to execute the move I had in mind, I was sacrificing the connection that I had built so far. I let my mind take over the lead and instead of living the moment I was thinking about the movement forgetting about my partner, the music, our embrace… our dance! I was trying to become someone else. Someone I thought they would like me to be. I was out of character… I was dishonest with myself and most importantly… I was inauthentic! So I ended up with the following motto whenever I find myself dancing a dream or “trophy” tanda.

Just don’t mess it up!

Yes! My job when I dance with a partner I admire or look up to is to not mess it up. If she is an established, experienced dancer there is nothing I can do to impress her! No colgada, sacada, soltada or any other figure will make her remember me because first and foremost, I will forget about them in the next few minutes! This knowledge can be paralyzing or liberating. You choose. I choose to see it as a liberating feeling. It is a knowledge that frees me up from the anxiety of having to perform or prove something. From the moment you realize you don’t have to prove anything you can simply relax and dance like you do with any other partner. Dance like you do with your friends. Connect and have a dialogue on the music. Whenever I catch myself trying to think or plan the execution of something a little bit different from what I usually do… I tell this little guy in my head to shut the fuck up and not mess it up!

Moreover, if you think about it, you already have proven whatever you have to prove when you enter such a tanda. When an experienced dancer accepts your invitation… even more so when they initiate it or make it obvious that they want it (mirada), then you already have the approval you ask for. Why else would an experienced/famous dancer want to dance with you if they didn’t see something in you that they liked? Why would they dance with you if they felt that they would be limited in a way they don’t like? Why would they dance with you if they felt they would not be able to express themselves? So what is the point of trying to dance differently with them? If they saw something in you they want THIS… nothing more nothing less. They want to dance with YOU! Not a cheap imitation of your imaginative performer ego! So why try being someone you are not? Why struggle?

That’s how I ended up with this motto. Just don’t mess it up! She accepted you… and that’s it… that’s the end of the exam… now… you can relax and enjoy the reward… dance it out… and make sure to lock it out in a nice memory box! If there is any advice I would give to my past self (some years ago) this is it!

Don’t you mess it up! Don’t you even THINK to mess it up!

Tonight’s Goodnight Tango

Tonight’s Goodnight Tango is about dreams. It is about a boy who dreams of playing football on the biggest football fields, being admired by thousands of people and saving the day for his team with last-minute goals. We never know if the dream even came true for that boy… but whenever you see your dream coming true… remember not to mess it up! Just enjoy it!

So how about you? How do you deal with your dream trophy tandas when they come true? Do you try to give your partner yourself or someone else? Do you try to become someone else? Why? Is there any other advice that works for you?

Do you have something to say on the topic?

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