As someone whose head has always been in the clouds, I have to admit that it’s difficult for me to be methodical when dealing with a new challenge. Don’t get me wrong, I love new challenges, and I’m passionate about each of them, but I find that initial moment of mastering the basics so incredibly boring that I cannot believe I’ve come this far.
I’m the guy that throws out the manual because “it’s so simple”, and then I go back and dig it out of the bin two hours later when the TV, computer, internet, life – just won’t work.
Let’s get this out of the way, don’t be like me – and now I know that I shouldn’t foster such an attitude in the future, as well. How did this happen after 28 years? Simply put, tango. Yes, tango happened to me.
A rascal since childhood
Out of all the things I’ve accomplished during this brief time I’ve been on Earth, few have been so challenging that I’ve had to go back to the basics in order to advance and move on with my goals. And most of my goals are what you’d expect from a typical extrovert: overinflated and with no foundation whatsoever.
For instance, I’ve been learning martial arts my entire life. Many slaps and bruises later, I’ve realized that I will constantly get beaten up in training until I stop overestimating my own skills and master the basics. The same happened the very moment Sara and I attended our first class with Luka (and Aca) to start preparing for our performance.
No matter how much we’ve practiced before that moment, no matter how much I believed I learned not just the essentials, but some more advanced sequences as well, nothing can sober you up quite like the moment when two exceptionally methodical teachers won’t let you take a single step without perfecting it.
And I’m forever grateful for their dedication.
No cheating in tango
Similarly, I’ve always been fascinated by the sheer number of situations in life you can sail through without too much effort or trouble – I’m not lazy by nature, but why take the harder road, when an easier one is available? For instance, highschool. Not a single homework task done in four years, all passed with flying colors. University? Same. Why? Because I quickly realized that I could achieve relatively ambitious goals much faster and with more ease, and I took advantage of that possibility every time.
Those of you dancing, you already know that this attitude just won’t cut it. In tango, as in martial arts or when you’re mastering something you’re so passionate about that you want to absorb every detail, tango doesn’t leave room for taking the easy road if you want to dance.
In tango, you’re accountable only to yourself, not Aca or Luka, and your main test is that terrifying milonga where you realize how much you don’t know. And then you feel bad, because you realize just how important everything you’ve skipped really is, only to reach that advanced level for which you simply aren’t prepared.
You practice those sacadas at home only to go to a milonga and inadvertently launch your dance partner off the dance floor, and you could have instead filled the dance with beautiful, passionate steps that would mean more than any advanced sequence. At that moment, you realize how honest, pure, and merciless tango is towards those who want to achieve so much while investing so little.
Being honest with yourself, tango, and others
You know what they say, that it’s not about the destination, but the journey? Well, I believe that’s the perfect description for this new challenge of ours. The performance, the complex sequences, everything we strive to achieve can only happen if we master the basics. Breathing, walking, using the center of your body, keeping your posture.
How many times have you rolled your eyes at all of this?
And actually, when we step into that embrace wanting to dance a complex sequence, we realize that it would all be so much easier with those basics to keep us strong, give us confidence, and help us enjoy the dance with all of our being.
But, I cannot say that this process alone has inspired me to recognize the relevance of a thorough approach to every challenge. There’s also the fact that I’m sharing my life with a person who takes that methodical approach whenever she faces every unknown. She’s the kind of a person not to skip steps to reach her goal, but enjoys the process with all her heart no matter how irrelevant it may seem at first.
When Sara and I meet in the embrace, I realize how much I have to and want to be more honest and more dedicated than before. Because of myself, because of her, and because of the tango we’re dancing.
Sara discovered this world of tango to me and taught me how to enjoy the “boring” moments when I need to practice my step forward very slowly, and to go back to the beginning a thousand times until I lead from the center of the body. Honestly, while I’m focusing on those essentials, I’ll always imagine a crazy boleo in my mind, an insane triple sacada, or a passionate gancho – or all of it combined into a sequence.
But at least now I understand that I’ll never be able to do those moves on that advanced level I’ve set my mind on until I go back to the basics.
Tango as your life teacher
When we’re passionate about something, whether we’re born with that passion or we’ve developed it over time, we suddenly want to give it our best to achieve more, to make our loved ones proud, and most of all, to be proud of ourselves.
The simple truth is that I’ll always try to find that easier way to achieve my insane goals faster than I should, because if there’s anything I hate, it’s the feeling of time slipping through my fingers. And time is constantly passing, so if it’s already ephemeral and fleeting, should I waste it taking one step forward, two steps back?
You learn the sacada with brute force and then you realize you have to go back to that basic form because you look like a chicken on ice doing the sacada. While I’m writing about all of this, it becomes even clearer to me how silly this approach really is.
Just imagine how quickly we’d all advance and how much more we’d accomplish from day one if we were to listen to people who’ve been doing this for years, and who have been trying to save us from ourselves? It doesn’t have to be tango, but everything that we’re passionate about so much that we want to push those limits imposed by others.
The ego is an incredible thing, it pushes you forward, but its weight won’t allow you to run, it forces you to crawl.
Back to basics
Aside from martial arts and many other interests in my life, tango has helped me realize the value of taking a systematic approach to something new and unknown. If you’re introverted and relentlessly methodical by nature like my significant other, I admire you, you just keep doing your thing.
For all my dear extroverts whose goals are grander than their minds and their heads constantly stuck in the clouds, I’ll say this much: the sacadas and the spotlight of the stage won’t go anywhere, you’ll be famous dancers one day, too – but not before you master the basics.
So, take that step forward and lead from the center.
Author: Nikola Sekulić