Friday, February 3, 2017

"But that's what everybody says!"

A Toronto Tanguero friend recently asked me for advice in a subject I knew really well in Tango.  I'm not going to say what topic it was, but trust me, I know my stuff.

In my experience, many people who ask for advice in Tango aren't seeking any.  More likely, they are looking for an opportunity to show off what they know.  Or they are looking for some kind of praise or validation.  My friend was sincere, he really wanted to hear what I had to say.  So I told him.

I explained as clearly and patiently as I could and gave my best, most honest counsel.  My friend listened attentively, but at the end, he exclaimed -

"But that's what everybody says!"

I was quite surprised to hear that everybody did say that.  And that that my friend had heard the same advice before from others.  Because, quite frankly, most people as far as I could see DID EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE.   And that includes my friend!

Investigation was in order and a quick google search resulted in cyberpages upon cyberpages of fantastic advice about Tango.  How to listen to the music.  How to dance with emotion.  How to embrace.  How to connect.  Written convincingly, beautifully, poetically.   Everybody an expert and all of them Shakespeare to boot.

An acquaintance once gave us a videotape with a documentary about Tango.  Couldn't really refuse her, she was so enthusiastic.  "It's like a poem, they way they talk about Tango.  You would love it!" she said. 

Ah, but I was born a cynic and didn't watch the video without any expectations.  And lo and behold, I was not pleasantly surprised either. 

Everyone spoke so enchantingly about Tango in the video, if they could dance their words, they would all be EVEN BETTER than the milongueros. 

Too bad the actual dancing was s***.

"Are these people really still TEACHING people to dance?" asked Man Yung when he turned the tv off in disgust.

Lots of people can talk the talk but not walk the walk.  Can't really even jiggle their legs to the beat even if you hit them over the head with it (to mix all the metaphors - I'm not one for writing beautifully.  Or grammatically.  Too frigging bad).  Man Yung has another golden phrase for this.

"EVERYONE says they listening to the music when they dance!  But quite a lot of them are NOT.  Just bloody look at them!"

You can test that out next time at your local milonga.  Go up to the people who are obviously dancing like they are deaf, and ask them if they are dancing to the music. They are not going to say that they are not!

"Oh look at that Man Yung and Irene!  Dancing like a couple of deaf prats.  Don't listen to them!"
"Yeah right... a couple of prats. IN 2007.  We are even BIGGER PRATS NOW!"

Once, a local instructor told us that he didn't dare watch any old videos of himself performing because it was so embarrassing and looked so bad.
We don't have such a problem.  Everybody looked crappy at one point - maybe they still do!  We are what we are.  No baggage and no need to burn the evidence!

Back to my friend.  Yes, perhaps he had heard it all before.  But why did he do the opposite? 

Turns out he did not really UNDERSTAND what that advice really meant.  I had drive it all home by mercilessly picking him apart.  And do it all again the next time I saw him.  And the next time.  And the next time.

He must be a real friend because 1) he let me pick him apart and 2) it really did sink in after a while.  100% better!  See, I know what I'm talking about.*

* Man Yung says, "The trouble with you, Irene, is that you are not ASSERTIVE enough.  You may know something 100%, but when you try to explain it, your wishy washiness makes you look like you only know 20%.  You have to make yourself look like AN EXPERT.  Look at me!  I may know something 20%, but my RADIANT CONFIDENCE makes me look like I am a PhD!" ** 

** Drum roll to eye roll.  "If they want to listen, they will.  No amount of overbearing posturing (or threatening bodily harm) will convince anyone if they are not receptive to your advice.  Don't waste your time or breath!"

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