The Charity Dance…What a horrible term!
How about referring to dancing with beginners or less-experienced dancers as ‘Assisting the development of dance’ or encouraging others in their enjoyment of the dance’.
I’m so thankful for those more advanced dancers who were willing to dance with me especially when I first started dancing tango. I certainly (thankfully) didn’t think of those dances as charity dances. It was the main reason that encouraged me to keep dancing and improve. There was the occasional person who would not dance with me, but fortunately, these people were far outweighed by the helpful people willing to foster my enthusiasm.
And still now, the opportunity to dance with someone more experienced or advanced than myself can help my dance immeasurably. It is important that you take onboard the feedback you receive throughout the dance to gain the best opportunities to improve. When I say feedback, that is not verbal feedback but rather the kinaesthetic feedback you receive during every step you take as you dance.
A horrible story. I had a student (and this is not an isolated example) who had a dance with a woman who gave him a ‘score’ at the end of the tanda. The score was two out of ten! Fortunately for him (but not for Tango), the partners in Salsa were more encouraging to him so he no longer dances Tango.
It’s certainly not only men who are discouraged from dancing Tango. There are many women also who are discouraged by men, sometimes inadvertently. It may simply be poorly-timed coaching (e.g. at a Milonga) or making comments that are unfair, especially considering the length at time that person has been dancing.
When dancing with a less-experienced follower, dance within their capability. It should not be about impressing them with how many steps you can do and making them feel inadequate, or verbally telling the follower what to do in order to satisfy your own ego. If you do not have the ability to lead a particular movement and/ or the follower does not yet have the technical ability or experience to perform the movement, don’t do it. If you are unsure about the experience of the follower, keep it simple to begin with. You will soon feel (if you’re listening) what is possible.
Thoughts from a follower…
Generally, when I accept dances from leaders who are in their early learning years, I try to focus on my own technique, posture, balance and use that time to pay more careful attention to the music, to slow down, and to become more conscious of our body movements together.
I prefer to ask a beginner leader than to be asked and I often try to do this once each time I’m at a milonga. Sometimes though, I do not feel like accepting a dance from anyone who doesn’t have the desire to keep improving their skills or musicality. Each time I dance with someone I always look forward to our connection being a little better than the last time, whether it’s because of the tanda selection or the creativity or the technique.
As with any dance that you have, be present in the dance. It is commonplace for people to be distracted within the dance when the dance does not meet expectations or their looking forward to their next partner. There is always something to be gained from and improved upon with every person you dance with.
Make it happen. Create a connected and positive experience for every partner that you dance with and be totally present within the dance.
What prevented you from not giving up in the early days of dancing Tango? One should remember more often those times when we were first starting out.
What else could you do to encourage others (or not discourage them)?