QUESTION: What’s the hardest part about dancing?
…it’s finding “the one”.
You know…the one who understands you, knows you better than you know yourself. The one who loves you for who you are, is always awesome, and would never do anything to hurt you.
A dance soulmate may sound like something from tango mythology but such a connection does exist…if you so dare to find it…
Having the right mindset
Many people feel weird about looking for a dance partner. That it’s too forward or that it’s not a clearly defined goal. They don’t even know how to ask. It’s a bit like, “Hey uhhh…I think you’re amazing…wanna be my dance partner?” Actually yeah, that does sound creepy.
Just relax. You’re not looking for a life partner, only a growth partner. And anybody can help you grow. You’re not getting married. You’re not signing your life away. And there’s no expectation other than to have fun. (Have fun while improving your dance, of course.)
So how do you find a partner? Where should you look? And how do you pop the question?
1. Tell your dance teacher
Your tango teacher (you do have one of those, right?) is connected to many students and other dancers in the community. Your tango teacher also knows how you look and what styles of dancers you might feel more comfortable with. They know your strengths as well as your shortcomings.
So tell them you are looking for a practice partner. There’s a good chance they already know of other dedicated students looking for the same, and possibly live only around the corner from you. Your tango teacher will also be a good person to make the introduction easier and natural for you.
But suppose you don’t have a tango teacher *SMH* or your teacher doesn’t have anyone compatible for you, here’s how you do it yourself…
2. Ask to dance
This tip is easier for leaders. Just go up to the person and ask her to dance. See if there’s potential.
Some questions you can ask yourself…
- Do I like dancing with this person?
- Does this person allow room for my artistic growth?
- Do I enjoy talking to this person?
And that’s it! Avoid running a checklist. Embrace, musicality, technique, dynamic, stage presence–all that stuff you can develop later. It’s much easier to work your way up to the fantasy partner than to wait around for one. Trust me, I know.
3. Ask to take a class together
A good time would be right after you dance. Another time would be before a class or workshop. You could also send a Facebook message. Say, “Hey, I’m looking for a partner for the upcoming class/workshop and I wondered if you would consider doing it with me. I respect the way you dance and thought we might work well together.”
Once you do well in a class, try a workshop. If you can do that, try a private. An alarming way to ask for a private would be, “Hey Try not to expect so much out of your partner. Focus on yourself. You can still improve a lot even if you don’t totally get the actual class material.
4. Ask to practice
If you’re able to take a class and also dance with each other when you’re out at the same milonga, you could take the next step and ask if the person would like to do a practice session. All you need is a little floor space and some music and you’re ready to go.
The top concerns here regarding practice is where to practice, and how to practice. This will be separate guide later but for now, do this: 1) make sure you have places in mind before you ask to practice. 2) talk about how to give feedback. 3) have fun.
If your prospective partner is too busy, you can always suggest practicing during a practica. Spend the first 30 minutes with each other to try out something new. Mix in with others, and then come back together again at the end to check in on each other.
5. Ask to partner
If you’ve gotten this far, honestly, you’re already gotten your partner. You’re already dancing, already taking classes, already practicing together. In a sense…you’ve already partnered. Now it’s time to make it official with the obligatory, “Wanna partner with me for _____?”
Define what the partnership is for, such as an upcoming dance recital, performance, competition, or any other dance gig. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t be offended if your partner says no. One opportunity in this moment would be to tell your friend to keep you in mind and let other candidates know that you are looking. Hopefully your friend has appreciated dancing with you and will put a good word out for you.
However, there’s a very good chance this person will say “yes”. As long as you’re not asking the scary commitment “partner for life” question, you shouldn’t have any problems.
For the last-minute folks
There are a couple tips about this one. Some of you don’t have time for STEPS #1-4 and so you’re going straight to STEP #5 because there’s a competition happening next week (and you wanna win it, and brag to your annoying cousins at Christmas). Or maybe there’s a friend’s wedding and you got asked to perform as a gift.
My advice is this. If it’s gonna be last minute, don’t soften the blow.
Be crazy. People love crazy ideas. You know that organized business pitch that goes something like, “Hey, how about we practice 2 hours a day for the next 5 weeks and then try the tango competition?” You see, that one sucks. It sounds like work. Sounds like commitment.
Try this…”Hey, there’s a competition next month, wanna do it? Don’t worry, I haven’t prepared either.” That one sounds exciting as hell. Be exciting.
For those who can’t find a partner
This is one of the most frustrating things in the world. Being able and willing to practice and perform but having no partner to do it with. It happens to even the best of us and especially a problem with followers. There seems to be far more dedicated followers than there are leaders.
My best advice is to keep dancing, keep meeting people. This allows you to keep an eye out on other dancers in the community as well as establish yourself as a “serious dancer”. It really helps to find partners when everyone knows you as the person who’s always going to workshops and improving his/her dance.
Stay open-minded so that you don’t overlook good opportunities. You might notice a rapidly-developing beginner, or maybe a “tango frog” that’s suddenly transformed into a prince.
The GOLDEN RULE is: “In order to attract a partner you have to be able to offer something.” Continuing working on your dancing and elevating your level and before you know it, you’ll have a line of partners waiting to dance with you.
FOR PART 3: I’ll go over some tips on how to actually train for a competition (assuming you’re one of those crazies that actually like to practice tango)…I seriously thought that was out of fashion by now. 😉
- UPDATE 12-1-17… PART 3 – How to Train for Tango Competition
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