Friday, January 2, 2009

Why good dancers are good...

Practice, practice, practice...

You could file this one under "everybody knows this, right?".

A few posts ago, I talked about doing the hard work and being patient in one's tango journey. There is no magic pill or silver bullet in tango.

Here's a story I remembered the other day. It was told by a friend, who was visiting to teach a workshop in Aspen. He was in Europe, and had the opportunity to practice with the partner of a "famous" tango dancer. She said something to the effect of "You wanna practice later?" to him. It was mid-day, so he figured they would practice for a coupleafew hours in the afternoon.

They started dancing around 3pm in the afternoon. Their practice progressed nicely, working on a multitude of "stuff". Intense stuff, various stuff, taking breaks here and there - talking, eating, drinking, resting, dancing.

They finally called it quits at 3am the next morning.

He also told me that this "famous" dancing couple, before an upcoming performance, practices more or less for six hours a day for three or four weeks prior to the big day. Granted, this is a professional tango couple, and they have the luxury of time which most of us don't. My point is this - we mere mortals might think that because they are pros, that they don't need to practice/rehearse that much - that they can get out there and just dance to "wow" levels. But this is precisely why they *are* world class tango dancers - because they practice and do the hard work for many many hours a day - and it never stops. It doesn't stop after a year or two, or three. Ten or twelve or fifteen years down the road, they are still keeping up this pace and level of effort. Well, maybe it does taper off somewhat as the years go by, but you get my drift.

Again, the vast majority of us don't have the luxury of this amount of time to dance, and the vast majority of us aren't interested in becoming professional touring tango teachers/performers. But it helps to illustrate the point of practice and hard work in becoming "good" at something you love, or improving to whatever level you desire for yourself.

I'm not practicing nearly enough these days. I'm not dancing nearly enough. Not to be improving my dance at the rate at which I'd like it to be improving. A two hour practica on [most] Sundays, minus my favorite practice partner who is out due to an injury, plus a few tandas a week in milongas. That's about it. A year ago, I had set a goal to practice with my partner 3-4 hours a week. I was never able to manifest that. It was high on my list of priorities, but low on hers.

I'm pondering my New Year's resolutions... and wondering about this one...

Meanwhile, almost everyone I know is having a grand time at the San Diego Tango Festival this weekend.



ModernTanguera said...

We wish you were here!

It's so true that professionals spend plenty of time practicing. When I began working for a dance company, it became clear how much dedication it takes. Our best dancer goes to the gym every single day, arrives about an hour early to every rehearsal to warm up, continues to take classes regularly ... it's a nice reminder to us non-pros that practice is key for getting better (and that we maybe don't need to be professional, heehee).

Malevito said...

Hi Alex--

I think the example you present is something of an extreme case. 12 hours of practice in a day, even with breaks in between, seems a bit much. I don't know anybody who does that, professionals included. Personally, I don't think I have the sheer stamina for that--I'm pretty fried, mostly mentally but also physically, after two to three hours of steady work. While I could go beyond that I think at that point I wouldn't be doing much good, and may actually do some harm by getting sloppy and such.

But of course, practice is essential. I think the key is really about consistency. Even an hour or two a day--or even every other day--can provide a lot of maintenance and upkeep.

I recall a quote from the pianist Paderewski: If I miss one day of practice, I notice it. If I miss two days, the critics notice it. If I miss three days, the audience notices it.