Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Psychology of the "Advanced" Dancer

Photo by George A. Kounis

What do advanced dancers, veteran hobby pilots and Army Majors all have in common?  

Answer:  They take too many risks.

Major Danger
In a spoof article about Army majors,  a military humorist suggested that these often lampooned, level-4 officers were far more dangerous in combat to the lives of soldiers than entry levels officers, 2nd Lieutenants.   There might be some truth to this.   Many of us have seen disasterous results when people who are pretty good at something take too many risks.   A red light goes off when when we meet someone who "knows everything" when they really don't.  That means that I am now at risk of being a Tango Major Pain--now dancing for over nine years, which is when Captains become Majors.

The psychology of being "advanced"
My experience tells me that of those rare dancers who regularly run into others while dancing are most likely to the Tango Majors.  It is true that they are often good dancers.  But something is missing.  Isn't part of being "good" include creating the beautiful feeling of security for one's partner?  This blog post is not for the true Tango Major, whom you may have met.  The true Tango Major will vehemently deny that there is even a problem, or point their fingers at beginners.  In reality the beginner is easy to spot and good dancers will not run into them.  The Tango Major will crash into the bumbling beginner, however, and then blame the beginner.

Navigating the dance floor?
Private plane pilots, another example, are also at a much higher risk of crashing when they first become "fully qualified" with just over 200 hours of flying.   Because of their "expertise" they too often take unnecessary risk.  JFK, Jr.'s fatal flight is an example of that sort of risk taking.  The psychology of being pretty darn good can have a dark side of taking too many risks.  When I took my children ice skating they always had helmets--not because of falling down but because of the teens who were "good" skaters but a danger to the younger skaters.  For the most part they missed the younger kids--but sometimes not.

Beginners are not the problem
The problem with safe floorcraft on crowded floor in tango has never really been a beginner problem.  Yet, floorcraft articles and conversations are often focused on beginners!!!  Attempts to correct problems are even written or taught by the very men and women who are actually the problem on the dance floor.  Irony alert:  And here I am writing something about floorcraft; so I warn you: Statistically speaking, my danger level just went through the roof.   :-)

A major mindset change
In tango or in combat, I believe it should be that each Major's job description should start with the following mission statement:  "Create safety as the first priority and others will trust you."  A woman said to me the other night,  "I feel so safe in your arms." It's not right or left but the feeling of safety that is the beginner's first step, and the beginning is the womb of innovation.   Safety is the first step in tango or even life.  

Whether it is Mozart or tango, feeling the music engenders a sense of safety and that our crazy world is somehow okay.  Feeling safe in each other's arms creates a warm embrace and the ability to concentrate on the music, our true leader.

                                           --------------------- /// -----------------------

Not for Beginners--extra reading for Majors:  The similarities of driving a car and dancing in the Rol Masuculino.  (Maybe if you can dance like you drive your car then there would be fewer accidents?)

Floorcraft Guidelines for those dancing over 7 years
    from "The Rogue Dancer" and "Joy of Traffic"

Changing lanes: With an auto, changing lanes is normal, but this is not so with tango.  There are exceptions, but passing on the right is especially dangerous.  Even when changing lanes to the left, lane changing creates the second highest risk of harm to others.  Here is the challenge:  When you are so good that you can dance three milongas in a row without touching another couple, perhaps you should try changing lanes.  If your milongas a “too full” for you to pull this off, then that is a good reason not to pass!   Safe navigators who are not lane changes are truly esteemed by their partner because they feel safe in the navigator-guide’s arms.

Here comes the Rogue Dancer
in lane 1.5
Dancing between lanes and on the safety border is extremely unsafe. The safety border may be only a few centimeters. Do not dance on it between lane one and two! "Guides" going between two lanes are the most dangerous dancers.

Merging into traffic: On a highway, one must get up to speed up to join the ongoing traffic. This is not possible in dancing. Instead the Navigator (most often a man) must have eye contact with the oncoming navigator and then enter.  Men are used to offering “ladies first.” This is dangerous on the dance floor. Just as with conventions of everyday etiquette, a woman does not enter and push through a revolving door for a man.  Guides:  Be creative about making sure your partner does not jump out into traffic and get run over or cause disruptions!

 Be aware that as you walk at the edge of the dance floor that the dancers have the right of way. Dancers often cannot see you. It’s a low moment in thoughtfulness when someone walks across the middle of the floor, unless it is the very start of the tanda before dancing starts.

Speed limit (going too slow): 
Someone driving on the Autobahn at a slow speed (or doing stunts in place] is a safety hazard. If there is a lot of room in front of you on a crowded floor, you can safety consider yourself as probably being a hazard.

Speed limit (going too fast): 
The only way to speed on a crowded floor is to change lanes, and to swerve through dancers on the invisible “white line,” the safety border of others’ dancing space.  Beware: Speedsters may lose their “license” to dance at certain milongas!

Putting it in reverse: 
Step backwards on a crowded floor as much as you might shift into reverse on a highway: Rarely. Both followers and leaders dancing backwards in the direction of dance are going forwards! However, the leader must be very aware that the flow of dance is making room for him because it still is a dangerous blinded-side step for a leader.

 The dance floor is not a parking lot; it is a wooden highway. A song is usually about 3 minutes. Why park-and-chat 1/3 of a song away? Rent a room and chat there! At the end of the tanda leave the floor at the cortina!  Others are trying to catch the eyes of those sitting across the room. Reenter when the music starts.   Also, please do not stand on the edge of the dance floor to chat.  Parking is generally done in a chair to keep your voice farther away from standing/moving dancers.

Wheelies and stunts:
 As a rule of safety ganchos, boleos or large movements on a crowded dance floor are dangerous. When no one is near you or on a sparsely crowed floor "stunts and wheelies" are okay. Warning: Some Tango Fundamentalists will insist never at their milonga. So be aware.

Have fun in traffic!


Photocredit on airplane:
Photocredit on Major Payne:  The trailer to a particularly bad movie. 

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