Exaggerating errors to diminish them

I never like being corrected. Who does?

Worse is repeating errors and getting the correction over and over. “What is going on here?!” I ask myself.

I came to realize two things.

First, an error is a symptom of a deeper problem–failure to prepare well for the moments before and after the error. We seek a result before understanding and teaching ourselves the desirable preparation and continuation for what we want to achieve. (The Alexander Technique calls this “end-gaining.”)

Second, I could appreciate undesirable, less productive traits by actively exploring, even exaggerating the error. Then start unlearning the error and discovering the preparation/continuation that supports my goal.

I began teaching others. My first reaction to dissatisfaction with unproductive corrections was always to speak to the positive. What we want. (NOT what we don’t want.) But that had limitations, too.

Our upbringing tunes us into the negative. Parents telling us, “Don’t do that!”

I also discovered that things aren’t out-and-out right or wrong. It depends. We may need to modify, give more or less or different with changes in the situation. Differences in partners, for example.

So we came to develop a Tango Tribe philosophy of the range of possibilities. Everything in dance, and life, is found in a spectrum of options–no absolute right or wrong. We seek the sweet spot that best serves our ends.

In dance, the sweet spot might slide to one end or the other of the range, depending on us, our partner, and the situation (music, floor, shoes, la ronda). The sweet spot might be large or small, depending on our relative skill levels and the difficulty of what we want to achieve.

This philosophy leads to two supporting ideas.

First, we want our sweet spot to be narrow, tightly focused on what we give out to others. We want to give our best. We want to be generous in the sweet spot size we can accept. We want the ability to work with less than ideal situations.

Developing our abilities to give and receive requires intentional practice.

Second, practice to find and develop our sweet spot wants to explore the boundaries of the range! The good and not so good.

When we have repeating errors, our body-mind learned that strategy to achieve our goal. We can learn a better way by actively exploring the error range, even exaggerating it! Our body-mind comes to appreciate how something is less effective, then explores the preparation that changes what we thought we needed to do.

(For a scholarly treatment of this idea, see Dr. Noa Kageyama’s article, When Mistakes Are Good: A Counterintuitive Strategy for Rapidly Fixing Bad Habits in Our Technique.)

ASIDE: This explore-the-range approach also informs our feeling for the great value of learning both sides of the embrace–lead and follow. We want the ability to feel what our partner wants to feel.

When we are students, ask our partner or teacher for permission to explore the error range by exaggerating it to see what it teaches us. Also, ask if they have insights into what misperception or missed preparation stands in front of the error.

When we are teachers, think about what is the actual problem lying underneath an error. Encourage students to actively explore and exaggerate errors as a way to appreciate them and begin seeking the better way.

Making dance fundamentals fun

How to make fundamentals classes more appealing.

Musicality is not an advanced topic. Music is foundational to why we dance at all. Music is an external reflection of our own internal rhythms. For me it is the first Connection of dance.

That satisfaction of accomplishment, learning figures, that others mention? Students can have that and more as they learn how even the simplest of movements–weight changes in place, across a distance, and interrupted weight changes–plus great intention (from both sides of the embrace!) can produce fun with a partner and with the music.

Improvisation from the start. How amusing, or befuddling, for a student to hear, “Tango is an improvisational dance,” and then the first thing we learn is a figure!?

Teaching movement with music. Teaching that with every single step we have choices–continue as we were, do nothing, or do something different.

Give students a full course of the fundamental movements of tango, and the intentions that provoke them, well connected to personal feelings for the music and its structure. Then you will have clear, comfortable, creative dancers who are well prepared to explore figures from either side of the embrace.