I've seen something very strange happen a number of times over the last few weeks, although on reflection, maybe it isn't that strange after all. Part of the job of running dance events and classes is that I spend a good part of the evening wandering around the room and talking to people. I might talk to them whilst we are dancing (yes... I know... heresy, but we are neotango after all...), over a cup of tea, or whilst they are sitting down at the side of the room between dances, but I do try to get around to as many people as possible. And one of the things I hear a lot is "You see him / her / that couple over there? I / we will never be as good as them!"
Fair enough, you might think. We can't all be experts. But then I cross the room and talk to the person or the couple that have just been pointed out, and they look back at the ones I have just been talking to and say "You see him / her / that couple over there? I / we will never be as good as them!"
So person A thinks that they will never be as good as person B, but person B thinks that person A is already unachievably better than they will ever be. Which is nuts, right?
Well maybe not. We spend so much of our lives judging ourselves against the performance of others that we lose objectivity and can no longer see how far we have progressed in something. We look at someone doing something that we cannot do, and forget that we ourselves can do many things that they have never even attempted. In the tango world we hear so often how people have particular dancers that they look up to and how those dancers look up to others that we almost start to think of the dance world as being a version of the famous Class Sketch (Frost Report, April 7th 1966) with a hierarchy of expertise and everyone on a particular level.
But reality isn't like that. Everyone learns at a different rate, but more than that, everyone learns different things at a different rate. Someone might be truly excellent at sacadas, but never quite get to grips with ganchos. Someone else might be world-class at enrosques but fail every time they attempt a volcada. It happens. We are influenced heavily by the route we have taken into tango and who has taught us over the weeks / months / years we have been doing it. Different teachers emphasise different things, and although we all end up dancing tango, the particular shape of our tango will vary widely. We learn things at different rates because we are not all identical. Some of us are tall and some of us are short; some of us have poor natural balance, whilst others can manage three complete spins on the spot without even thinking about it. These differences certainly affect our dancing, but they are more likely to affect single aspects of our dancing than everything at once, and this results in us learning some things faster than others.
So stop judging yourself against other dancers. By all means watch and learn from them (where do you think we teachers get our next classes from?), but don't fall into the trap of "I'll never be as good as them."
Because the chances are that someone else is looking at you and thinking the same.
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