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Don't have a practice partner?

posted Dec 7, 2014, 2:46 PM by Sophia de Lautour   [ updated Dec 7, 2014, 2:47 PM ]
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Sharing this great post from Terspichoral Tangoaddict1 about the benefits for followers to practice solo. 

Many women have no choice but to practice solo due to the lack of a suitable / willing / available leader with whom to practice. Others deliberately choose to practice so as not to lose the 'magic' of dancing socially with one of their favourite dancers. 

"Since many people, especially followers, complain about the lack of a practice partner, I thought it was worth telling you about my friend Foxy who chooses to always and only practise solo, despite no shortage of leaders who would be happy to practise with her. Although she occasionally takes group classes with a leader, "I don't like having a regular practice partner," she told me, "because I feel as though it takes away the magic."

Her approach is a little like that of the hostess of a dinner party, dusting windowsills and wiping surfaces clean before guests arrive to an immaculate, welcoming house or of a woman preparing for a date, carefully closing the bathroom door to let no one glimpse the plucking, shaving, scrubbing, clipping, filing and painting and then emerging from the steamy dampness like Aphrodite on a shell, seductively and seemingly effortlessly beautiful. When she takes a man in her arms for tango, she wants it to feel romantic, playful, flirtatious, intimate. Not collegial, perfunctory or merely functional. I don't share this approach, but I can understand it.

So how does she practise? By balancing carefully on each foot, adjusting her posture, attempting to achieve complete stability. By slinking her way up and down the practice room in snaky ochos, watching in the mirror, carefully attentive to the relative positions of the different parts of her body, nose wrinkled with concentration as she hones her proprioception to feel what is happening, what is working and what is not. By taking technique classes with her favourite female dancers and paying minute attention to every detail of their feedback and vigilantly practising the exercises they give her. By organising small group technique classes and practice sessions with her female friends -- a smart thing to do, since it is easier to motivate yourself to practice consistently if you have practice companions. By asking around among all her male friends who are good dancers, interrogating them as to exactly what it is that they love about their favourite female partners. By trying to find the women with the most perfectly oiled pivots, with the softest embraces, with the most expressive musicality, with the smoothest dissociation and taking class with them, persuading them to share their secrets, to help her achieve some of the same feeling. (I've never met a dancer who was so generously effusive in her praise of other women dancers or so full of admiration for a wide range of followers; she encourages and supports the celebration of good women dancers.)

And is she a good dancer? Has this approach worked? Well, I don't like to rate and rank dancers here. But I've started imitating her in this: in asking around among the male dancers I most enjoy: who are your favourite partners and why? And several of them have named her: they love her groundedness, her softness ("she has the softest embrace of anyone I've danced with" one told me), the characteristic way in which she likes to express the music with subtle, sensual movements of her upper body (she rarely decorates with her feet -- a personal choice), her complete lack of tension, her very deep commitment to the music.


Personally, right now I am lucky enough to have an excellent practice partner who I love working with. And I certainly believe that you can't learn the whole dance without a partner. But you can, you most certainly can maintain, improve and hone your dance without a partner. Solo technique exercises really do work. So if you don't have a partner right now and it's frustrating you immensely because you feel you cannot progress in your dance -- well, you can. Take inspiration from Foxy's approach. Good luck!"


If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy: The Ideal Practice Partner (for leaders)

1 Terspichoral Tango Addict is a Buenos Aires-based tango teacher / tourist guide / interpreter and translator (several languages). I highly recommend her services. She can be contacted via the above link.