Postmodernism

There can be a recognizable wardrobe for both leaders and followers in tango; beyond the pleated pants and spandex dip-hem skirts. When traveling for festivals and events where there are hundreds even a thousand plus dancers there are ways to speculate who might be an exquisite dancer. Is that leader over there a silent storm milonguero or the showy dancer who prefers an open embrace? A white belt can speak volumes.

Most of my memorable dances to date have been with women leaders …

I’ve been told by women leaders that how they lead is grown out of what they want for themselves as a follow. If I miss something, a woman leader will reassure me with a little friendship squeeze.

F#$%^&g Tango Blog

There are developments in the tango world that may be puzzling, especially to someone familiar with the tango tradition. They certainly seem to have nothing to do with tango and yet are becoming mainstream. These developments need to be addressed. But in order to address them things need to be said that are politically incorrect. For those that claim to be ignorant of this, either they are being dishonest, or they’ve been living under a rock.

To understand these developments we need to understand Postmodernism as a strategy that on the surface appears innocuous as it infects all aspects of society, but is actually a malevolent strategy to take over the social practices and institutions that it infects through a creative and manipulative use of language. While there appears to be no logic to it but instead it is marked by apparently random and illogical use of language such as the use of apparently meaningless verbosity or word salad, it has very specific goals, namely, to subvert and undermine.

While these strategies seem harmless, they have been developed by a number of intellectuals precisely because they achieve their stated goals of undermining traditional social structures and replacing them with a different type of society that they view as more desirable. As Stephen Hicks argues in his book Explaining Postmodernism, this movement arose out of the failure of communism in the Soviet Union and the need to change strategies to achieve the objectives of those who thought that communism was a desirable social system.

Innocuous constituencies

Postmodernism as a group strategy is enabled by two constituencies that are superficially innocuous supporters of the virulent strains that operate on the front lines, namely, (a) postmodern consumers including liberated women and metrosexual men; and (b) postmodern academics in most humanities departments of universities and in the arts establishment. The postmodern consumers support the idea that we have the right to creatively redefine ourselves including experimenting with sex roles through our consumer choices (F&^%$#g Tango Blog is an example of this).

At the level of academia, intellectuals in France (Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Jean-François Lyotard), and the US (Stanley Fish, Richard Rorty) have made strategic moves to make it respectable to dismiss clear, logical and constructive thinking and action, and replace it with what I call an academic sounding Ironic Word Salad that undermines logic, science, reason, statistics. The aim is to legitimize consumption preferences, personal liberation, immediate gratification and superfluous emotional responses as having equal validity as foundations for opinion and action to any scientific, technical, or authoritative analysis, so that it views the latter in inverted commas as ‘scientific’, ‘technical’ or ‘authoritative’.

This is relevant to tango because tango has always been based on clearly defined modes of conduct which emphasises courtesy and conformity to sex roles. As you can see from the writing quoted above, these are being actively rejected in otherwise apparently jovial and innocuous manner. The markers of postmodernism are all there: emphasis on personal choice over conformity to traditional rules and roles, thinly disguised hostility to men, who are viewed as necessary but ultimately disposable, ironic use of language in verbose word salad or associative stream of consciousness writing that puts subjective experience on the same level or even higher than reason, logic or long-term thinking, and the use of vulgar language in the title of the blog to signal membership of a ‘radical’ transgressive avant-garde.

The innocuous aspect of this is due to the superficial openness to everything and anything and strategic avoidance of (a) any conflict or opposition, (b) claims of right or wrong, or (c) of truth or falsehood. As you read the Word Salad you get a general sense of agreeableness. The hostility to men is never explicitly stated (even though it is implied) so that the author does not need at any point to defend anything or take a stance, and can use more word salad to back out of a losing argument. Everything is stated in subjective and personal terms insulated from any need for argument or debate, and yet its effects are no different then truth claims in legitimating certain attitudes, eg., to same-sex dancing, attitudes to men, etc.

Postmodernism is a parasitic linguistic strategy to invade and take over a social system like tango with the ultimate effect of hollowing it out due to the effect of ‘leveling’ or as they call it ‘equity’. The ‘patriarchy’ that it despises so much and seeks to disestablish is actually the mechanism that builds the systems that make available all those consumer choices. These traditional structures function by rewarding success with status. Status incentivises high-IQ, high-testosterone individuals—men or women—to create highly effective systems that provide all that we have available.

When you undermine this system, the competitive process and subsequently its products, are hollowed out and depleted. Thus, women may prefer to dance with other women, but that practice is parasitic on dancing with men while having a detrimental effect on men’s dancing, which then reinforces the contemptuous attitude to men, and so on in a downward spiral. A good way to expose the toxicity of the above-quoted statements are is to simply switch the terms, so now the author is a man who writes as a leader as follows:

Most of my memorable dances to date have been with male followers …

I’ve been told by male followers that how they follow has grown out of what they want for themselves as a lead. If I miss something, a male follower will reassure me with a little friendship squeeze.

I leave it to the reader whether this sounds either metrosexual, homosexual, misogynist, all of the above or none of the above. This is the true power of the Postmodernist Word Salad: it is left up to the reader to interpret but has the general tendency to challenge categories, traditional sex roles, distinctions and hierarchies, ie., it tacitly aims to confuse and ultimately to subvert.

Case Study: Contact Improvisation

A good case study of this process of hollowing out is the practice of Contact Improvisation (henceforth CI) which was created around 1970 by a group of dancers led by the choreographer Steve Paxton. When you look at videos on YouTube of the early contact improvisers you see highly physical and skilled movers taking risks and creating a new form. Paxton is a highly original and yet highly structured and logical thinker who has employed insights from somatics and martial arts to develop the theory and practice of CI.

What has subsequently happened is that CI has been transformed in dance departments of universities and their academic journals into a Postmodern Dance that is transgressive, ie., challenges categories, distinctions and hierarchies, and is thus ‘liberating’, It now uses techniques such as Body-Mind Centering to help you to regress to your primitive child-like, or even amoeba-like, state. None of this is actually representative of Somatics which, at least in its original form, viewed natural movement as helping one to more fully developed and thus reach full maturity, not ‘developmental movement’ in which you regress to some primitive state of babyhood.

So here we can see how the language of somatic movement and CI is strategically distorted in the direction away from technical and physical development and in the direction of inclusivity, anti-ablism, transgression, equity and liberation. These days, when one visits a “Contact Improvisation Festival” one does not see much actual contact because partner dancing demands some technical skills. Instead, one sees a lot of random and pointless movement to random and pointless noise. There is still contact improvisation in there somewhere but the practice has been hollowed out by postmodernist strategies of manipulation and distortion of language.

Categories and hierarchies in tango

This is important because tango is inherently dependent on good manners, conformity to sex roles, and development of dancing skills. When social structures supporting these are undermined through strategic, ironic, transgressive and subjectivist use of language such as the use of vulgar language, word salad, personal preferences as to partners, thinly disguised contempt for men, tango will be hollowed out in the same way. Instead of following a learning path towards competence and orderly conduct at tango events, one will find, as one already finds short-term thinking, lack of uniformity of skill, consumptive behaviour, fads, and competitiveness.

Summary

Postmodernist linguistic strategies are successful because

(i) they are designed to appear innocuous but

(ii) are actually deliberate and systematic, and

(iii) predictably have the effect of hollowing out traditional social structures (categories, distinctions, hierarchies, roles), and

(iv) they emanate out of universities and the art establishment that

(v) promote subjectivism, ‘liberation’, and transgressive use of language and artistic representation relating to such things as traditional social norms in order to ridicule and reject them.

The fact is that traditional social structures—the so-called ‘patriarchy’—that have developed in the West, are not oppressive but have generated liberal societies that have benefitted everyone including women. While there are certain short-term benefits for the consumption-oriented women who tacitly support postmodernist strategies, they will be hurt by this in the long run at these strategies hollow out the practices they participate in and they find themselves bored and disillusioned.

Further reading

Steven Hicks Explaining Postmodernism

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Walking and the Principle of Reversibility

I had an aha moment about walking and improvisation when a student of another teacher asked me to teach him my ‘style’. His teacher was an Argentine who graduated from the ‘tango university’ and was teaching the sort of long, erect walking that is typical of Salon Style Tango, very elegant and upright looking. When they visited my practica I didn’t know what his teaching method was. Anyway, I showed the guy a simple pattern, which commonly goes by ‘ocho cortado’, but the guy couldn’t do it. I was puzzled given that the guys was obviously studying hard with his teacher and really wanted to get my ‘move’. I found myself telling him that the step he’s taking is too long for close embrace, and that he needs to make smaller steps to execute the pattern.

What he was doing was actually what is commonly taught, namely, pushing horizontally into the step. When I visited the other teacher’s class soon afterwards I had my aha moment when I saw that the Argentinian teacher had the students walking around in a circle pushing horizontally into the steps. I actually used to teach in exactly the same way as this is the most common practice in tango instruction, but it just didn’t occur to me that this could actually be an impediment to the close embrace tango that I was teaching. What I realised at that moment is that pushing horizontally into the step while walking, taught directly and turned into a habit, commits the dancer to a large step which is not reversible.

The issue is not that one should not take large steps while dancing, but rather that one should take a step that is as long as needed. The rule is that you learn what you practice, ie., that what you practice becomes a habit. If you practice taking long steps, pushing horizontally into the step, then that becomes the habit. A student who is trained into such steps finds that they cannot take smaller steps in the inculcated belief that a tango walk is always this sort of long step. Another way of looking at this is that the teaching method teaches the view that walking is a lower body action, and not a whole body action, it’s what you do with your legs.


The issue is not that one should not take large steps while dancing, but rather that one should take a step that is as long as needed. The rule is that you learn what you practice, ie., that what you practice becomes a habit. If you practice taking long steps, pushing horizontally into the step, then that becomes the habit.


Ideally, however, walking is an action that integrates the whole body, so that the legs adjust to what the upper body is doing. In the case of tango, the upper body is connected to another body, and the legs need to adjust to that. That’s why, practicing walking by yourself leads to the sort of partnering that is disjointed: we learn to move the legs and feet in a disjointed way, independently of the upper body and ultimately independently of our partner. But that is at odds with the goal of tango training which is to move in a way that is connected to our partner.

Principle of reversibility

So the question is how or what should we practice—individually or with a partner—so that our walking is more connected. The difference between improvisation and choreography is that in improvised dance we respond to the moment. We are not committed to any sequence of two or more steps, so that make a decision at that point time. That means that the way we dance must allow us to stop and change direction. In fact, Moshe Feldenkrais argued that the fundamental principle of freedom in movement (and by extension of freedom in general) is not lack of inhibition, but rather reversibility, defined as having the maximum number of options at any point in time.

In tango we have a range of options at any point in time and the Principle of Reversibility means that we move in such a way that allows us to stop at any point and reverse the movement. If we learn to walk with an elongated step projecting horizontally forward or backward, at the moment of projecting into space we are unable to reverse for the duration of that long step. If furthermore we learn to walk like that habitually, we are unable to take shorter steps. Generally, our movement will have a lot of power but relatively little control or flexibility. At the end of such a power step we will have to ‘land’ which will require a long ‘runway’. Our dancing will be like the action of a large jumbo jet which will be impressive but not nimble. Great for the floor show in eating up all that empty studio floorspace, but completely inefficient in limited cafe spaces where improvisational skill is required.

I don’t want to be necessarily prescriptive about making large or small steps, but rather to draw out the consequences of a type of training that focuses on one or the other. The sort of training that gets students to walk around in a circle powering horizontally into the step forward or back will lead to habitual movement of a particular type which requires a certain amount of space. If one has access to large studio spaces where each couple can have a space of 2 meters in diameter around them then large power steps are viable, but in most cities such spaces come at a premium at the door. So when one gets this type of training one should bear in mind that there is a longer term price tag for that which extends beyond the price of the class itself. There isn’t a single reason to prefer a more efficient, improvisational type of movement, but a range of reasons that include use of space, access to partners, range of music one can dance to, effort involved.

Elongated walking as end-gaining

The Principle of Reversibility is a development of Alexander’s distinction between end-gaining vs. means-whereby. Alexander held that by excessively focusing on a goal we create tension and are unable to use our physical constitution in according to its natural design. Feldenkrais develops this idea further in terms of the idea that a movement which is efficient by Alexander’s standards is reversible, and furthermore that reversibility, rather than self-expression and lack of inhibition, is actually the standard of freedom and spontaneity.

On this view, taking long steps in walking, much as most other choreography instruction, is a case of end-gaining. Why or how does this occur? Some aspects of dancing are more visible than others. Those that are highly visible are often the most impressive to the viewer. The viewer identifies them as the markers ‘good dancing’ and proceeds to try to emulate them. They are the goal or end of his practice. Unfortunately, seeking to emulate what the viewer considers as the mark of good dancing, the viewer merely imitates superficial aspects of dancing.

A tango show can be viewed as a collection of visually impressive clichés taken from what can be seen in the actions of some social dancers, collected in a single choreography and magnified with stage dancing technique. Whereas originally they were emergent aspects of natural dancing technique (see Emergent Movement), applied directly to movement learning become fixed choreography. They then become visually impressive, which in the context of social dancing offers the dancers the image that they are performing, but thereby takes away the satisfaction inherent in movement that is natural, spontaneous, and connected.


A tango show can be viewed as a collection of visually impressive clichés taken from what can be seen in the actions of some social dancers, collected in a single choreography and magnified with stage dancing technique. Whereas originally these were emergent aspects of natural dancing technique, applied directly to movement learning they become fixed choreography.


Partnering practice: the Fingertip Dance

It is common to analyse the traditional tango walking as powering horizontally into the step. In scientific analyses such subjective perceptual judgements should be gauged against universal principles. If we take the relevant universal principle to be the Principle of Reversibility then an interpretation of circular motion initiated vertically is more plausible. You can test this yourself with a simple partnering exercise. When two partners connect at any point on the body, then the most efficient or reversible interaction between them is not linear or horizontal, but circular.

To test this yourself you can try the “fingertip dance” which is a basic movement exploration in Contact Improvisation. In this exercise, two partners touch at the tip of an index finger of one hand. It’s sometime better to do this exercise with closed eyes. The purpose of this exercise is to explore movements while maintaining the pressure and connection between the two fingers. To those inexperienced in this it will be a bit challenging to begin with. Probably one partner should initiate and the other partner should listen or follow. The purpose of this exercise is to learn how the two partners need to participate in order to maintain the connection while moving together.

In the course of such a movement exploration it is useful to ask some questions: What do we need to do in order to sustain the pressure between the fingertips? Do we need to move the body, eg., take a step, in response to any movement? How fast should we move in order for our partner to be able to respond? How can we indicate the direction of the movement for our partner to respond? How can we respond to what our partner is doing. How is moving in a line different from moving in a circle? And so on. What we’ll find is that with repeated practice we learn the ‘rules’ of the fingertip dance and are able to initiate and respond better to our partner, and also that we are able to exchange the initiating and listening roles.

Individual practice of 3-D reversible walking

A reversible way to walk initiates a movement without committing the dancer in a horizontal direction. That means that the movement that is reversible needs to be vertical. Moreover, when the movement is initiated we want the movement to be circular or elliptical, with gradually increasing cycles. In other words, we always initiate with small movements or cycles, each cycle initiated vertically rather than horizontally. A horizontally initiated cycle will create tension in the listener that will be detrimental to reversibility. In other words, when we move into the follower, this will turn into a power move because the follower will perceive this as something to resist. The circular oscillation of movement will be lost at that point and the dance acquires a one-dimensional character. An alternative is to move in place in two-dimensions—vertical up-down, and horizontal to the side—before moving in the third dimension, ie., forward or back.

Turning

In tango milonguero turning by spinning or swiveling on one foot by swerving the hips is not viable because this twists the spine and (a) the tension is projected to the shoulders which then upsets the embrace; and (b) the tension created by this motion is difficult to maintain under control. Given that you don’t dance tango by walking in a straight line, how do we perform changes in direction and turns?

To understand this we can think of movement in terms of physics, and the energy generated by forward motion. It may be tempting to think of moving forward in line (linear motion) and turning (circular motion) as separate. In that case, you’d be imagining that in order to turn you first come to a dead stop. Then you would need to initiate a new movement to create motion which is circular. That would be like a car having to come to a dead stop every time it takes a turn.

In fact there is no need to stop to make a gradual turn. The forward momentum is diverted in a new direction so long as the turn is gradual and the car is not moving too fast (otherwise attempting to turn would cause the car to lose tracktion and skid sideways and perhaps even flip over). You only really need to come to a stop or near-stop when doing a sharp U-turn. In tango, gradual changes of direction are like those with a wheeled vehicle, namely, they are just a continuation of the forward motion of the walk and so we are just diverting the momentum in a new direction. Gradual changes of direction are therefore continuous with walking.

However, after we walk a few steps we would normally need to stop and go in reverse. Again, it may be tempting to think that we have to go to a dead stop, but this is not actually the case. Again, when a car stops it does not come to a dead stop instantly. When the car sharply brakes the wheels screech and the car sinks into the suspension before all the energy is dissipated and the car comes to a dead stop. Before the car comes to a deal halt all that kinetic energy is temporarily stored in the suspension and body of the car.

Kinetic energy is stored in structures such as a stretched elastic band or a bungee jumping rope at the bottom of the jump. The couple in a tango embrace can be viewed as a structure that can be characterised by tensegrity, a word which is a contraction of Tensional Integrity, coined by Buckminster Fuller who gives the following definition:

Tensegrity describes a structural relationship principle in which structural shape is guaranteed by the finitely closed, comprehensively continuous, tensional behaviours of the system and not by the discontinuous and exclusively local compressional behaviors.” Quite a mouthful, but he also could say it in a different way, like: “…compression elements in a sea of tension…

If the couple is a structure characterised by tensional integrity or tensegrity, the kinetic energy generated by the linear motion of the walk is stored much as it is in an elastic band that is held stretched. In tango, when you walk as a couple you create the tensegrity that stores energy. Turning is converting the kinetic energy generated by linear motion in one direction, which is then stored in the tensegrity structure of the couple in the tango embrace, into energy to propel the couple either into linear motion in the opposite direction, or circular or rotational motion.

Now, in some forms of dancing the circular motion is done by pivoting or spinning on one foot. Notice that it is not necessary to pivot in order to turn. You can also turn around your axis by taking steps in place. While this may seem like a very static way to turn, in fact it is not and can be performed in a dynamic way that represents the sort of controlled release that we want to convert the linear motion of the walk into rotational or cicular motion of the turn. At not point is there a need to pivot or swivel on one foot. The advantage of not having to pivot or swivel is that you completely eliminate two problems associated with turns: (1) the problem of centrifugal force that causes dancers, especially in high heels, to lose balance; and (2) the problem of potential slipping that is inherent in having a non-sticky floor and shoes that allows for pivoting.

I call this the Principle of Linear Circularity: the possibility of converting linear motion of the walk into circular motion of the turn, which nonetheless feels like one is walking because there is not pivoting or swiveling involved. We are turning even though we don’t feel like we are turning, and instead feel like we are walking. This has the added advantage that we don’t have to separate the practice of walking from the practice of turning: they’re one and the same practice. A turn is just a variation on the walk whereby the linear energy of the walk is converted into circular energy through the action of the feet in walking and the transference of kinetic energy through the tensegrity of the tango embrace.

As you learn this way you will find that the only way you can learn the dynamics of the tensegrity structure is experientially: first, it is useful to develop a better awareness of the tensegrity in your own body by performing simple movements that connect the extremities in the upper and lower body via the spine; and second, by simple partnering exercises in which you learn the tensegrity of the two connected bodies moving in unison, and how the directed action of the feet brings about the redirection of the kinetic energy of the walk.

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But why not pivot?

Now that you understand how it is possible to change direction or turn without pivoting, you may be wondering why is pivoting such a bad thing? Pivoting on one foot is such a major part of tango dancing these days that there is a lot of time, money and energy devoted to it: dance floors can’t be too sticky but also too slippery are difficult to find or maintain so we need chalk; instead of dancing in normal street shoes we need special dancing shoes that allow us to spin and swivel, and again there is special maintenance required to keep these in just the right level of non-stickiness and non-slipperiness that we can swivel without falling over; special technique is required to spine/swivel without falling over and this of course requires a lot of lessons and training.

So eliminating spinning/swiveling from your dancing you basically eliminate all of the time, money and mental energy costs associated with these things. You get normal shoes that have enough friction to prevent you from slipping. Most importantly, you eliminate all the worry about your balance that is inherently associated with spinning, esp. for women wearing high heels that are inherently unstable, and thereby all of the technique classes and practice time that could be devoted to other, more useful things. Of course if you live for swiveling and all the moves associated with it are the main attraction in tango for you then I can’t argue with that. But otherwise, you gain a lot and lose little by eliminating this technique from your dancing.

Focused Connected Tango Movement

Focused Connected Tango Movement (FCTM) is a system of training for Argentine Tango dancing that involves performing a set of basic movements with focus and awareness.

What is FCTM like?

FCTM is like any movement training where good form, posture and ease of movement should be learned from the beginning through focused practice, including things like the following:

  • practicing yoga slowly and with focus
  • learning to play a classical instrument with a metronome
  • ‘soft’ martial arts like Aikido or Tai Chi
  • learning Chinese calligraphy
  • vocal practice in preparation for singing or speaking

How will FCTM help me learn Argentine Tango?

Doing FCTM helps to:

  • improve posture and coordination of movement
  • improve connection to your partner and the music
  • make learning tango more pleasant and efficient
  • improve creativity, improvisation skills and individual expression
  • provide corrective feedback from a teacher
  • become more independent and correct yourself

How much time investment does the FCTM require?

FCTM requires short periods of focused practice:

  • spaced practice is better than blocked practice: short periods of around 20 minutes 3 times a week are better than an hour once week
  • it is best to do the practice in a quiet place with minimal distractions
  • shake off any tension building up between exercises
  • fill out the practice sheet at the end of each practice session

Do I need a partner for this practice?

  • if you have a partner there is partner practice that you can follow
  • if you don’t have a practice partner: the individual practice will help you if you have an opportunity to work with a partner, eg., at a practica
  • you can apply these skills to learning choreography in a standard dancing lesson although you may have to adjust some movements such as walking for other styles of tango

 

Clock

Our body follows certain control points. In the typical case, the movement follows the direction of the gaze. If we focus on something this elicits an orienting response starting at the head that then moves down through the neck down the spine, and we tend to move in that direction. The main difficulty in dancing tango is that we canno use these primary controlling mechanisms that operate in our daily life: we don’t always walk forward but often backwards or around; we have a partner in front of us; and we can’t look at the feet so that we risk stepping or kicking our partner. We have to therefore learn to move in a completely different way, using a different set of directing mechanisms. In particular the eyes are of no use in dancing tango and looking at the feet in order to figure out where to step is detrimental to the embrace and so we have to learn to orient ourselves without using the eyes.

The solution to the problem is that in tango we orient ourselves with the feet. The feet movements that are these days considered mere decorative are actually functionally orienting movements and need to be learned as such. In some dances and styles of tango feet point more or less forward. In order to turn then it is necesssary to swivel. Swiveling is not an efficient way to move or turn. While it looks aesthetically pleasing and allows for large expressive movements with large hip movement, this is inherently unstable and requires a level of strength and athleticity that is not suitable to social dancing and is not an efficient way of moving that could be sustained without fatigue for long periods of time. Moreover, it is completely at odds with the requirements of the sustained close embrace.

So because we don’t want to swivel and we want the hips to remain relatively square to the shoulders and always facing the partner, we need to free up the feet. The feet have to open up and the differing angle between the feet orients the body. Whereas in the normal case, the gaze orients the head and body towards the point of focus, in tango the direction of the free foot orients the body in a new direction as we move into that foot and put weight on it. This information is then transferred to our partner: as the man orients the foot and moves his weight onto that foot the woman will be naturally drawn in that direction, and as the woman then moves into the next foot this information is registered by the man.

The orientation of the foot is the pointing with the toe when moving forward or with the heel when moving back. The foot works a bit like a rudder in a boat: it is oriented in the requisite direction and then the whole moves in the direction. However, it is not obvious how the direction of the rudder/foot affects the direction of the movement and so some explorations help us to coordinate our movement so that we learn, as with learning to drive a car or steer a boat, how our foot movement affects the direction of the movement of the whole couple. Moreover, we need to learn to do this without looking at the feet.

One way we can do that is with the help of an imaginary clock. The centre of the clos is between the heels. The feet are the two hands of the clock. Lets say the left foot is the big hand and the right foot is the small hand. If we point both toes forward this is 12 o’clock. If we point the feet out that’s 11.05, 10.10, and 9.15 which would be like a ballet dancers turn out. Normally we will keep one foot/hand still and the other foot/hand will turn.

The normal starting position is 11.05 and so this is our point of reference. We will never be at 12 o’clock. To turn right we will move to 11.10 by drawing the heel/knee up and then dropping the foot in the new position. When we then draw up the right foot we will be in the new position and thus return to 11.05. To turn left we draw up the left heel/knee and drop it at 10.05, and then follow that with the right foot to return to the neutral position. Always practice these movements with good posture and alignment, floating your head on top of your spine.

Base

Beginner level students fall into two categories that affect the rate of progress:

1. True beginners have no dancing experience of any sort at all. The whole dancing thing is completely new to them and so really they are just getting into the world of dancing and movement.

2. False beginners have done some dancing before, whether tango or some other dance, and have some foundational skills, what we might call a ‘base’, which will allow them to progress at a much faster rate.

False beginners already have some knowledge of working with movement and with a partner to music so that they are able to coordinate better and sooner than a True Beginner who has to learn a host of skills related to partner dancing. Those are therefore very different learning tracks and learning curves. However, even in false beginners it is necessary to start of with the basics and practice in a slow and deliberate manner without end-gaining. True Beginners will usually take more practice sessions in the basic skills to get these under control.

Motivation

I enjoy lifting weights and I get a lot out if doing it. I feel better, look better, have more energy and can get more done. Still, there is always the issue of motivation. I don’t always feel like doing it and if I miss a couple of workouts I find that I quit lifting for 2 or 3 months and then need to get back into it which means that I have lost some of the gains I was making. I found that to minimise this I need to design a system that minimises barriers to training. I bought a home gym set so that I don’t need to go to the trouble of going to a gym. I invested in equipment that is of adequate quality to make sure that I enjoy training on it and that I have everything at hand. It’s right there at hand and the steps needed to start training are minimal.

There is also the mental game. I find that if I focus on some distant goal of lifting some really heavy weight that is at the moment out of reach this is too distant. It does not make me feel so good about my current workout. On the other hand, if I focus on having a good workout, eg., getting through the workout, having good form on most of my worksets, and improving the amount I lift at each workout by a small amount, I find that I feel more satisfied and feel better at the end of the workout. This helps me to keep motivated to get back into it at my next scheduled workout day. I also find that imagining myself having a great beach-ready body, or if I don’t feel like lifting a heavy weight that I had to work in a laboring job I’d have not choice but to lift stuff and that’s a normal thing, these help me get through any motivational blocks.

Motivation is a function of what is immediately in front of you or present in your consciousness at a given moment in time. If the completion of an action or set of actions mentally appears too distant, requires the completion of too many complex or indeterminate steps to getting a satisfaction, then this is bad for motivation. We lose interest and look for distractions or excuses not to do it. We want to learn a language but it seems such a distant goal. Yet we find that we have sudden onsets of high motivation, eg., there’s an image that inspires me to try to learn Chinese. There are other images or situations that kill that excitement. Certain language-learning apps are fun to do and I can use them when i’m bored but moving along the learning path increases my motivation. Other times I try something else like do language exchange or take a course and I find that it’s all too complicated and my initial energy is dampened.

Psychologists usually talk about intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. They find that some people are motivated by the results of learning: they want to learn English to get a better job, or to learn dancing to meet people. They are not really interested in the subject matter itself but rather what it can provide for them, the effects of the learning. Others are intrinsically interested in the subject itself. They love learning the language and meeting people in that culture, or they love dancing, etc. But this distinction is really to say that if you start rewarding a person for doing something that they would do anyway, then their motivation will tend to shift so that they lose the initial intrinsic interest and become instrumentally motivated. If you take away the reward they are no longer interested in the activity. This is often a problem in studying for the test and presents teachers with an apparently insoluble dilemma.

Its not clear whether this is a really useful way of looking at the matter because motivation seems to be quite fluid. What seems to affect motivation appears to be whatever is the most immediate to the consciousness, eg., whatever is right in front of me, or whatever is on my mind at the time for whatever reason. Recently I decided to go on holiday to Vietnam and so I had to book a flight and accommodation. I was busy with other exciting projects at the time so doing the decision-making and booking seemed like a chore which had to be done otherwise if I delayed further the prices would go up. So initially I’d say I had a purely instrumental motivation to do the booking.

So I wrote the task in my To Do list that I have on a whiteboard so that it’s clearly visible when I sit at my desk. This put this undesirable chore in front of me so that when I felt the least resistance to doing it I would put in the necessary time and effort. However, when I started searching accommodation and looking at images of my destination I got really excited about my trip and my motivation shifted. I now had a visual image that was exciting and motivating and this image kept my mind on planning the holiday throughout the next few days. This is because I could clearly visualise and anticipate the satisfaction of enjoying the culture, the food, the architecture, the people, the street markets, etc. The satisfaction of my holiday went from something that felt abstract and complicated to something immediate and exciting.

So motivation is very fluid but also responsive to specific sorts of stimuli. We might start with a purely instrumental reason to do or learn something: I need to go on holiday, I need a hobby, I want to meet people, I want to get fit, I want to participate in a cultural activity. As we take action in that direction, we can then shift and build that motivation by making the satisfactions associated with it immediate and palpable.

What we don’t want is to set goals that are distant and involve many complicated steps. I try not to overplan my holidays because that would require me to make all the decisions before going which would be a mental drain and I would lose interest. I try to spread the decision-making leaving options open as I go along. This might not work for others. But I feel that it’s good to have some flexibility so that things are available for you to follow an impulse. I feel that it’s good for motivation to have a fairly linear progress, but that within that you will find that there are moments when you come across obstacles, unforeseen opportunities and bursts of progress or energy. That means that you may need to rewind or de-load on some things, fastforward on others, and exploit unexpected opportunities.