Anything but Tango: Thoughts on Crosstraining 9/13/16

When I first started studying tango, I encountered several teachers and dancers in the community who claimed that only by studying tango exclusively could you hope to achieve anything as a tango dancer. At the time, it made no sense to me- it was my previous training as a jazz dancer that gave me the coordination, balance, line, and timing to get past the initial stages of studying tango, why would I throw that aside? Even now, I encounter dancers who pride themselves on dancing tango to the exclusion of all other dance forms and proudly state this, as if anyone else's passion for the dance is diminished for studying anything else.

Several years later, my partner and I were evaluated by three professional couples who sat down with us to discuss our dancing. The first thing one of the followers asked me was whether or not I had classical dance training. She told me that it showed a little too much in my dancing, that I was too light, tall, and balletic in my movement.

Instead of telling me to focus on tango movement and disregard my previous training, her recommendation was to bring in more of my modern dance training and the sense of grounded movement that accompanies that style. She didn't ask me to abandon my previous training.

She asked me to capitalize on it.

Several of the best leaders I know have backgrounds in other dance forms or martial arts. Many of the best followers I know have training in another form of dance, if not several. Each gives a particular quality and context to their dancing and a depth of knowledge of movement unavailable to those who only study one facet of dance.

So here's a little homework: Go take a class. Any class. It doesn't have to be dance related, but that certainly helps. Remember what it was like to be brand new at something. Draw threads between the skills you learn in one environment and your dancing. Or don't- take it for the experience!