The learning zigzag

The idea of a learning curve suggests smooth and inexorable progress in acquiring new skills or knowledge… and completely misses out all the dips and plateaux and sudden leaps that tend to happen in real life.

Last night I was dancing tango at a milonga (i.e. a tango-dancing party ), and got a bit demoralised because I didn’t seem able to do anything I’d been so proud of myself for learning lately. I had started to feel I was, though not an expert, past the beginner stage and able to dance a creditable tango. But for some reason it just wasn’t working. Despite trying to follow, I kept misreading what I was being asked to do and either pausing or heading off in the wrong direction. And I was frustrated, and felt fairly sure my partner was frustrated too.

It was made harder by the fact that I felt very conspicuous – the first dance I did I was one of three couples in a room of where about 50 people were watching, and the other dancers were all really really good! I’m not normally self-conscious, but I’m at such an early stage with tango that it did get to me a bit. The fact that I knew very few men at the milonga and so didn’t get invited to dance very often didn’t help much either!

But I’m getting better at this learning lark, and recognised a dip when I saw one. And so I refused to let myself be discouraged, and compared my abilities to previous times when I’d felt bad about my skills, rather than the times when I’d briefly felt I knew what I was doing.

On the way home I deliberately expressed my frustration about not dancing as well as I had hoped to. Which was useful, because people explained that dancing at a milonga is often harder than dancing in a class because there is so much less space, which means that the leader often ends up having to do unexpected things (e.g. stopping to wait until there’s space) that wouldn’t be necessary in a class. Which helped too – clearly dancing like that in milongas is a slightly different skill I need to work on!

And finally, the eternal advice “get back on the horse again”.

So enough blogging – I’m off to another milonga tonight!


3 responses to “The learning zigzag

  1. Just back – had a very good milonga tonight. There ws one dance where I felt – for the first time – that I was able to combine following my partner with dancing my own response to the music – very enjoyable!

    The zigzag continues!

  2. Us Aikidoists often think we’re doing pretty well during training until we get stuck in the middle of a “randori” (i.e. one person in the middle and all the others attack him/her in turn from all sides in a controlled, but realistic manner) and then suddenly all hell seems to break loose and we flail about inefficiently. Disheartening at times, but we all start off the same and for those who persevere, it all gets better with training. Randoris are for us a great chance to practise the old and precious adage: Humility (in this case: don’t overestimate your ability) and Dignity (pick yourself up and keep at it with courage). Enjoy your tango randoris! 😉

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