How to make time for practice is one of the top concerns I hear from students. Learning tango already demands time and dedication. You might attend weekly classes, do some social dancing in the evenings, and participate in special events. Practice is one more thing, and it can feel like a chore.
However, it is so important to include practice in your schedule, because practice is what complements the learning you do. It is what takes your dancing to the next level and refines your skill set. When you practice, you improve your dancing by slowing down to observe and study your movements. You can set your own pace, you can stop and repeat, and you can take notes.
Practice needs its own time slot, separate from group classes and social dancing. All the dancing you do supports your learning, but practice is different. It demands more cognitive engagement and concentration. Taking classes and going to social events do not count as focused learning because those are primarily social group activities.
So how do you get motivated to practice? I will outline a few simple parameters you can work with to help you build a solid foundation of practice that works for you.
How long and how much?
In a previous article I mentioned the 1:1 ratio between class and practice. But going from 1 to 100 if you have never practiced before can be difficult and intimidating. I suggest you start slowly.
Begin with short sessions. What makes a practice session work is not its duration, but the level of focus you bring to it. Short practice sessions can be effective, and you can access many of the benefits of practicing in a short period of time. You are also more likely to practice if a session is shorter rather than longer, as it is easier to fit into your schedule.
Starting with short sessions also allows you to gain momentum. Once you get used to practicing, it becomes easier to increase the time you spend on it. That 1:1 practice to class ratio won’t seem as difficult after a while.
It is good to set a ratio no matter where you start. Setting a ratio is important because it allows you to keep track of how much practice you are truly getting. It also helps you keep your practice regular and consistent in relationship to your other tango activities.
Regular practice is what creates habit and consistency, and consistency builds the momentum that creates change overtime. For example, if you practice ten minutes a day, you will see noticeable progress in one month. On the other hand, if you practice two hours in a row, only once in a while, you are more likely to feel stuck and not see the point of practicing.
Commit to a regular practice schedule. Practice daily or three times a week. Less than that will still be useful, but less reliably effective. When you increase the intervals between practice sessions, you may find it difficult to see progress and to remain motivated to continue.
What if I don’t have a partner?
No partner, no problem. Solo practice is foundational in tango. It is the time to build on your own personal tango skills. Solo practice is one of the forgotten treasures of tango technique. Group classes and events are good for socializing and partnered learning, but don’t take into account the work you need to do individually.
Solo study and practice is the bedrock of progress in your learning curve. You don’t need a partner for it and you can do it on your own time and at home. This is a great way to jumpstart your practice and speed up your progress.
Where shall I practice?
You don’t need a complicated schedule or to rent a studio in order to practice. Most tango communities host regular classes and practicas. Use these events to get inspired and add in your practice sessions around them. You can arrive a few minutes early for class and run your solo practice while you wait. You can also stay after class to take notes, or go over the new skills you need to work on until the next class. Attend your local practica with your own practice objective in mind. Use the time and space already available in your tango community.
I hope these ideas will help you get started and excited about your tango practice, or help bring you back to practicing if you have stopped.
For my next article on practice I would like to hear from you. I will take a week to collect your questions and answer them in an article. What questions do you have about practice?
You can submit your questions about practice until Friday August 24th.