These days we have lost the clarity around the difference between a practica and a milonga. This is true here in the United States and it is also true in Buenos Aires. Not uncommonly what is called a practica is really an informal milonga. So it is confusing. But a tango community really needs to know what a practica is and what it is for. Here I want to say something about the spirit and goals of a practica and in a later post I’ll say something about the spirit and goals of a milonga.
At a practica the goal is to improve your dance, to work on new material, and to deepen and solidify your tango foundation: your walk, your posture, the rhythm and tempo of your steps, your lead and follow.
The spirit of a practice is first and foremost collaborative. When two people are working together both person’s contribution is essential. The goal is for the movement to feel good for both people. Therefore you need the input of both people. Did that feel good to you? How about you? When you are developing something new, most of the time it won’t work well at first, so you need to start to make educated guesses as to why it went wrong: I think I began my pivot too soon. I think I was late on my lead. I think you were ahead of the music. I think you were leaning forward. I think I was leaning too far backward. Etc, etc.
The more you understand how two-person tango movement works the more you can make educated guesses as to why something did not work. The more you have solved tango problems successfully the more you are good at your educated guesses. The more you have studied and practiced tango the more you know about it. What this means is that tango is very much experience and practice based: the more you dance, the more you practice, the more you know. There are so many movement problems to solve and if you work hard and put in the time you will solve them.
Sometimes at a practice one person in the couple knows more than the other. This might be true of your usual practice partner and it is definitely true when you ask a more experienced dancer how to do a particular movement. The more they know the more they can say and demonstrate to and with you how to do the movement successfully.
The purpose of a practice is to solve movement challenges and to solidify and deepen your tango foundation. The goal of a practice is: I just want this particular movement or figure to work well and to feel good. And the spirit of the practice is collaborative, educational, and industrious in that you turn yourself over to the training process.
It is far less obvious to know how to succeed at being a good milonguero. I will pick this issue up in the next post: How to practice to become a good milonguero.