Tango is a losing game – there are things you should lose if you want to connect with your partner. It might sound like I am some kind of Zen teacher, but I really believe that when people learn tango they should be more focused to forget some things, rather than to learn something new.
As master Yoda said: “You must unlearn what you have learned!” if you want to connect with your partner.
It is easier said than done. Why? Because it is so much part of our nature that many are not able to easily let it go. The problem is what is “it?” How can we let it go if no one tells us what should we let go? Lets get in to it!
We had a private class. She was an experienced dancer and I was teaching her years ago, when she was at the very beginning in her tango journey. I asked her what is her biggest challenge in this moment of her development as a dancer.
“I have a feeling that I practice a lot. I spend at least an hour at home every day doing exercises… and I’m not getting the results I expect,” she said.
“What do you expect?”
“Better dances. Better partners. More pleasure during the dance,” she answered.
I believe that practicing is useful only if one knows where it leads. If you practice alone at home, you are basically practicing to dance alone. If you want to improve your dancing with partners, you should practice more with partners. Of course, good technique can give some freedom to your body, but practicing technique teaches you almost nothing about connection.
So, here they are! I believe these two things are the most important things one can do if he/she wants to connect better. The first one is about the body and the second one is about the mind. I can’t say which one is more important – both are crucial and they complement each other.
1. Lose your inner monkey – We are monkeys… and what monkeys do when they are on a shaking tree, when they feel insecure? They grab with their hands! In most of our activities in life, the main organ for manipulating the world are our hands. We grab with them, we move objects with them, we keep distance from the walls in darkness, we drive our cars with hands, we defend ourselves with our hands…
But, you see, in tango we have to abandon that if we want to dance well. Good communication can be defined by the way we use our hands to transmit information to the partner’s body: the more we use them, the worse our connection becomes.
Let me elaborate! We have two radically different approaches. The first one, when we just use our hands – even when it is done in the most subtle way, which at moments can feel very smooth, leading with hands is not “under the radar.” We are trained to expect “pushing” and “puling” (no matter how subtle is – from the hands. This means that ladies are aware of it, and when they are aware – they react to it. This form of communication is based on reactions and is slower and less direct.
The second, opposite situation, is when we do not use our hands for communication. Our monkey brain, trained to expect the hands to finish the work, can not detect how the information is transferred. This means – the transfer of the information is “just transferred,” it is “under the radar.”
“But if not the hands, how it is transferred?” you might ask.
Well, if the man uses his center to transfer information directly to her center – then her body will just move – without her being even aware of how it happens. When this happens, the dancers are not aware how – but their bodies are just connected. They act as if they are one body.
2. Lose yourself – This is the meditational part of dancing tango. I am not talking here of some yoga-meditation-nirvana-enlightenment stuff – but about something very real and very concrete. I don’t agree with the approach that tango dancers should work to connect with their own body – and many use these kinds of exercises. Of course, a person needs good motorics, if this is what they mean by connecting with your own body, but that is something you develop over the time and if you focus on this, you miss other – more important aspects.
Having a good connection doesn’t comes from connecting with your own body – but with the body of your partner. Basically both of the dancers in the couple dance with their partners’ body, not with their own. That is not natural – but it can be (and should be) practiced – until it becomes natural.
I used this analogy in one of my posts – and here I repeat it – because it is so accurate. It is like learning to ride a bicycle. You have to spend enough time on it so your brain starts to feel it as extension of your body.
How can we achieve this? There are two parts of the formula. First, you have to dance for your partner, not for yourself. This means that all you do should be part of your partner’s dance. The man uses his body and his movements to make her body dance. The woman focuses on his body and uses his movements – and that alone makes her body move
It is like the musician playing violin. He is not focused on how he is dressed or what he looks like – all his focus is on the violin. In time, as he enters into the flow – he even forgets about the violin; he becomes one with the violin – and this new entity creates forms out of the music.
The second part of the formula includes the other side. You see, if you dance for your partner and if she/he also dances for herself/himself, than who is dancing for you? This is why some partners are good, even if they lack some technique – because they are givers. In my opinion the worst dancers those who, for whatever reason, are not able to give.
Have in mind that in these article I am talking about extreme situations. I believe that these should be dancers’ tendencies, his/hers goals. When you are at milonga you will move closer or further from these goals – but the closer you are to the ideal, the better dancer you will become.
I know that some of this can be abstract and I tried to explain it the best I could. If you have any questions I would be happy to answer. I would also appreciate if you share this post with your friends on Facebook or in the groups/forums where your community shares useful tango links.