I thought I was done saying "I'm sorry" when I wrote this post. I thought I was too exhausted to keep dancing in a state of apology. It's hard though, to not get frustrated. To not feel bad when something goes wrong. To think I should be better at this by now.
This came up again in the comments on Facebook over my post Leader Diagnostics, discussing the attitude we bring and the things we look for when we dance with our partner. That feeling - that state of apology from leaders who think they should have led something better, for followers who think they ought to have followed it better. I've been completely immersed in that feeling and it can be overwhelming.
I had a tanda and a conversation with a visiting tanguero a few months ago that has slowly been dissolving that need to apologize every time I think I've made a mistake in tango. I was hesitant to publish it because it's so hard to convey the feeling and the context of it all. I've done my best to recreate the feeling and events that led to the conversation, but it still might not convey what it conveyed to me at the time - or what it still means to me now. Every once in awhile he reads a post of mine and sends me a reminder - 'there should be no room for 'sorry' in tango'.
Anyway, for better or worse, this is the conversation.
At the milonga . . .
A visiting dancer, here for the festival.
The ladies said, "You'll love dancing with him, he's such a sweet leader - he dances beautifully."
Great, no pressure then.
Warm embrace, spirited walk - but I feel anxious.
I manage to follow a leg wrap and I can hardly believe it.
He leads a gancho.
I miss the lead, because I'm trying to step ahead, and then step back.
"I'm sorry. I'm not good at those yet."
He smiles, turns me around in a quick ocho cortado, and then embraces me again.
I'm trying not to think about the whirling dervish of a the pair approaching us from behind.
I'm trying not to think about what he might lead next.
I'm trying not to think about falling out of the music.
He leads another leg wrap, I miss it completely and step out of it.
I'm so embarrassed - I just did it not 30 seconds ago!
"I'm sorry. Those really aren't my strength."
He just smiles patiently and pats my back.
"Your smile is slipping away, I can feel it!
Bring it back or I'll be too sad to go on!"
Later, at practica he asks if he can speak to me.
Uh oh, I thought. He's going to complain about my dancing.
He smiled warmly and said, 'when you say 'I 'm sorry' to me when we dance, I am afraid I have made you feel that you *should* be sorry for something. Then I feel terrible because I think I am hurting your love of the dance. You don't want me to feel terrible do you?'
I laughed at his exagerated tone.
"Of course not," I answered.
He continued, "Don't ever be sorry in tango.
Tango does not know right steps, wrong steps.
I lead you, I think, to one way,
You go another,
That's not wrong,
That's a man and a woman, he chuckles.
Don't be sorry.
Unless I am bleeding from a kick.
then you can be sorry.
These pants are not cheap you know." (grin)