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It had been an evening of favorite music - I couldn't believe my luck. I can't dance as often as I would like these days, and it seemed like I was making up for lost time in warm, wonderful dances. A Rodriguez tanda started and I was smiling so hard my face almost hurt. Halfway into the first song, my partner tried a somewhat complex sequence and, in close embrace, it just didn't come off. Once around the floor, he tried again, and again it didn't work well. We shifted a bit, got back on track and continued. During the next song, he broke the embrace and pushed me away, led the sequence completely and then brought me back to close embrace.
I couldn't get the connection back. I can't think of any other way to put it than my feelings were hurt. To me it felt like he put the "move" before our embrace. I didn't want to settle back against his chest if he was going to just push me back out again.
I wish this were a rare occurrence, but especially after workshops or a festival, it becomes ever more common with lots of dancers. There is a difference, to my feeling, between expanding an embrace to accommodate for comfort and/or musical expression - and breaking the embrace to perform a pattern or a move. I can't explain it well - it's just a feeling. There's a difference in technical execution of course - how smooth you can make the expansion feel - not too abrupt or sharp for example. But there is also a difference in how the intention feels. As a leader, are you expanding the embrace for comfort - or breaking it just to "do" something? Is the move you're trying to work in worth making your partner feel like she's just an accessory to your dance? If you're working on something that you can only really do in open embrace then just leave the embrace open - or better yet, wait until practica to "work on stuff."
Sometimes it's not even a matter of breaking the embrace that's the problem - but the feeling that somehow the dance is flawed or worse, ruined, if my leader can't get me to follow some move or pattern. Ideally, when a move doesn't work, we just transition into something else and keep going. With some of my favorite partners there's a mutual, grinning "whoops" like kids playing a game. Not serious at at all - just an opportunity to do something else instead. Sometimes though, far more often than I'd like, I get a feeling of disappointment from my leader. Disappointment in how he led something - disappointment that I couldn't follow it. It doesn't matter if a leader thinks it's all his fault, or all my fault, or somewhere in between - the feeling of disappointment like that should have no place in a social dance. The worst part of that feeling is that it's infectious - I end up unintentionally carrying it with me to my next tanda. I get self-conscious and feel like I must be dancing badly. I don't want to bring that mentality to my next leader - it's not fair to him. It brings an unwelcome third party into the dance - a judge.
At practicas and in classes and lessons, I want to work - and work hard. I take my dancing, and my technique, seriously. But at the milonga, I want to dance socially. I'm there to connect with the music, my partner, my friends and relax. If things fall apart - they fall apart. So what? I'm not obsessing over my embellishments or the depth of my cruzado - why are you? This isn't an operating room. No one's going to lose a limb if the molinete doesn't work out. We're supposed to be getting away from the stress of our workaday lives, right? Can't we take a break from the constant evaluating and comparing we feel in our everyday world?
I just want to dance.