"Tango is a dance that is about a movement between here and there, about an exchange between two bodies, about the pain of disconnection and the desire for communication." Erin Manning, "Politics of Touch: Sense, Movement, Sovereignty"
I keep trying to explain something that I have no good words for. I can't even explain why it's so important to me to express it. Maybe this is why so many people, when they are most passionate talking about tango, throw their hands up and fall helplessly back to cliches.
Tango is a feeling that is danced.
I know that my own experience is coloring my judgment on the matter. Maybe it's worse than that. Maybe it's my way of making excuses for myself.
When I stand on the edge of the pista, my leader in front of me, I falter. I have just a second of flight response. I wonder what new way my body will conspire against my best attempt at a graceful dance. I can't offer an athlete's body or myriad exquisite maneuvers to capture every nuance of the music. My body sometimes feels slow, weighted - suddenly uncoordinated. Some nights I can't even offer a solid axis.
So as I falter, my inner voice rattling away the things I cannot give, I remind myself of the one thing I can give . . .
All that I am in the moment - not what I can do, but what I am made of.
The miles walked to this place. The sighs, the heartbeats, the tears, the peals of laughter, that brought me to this moment in your arms.
If you want it, I can give you that.
. . in my embrace.
And in return?
I've lied, really. I've always said that I'm easy to please, which isn't true. I am demanding - and more demanding now than perhaps I have ever been. Entrega. I want permission to give it, and I want it in return. I didn't mean to lie - it seemed like it should be simple. Now I know it's not. If it was hard for me to learn to surrender, why should I think it would be easier for a leader to do it? But that's what it's really all about for me.
Ultimately, I don't care about the shape of your body,
the precision of your lapiz,
the smoothness of your walk.
I don't care how you look,
or if your interpretation of the music is the same as mine,
or if you prefer Golden Age or alternativo . .
And . .
are you ready for this?
I don't care which embrace you prefer - close, open, fluid . . .
I'll admit it's far more rare to feel the connection I'm so longing for in an open embrace.
But it has happened.
So what do I want from you as a leader?
You. Your story. Not your teacher's story.
It's not about the steps you lead.
I can feel it in how you hold me.
Or maybe more importantly, why you hold me.
Dancing who you are isn't about your technique, though good technique can keep our bodies from getting in the way of our soul's expression. (1)
Dancing who you are is being relaxed enough to let me in.
I will hold you in my arms like you mean the world to me because, at least for the few minutes we get,
That's not what everyone wants from tango, I know.
And I'm finding that dancers are somewhat self-sorting in that regard.
Right now, that's where I am in my dance. That's what I long for. I'm so lucky here that almost every night I dance, I find it. Often more than once. For some reason that seems to make the times I can't reach my partner all the more painful.
"What happens when you dance totally? The dancer disappears in a total dance. That's my definition of the total dance: the dancer disappears, dissolves; only the dancing remains. When there is only dancing and no dancer, this is the ultimate of meditation - the taste of nectar, bliss, God, truth, ecstasy, freedom, freedom from the ego, freedom from the doer. And when there is no ego, no doer, and the dance is going on and there is no dancer, a great witnessing arises, a great awareness like a cloud of light surrounding you."
(1) -The only reason for mastering technique is to make sure the body does not prevent the soul from expressing itself. - La Meri
(2) - Image courtesy of morguefile.com