The Healing Dancers
I've been working on this post for over 2 months. (Insert exasperated sigh here.)
I'm still getting emails, having conversations, asking questions. I thought I would wait to publish until I was done, but like all things on this tango journey - this will never be "done."
When I began looking into the question I got most from leaders, of what women want from them, a whole new road opened up. I started to hear, from followers and leaders, common attributes applied to their favorite dance partners. I also started to hear a description pop up again and again.
. . . heals my terrible day,
. . . heals some old wounds,
. . . rejuvenates my spirit."
I started to hear about more than good dances, but also about healing dancers. I've written about my own experiences with certain "painkiller" leaders - but I thought I was the in the minority in that experience.
Then the emails started.
In my GMail folder on this subject, I have 90+ messages. And they keep coming. I had two more this morning. This topic will never be done, which tells me we need to share more - as we can, when we can, however we can - about the effect we can have on each other when we dance. This has gotten so huge, and the conversations so sprawling, that I suddenly feel inadequate to the task of summarizing what I've read/been told. All I know is that it's made for some amazing conversations.
I can offer a few small, consistent observations that have cropped up.
1. (This is the most important thing.) - Healing does happen. You may not give a flip about it. It may not happen to everyone, it may not happen to you - and if it does, it may not happen consistently - but it happens. However, the thing that will ensure it does not happen, is expecting it - or expecting that you are the passive receiver, and not actively involved in creating that energy in the dance.
2. The embrace is the key. It's not limited to any particular style - it can happen in open or close, though most of the people who responded to my queries dance close embrace. That is more a skew with my tango social group, and the audience of my blog, I think. In general, even in open embrace, and nuevo style dancers, I heard from - the embrace tended to be softer, never jarring. Very smooth, well supported, well grounded. The embrace, in all of its variations, felt secure.
3. Dancers who responded said they felt these particular partners put their partner's comfort, well-being and happiness before their own. It wasn't just about being well connected, but about feeling valued, important - and feeling treasured - as followers and leaders. Twelve readers used the specific words, "[he/she] makes me feel loved" even if it's just for a few minutes.
Observations from the tangueras . . . .
"While people may feel like embrace is something to be 'acceptable' at, or as an addendum to their dance, or something that's a mere vehicle to enable them to dance, IMO it informs the entire dance. A poor embrace (which often goes hand in hand with poor posture and poor technique) will not just be uncomfortable to a follower, but affects her own posture and puts strain on her to conform to a leader (sometimes subconsciously) in ways that create pain for herself (the reverse can be said for ladies also)."
"If there was one thing I would recommend for leaders (anywhere) to become both a favorite and perhaps give a more "healing" experience, it's have a really good embrace (other technique will tend to come along with that). And I mean REALLY work on it; have lessons only on that; work on it consistently."
"I'm always looking for "smooth" leaders -where you feel like you are floating down a river together. I think that smooth factor comes from a combination of knowing the music well, knowing how to walk well, and him being respectful of my body and my style."
"I would say, musicality, embrace, connection and creativity. I get totally energized if we are being creative and in sync with the music."
"I'm looking for that feeling of Ahhhh......I guess it can be defined as a good balance between the leader and I. I have danced with him before, I recognize his gentleness, his caring and he wants the same thing I do: to dance a good tango, not involving to much effort but creating a great connection, sharing some wonderful energy, and matching our intention, good vibrations and level of dance."
"Is fully present -- with his partner, in the music, in the embrace. Completes each move/figure before beginning the next. Dances for the shared delight, not for self-gratification -- doesn't dance to impress others or to show off his tricks to his partner. "
From the Tangueros . .
"I like to dance with women that enjoy dancing, that like being held in a warm and caring embrace, that are not hung up about the physical closeness, that rather enjoy the closeness and are happy to be held by someone [ ... ] What followers do I seek? One that will let me lead her, one that can let go, one that enjoys being close, one that when a mistake happens just giggles.I like making people feel good, especially women, and if I can do that it makes me feel good about myself that is where my healing comes in."
"For that [healing] experience, I look for followers who want to dance with me, not just kill time and get out on the floor. They don't dance for themselves, or by themselves, but engage in this fragile, 10 minute relationship with everything they've got."
"The followers that I've noticed are most rejuvenating, especially if I'm having a pretty tough milonga, are the ones that aren't looking for some perfect experience, but they're in the moment, ready for whatever happens. They don't bring judgement or ego into the embrace. The embrace me, the moment, the music, all of it - and care about it."