The Fear of not Moving

" . . . tango is what remains when you remove all movement, when the only thing that is left is feeling."
- Carlos Gavito, (1)

Three steps forward, two steps back.
At least I have made some progress.
But I am still rushing. Still moving too soon.
And too fast.
Falling away.

Tango, it seems, can't undo a lifetime of constantly moving.
Constantly running - always closing the doors behind me.
It's exhausting to keep moving - but terrifying to stop.
To wait. To listen.
Sometimes stopping feels a lot like suffocating.
What am I so afraid of?

Feeling? Possibly.
Entrega? Sometimes.
El duende? Frequently.
But even those aren't really it.

Maybe that there will be nothing.
Not the little nothings that inhabit tiny gaps in our day.
Those traveling moments of suspension between one thing and the next thing.
Falling forward into the next moment. Not those.
Big nothing.
Thunderous silence in the absence of. . . .

the absence of what?

The absence of me?
Expanded. Dispersed. Without bounds and without borders.
Between notes, between steps,
between one breath and the next,
between his heart and mine.
Letting go.

Free-fall in the pause.

So I court the pauses, write about them, wax nostalgic about them as if we're old friends.
But really, all I do is peek at them around corners, and then take off again as they approach,
often leaving my partner chasing me in the embrace.

I want to stop preparing for the next thing,
stop being ready,
silence the constant "what'scomingnextwhat'scomingnextwhat'scomingnext."

At practica,
"So what are you working on?"
Being here,
doing this,
nothing else.

"What does a dancer feel when he pauses? Fear, the fear of not moving. Dancing - moving, in effect - is like escaping from something: from a silence, from a commitment." (Ibid.)

1. "I Wanted to Dance: Carlos Gavito: Life, passion and tango" by Ricardo Plazaola
Picture courtesy of


Halbert said...

I love the Gavito quote.

When I was starting to learn Tango (and, come to think of it, other dances as well) I was very afraid of pauses. Not of any particular pause, but of putting too many into a dance ... I worried that a follow would find it too boring.

A similar fear drives some of the step-collecting that new leads do, I suspect. They feel like they need to have enough moves to fill any silence.

Like any relationship, I suppose comfortable silence takes time.

Tango Therapist said...

Mari... from your blog no one would know how well you do allow moments of just presence. In fact I know of no millonguera that allows the pregnant pause, the glory of just being there, the tension of not moving before it just has to happen. You would never blow your own horn about this. But let me. You are wonderful as my partner because of your stillness in motion and motion in stillness. -- Mark

Unknown said...

How is Tango not dancing.

I once had a discussion about the "pause" with a retired professional dancer. We were both learning Tango at the time though with different instructors.Her argument was that dancing is movement. If you weren't moving you weren't dancing. Pausing was standing and standing is not dancing.

I tried to explain that for me the pause was exquisite. It had three parts. 1 The WOW, the relishing of the movement just felt. the coming to rest. 2 The STILLNESS, the... being here, the... music, the.. suspension, the... Oh My God it is wonderful just being here in this persons arms, the... there's her heart beat, I can feel it. 3 The ANTICIPATION..., maybe the best part. That moment of... "Where is the music going to take us now?"... What is going to be the inspiration for the next WOW? ...Is she going to be with me, are we going together? ...Do we start now?...NO not yet... the tease...her smile felt against my cheek. There it is...the music says move. WOW here we come. I can't wait to feel her response, her heart beat, her quiet, her peace.

How is the pause not dancing... Is stopping to look at the incredible sunset, just standing there soaking it in not sightseeing? Is the sustained note in an aria not singing? Is the silent beat before the crescendo not music? Is the stopping to hear the noises in the forest, not hiking?

You say in your post that:

Carlos Gavito is quoted by Ricardo Plazaola in his book, "I Wanted to Dance: Carlos Gavito: Life, passion and tango"

"...tango is what remains when you remove all movement, when the only thing that is left is feeling."

How is Tango not dancing....?

Unknown said...

Hi Mari

Maybe I should proof read three times. :-)
I just read what I posted and it sounds like I'm saying that you think pausing is not dancing.
Not so... I know that you do. I read your post.

But you started a train of thought, and I think that I was asking the universe and that woman I was talking to.
Sorry for the confusion.


Marika said...

@Halbert - I think you some up the anxiety a lot of leaders feel about pausing and especially about not having enough vocabulary to keep followers interested. I hear that "but she'll get bored if I just walk" all the time. Like you said it just takes time.

@Mark - ::blush:: thank you. :)

@Mike - No worries, I figured that's what you meant. I've heard similar remarks (similar to the woman you referred to) from other dancers - think not moving means not dancing. Unfortunately it's even come from dancers who've been dancing a long time. :/