Soul's Expression


"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?
The same.

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,
you do.

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."
- Osho

(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


Anonymous said...

This is such a wonderful text.

I am not sure if it makes sense in English but it makes me think about the difference between showing your mastery and giving or offering your mastery.

Sometimes I ask a woman to dance with me, because I see that she is dancing brilliantly. But when I dance with her myself I suddenly feel that she is not giving her mastery to our dance but only showing her skills. She does not open her soul to our dance. This does not mean that I cannot enjoy the dance but something essential is missing.

Marika said...

juh - thank you for your comment - that made perfect sense.

happyseaurchin said...


be demanding in this way

i have been dancing with a woman
we have become friends

i have encouraged her to accept nothing other than
the other person fully as part of the conditions of presence
and should her partner be negligent
just going through moves etc
and is oblivious to her
or to the opening to a mutual tango
then she has every right to give them a big fat SLAP
that'll wake them up :)

i am glad you reject any of the bits
the good smooth beautiful bits
to reject your "judgement"

you are willing to give up everything
to give yourself to nothing
and whatever occurs
is the tango


Preen and Ogle said...

Maybe it is just as well that it is impossible to express in words what we all crave. Maybe, if 'it' could be labeled, it would calcify the always different magic of the perfect dance. Maybe we should just be surprised and grateful when it does happen. And, in the meantime forgive ourselves and our partners for everything that gets in the way of our quest for the tango grail.

Anonymous said...

Mari, what fortune for me to come back here to feast on your bon mots and honest thoughts.
Sometimes at a milonga it seems like I'm playing this board/pista game among other 'players'/dancers and that the instructions/codigo printed on the inside of my box lid is different than the instruction printed on the boxes of the other leaders' lids. As Jay-Z has rapped 'we're not even shooting at the same basket.'
I love it when you say 'dance who you are' and the part about bringing your story to the dance.

Lovely entries recently.I'm so glad I checked back to read your latest. I hadn't done so for a while and I'm richer for it now.

Elizabeth Brinton said...

Fine words the explain a bit of the unexplain-able Mari. I can't see how it could be better said.
I find I am more demanding the more I realize why I am there on the floor, and what it is I go there for. There is a paradox in the concept of acceptance and generosity. Acceptance allows us to give?
Thanks so much for this essay.

Marika said...

happyseaurchin - thank you for what you wrote. I constantly remind myself that people come to tango for different reasons, with different needs and expectations. I try to adjust mine accordingly. But I do ask that my partner be present - and I know sometimes that's hard. It's easy to be distracted, especially when we're over-tired, etc. But try. It's important. Tango gives us an amazing opportunity if we are only present for it. And for each other.

Preen & Ogle: You're likely right. Trying to label things rarely do the most important things in our lives justice. And I agree we should be grateful when we find it.

Paul - thank you for your comment. I'm glad you've enjoyed my latest posts - I was afraid (am still afraid, honestly) that my writing lately has been too rambling and incoherent. Ultimately, like with my dancing, all I can do is bring where I am at the moment.

Elizabeth - I think you hit the nail on the head - acceptance allows us to give. Thank you for writing that. :) :)