My teacher's words come back to me.

"You dance too small,
     too soft,
          too quiet."

A year ago I could, and did, claim lack of technique, lack of lessons, for dancing that way. So I studied, took lessons, practiced. Experimented.

I danced bigger ("with more expression!")
I danced harder ("more dynamically!")

For awhile.

While I will probably always be able to point to lack of good technique in these things, after all I never stop learning and developing as a dancer, these days technique isn't really the at the heart of the issue.

Dancing bigger seems to, except for rare occasions, make me feeling like I'm wearing someone else's clothes. It's okay for playing dress-up, but it's not really me.

I recently watched a video of myself dancing with a leader I've danced with a long time. For once, I managed to dance without caring about the camera. This gentleman has been dancing with me since my very first dance three years ago - and I'm sure that contributed to my relaxed state.  I danced for him even though we had the entire room to ourselves. We had an audience. My dancing was quiet, soft and small. But it felt right. I felt like me.

It felt like home.


Cinderella said...

I'm quite sure that every true milonguero/milonguera would say that feeling is much more important than technique, Mari. You cannot be wrong as long as you feel right and at home inside your body.

Dieudonne said...

I have been thinking about this same issue for a while, and came to the same conclusion as you. I dance for myself; I am expressing who I am and how the music grabs me. When I think of dancing "bigger", it just doesn't feel quite right to me, maybe one day who knows as I evolve as a dancer, but for now, compact, crisp comfortable and nurturing is where I am.
As for technique, I am looking forward to a lifetime of learning.

Janis said...

You'll fit right into the milongas of BsAs with "quiet, soft, and small."

April Talbott Dalton said...

I have just spent an hour reading your blog for the first time and I am enamored with your insights and writing style. I am a tango instructor in NC in an area with virtually no tango community except for our tiny student circle, so I am happy to have made a new connection! I love your description of "quiet, soft, and small" steps, and I believe that tango reflects the spirit, therefore cannot be wrong.

Anonymous said...

Well said.


Marika said...

Cinderella - thank you for your comment, I think feeling comfortable in one's own skin is so fundamental to being happy in life, as well dance.

Dieudonne - Agreed. Missing you on the pista lately.

Janis - thank you for the encouragement.

April - thank you so much for reading and for commenting. I'm so glad you visited!

Oskar - thank you (and thank you for reading.

Ghost said...

There's a quote from Marc MacYoung I half remember and can't find, to the effect of there are plenty of martial artists who can kick his ass on the mat in a dojo, but take them round the rougher parts of LA at night and they're clueless.

I've been thinking about this lately. There's nothing wrong with people who have impeccable technique, but for me the bigger question is why do I dance tango? Sure, better technique may help, but if I don't start from the place of the feeling that I want and keep heading in that direction, what's the point? I'm climbing the wrong mountain.

Juan said...


Beautiful. There is nothing more important in life like feeling at home whenever that is. Hope that you continue to dance that way forever.

hope to dance with you soon at any milonga.


Chris said...

"My teacher's words come back to me. "You dance too small, too soft, too quiet.""

Indeed Mari, this means too small, soft and quiet for the teacher, not you.

The tango teaching world abounds with people who like big, hard and loud - because these attributes are good for teaching. They're rarely as good for learning or for dancing.

"My dancing was quiet, soft and small. But it felt right. I felt like me.

Well discovered, Mari. Good luck!