Monday, January 11, 2016

Enjoy every moment

Discover the pleasure
of just being.

"The secret of tango is in this moment of improvisation that happens between step and step. It is to make the impossible thing possible: to dance silence.
-Carlos Gavito
I think it is safe to say that those who stick with tango beyond a couple of months of beginner-level classes do so because they enjoy it. They probably love the music; they likely embrace the human contact and they are almost certainly passionate about the dance. But within the dance, it can take a long time before they really discover how to truly enjoy it to its fullest potential.

When we dance tango, we need to be very present, both physically present and also present in time, meaning we are living completely in the present moment. This entails three things:

Letting go of the past. Tango is an improvised dance. That means mistakes will be made, and the sooner we can accept that, the more we will enjoy it. Once a step or a movement has been completed, it cannot be taken back. Right or wrong, planned or not, what’s done is done, so there’s no point in worrying, second-guessing, apologizing, criticizing, correcting. It’s part of the challenge and the fun of tango to find creative ways to get out of a sticky situation.
   Leaders who correct their partners or who make comments about what she was “supposed to” do remain too attached to their initial plan, unable to adapt, move on and enjoy what is happening now. The same goes for leaders who are constantly annoyed by all the dancers around them, because the unpredictability of the dance floor means they often can’t reach their end goal. But we all know the best laid plans often go awry ... especially on the tango floor, so why ruin the moment with frustration?
    Followers often hold on too tight to their doubt and insecurity: “Was that right?” “Was that what he wanted me to do?” “What was that I just did?” The answer to all of those questions is, “It doesn’t matter.” Again, what’s done is done, and it’s up to both partners to own what is done and take things from there. That’s how it is meant to be.
   For many, letting go of that plan or that doubt is no easy task. But if we can learn to embrace the unpredictability of tango, we will experience its true beauty. The dance will always evolve in unexpected ways. It is a conversation between two unique people moving through space with dozens, sometimes hundreds of other people, so no two dances will ever be the same. That is why this century-old dance never gets old.

Not worrying about the future. This can be a big one for followers. They can get so worried about what’s coming next that they forget about what’s happening right now, and they anticipate instead of following. Leaders who dance with one foot in the future tend to forget to wait for their partners to finish one movement before dragging them on to the next. True, leaders do need to indicate one step ahead what they will do next, so their partners have a chance to react, but they still need to wait, to feel the follower’s response and follow through from there. Sounds like a lot to do in a short time, but when it all comes together it feels so good. And it’s a very good reason not to rush things.
Experiencing now to the fullest. Why concern ourselves with the past or future when there is so much to enjoy right now? Beyond the fancy moves and fun figures, there is the warm, secure feeling of a strong and present embrace; there is the way your foot caresses the floor all the way from one step to the next, drawing lovely curves or lines on the floor just so; there is the way your partner’s shoulder blade fits just perfectly into the palm of your hand; there is that sense of perfect synchronicity when you know, with the simplest of rhythmic little steps, that the music is speaking to you both exactly the same way; there are the happy mistakes and lucky surprises that sometimes work out just right, creating an embellishment you didn’t know you knew or a cool new sequence you may or may not ever reproduce; there is that moment you realize the connection is so profound, so natural, so meditative that you don’t even know what steps you’ve been doing, you just know it is wonderful. ...

One question I often ask myself is why so many leaders have this impatient need to move forward, as fast as possible, all the time? We are dancing in a circle! There is no destination, so we ought to enjoy the journey. For the follower, it is not any more rewarding to dance along the line of dance than to dance in place, to step back-back-back rather than on the spot ... so why do some leaders get so impatient when they can’t rush around the dance floor turn after turn like the Tasmanian Devil?

And to those leaders who are so worried about boring their partners if they don’t do enough stuff, I say this: Every leader has a repertoire. Whether that repertoire is made up of simple steps, weight changes and ocho cortados or of complex series of ganchos, wraps and volcadas doesn’t change that fact; everyone has a comfort zone of figures they lead comfortably and come back to when the going gets tough on a crowded floor. The thing is, while creative sequences of kicks and leg throws might be surprising and fun the first time around, those same big, impressive moves lose their novelty the second or third time around when they’re no longer, well, new (not to mention they’re dangerous on the dance floor). What keeps dancers fresh and interesting is their ability to play and dance differently to different music or to do the same steps – even the very simplest of steps – using a variety of rhythmic patterns. The novelty of that kind of dancer never wears off. Dancing tango isn’t about doing as much stuff as possible in a single song, it’s about connecting to the music and to your partner and gradually creating a dance based on this song and this partner. This is how you will enjoy every moment.

Of course, it takes time to learn and appreciate all this, to move past doing and discover the pleasure of just being. To do so we have to first get comfortable with the things we have to do, such as walking with control and clarity, embracing a partner, leading and following, keeping time to the music, and the list goes on. Which is why solid basics are so important. If the technique is not there, there will be no space for the connections. But there can even be enjoyment in working on technique; it is a great feeling to know you are standing straight and tall, to feel you are building strength and power as you perfect your walk, or finally pivoting with smoothness and balance. Once the technique and the connections are there, you’ll find you don’t even have to be moving to dance, and you can get even more pleasure from a moment of stillness than from one of those big, impressive moves. Then you can dance that silence the late, great Carlos Gavito spoke of in the quote at the top of this article.

At the end of a dance, I don’t remember what steps or patterns I did with my partner, but how I felt with him or her. I remember how the embrace felt and how well we connected to each other and to the music. I remember whether I felt pushed, pulled and tossed around, or was made to run after my partner, or whether we both enjoyed every moment of every step, from the intensity of the embrace to the push of the toes into the floor to the caress of the free foot to the precise moment we placed that foot just so, in time to each other and to the music.

Just as the musicians keep time with the beat, but add layer upon layer of melody around and in between every one, giving each song its own unique feeling and personality, dancers need to pay greater attention to what happens in between steps: how we hold our partners, how we hold ourselves, how we move through each moment of each step. Do we wait or do we go? Move fast or slow? With passion or playfulness? Listen to it, feel it, be aware of it. Enjoy every moment of it.

1 comment:

  1. La musique de danse est une rivière.
    Je suis un saumon que l'instinct force à en remonter le cours.
    J'agis, je ne comprend pas.
    Sentir l'eau froide et frissonner à deux.
    Les courants rapides nous bouscule.
    Les méandres langoureux.
    Les tourbillons nous étourdissent.
    Le fond de la rivière accidenté nous ralenti.
    Accoster sur la place un instant.
    Les rapides à franchir, prenons un élan.
    Ces nouvelles odeurs nous excitent.

    Le Tango c'est cela et encore et encore ...