I was recently emailed a question from a student and I decided to post it on facebook and see what “the masses” thought. The post ended up generating over 100 replies and 48 hours of discussion. (In fact, I think it is still being debated.) I read all the replies. Many of them were interesting, although a couple of people just used the post as a way to grandstand and talk about how their view is the only view. (It is interesting to me how passionate people get trying to describe something that cannot be seen and, when we think about it, that is the basis of all religions. The topic of the question (connection) is like the air; we can feel it, we know when it is there, but we can’t ever accurately describe it.) Anyway, here is the question and my response:
“This past weekend I was dancing and struggled through nearly every tanda to find my partner in our embrace. I would just try to find a way to hold them so we could connect. But I couldn’t feel them, and it didn’t feel that we were dancing in the music together. Would you have any thoughts on this sort of situation?
It has been said that relationships are like mirrors; they give us a glimpse of ourselves in different situations and, as such, they should be regarded as learning experiences. In tango, we dance with many different people in one night so it is as though we have many different “relationships”, many different glimpses of ourselves. This is exciting because with some dancers we are more playful, with others we are more somber, with others we are more technical, and so on and so forth.
In your situation, you found that you couldn’t even connect with your partner in order to have a playful, somber, technical, or any kind of “relationship”. Let’s look at it one way: perhaps it was your partner’s fault? Perhaps he wasn’t having a good night and his mind was elsewhere? Perhaps he had problems with his technique and he was focused on that so he couldn’t focus on you. There are many reasons that you could say the problem came from his side but, just as in life, the only person we can truly focus on and change is ourselves. That means taking more classes and improving our technique. That means listening to more tango music and translating the lyrics in order to connect with the “speed of sadness” inherent in all tango songs. Most importantly, that means letting go of the ego and just accepting whatever the night at the milonga may bring. I remember, early on, in my first months, I used to be so focused on having a “perfect night of dancing”. I was hard on myself and on my partners. My newfound passion for the dance as well as the energy and, frankly, arrogance of my youth gave me the feeling of wanting to learn this, get this, NOW. One of the many things we learn from the philosophy of tango is that tango requires good timing and good timing requires patience. There is a saying “El Tango te espera/the tango waits for you” but you also have to wait for it. If someone had told me when I first started that I would be just realizing certain concepts after 10 years of dancing, I am not sure if I would have continued. Yet that is what has happened. There were certain things I wasn’t ready for and I needed to be patient….whether I wanted to or not!
So that is my reply: work on yourself, listen and understand the music and, most importantly, just enjoy what the milonga may bring. (I know…..it is easier said than done.)