Tango Starts with a Feeling

People take up with tango for many different reasons, but often they are attracted to it's soulful nature. Still, we easily slip into the tendency to focus on technicalities in pursuit of perfection. Tango offers us much more than a technical challenge. Among tango lovers, pondering and debating the nature of that something more is a pastime enjoyed almost as much as dancing tango. Here is a passage from Carlos Gavito on the subject:

"If you go back to the beginning of tango, tango is defined as a feeling, a "sentimiento," which you dance to. So when you start the dance, you don't start with a step, you start with a feeling. That's why I think tango dancers are not like other dancers. Other dancers go through a combination of steps. Tango is improvised. It is improvised all the way. There are no combinations. In tango you can't be preoccupied with the steps. You need to express your emotions while listening to the music. You can spot a person who is actually thinking about the next step a mile away. On the other hand, the dancer who follows the music will move at the same time as his partner. They will move as one."

Gavito gives us some pretty good food for thought. What does that mean, to start with a feeling? When we are learning or practicing, it is necessary to spend a great deal of the time focusing on technique.  But when we are at the milonga, and we take up the embrace with another, our purpose requires we go deeper. Some sort of feeling is likely already with us at the start of every dance. But this idea can give us permission to choose from among the varied emotions stirring in our soul. Instead of performance anxiety, we might try tapping into longing, tenderness or happiness.

It makes a big difference, what we are in touch with, what we are thinking as we dance. Even in class we can spend some time nourishing our dance in this way. It may seem silly or distracting at first, but our feelings and the partner relationship are the soil that tango grows in. That's what makes it different from other dances.

Happy Dancing!