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!


Pausing for Tango Magic

Stop for a moment and consider the pause.  In so many parts of life we are sagely advised to put reactions on hold to open space for reflection, understanding, appreciation, creativity. In tango, too, you can open up space for magic to enter. A pause can be used to release tension, build tension, end something, find our partner, enter the music more deeply, change the energy, or just take a beautiful breath.

There are so many things that can happen with a pause. It makes a great topic for practice. The next time you practice try some of the following:

  • Observe how comfortable on uncomfortable you are in a pause. How long can you linger?
  • Notice how pausing affects your connection with your partner. What do you notice about the embrace?
  • Is your mind racing while your feet are pausing? Notice if your thoughts are in the future trying to plan your next step.
  • How is your balance? Notice if you are tensing up. Make yourself comfortable.
  • Once you have stopped stepping, how can the music still live on between partners?
  • Once you have stopped stepping, can you hear when the music calls you to go again?
  • Can you hear when the music begins calling you to a pause?
  • Try really long and frequent pauses; make a song all about the pauses.
  • Try pauses that you slide into vs sudden pauses.

Thanks for taking a moment in your day to consider the beauty of a timely pause. Happy dancing!

Pondering Embellishments

They can be oh-so-expressive and pretty, or sometimes not so much. There are a lot of opinions about embellishments, also known as adornos. While they can certainly be decoration we add to the dance, in their most natural forms they emerge from a deeper place, products of the dancers' experience of the music and technique rooted in the dialogue between partners. Here is a link to an interesting piece on the subject:


Entertaining Tango Etiquette

Most tango students plan to eventually start dancing socially at milongas. You may have heard about the etiquette and traditions of the milonga, and maybe it's made you a little nervous about actually attending one. Or maybe you've been to one or two and left a bit confused about what exactly was going on. While the etiquette (sometimes called the "Codigos de milonga") can seem archaic or arbitrary, it is mostly based on common courtesy and smoothing social interactions. Here is an illustrated guide for your reference and amusement: