Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Argentine Tango - Breakthroughs in Awareness on a Tuesday Evening

Four people came to dance Argentine Tango on Tuesday night, two ladies and a gentleman. I facilitate as “she who has been dancing longest” as best I can. I learn so much every time we workshop and Tuesday we all had breakthroughs and awakenings of all kinds. 

As a child I picked up the habit of paying strict attention to what was before me to study. Regardless of the subject, I realized that the words of teaching were the backdrop for the realization of the experience of the lesson. 

I have learned much about Argentine Tango by actively watching the masters at dance. I have learned by watching myself practice dance in mirrors. I am excited now that by sharing and helping others learn that I am helped to improve my Tango as well as my ability to articulate and thus to grasp essences of the dance that I could not previously express. 

I hold an open floor in a large city that may well remain “The Desert” for this lovely walking dance. We have become a stable group of four - perhaps 5 for the moment. If you stumbled across this blog, and have no visual reference to Argentine Tango, I will include a dance at page end for your review. 

Some of us have good dance shoes, most are dancing in socks or a street shoe that makes the learning all the more difficult. Still, we carry on. Of course I do hope everyone will be able to manage to have dance shoes in the near future so that only good muscle memory is developed, but we work with what we have. I do think that a good shoe will help those who are falling off balance improve. 

I am very pleased that in group all are welcome. We have leaders and followers and any gender may dance with any gender. I dance lead more often than not, I dance follower to help a new lead understand the impact of their movements. The women in our group dance with each other more often than not, learning both lead and follow. 

I have strayed from the topic of the breakthroughs. 

Once dancer learned that at present close embrace is the best posture for dancing. Close embrace enables a more secure connection, and as this dancers balance is not yet well established, nor the idea of the axis has not yet been made fully clear (I know it takes time to find, and then time to perfect the ability to remain on axis throughout a dance) close embrace makes it easier to lead and follow. 

One dancer realized that when posture is erect, is tall, the spine is elongated that there is more room to take a long back step. This dancer had not fully appreciated the benefit of being “upright”. So - we had a bit of dance as to see why there was trouble in a lead and follow moment. 

I invited the dancer to “be tall.” To extend her body upward and to dance as if suspended from the ceiling by a string. Instantly, that dancers Tango improved. She was much easier to lead… her back step was a lovely glide. There was no hesitation as she was able to “hear” the lead, or you could say to feel the lead. 

This subtle lifting of her carriage made a great difference, and the she was able to realize, to take to the bone, the words that all of us hear time and again when taking our beginner lessons. 

The final awakening was mine - although I shared this with another dancer. We woke up to the same idea each in a different way. The concept was “The Connnection”. 

When leading, I kept “losing” her. I could not “feel” her present with me, and so I could not lead her, nor could she follow. Problem solving this matter, with his dancer as all are different, took some time and challenged me to be able to express connection in better English that I have used in the past. 

In the past I spoke in energetic terms…. but this was not helpful for her. 

To Teach/Learn/Establish connection it was necessary to demonstrate the physicality of the embrace, the importance of being present, of being in someones space, of holding and feeling held. So we had to work on “noodle arms” and to fix the passive embrace where the follower was only physically there - not engaged, not connected, not willing or able to be willing to listen.

So as we danced I had to point out that the follower had “lost the connection.” Her question was “How did I do that? “ I won’t type out for you all the language I used to describe connection, the goal of it, the purpose of it……. but I will share that the language I found that worked for us - that made the point clear is this.

“Connection is the distance that both dancers agree to keep between themselves.” I went on to say that this could be as few a no inches, or 4 inches, 12 inches etc.,  but that what ever distance was created in the embrace once that embrace was established as comfortable for both, was the connection distance. Now - as we were only working on walking as a couple, please know that his statement was given in that context to enable that dancer to stay present with that leader. 

(I do realize that many come to the dance floor with PTSD issues, and that it can take time for a dancer to establish trust in the embrace.  I hope all teachers remember that we come to Tango without shoes, from a history of violence or verbal humiliation, from a place where holding is not at all natural. )

This statement about a measurable fact worked. Of course it did not speak to the emotion between dancers, the magic of the artistic connection, however, those ideas were not critical on Tuesday night. 

So - she was able to be mindful of distance, and in so doing to feel the connection for the first time. I was a able to realize that esoteric talk about an emotional/physical event was not always useful and to add a new description to my efforts. 

I thank all my teachers!! 

Please know - I am not at all an Argentine Tango dance instructor… I remain "she with most time on the floor" and am still hoping for a partner. 5’ 6” to 5’ 8” would be lovely. 

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